How and to what extent are characters and narrative essential for a player’s emotional engagement in story driven games?


The focus of this project was to create an immersive RPG style game with a focus on interesting characters and plot while using a simple 16-bit aesthetic.

The research section of the paper looks at techniques for character development and storytelling in games, by researching many different books, games and other media. 

The final product is a fully playable 2D story driven RPG game for PC called Quantum Shift. The game was created by researching various techniques and concepts of character interactions and plot devices. In the game, you play as a girl named Ashley as you try to figure out your fathers past. The game takes inspiration from classic RPG games as well as ideas and techniques from newer games and other media to create a more story driven experience in which the player can get engrossed in the narrative and characters. The use of limited graphics is an intentional design choice, with the goal to allow the player to use their own imagination to visualize the characters and the world they are interacting with.

 The game was created using an iterative design methodology, with several prototype versions given to testers for feedback, the results of the feedback were implemented in the next prototype version. The final product takes into account many of the suggestions and improvements from the testers.


Thanks to Sarah Jones for drawing the character portraits for the project, also thanks to everyone who took time to test the project or gave advice during the development, including, Jie Deng, Andrew Parsons, Christopher Caldwell, Pia Revold, Daniel Jefferies, Sarah Jones, Kieron Dixon, Rob Prichard, Trishul Gohil, Charlotte Lincoln, Barnaby Panton, Dean Morgan, and others. Finally, thanks to Stephen Webley for supervising this project.


This project focuses on what makes interesting characters and narrative in video games. By looking at many sources, including books, websites, interviews, videos and video games, a list of important factors in creating emotional and engaging characters and narrative was formed. Using this list of ideas and methods, a short game demo was created which incorporated many of the researched techniques. The project was created in the game engine RMXP which made the creation of the game and graphics less time consuming, meaning more time could be spent on creating interesting and memorable characters and scripted moments. The game was tested by several people, their responses can be read later in the paper. Thanks to the testers’ feedback, the prototype was improved upon for the final product.

By researching writing for games, creating characters and narrative theory, a basis was formed for the creation of the game. Using the game engine RPG Maker XP those researched ideas were brought to life in an interactive environment. By combining the game play, graphics and music, and using methods researched and backed up by professional opinions, the goal of creating an emotional and engrossing story driven game was been achieved. 

The final project is a playable 2D Story-driven RPG game for PC, the game takes between 10-20 minutes to play through depending on what the player does. The game is playable on any Windows PC from Windows XP onwards; the required spec for the game is low, so even low end laptops can run the game well. There is also a Mac OSX version of the game, although it has not been tested. By using an iterative design process, the game was improved with each version. The testing was don’t by people online, and a form was filled in upon their completion of the demo, using the feedback from this form, changes were made to the final product.

The theory of character design is implemented in the game by way of a time travel mechanic, allowing the player to see different experiences of the characters throughout their lives within the game, giving the player a much boarder understanding of the characters and what drives them. 

It is important to have interesting characters in order to keep the player engaged in the game and willing to continue playing through the story, just as it is important to have well written characters in books, the same can be said for games, especially ones with complex narratives. 

Aims and objectives

Aim 1

Create a story driven RPG game with a focus on character development and atmosphere.

  • Use the software, RPG Maker XP, to create a story driven RPG. Many successful games in this genre have been created using this software and after doing some research into alternatives, it seems the best option is to also use this program. The software also has scripting support so I will also be looking into learning the scripting language, Ruby. 

Aim 2

Research the history of the RPG genre and influential games.

  • Use research in the history and progression of RPG games to aid the creation of my own short game. 
  • Books, Visual Novels and films will also be used to learn about different storytelling techniques and I will apply this knowledge to my own script for the game. 
  • Look at changes in the market thanks to a recent revival of older game styles from indie developers. Kickstarter and forums of popular games in the genre will also be used to see what is popular with the target audience. 
  • Look at journalism and see how opinions of this type of game have changed over time. 

Aim 3

Create interesting plot, characters and environments.

  • Create an atmospheric environment and interesting characters using in engine assets and programs such as Adobe Photoshop and GraphicsGale to create my own sprite art for the game. 
  • Do research into character and environmental designs for traditional console RPG games and incorporate the findings into my own work. 
  • Write the plot. Using techniques from books, films and other games to improve the narrative style.

Project plan


  • Research similar games
  • Look at market trends in the genre
  • Research how to write interesting characters
  • Write script using researched techniques
  • Create character art, backgrounds, sprites, music etc.
  • Build game using chosen engine
  • Testing and feedback
  • Improvements
  • Final product

Software needed:

  • RPG Maker VX or XP
  • Adobe Photoshop or GIMP
  • GraphicsGale (for pixel art) 
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint and Project)
  • Games used for research

Hardware needed

  • Computer running Windows 7 or 8

Contingency plan

If there is some difficulty getting used to working with RPG Maker VX or any of the graphics programs, other alternative programs which will give similar outcomes will be looked into, such as Multimedia Fusion or Unity for the game creation and other graphic software such as Paint Shop Pro or Gimp. 

All work will be backed up on external hard drive in case of computer problems. 

If something goes wrong in the process, the project plan will have space for extra days to be allocated to fixing problems or extended working periods. 

Gantt Chart

Literature review

The focus of the literature review is to answer one simple question. How can narrative and character development be used to increase a player’s emotional engagement in games?

The areas of research that are utilised in this project are Character design, Storytelling techniques, Game level design and Interactive narrative. Using these four ideas as a basis for the project, several different sources were looked at, including, books, games and videos. By studying several different sources, a wide range of knowledge was gathered and used to create a basis for the project. All of the sources are recognised as professional, and reliable. They are written by, or created by industry experts and their opinions within are backed up by quotes from other professional sources.

The first source that was looked at is a video by Espen Aarseth, an expert in game studies and electronic literature. In his video, “Narrative Theory of Games” (Aarseth, 2009), he discusses in detail how games stories are told and the different ways to approach making. He states that characters are one of the most important aspects when looking at narrative in games, and those developers should “Focus on characters to tell interesting and efficient stories.” Through his research he has concluded that it is difficult to merge both gameplay and story. 

A diagram was shown in which every game can follow a certain narrative path. This diagram will be an important part in the creation of the project, seeing how the game and characters designed later in the paper relate to this diagram.pastedGraphic_1.png

He talks about kernels and Satellites within the games story. Kernels being important points in the plot, and satellites being the smaller choices surrounding the main character, although they have no real difference on the overall plot, even if it seems like, to the player, that they are making important choices.  

He also wrote an important book, Cybertext: Perspectives on ergodic literature. (Aarseth, 1997) In this book he discusses points such as how to allow the player or reader to make decisions in the story which will affect the overall outcome. This book looks at possibilities of making the reader or player become more active in changing the course of the story and how to do that while maintaining an interesting and coherent plot.

Jeannie Novak, in “Game Development Essentials: An Introduction” (Novak, 2004) , Talks of different character archetypes, including Hero, Shadow, Mentor, Ally, Guardian, Protagonist and Antagonist, among others, each one is important in making the character recognisable and having the player understand what they mean to the story. She also goes into detail about different narrative styles in games, such as, the traditional Hollywood Three-Act, meaning a clear beginning, middle and end. She also wrote about the much more complex, Hero’s Journey. Characters need to develop both visually and in terms of character growth through the story, through interactions with other characters you should aim to make some kind of verbal development within the characters.

