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Messy characters and breadcrumb trails: Designing player investment - Toiya Kristen Finley

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Do developers want players to look for clues and feel smart before that all-important-thing happens in the game? Do they want to reward players for figuring something out before the game reveals it to them? Do they want players talking about the game online and theorizing about that super secret mystery?

Getting players engaged with finding and figuring out hints is more than just having them hear an ambient noise over there or finding a lore book dropped here. The more invested players are in the game and the more engaged their imaginations, the more likely they are to search for the clues—or revelatory trail of breadcrumbs—the team leaves for them.

Attendees will discover tools for building player engagement, which includes designing more believable characters players will get invested in (whether they love or hate those characters) and using the game’s narrative design to drop hints about those characters’ circumstances. In effect, the relationship between the investment in the characters and these hints become a language narrative designers devise to help players hunt and piece together “What happens next?” before the game reveals the answers.

This talk focuses on why players identify or empathize with characters and how that makes them more invested, and gives techniques for creating “messy,” more authentic characters and designing multi-faceted storytelling in-game that will encourage players to find answers to the game’s mysteries.

Toiya Kristen Finley