Post tutorial RSS Field Intensity Environmental Storytelling

Examples of environmental storytelling in Field Intensity narrative.

Posted by on - Basic Level Design/Theory

Game designers have several options for telling a story to a player. The story can be told directly through npcs dialogs, texts or scripted scenes, which is perfectly fine but this method should be ideally combined with another one. Some parts of the plot can be presented less explicitly, in the environment itself. And this is what environmental storytelling is about. Instead of trying to make up a definition for this term, let's just ask google.

Environmental storytelling is the art of arranging a careful selection of the objects available in a game world so that they suggest a story to the player who sees them.

Even if not familiar with this term, most game/mod developers have an understanding of the concept. While developing our mod, Field Intensity, we didn't put a lot of thought in environmental storytelling, but we still incorporated its elements on the mod levels instinctively. However doing something naturally and having a systemized view on the matter are different things. And we've got a more clear understanding of environmental storytelling only in late stages of development.

In this article I want to show some examples of environmental storytelling in Field Intensity.

1. The incident in the elevator


There's a hole in the elevator doors and its edges are corroded by acid. Also bullsquid stands nearby. Inside the elevator there're human remains. The player can imagine what happened: bullsquid got teleported into the elevator, killed a human who happened to be there and got out using his natural ability to produce acids.

2. Unknown shooter

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Probably a lot of players didn't notice this detail, but some aliens' corpses scattered around the area have arrows planted on their bodies. Later on the player can find a dead body of a person in HEV suit and a crossbow lying nearby. This detail was added in the late development stage as we felt that the level lacks some identity.

3. The destroyed ACP

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It's a common thing to show the past battle outcome to the player in Half-Life and its expansions and mods. Here players can suppose what happened: an ACP unit was fighting some alien grunts and later it was destroyed by an alien aircraft's beam. The scene also emphasizes the problem soldiers had with “manta rays” the radioman speaks about earlier on the same level.

4. Dead vortigaunts on Xen


Two dead vortigaunts can be found on Xen maps, one of them is alongside a malfunctioning teleport station. We placed them to convey the idea that a portion of alien infrastructure was abandoned and some alien slaves were left behind at some point. While the reason is unknown, the player still can speculate on that matter.

5. Dead blackops


This detail was added in version 1.1. Dead bodies of blackops in some parts of the area are meant to show that blackops tried to infiltrate the facility before, but haven't succeeded. We could speculate on the purpose of such invasion into the labs. E.g. they might have had an order to steal and preserve some Black Mesa technologies, including the displacer device that can be found on the same level. The Half-Life series don't elaborate on blackops mission enough, except for showing that they were sent as the last cleanup crew. I feel like there's room for possibilities to explore.

There're more examples of environmental storytelling in Field Intensity of course, but including all of them would make this article too long to read. You can explore Field Intensity for other examples of environmental storytelling and tell us what you liked the most.

Environmental storytelling allows one to build a more believable world and fill it with more narrative details without resorting to more explicit options like text or audio messages. I find this method very interesting and I believe we have yet to see its full potential.

neophus - - 572 comments

Very interesting, yes ! I'm thinking that I could do the same for my Sven-coop campaign to explain certain contexts and details !

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Lazarhead - - 92 comments

Nicely thought of. It definitely adds to the experience to have such unique stories.

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