She also states that it is important to differentiate between the players character and NPC’s, and that the use of back-story is important in creating believable characters which can evoke emotional responses to engage the player. This is something which will be taken into consideration when creating my own project. 

In the book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Campbell, 1949), By Joseph Campbell , He talks about patterns in both modern and historic stories and how characters and plot lines always follow a certain structure. This structure is called Monomyth and describes the way in which a story or myth will be told. This narrative structure is followed, whether consciously or not, by nearly all stories, be they of games, films, books or other media. 

The writer of, Designing character-based console games (Davies, 2007), Mark Davies, says that it is Narrative that drives a player, they will be driven to continue playing a game when there is a clear goal and narrative. Different cultures have different ways of combining the narrative of a game with the gameplay. The ideas of gameplay and story differ greatly between western and eastern cultures. Gameplay should, in his opinion, be based around a group of characters that interact with the player character and these characters will grow in personality, or, in a party based RPG, perhaps in level and experience also. 

Lee Sheldon wrote in Character Development and Storytelling for Games (Sheldon, 2013) that writers and designers for games should draw from many different sources, such as TV and Film media and also novels and other written literature. Do not just limit yourself to getting inspiration from other games. Another important idea to think about is trying not to make the story convoluted. Making the plot easy to follow is very important in keeping the player engaged and interested in the story and character development. Also, with trying to keep the player interested, do not spend too long on setting up the world at the beginning of the game; this should be quick to not make the player bored during the introduction of the game. Interactive story can also help keep players motivated and interested in the story of the game by giving them choices.  

Josiah Lebowitz writes about interactive stories in his book, Interactive Storytelling for Video Games (Lebowitz, 2012) A Player-Centred Approach to Creating Memorable Characters and Stories. In this book it discusses ways of making interactive stories in games; one of the most important ideas in this book is a way of writing down the choices in the game using a flow chart. 

There are many types of storytelling methods in games, as seen from the texts written by Mark Davies and Lee Sheldon. Sheldon wrote that writers should take inspiration from more than just other games. Good examples of this are the games, Fahrenheit (Quantic Dream, 2005), Heavy rain (Quantic Dream, 2010)  and Beyond: Two Souls (Quantic Dream, 2013). These games take much more inspiration from Films and TV as ways of telling the story, to the point of some places referring to them as the “Interactive Drama” genre. The player is given much less control than a standard game, limited to answering people during cut scenes or pressing certain buttons to effect a cut scene. The games force players along a linear path, making the story much more central to the game experience. They do have choices to make, which make the narrative more interesting as it means the player can make a difference to the plot of the game. This is especially noticeable in Heavy Rain, with its 22 different endings.

Figure 1 A screenshot of the “Interactive Drama game, Beyond: Two Souls.

Dynamic Characters (Cress, 2004), written by the sci-fi author, Nancy Cress, this book looks into what is important to know about a character, she makes many important points about how to make good dynamic and interesting characters such as how a character’s name or moniker is important, how to introduce more characterization through dialogue and how to make the dialogue flow more naturally. An important part of characters are the first impressions, something that is memorable about the character is good because it will help the player remember the characters more. 

In the book, Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach (Isbister, 2006) . Attractiveness is important for people to feel certain emotions with the character. Someone who has symmetrical features and better body language and dress will be seen as the better person even though it may not be true. She states that there are different notions of beauty depending on country.

People with “baby faces” are seen as warmer and kinder but less responsible. Height is also important for people’s judgment. Stereotypes are important for setting up characters at the beginning, this is an important quote from the book, “Trigger stereotypes for speed and break them for depth” consider breaking stereotypes with a few off traits or choosing one not often used in games to create more memorable and richer characters. Why do people interact: People interact for reasons such as Love, Belonging and self-esteem. It is important to try and incorporate these feelings into the fictional characters to give them a more human feeling. 

The game, Another Code: Two Memories (CiNG, 2005), known elsewhere as Trace Memory, is a good example of a story based game with believable characters and interesting setting. The game was written by Rika Suzuki, a Japanese writer for the now defunct game company, CiNG. In the game, the player controls a girl named Ashley Robbins, who has gone to a mysterious island to search for her father. Throughout the game you solve many puzzles and explore deeper into the island, learning what has happened there and also learning more about Ashley as a character and her back-story. During the game you also find out mysteries surrounding the island and this created a deep world for you to think about as you play and become more engaged in the story. 

Other games such as Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996) and Myst (Cyan, 1993) for example, also use methods of creating a believable back-story to the world by using letters or documents the player can find and read, giving them more detail into events that have already happened prior to the start of the game. This is a very effective method of making the player more engaged in the world.

Figure 2: An example of a letter the player can read within the game Resident Evil.

Games have been telling stories since they were invented, some of the earliest games to tell deep, engaging stories were text adventures, much like reading a novel, but with more interaction, the scene would be set, then you as a player, would be able to write your command and the game with basic verbs such as walk forward, open door etc. Good examples of early text adventure games include Colossal Cave Adventure (William Crowther, 1976) and Zork (Infocom, 1977).

A good example of a game with very deep characters and plot is the newly released game, Beyond: Two Souls. The game focuses on one main character, Jodie Holmes, throughout fifteen years of her life, the game focuses on her life as she has to live with another entity being attached to her, making her a dangerous person and also subject to experiments by scientists. 

A new game more along the lines of the kind of game this project will achieve is the downloadable title To the Moon (Freebird Games, 2011), by Ken Gao. This is an atmospheric story driven RPG style game with basic player interactions, the main focus of the entire game is to tell a story, much in the same way that this project is trying to tell a story and have deep involving characters. The game has a serious tone to it, but remembers that it is only a game and therefore there are some more comical moments to brighten the mood. The way the characters interact with each other is a very important aspect in getting the player to become involved with the story and the gameplay. 

The website Gamasutra has many interesting articles on characters and narrative in video games, one of the best was by Randy Littlejohn, called “Adapting the tools of drama” (Littlejohn, 2001) He goes into detail about what makes an exciting and interesting story and how to apply that to games.  A dramatic work all comes down to a character, or a group of characters, that we empathize with because they want something that we can all relate to wanting, and antagonistic forces that opposes the fulfilment of our want. The clash of these opposing forces results in dramatic action. He talks of different desires a character will have such as the desires for recognition, adventure and security. 

At GDC (Game Developers Conference) in 2003, David Freeman, A screenwriter and producer of games and TV, Talked about the 34 ways of putting emotion in games, As this speech was made in 2003, a lot of what he said has already began to come true, he stated that games needed to become more like films and TV. Some of the most important points for the project he makes are as follows. 

