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PS4 devs discuss the next generation of storytelling

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A handful of Sony developers took the stage following Sony's Gamescom press conference to explain ways in which game narrative development can be informed by other media.

The panel, titled "Narrative and Storytelling through Gaming," included Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag writer Darby McDevitt, Quantic Dream CEO David Cage, The Chinese Room's Dan Pinchbeck, Sony WWS London Studios' Russell Harding and SCE's Shuhei Yoshida. The five discussed topics similar to Cage's GDC Europe talk earlier today, which highlighted ways games can be informed by cinematic techniques.

According to Yoshida, creation of a strong story at the beginning of development is paramount.

"I appreciate the quality of story and writing especially, which has vastly improved over the last few years," he said. "Last year I even almost had tears in my eyes while playing games like Journey and The Walking Dead.

"[Forcing us] to make hard choices is very effective," he added. "It makes very good use of the interactivity of this media, I think it's very important how story is presented to consumers. It just cannot be a great story, it has to make great use of the interactivity to make a great story in games."

"Gameplay is an emotional experience, and you want a type of emotional journey," said Pinchbeck. "Story is just a tool to get there, the same way you design any other mechanic. You have to decide what kind of journey you want the player to have and what kind of experience you want players to have.

"The hard bit is taking those things and turning them in to a form that will solidly deliver your version," he added. "For [The Chinese Room], story is a tool."

David Cage is adamant that games can learn from films, as both media try to create emotion using moving images. Films have already been doing it well for a hundred years, providing games with a deep well of knowledge and techniques to draw from.

McDevitt believes that games can learn a lot from television shows, an episodic dramatic structure that has become a more popular venue for series stories in recent years — like with Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Games are longer and require a longer point of retention than films, therefore games should be set up in a way that keeps players engaged for several hours, but will be forgiving to them if the don't sit down and play the whole 20 or 40 hours at once.

"We need to tell stories that are 10 hours long, but with a script that has that extra depth," Cage added. Developers can create that depth by presenting players with branching game paths and the ability to explore possible story outcomes.

For more details on Sony's plan for the next generation, check out our StoryStream from today's press conference.