Techniques relating to non-player characters:

  • Dialogue interesting techniques
  • NPC to NPC chemistry techniques
  • NPC to NPC relationship deepening techniques
  • Techniques relating to the player’s character:
  • Player toward NPC chemistry techniques
  • NPC to player relationship techniques
  • Player to NPC relationship techniques
  • Plot techniques: 
  • Emotionally complex moments and situations
  • Plot interesting techniques
  • Other Techniques:
  • First person deepening techniques
  • First person character arc techniques
  • Self-created story techniques
  • Opening cinematic
  • Fun

The article “The Uneasy Merging of Narrative and Gameplay” (Shirinian, 2010) by Ara Shirinian on Gamasutra raises a good question, “But why haven’t we achieved that perfect synthesis of gameplay and narrative yet? Why have there always been compromises and stilted combinations of the two? Are we too naive, or just not smart enough as game developers to figure it out? Or is it something else?” and looks at ways of combining both narrative and gameplay to create an emotional gaming experience

Another Gamasutra article “Getting Players to Care” (Felder, 2014) by Dan Felder states that the worst mistake a writer can make is to create a bland character. Before a character can become a vessel for emotional involvement they first have to be interesting enough for the reader or player to become attached to them. 

In conclusion, the general rules of story writing were talked about in all of the sources that were looked at, the importance of having a clear beginning, middle and end and the need for characters to have interesting personalities were two main points that appeared more than once. Historic ways of story writing were also discussed, such as cave paintings and early spoken stories and legends which have been passed down through generations. These early examples of storytelling still use the same basic principles that are used in modern narrative today, both in games and all other media. All the sources agreed that storytelling is an important part of games design and helps with players enjoyment and involvement in the game. 

The next section will be looking at how the examples of storytelling techniques can be applied to the project.

Research / Investigation of Literature Review 

From the book Better game characters by design this quite will be looked at and used within the project, “Trigger stereotypes for speed and break them for depth” this is a very important point to consider especially as the project will be a short 10 minute game playable at GradEX by many people who will not have a lot of time to get fully involved in the plot. 

The next point, from Cybertext, is to allow the player to change the course of the story. by doing this the player will feel more involved with the plot and feel like their actions have direct consequences in the world. 

Game Development Essentials says that “Backstory is important to creating believable characters.” This was one of the key reasons that a time travel mechanic was used as a main part of the game, to let the player find more out about the characters and their back stories, and actually have an impact on them during the story. 

The Monomyth Structure, mentioned in the literature review, will be looked at. Using the Hero’s Journey, the games story will be made to fit around the hero’s journey diagram used in the book.

Designing character based console games said a simple, but important message, that Narrative drives the player. This is the most important point, if the narrative is not engaging, then the player will stop playing before getting to the end of the game so it is vital to make sure it is interesting all the way through so the player wants to carry on. 

Character development and storytelling for games states that it is a good idea to also take inspiration from other media such as films and TV to see how stories are told in other media and apply those theories and methods to game design, hopefully making for a richer and well-rounded story. 

Interactive storytelling for video games said that it is a good idea to create a flow chart of the choices and outcomes in your game. Using a flow chart will help to plan the flow of the game and help to solve any plot problems that may occur from writing a complex time travel story.

Dynamic characters says that first impressions are important, therefore it is essential to make sure that the characters personalities come across the first time you see them in the game and the player can quickly form a connection with them.


The methodology used to create the final product was Iterative design. Through several phases of testing, the product was refined and changed to take into account all of the feedback and suggestions people submitted. To see the full testing feedback, please see section 4 of the appendix.


Characters and stories in games are usually flat or basic, used mainly for advancing the game, using the books researched, the aim is to address problems such as under developed characters and make story driven games more interesting and relatable, making the characters feel more lifelike and interesting to the player.


Using qualitative research as a methodology, many books and other sources were looked at in regards to the problem, it was narrowed down to the ones stated above, and using points taken from all the above sources, they were used in the creation of a game addressing the problems that were stated in the introduction. The creation of the game was aided by websites and video tutorials from other users which helped a lot in the development process. Also of use was the Google+ community where users can ask for help and share knowledge with other developers.


By using an existing game engine with good support from users, the project can be focused entirely on delivering a good script for the characters and building a good environment and fun gameplay elements to complement the story and the events that unfold during the course of the game. 


There were several other research projects which were similar to this, by looking at those existing project dissertations it was found that several of the objectives could benefit from the methodology used in those other projects, such as a blog post found on IGN titled, “Storytelling in Video Games: An Analysis of Narrative Video Games and How They Create an Emotional Connection between the Game and the Player” (IGN, 2013) This post discusses a list of five basic ways evoking an emotional response in players, these are “characters, relationships/dialogue, plot/narrative, atmosphere and environment, and game moments/challenges”


Using the methodology of researching other games as well as looking at academic textbooks, the way that the characters are written, how the game plays, and the environment is it set in can all be justified with the use of those textbooks and from studying other games in depth. Using the information gathered from doing so to create a well-researched and constructed game by using the ideas and methods agreed upon by industry professionals.


The sources were all fully referenced and found from reliable sources, written by well-known experts in their respective fields, or papers by others, written using referenced sources and quotes means that all the information in this paper is accurate and reliable. 


Brief history of role playing games

RPG’s, (Role Playing Games) both eastern and western, are very focused on storytelling and haven’t changed much since they first began, from the beginnings with games such as Phantasy Star (Sega, 1988), Final Fantasy (Squaresoft, 1987) and Dragon Quest, known in the UK as Dragon Warrior (Enix, 1986) , these games have been very important in making players invested over long periods of time with characters and worlds in their games, and continue to be relevant today with new entries in the franchises, further expanding the worlds. The player can see their character grow over time, both in terms of power from levelling up during fights, but also from a personal point of view, with the player making connections with NPC characters, some of whom may even join them throughout the rest of the game.

Figure 3: Screenshot of Phantasy Star, one of the earliest examples of an RPG game, also notable for being the first with a female main character.

Current story based games are huge, expansive games spanning hundreds of hours and amazing graphics, to find out how games have evolved to become so complex and long, we have to look back at the very beginnings of the genre, before video and computer games were even invented. The idea of an RPG, or Role Playing Game begin in the 70’s as table top board games where players could use their imagination to feel like they were part of the story, interacting with other characters and fighting monsters. The most popular game of this era was Dungeons and Dragons (Gary Gygax, 1974), invented by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1971, at the time it was known as “The Fantasy Game”, it wasn’t until 1974 when it was re-branded to the world famous name, Dungeons and Dragons. Before then it can be argued that some board games could be counted as role playing as you take control of a character. But for these games there was no narrative attached in the same way as the genre defining Dungeons and Dragons. 

When computers became more common and video game consoles began to come out, developers tried to recreate the same sense of adventure and immersion associated with those table top games in a virtual environment. Some very early examples of these kinds of games are Rogue (Michael Toy, 1980) and Akalabeth (Garriott, 1980) for PC and Adventure (Atari, 1979) on the Atari 2600 and other games for basic home computer systems. As consoles and computers got more powerful, the games began to improve and change, as the games were evolving to make use of the new powerful systems, different sub genres began to appear, such as strategy RPG’s or more story driven adventure games such as Dragon Quest for the Nintendo Entertainment System. From here a split was created dividing eastern and western developers. Each took a very different approach to the genre and ended up creating two different styles of game, both of which were very popular in their respective countries.

Eastern RPG video games 

Some of the first Japanese RPG’s were Phantasy Star, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, each taking a more story driven approach compared to eastern RPG’s of the time. Phantasy star also having the added new theme of being set in the future as opposed to the past. Each of these games gave the player a big world to explore and many characters to interact with, but a set path to follow. They still had dungeons and monsters to fight just like the games before it, but this was only one part of the game, while the other part focused much more on exploration and storytelling made you feel more involved with the character and world as you level up and learn new skills and even make friends who join you on your quest. 

Computer hardware in Japan in the 80’s was quite different to those in America and the UK, meaning that the majority of games released in that time were not ported abroad due to differences in hardware. Early eastern RPG and adventure games were more like Visual Novels, Games with very little graphics and a heavy reliance on text to describe the scene and tell the story. These games make for much better, or certainly more detailed and longer narratives but the tradeoff is very basic gameplay, mostly just allowing the player to pick different choices at key parts of the game. This has spawned several other styles of story driven games including Kinetic novels, which are visual novels where the player has no choices. This is considered the purest form of video game storytelling, with one straight path from start to finish.  Unfortunately, visual novels often get overlooked and bad reviews because they are treated more as standard games than stories, so they are marked down by reviewers for having basic gameplay elements. This is an unfair judgment and limits the market for these types of games due to a bad stigma surrounding them. Most of those that are released here have very well written plot and interesting characters. 

Some examples of games which have gotten bad or average reviews, due to lack of gameplay are, Time Hollow (Tenky, 2008) which has an average of 64 on Metacritic (Metacritic, 2008), most reviews praise the story but make negative comments about the lack of compelling gameplay and relatively short length. Some reviewers seem to miss the point of it being a story driven game, such as Games Radar which says “The problem with the game is that it really isn’t a game at all. We’re not just saying it’s too linear – what little (very little) gameplay you’ll find smattered throughout is completely spoon-fed to you.” and Gamespot “There’s a cool time-bending story to this adventure, but the simplistic gameplay saps much of the fun.”

The JRPG, as it is known, did not really become popular in the west until the arrival of one pivotal game, Final Fantasy VII (Square, 1997). Although there were games released here prior to that in the genre, this was by far the most popular and an outstanding success for Square-Enix and put the JRPG genre on a lot of people’s radars. From then, the 32 Bit era was flooded with JRPG releases worldwide. 

This project will aim to create a story driven game in the vein of the more traditional eastern RPG games from the 16 Bit era, but try to find ways of keeping the gameplay interesting without resorting to battles and level grinding which is prevalent in modern RPG’s at the moment.

Western RPG games

This project will be looking at story based RPG’s in particular. Most types of RPG games have story as a main thing but there are some that put it more at the centre than anything else. There are also visual novels which are nothing but the story, and you, as the main character, making choices that change the progression and ending of the game. I think there is still a market for simpler, more story driven games such as those released in the early days of the genre’s timeline. 

An important western RPG game was Fallout (Interplay Entertainment, 1997) which was one of the first games to have a party system. The game was a spiritual successor to the 1988 game, Wasteland (Interplay Productions, 1988). Beneath a steel sky (Revolution Software, 1994) is another very important story telling game and can now be downloaded for free. Usually Western RPG’s were released only on PC. Recently though those games have also been seeing releases on consoles. 

Other important early story driven games from western territories include Broken Sword (Revolution Software, 1996) and Secret of Monkey Island (LucasArts, 1990), these kinds of point and click adventure games were very popular on early computers and have seen a sort of resurgence recently with the release of episodic point and click games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead (Telltale Games, 2012) game series and Sam and Max (LucasArts, 1993) among others. 

Traditionally, RPG’s tended to focus mostly on medieval or older times; there are relatively few modern day RPG games. Notable exceptions are, Earthbound (HAL Laboratory, 1994), The World Ends with You (Square-Enix, 2008) and Parasite Eve (Square USA, Inc., 1998). Some games use time travel as a mechanic, and as a result, are set in both the past, present and future, Notable examples of games utilising a time travel setting are: Chrono Trigger (Square, 1995) and Radiant Historia (Atlus, 2010).

Narrative during Gameplay

From looking at many games as examples, some common elements were found, ways of telling a story while keeping gameplay interesting. 

Voices can be heard through audio or visual cues sent to the player through a story device such as a video playing in the cockpit of a mech in Lost Planet (Capcom, 2006), or Pit, from Kid Icarus Uprising (Nintendo, 2011) being able to hear the goddess talking to him while playing. This means that gameplay and narrative combine so you do not have to stop playing in order to advance the story. In terms of RPG games this is harder to do as most of the time you have to stop and talk to a person in order to trigger a cut-scene or event. In games such as Final Fantasy XIII (Square-Enix, 2010), the cut scenes go straight into gameplay and you begin playing while the event is still happening around you, this is a good way of making the player feel connected to the world. 

In Pokémon Black and Pokémon White (Game Freak, 2010), as you walk past people in the main city, speech bubbles appear above them as you overhear their conversations, these do not stop gameplay like the regular text boxes, and are there purely to increase the atmosphere and the feeling of being in a busy area. The game Chrono Trigger, which will be studied in depth later in the paper, also utilises a similar feature where the player character is still allowed to move around during an interaction with an NPC. 

 The use of visuals to tell a story is also present in many RPG games, traditionally, using pre-rendered backgrounds to give the game much more detail than the limited 3D available at the time. The most common example of this is the PlayStation One RPG, Final Fantasy VII as well as other story driven games such as Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky both created by Revolution Software.

Some more modern games also chose to use the Pre rendered approach including the GameCube RPG, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (tri-Crescendo, Monolyth Soft, 2005). Recently, the need for pre-rendered backgrounds has been lost, thanks to technical advances in graphical capabilities of consoles and PC’s, allowing such detailed environments to run in real time. 

Figure 4: An example of the detailed environments possible thanks to Pre-Rendered graphics in Baten Kaitos

An important part of any story driven game, be it an RPG or other genre, is well developed characters. Looking at several sources mentioned in the literature review, you can see that to make a good character you need to include the following to make them feel alive. The first thing is to introduce them properly, explain why they are there and who they are in relation to the player, are they important to the story or not? Their motives need to be clear from the start, so you can get an early feeling of what kind of character you are interacting with, is it a good guy or a bad guy and why. 

The website TV Tropes has an article about Story to Gameplay ratio, and how games can be perceived depending on the amount of gameplay or story within them (TV Tropes, 2014). In the article it states that games with bad gameplay but interesting stories sell only to people who are willing to overlook the bland gameplay and continue playing only to see the next cut scene or story event. There is a certain audience that will continue to buy these types of games; however, most people will overlook them as they have boring gameplay. When RPG’s were first invented, the actual story was second to the gameplay. Most of the game was spent exploring the world and finding out what you had to do by yourself. Unlike modern RPG’s which have long introductions and plot that is integral to the game. 

Some games only have story at the beginning and end, and any story in-between is entirely optional, the example given in the article is the Metroid Prime (Retro Studios, 2002) games, where you can scan the environment to find out back-story about the world and characters that used to inhabit it. 

Figure 5: Screenshot from Metroid Prime showing how you can access extra information about the game world by scanning objects

The article has a list of games, ranging from no story at all, Pong (Atari, 1972) to full story, Planetarian (Key, 2004). Games in the middle seem to usually seem to be the best received, sharing an equal amount of story and gameplay time. 

Game Engines

Several different game engines were considered including RPG Maker VX (Enterbrain, 2008), Ren’Py (Rothamel, 2004), Unity (Unity Technologies, 2005), SisterEngine (Yal, 2012) and Multimedia Fusion 2.5 (ClickTeam, 2014). The project was originally going to be made in RPG Maker VX, but due to financial difficulties it was not possible to purchase the software at the time. At first, Unity was the engine of choice, offering the most freedom in creation thanks to its ability to run C#, Java script and more. Unity does not, however, have built in support for tile sets which was an important factor in creating the style of game. A prototype was created in Unity but it proved to be quite difficult to work in and required 3D modeling skills.

The Ren’Py engine is specifically for visual novel style games, so using this engine would be limited to just text and character portraits which would eliminate the exploration part of the game. 

An earlier version of RPG Maker, RPG Maker XP, was purchased and used as the engine for the project. RPG Maker XP will allow for easy communication of ideas and story using an easy to use visual scripting interface. Using this engine means that more time can be spent focusing on the narrative and character development without worrying about having to program the engine from scratch, as opposed to staying with the original idea of using unity. RMXP allows me to have more creative freedom than Unity which would require the ability to create 3D characters and environments. It was decided that using tile sets and sprite based characters would be more beneficial to the quality of the project. 

Pros and Cons of using the RPG Maker XP engine. 


  • Easy to develop a game with only basic programming skills.
  • Can use preloaded tile sets or purchase new ones from the official website.
  • Easy to setup gameplay and conversations.
  • Lots of resources and help available online.
  • Good for story driven games.
  • Easy to make object and world interactions.
  • Can customise scripts to create different looking games.
  • Good graphics engine allowing lighting and parallax backgrounds and more.
  • Has some nostalgic value with its 16-bit aesthetic.


  • Some people refuse to play RPG Maker games In a survey asking if people would pay for a game made in RPG Maker, 32% of those surveyed voted “No…” (The escapist, 2013)
  • hard to make it look unique, a lot of amateur’s use the engine and the free sprites and tile sets, meaning there is a flood of bad games available using this engine.
  • Hard to make interesting gameplay beyond interacting with objects or basic fight scenes.
  • Most people seem to think they would only be interested in an RPG maker game if it didn’t feel like a traditional RPG; something more unique would be good. 
  • Missing some features from newer versions of the engine (VX and VX Ace)

Game Research

This section will be looking at several story-driven games and noting how they introduce characters and settings. It will also discuss reviews for the games and player’s opinions of them. 

Chrono Trigger

SNES (1995)

Chrono Trigger was released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995 in Japan and America. The game never got an official release in the UK until many years later in 2009 for the DS. 

The game was written mostly by Masato Kato, following Yuji Horii’s original draft script. Chrono Trigger is widely regarded as one of, if not the best RPG game ever made. Many different sources suggest that the reason for its popularity and success was down to the complex plot, interesting characters, excellent soundtrack and, for the time, graphics. 

Another reason for its fame and success is the development team behind the game. Dubbed the “Dream Team”, the people hired by Square Enix to lead the project were, Akira Toriyama (Artist, famous for designs of Dragon Ball characters.),  Nobuo Uematsu (Musician, famous for composing Final Fantasy soundtracks), Yūji Horii (Designer and scenario writer, famous for creating Dragon Quest), Kazuhiko Aoki (Producer of Chrono Trigger, also helped set up the “Dream Team”) and Hironobu Sakaguchi (Game designer, creator of the Final Fantasy series).


The characters in the game come from all different time periods, and you encounter new friends and enemies as you play through the game, the first people you are introduced to are:


Chrono is a silent protagonist. The player controls him and can talk to the other characters. The device of having a silent main character is done so that the person playing can get more involved with the character on a personal level, and designers believe that if the character were to speak it might have a negative effect on the immersion of the person playing. 

Although Chrono is a silent protagonist, he still uses facial emotions to convey how he is feeling to the other characters. Also, he does still have a good amount of story around him. Including one part of the game in which Chrono dies, and the group have to go and make a clone of Chrono from the past to resurrect him in the future. Using time travel, as this example suggests, is an important part of the game.


She is Chrono’s childhood friend and an inventor at his home town of Truce. She is the inventor of a teleporter machine called the Telepod. She is with her father at the millennial fair to demonstrate it, but when Marle goes into the machine it malfunctions and sends her back to prehistoric times. Chrono and Lucca follow her and their adventures through time begin. 


A young princess who lived at the castle, she escaped from the castle to attend the millennial fair, an event that is only held once every 1000 years. She meets Chrono and Lucca and nominates herself to be the first to try Lucca’s newest invention, the Telepod. It malfunctions and sends her into the past. 


Magnus or Maoh in the Japanese release (Maoh, meaning Demon King) is an antagonist of the story, born in 12,000 BC he was a quiet child named Janus. He had Strong magic powers but had no friends except his sister and his pet cat. The player meets Magus as Janus when they travel to 12,000BC. Janus tells the player than one of his people will perish, he is referring to Chrono’s death.

Magus can become a playable character at one point of the game and travel with the party. There are also two boss fights with him at certain points. He is a deep and interesting character, who changes as the story progresses. As you also get to see him as a child and why he turned from a child Janus to the demon lord Magus


Figure 6: This picture depicts some of the main characters in Chrono Trigger, from left to right, Lucca, Magus, Frog, Marle, Chrono, Robo and Ayla.

To the moon.

PC (2010)

Created with the RPG Maker engine, it was a very successful story driven game, released in 2010 on PC. 

“Those with patience will find 4-5 hours of storytelling that will entrance and move all but the most hard hearted of gamers, and will come out of the experience with many things to think about.”

How “To the Moon” fits into Espen Aarseth’s graph.pastedGraphic_7.png

This graph shows that the game is quite linear as it is mainly comprised of linear corridors and static objects. But in contrast to the game world, the characters and events are deep and fully plotted, meaning that the player will always see the whole story and every aspect of the character that the designer wanted them to see. The trade-off for such game design is a limited ability to give the player free control over the game, To the Moon tries to add interesting gameplay mechanics such as simple puzzles and finding and interacting with items in the world.

“That trust results in a tale filled with characters you legitimately grow to care about. Maybe that sounds odd when you’re describing 16-bit looking sprites that largely emote through wide-eyed, startled jumps and periodic shakes of the head, but Gao imbues them with enough humanity to keep you glued to the screen through the whole four hours of To the Moon.” (Navarro, 2011)

The game does not directly introduce the characters, rather, you are put straight into their world and figure out more about their characteristics and personalities as you play, for example, the conversations between Dr Watts and Dr Rosaline at the start show that DR Watts has a good sense of humour and doesn’t take his work too seriously. However, throughout the story, as you are introduced more  important scenes, his attitude begins to change and you can feel that he is taking his work much more seriously towards the end of the story.. 

The plot revolves around the work of the two doctors; they run a business which makes people wishes come true. Visiting an old man on his death bed, it is their job to go into his memories and help him fulfill his dream of getting to the moon. by going back through the old man’s mind, you get to see how he grew up, using the time travel method is a very effective way of getting to know a character in a relatively short time and really get the player to care about what is happening. You go through all the traumatic events this man witnessed and lived through, such as his brother dying, meeting the love of his life, seeing her die, and coping with health problems including Asperger’s syndrome. This goes to show that even a simple looking game can tackle deep and emotional themes while still be enjoyable to play and experience.


Dr Neil Watts

He is the Technician specialist at Sigmund Corporation. Sigmund Corp is an organisation which uses technology to alter a dying person’s memory so that they can fulfil one lifetime wish before they pass on. The procedure can confuse people if they were to keep on living so it is only used on people who are dying. Neil is one of the scientists working for the company. In the game he is accompanied by Dr Rosaline. He is rather childish and makes several pop culture references including TV and game quotes. In certain situations he can be serious and considerate too.  

Dr Eva Rosaline

Accompanying Dr. Watts on his mission is Dr. Rosaline, a female scientist also from Sigmund Corp. Her job title is Senior Memory Traversal Agent. She goes with Neil into Johnny’s memories and helps him rearrange his past so that he will become an astronaut and fulfil his dying wish of going to the moon. She is more serious and kind compared to Neil and sometimes will want to stay behind in Johnny’s memory rather than rush ahead as Neil sometimes does. She is empathetic and also very serious about her work, making sure she gets the job done no matter what the cost. 

Johnathan Wyles

Johnathan Wyles is known in the game as Johnny. When the game begins you see him as an old man on his death bed. He asked for the help of Sigmund Corporation to fulfil his lifelong wish of going to the moon. Throughout the game you play through certain parts of Johnny’s memories, seeing all the good and bad things that have happened to him throughout his life. By the end of the game you alter his memories enough to convince him to become an astronaut and visit NASA for a trip to the moon. 


Wife of Johnny, She gets a terminal illness and refuses to pay for the treatment so that Johnny can still afford to build their house by a lighthouse they both uses to visit. She once said to Johnny when they first met as children, that if they ever wanted to find each other again, they should meet on the moon. This memory is what Eva and Neil focus on in the attempt to get Johnny to become an astronaut. 

Figure 7: Artwork for the game To the Moon, featuring younger versions of Johnny and River.

Illusion of Time.

SNES 1995 (UK) 

1994 (US) 

1993 (Japan) (Known as Illusion of Gaia in US and Japan)

The plot for the game was written by the Japanese Science Fiction Novelist, Mariko Ōhara

The game has a central plot running throughout, but each area you visit also has its own story to tell.

The game used impediment narrative which does not branch and you have no direct influence over the story. Instead, it is told from a 3rd person perspective, with a narrator describing the scene. From the start of the game, the motivation for the main character is clear. He wants to find his father. Characters are introduced early on and over the course of the game, they are expanded upon and we are told some of their own back-story. They each have their own reasons for joining will on his quest, as will be explained in the characters section.

Most of the plot is delivered through text boxes and visuals. The music is also very effective at portraying the emotion of the scene, using slow, melodic music to invoke a sense of mystery in certain situations. Due to the age of the game, there is no voice acting.

Some scenes use static images, for example, the new world shown at the end of the game. These show a more detailed view of what is being described in the text.

The use of time in the game is quite interesting. Near the end you find out that time on the planet has been changed due to the comet. When the comet is destroyed time gets reset and the earth takes the form it should have been in.

 The story is structured in a very linear fashion, taking the player to set places and a narrator speaks throughout the story to add detail and background to the events. There is no choice relating to the overall outcome of the plot. The pacing of the story is well thought out, giving you enough plot to think about before going to the next dungeon or town in the game.

In this screenshot, you can see two of the characters are on a raft, in the game they spend over a week on this raft, getting to know each other. This is a good way of developing a characters feeling by forcing them to interact with another character one on one. 



Will is the main protagonist of the game, and the only playable character. He was born in South Cape town and is the son of a famous explorer, Olman. He lives with his grandparents. He leaves the town in search of his father who was lost during one of his expeditions. During the course of the game, Will delivers narration over important scenes which gives the game a more personal feel as he is telling the player his own thoughts and interpretations of the scenes. 



Kara is a spoilt princess who lives at the castle in Will’s town. She escaped from the castle and joins will on his journey. At first she seems spoilt and annoying, but through the course of the game, as she meets new people and has new experiences, she calms down. Eventually Will and Kara begin to like each other, after being stranded on a raft for weeks and barely surviving. She also has a pet pig called Hamlet.

Kara is a good example of a character whose personality changes due to events in the game.


Seth also lives in Cape Town; he plays with Will and the rest of his friends. Seth is very clever, and spends a lot of time studying, partly to escape from his troubled home life, where his parents are always arguing. He joins Will on his adventure, but dies soon after. At some points of the game, Seth’s spirit communicates with the group. He can also be found as a spirit at the end of the game. 


Lance is Will’s best friend. Lance’s father also went with Olman on the expedition, but, unlike Will’s father, he returned alive. He ends up falling in love with another character in the game, Lilly.


Will’s cousin, he is an inventor who lives in another town. He has invented many things, including an airplane which the group uses to travel on their quest. He finds out he is the heir to a big company called Rolek who turn out to be trading slaves in the capital city of Euro.

Project Development

Using these games as inspiration, first, a rough draft of the areas in the game and the order in which the player will see the areas was created on paper. From this, the interactions and a brief description of what the player will read in each location was added and the gameplay was beginning to come together. 

The whole game was planned out on paper before moving to RMXP and creating tiled environments for the scenes. Using the scripting language built in and the options available, the storyboard was recreated in the engine. 


Here is a list of the different areas in the game and the corresponding maps.

  • Outside

The game begins with a scene outside of the house, and then moves inside to the bedroom.

  • Bedroom

This is where the game begins, with Ashley looking out of the window, listening to her parents arguing. You can walk down the stairs to enter the rest of the house. If you go downstairs before going to bed you can have a conversation with Katsuko who is waiting there for James.

  • Downstairs

If the player chooses to go downstairs, they can explore the house and talk to Katsuko, she tells Ashley that her father wasn’t always like that. But doesn’t say any more.

  • Outside again

This time you control Ashley; there are several things you n do apart from head straight to your destination, including getting food for the horse, then riding it. You can also cut some logs down or take the horse to a jumping track at the bottom of the map. Once you have explored you must enter the forest at the top of the map and make your way through it to the lab at the top. 

  • Lab 

 This is where Ashley’s father, James, works. You have to find a password for the computer. When you have gained access you can read the emails or look at the log files to gain extra back-story of the character. Once you manage to turn on the time machine you will be teleported to the city.

  • City 

This part of the game is set in 2006. Ashley appears in a street and sees her parents walking along the path, with a boy in front that she’s never seen before. There is a choice in this scene, do you take a photo for Ashley’s father or not? Depending on what you choose you will have to do something different when you go back to the lab. In this scene, James’s brother gets run over. This is a very important scene in the game which marks an important part in ~James’s life which is main focus of the game. 

  • School

The school scene begins in 2003, this marks the first time that James and Katsuko meet each other. As well as those two meeting, they also both meet the scientist Christoph, who is their teacher. Ashley talks to Christoph and tells him she is trying to find a way to save James’s brother. Christoph then sends Ashley back into his own timeline to the lab where he used to work in the 80’s before moving to the UK.

  • Science Centre

The science centre is where Christoph used to work before becoming a teacher at Cambridge. This area is not yet complete, and walking to the building at the top will end the demo.


 Here is the introduction cut scene script being used in engine. Each area of the game has a script that runs as the map is loaded, this script is runs when the level is loaded and is used to set up parameters such as fog, used for lighting, and scripted cut scenes.

Character art.

Here is an example of one of the characters, Ashley, and her different expressions for use in the text boxes within the game. Below is an in-game screenshot, showing how the expression is displayed. 

You can see here how the expressions can change depending on what the character is saying or thinking. 

Game Title:

Quantum Shift.


Ashley’s father is a cold, unloving man, who lives only for his work. He stays in his lab for weeks without speaking to anyone, and when he does come back to the house, he argues with her mother, shouting something about trying to save someone.

He never speaks a word to Ashley…

Why is he like this? 

What is more important to him than his family? 

Who is he trying to save?

The game begins on Ashley’s 20th birthday, she sneaks out at night, determined to find out the mysteries surrounding her father. She finds her way into her father’s secret lab. Hidden inside the lab is a time machine. She finds a way to activate it and the secrets of her father’s past begins to unravel…

Making choices throughout the game will affect what happens in the future!

To see more information on the plot of the game, and the iterations it went though, please refer to part 4 in the appendix.


Mother of main character – Katsuko Farraday (Previously Sakagami)

Father of main character – James Farraday

Main character – Ashley Farraday

Lab scientist – Christophe Breinholst

Find out about their backstory by using the time machine and from dialogue with the characters. 

Character Bios: 


 Name:  James 

Age: 44

Nationality: English

Description: He is a middle age man who always wears a lab coat and has medium length hair. 

Traits: Very serious about his work, spends a lot of time working, not much of a family man, Introverted. 

James is a child genius, unlike his brother. He was always very serious about his work; at the age of 17 he went straight to Cambridge University to study physics. There he met a Japanese transfer student, Katsuko; they made a strong friendship working together on projects in their spare time, along with his teacher, Christopher. Together, the three of them spent their time at Cambridge developing a secret prototype time machine. James invited his brother to visit them one day, his brother was killed in a bad car crash, since that day, James became almost obsessed with the time machine, hoping to one day go back and save his brother. James and Katsuko left university together and moved into a small cottage in the countryside. There they set up a lab next to the house and continue to work on their experiments together. A few years after they moved in, James got colder towards everyone and began separating himself from the world to work on the time machine. He ignores his daughter. 


Name: Katsuko (Kat) 

Nationality: Japanese

Age: 43

She is slim and works at the lab. Messy black hair and big glasses. 

Traits: Energetic, Intelligent, Passionate, Clumsy, and Eccentric. 

She was raised in Japan and attended the Tokyo children’s academy, a school for gifted children. Her parents were supportive of her hobbies and let her study further physics abroad in England; she left Japan in 2003 and went to study at Cambridge. There she met James and they worked together during their time, eventually they fell in love and she ended up pregnant with Tokemi. She and James moved out to the countryside where they raised Tokemi as well as continued work on their projects, including a time machine. 

Lab worker / Teacher

Name: Christoph

Age: 70

Nationality: Swedish

Occupation:  Lab member works with James on the time machine in his retirement. Used to work at CERN when he, then went to England to teach physics at the university Ashley’s parents went to.  

Description: Wears brown clothes. Has a grey beard. Always wears a badge from Cern. 

Traits: very intelligent, eccentric, cheerful, helpful, illness (from too much exposure to time waves)

Born in Switzerland into a rich family, he spent his childhood in his parents mansion, he was home schooled by the finest teacher his parents could find. He lived an isolated life and didn’t have many friends. He spent most of his time in his lab, which his parents paid for. When he was old enough he left the mansion to go and work for the Swedish research lab, Cern. He worked there for many years.

After working at Cern he heard that Cambridge in England was looking to hire experts in Physics, he always dreamed of teaching others about his passion, he got the job and moved to the UK, here he met two students who would have a big impact on him, James and Katsuko. They would always be the most involved in lessons, and way beyond the capabilities of the rest of the students. He decided to introduce them to some of his projects he had been working on, including a time machine. The three of them worked on the time machine there. 

 Main character

Ashley (Tokemi) – doesn’t like her Japanese name.

Age: 20 years old. 

Nationality: English/Japanese

Occupation: student 

Description: Has a sad family life but tries not to let it get to her. Doesn’t understand her family. 

Traits: adventurous, inquisitive.

Back-story: She was born in 2010, she is home taught by Christopher and Katsuko. She doesn’t see her father very often and doesn’t really have much interest in learning about physics and math. She is not allowed near the lab where her parents often work for days on end. She is left alone in the house. On her 20th birthday, her father lets her into the Lab to see the time machine. Later that day she sneaks in while he is sleeping and uses the machine to go back in time to find out how her parents met. 


By making use of the events system which is built into RPG Maker XP, as well as using the scripting language “Ruby” or “RGSS” (Ruby Game System Script), interactive objects and multiple endings based on what the player has interacted with were possible. 

The script for the game was written out next, by separating the script into scenes for each part of the game, it was easy to translate the text into the cut scenes within the game. Some of the script was re-written during the process making it flow more naturally and to correct spelling and other grammatical errors.. 

The Freebird game forums were a great source of help and inspiration, Freebird games are the company that made To the Moon. They have a forum where people can discuss making games in the RPG Maker engine and you can look at and discuss with other developers and play their games. This was an important resource in the creation process of the project.

 The game is made to be played with a Playstation controller. Here are the controls for the game.


Throughout the course of development, several people tested and helped with the game. All of their suggestions were written down and implemented back into the game. 

A demo of the game was put online at the Freebird Games forum and on the RPG Maker community on Google+ where some people kindly played the game and gave feedback.

Overall, thanks to the testing, several game breaking bugs were found and fixed, along with extra gameplay and dialogue scenes. 

Using ways of displaying text to convey the characters feelings. for example, slowing the text down, or changing the colour, font or size to emphasise a certain point. 

Testing Phase 1:

Feedback from testers:

  • “It’s not fair on our daughter!” -> It’s not fair to our daughter!
  • “Then spend weeks on end in that disgusting lab of yours!” I wonder what “on end” means in here.
  • I’m sure-> I’m sure (and in “why i keep a diary”, “Maybe i should head to…” and probably other places).
  • “I’m not having anything to do with her” -> I’m not sure, but wouldn’t it be better as “I don’t have anything to do her”?
  • Some notes about interacting with the game objects (I guess “event” is the term for it in RPG Maker XP) :
  • When I turn the light off, the next time I press enter/return on it, instead of asking me to turn it on, it still asks “Turn the light off?” and whether I answer with Yes or No, the light will remain off.
  • Also, there is this specific place when I’m near the door, but I’m trying to interact with the light, it will display the message about the door at first, then shows the light message, I think it should only show the light text. This screenshot shows this spot:
  • Still no hills in bg 
  • Not sure that the mother at the start should mention tommys name yet. Could refer to tommy as him or something add mystery.
  • Zero a restart button???
  • Make more interaction between walking from ur house and the lab? Like say make horse whiney and u can get a carrot for it from the scarecrow patch?
  • Maybe make the computer you need to interact flash so it’s more obvious
  • Or make the pc flash when u have access?
  • Want to add exclamation marks to characters when tommy runs across the road??
  • Seat in front of ashley when she puts password in
  • How about a flash of red when tommy is hit by the car?
  • Make james face who hes talking to in the classroom scene? Hes always facing teacher
  • Got lost in lab didn’t think to talk to james
  • I think mentioning that its ‘late that u should go to bed’ might be helpful too if she tries to go out in first scene?


Thanks to the feedback, several bugs and problems with the game were fixed such as not appearing in the right place after exiting a room, and getting stuck in certain areas, to still being able to move during a cut scene when the player was supposed to be stationary. Also, many of the spelling mistakes were also fixed and the pacing of the cut scenes was improved. 

The amount of interactive objects in the environment was greatly improved, now the player can interact with almost anything in the world, giving the player a much more interactive experience. 

Testing Phase 2:

For this next demo, people were asked to fill out a form with feedback after they had completed the game. Many helpful suggestions and possible changes were given. For a list of all the advice, see the appendix entry for Testing Phase 2. The general response was that it was a big improvement over the first demo. Some comments are as follows: To see a full list of comments, see Appendix.

  • I do like how when you get choices you don’t simply write them as a yes/no choice, you put some personality into the choices too
  • I liked how you put in all these things you could interact with. Reminds me of good old RPGs.
  • id play around with the car scene though. Maybe have them scream out just before it fades away and back to the lab again? (Wonder if u want to slow car down maybe? add car noise? smoke animation to show and fade to black?)
  • The scene after you go to bed lost the fences 
  • When riding the horse, I went to cut some logs and another horse suddenly appeared. Not sure if there is meant to be two or if it’s a duplicate, but it suddenly appearing out of thin air was strange! 
  • It would be great if Katsuko, Tommy and Dr. Breinholst also had talk sprites! The animals could also have talk sprites if you want to make it extra cute.


Thanks to this feedback, a number of changes and improvements could be made to the game.

  • I would have put the lab a bit more out of the way and hidden out of sight – it seemed a little odd how she says she’s never set foot there when it’s only a few metres from her house.

The lab was moved further away and a forest path was added to make it seem more realistic that the character had not been there before.

Please see section 6 of the appendix for a more detailed look at the development and testing process.



As you can see from these changes, the opening section of the game is not much longer and allows for some exploration, as we as also having a set path for those players who just want to advance the story as fast as possible.

This is an in-game screenshot of new section. The frog hops around and crows also fly from the trees to give it more atmosphere.  In addition to this change, all of the spelling mistakes were fixed and all the bugs that were found have now been fixed as well. 


In conclusion, to answer the original question, “How and to what extent are characters and narrative essential for a player’s emotional engagement in story driven games”, we can see from the books in the literature review, characters are a very important aspect in the creation of an emotionally engaging game. Also by looking at the reviews and opinions of the character driven game, To the Moon, we can see that the characters are what make the game engaging and emotional for the player.

Works Cited

Aarseth, E., 1997. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. s.l.:JHU Press.

Aarseth, E., 2009. Vimeo. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

Anon., n.d. Radiant Historia, Console game: Nintendo DS: s.n.

Atari, 1972. Pong, Arcade game: Atari.

Atari, 1979. Adventure, Console game: Atari 2600: Atari.

Atlus, 2010. Radiant Historia, Console game: Nintendo DS: Atlus.

Campbell, J., 1949. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 2008 ed. s.l.:New World Library.

Capcom, 1996. Resident Evil, Console game: Playstation 1, Sega Saturn: Capcom.

Capcom, 2006. Lost Planet, Console Game: Xbox 360, Playstation 3: Capcom.

CiNG, 2005. Another Code: Two Memories, Console game: Nintendo DS: Nintendo.

ClickTeam, 2014. Multimedia Fusion 2.5, Computer Software: ClickTeam.

Cress, N., 2004. Dynamic Characters. s.l.:Writer’s Digest Books.

Cyan, 1993. Myst, Computer game: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS: Red Orb Entertainment.

Davies, M., 2007. Designing character-based console games. s.l.:Charles River Media.

Enix, 1986. Dragon Warrior, Console Game: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): Nintendo.

Enterbrain, 2008. RPG Maker VX, Computer Software: Microsoft Windows Vista: Enterbrain.

Felder, D., 2014. Gamasutra. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

Freebird Games, 2011. To the Moon, Computer game: Windows, Mac OS: Freebird Games.

Game Freak, 2010. Pokemon Black and White, Console game: Nintendo DS: Nintendo.

Garriott, R., 1980. Akalabeth , Computer Game: Apple II: California Pacific Computer Co..

Gary Gygax, D. A., 1974. Dungeons and Dragons. s.l.:Tactical Studies Rules, Inc..

HAL Laboratory, 1994. Earthbound, Console game: Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Nintendo.

IGN, 2013. IGN. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

Infocom, 1977. Zork, Computer game: DPD-10, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64: Personal Software.

Interplay Entertainment, 1997. Fallout, Computer game: Microsoft Windows: Interplay Entertainment.

Interplay Productions, 1988. Wasteland, Computer Game: Commodore 64, Apple II, Windows: Electronic Arts.

Isbister, K., 2006. Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach, s.l.: CRC Press.

Isbister, K., 2006. Better Game Characters by Design: A Psycological Approach. s.l.:CRC Press.

Key, 2004. Planetarian, Computer game: Windows, iOS, Android: Visual Art’s.

Lebowitz, J., 2012. Interactive Storytelling for Video Games. s.l.:Taylor & Francis.

Littlejohn, R., 2001. Gamasutra. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

LucasArts, 1990. The Secret of Monkey Island, Computer game: Amiga, Atari ST, CDTV, DOS, FM Towns, Mac OS, Sega CD: LucasArts.

LucasArts, 1993. Sam and Max, Computer Game: Windows: LucasArts.

Metacritic, 2008. Metacritic. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

Michael Toy, G. W., 1980. Rogue, Computer Game: Unix systems: Epyx.

Nintendo, 2011. Kid Icarus Uprising, Console Game: Nintendo 3DS: Nintendo.

Novak, J., 2004. Game Development Essentials: An Introduction. 3rd ed. s.l.:Thomson/Delmar Learning.

Quantic Dream, 2005. Fahrenheit, Console game: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows: Atari.

Quantic Dream, 2010. Heavy Rain, Console game: Playstation 3: Sony Computer Entertainment.

Quantic Dream, 2013. Beyond: Two Souls, Console game: Playstation 3: Sony Computer Entertainment.

Retro Studios, 2002. Metroid Prime, Console game: Nintendo Gamecube: Nintendo.

Revolution Software, 1994. Beneath a Steel Sky, Computer game: DOS, Amiga, Amiga CD32, iOS, Unix, Microsoft Windows, OS X: Virgin Interactive.

Revolution Software, 1996. Broken Sword, Computer game: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS: Virgin Interactive.

Rothamel, T. “., 2004. Ren’Py, Computer Software: Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX: Ren’Py.

Sega, 1988. Phantasy Star, Console game: Sega Master System: Sega.

Sheldon, L., 2013. Character Development and Storytelling for Games. s.l.:Course Technology.

Shirinian, A., 2010. Gamasutra. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

Square USA, Inc., 1998. Parasite Eve, Console game: Playstation 1: Square.

Square, 1995. Chrono Trigger, Console game: Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Square.

Square, 1997. Final Fantasy VII, Console Game: Playstation 1: Square.

Square-Enix, 2008. The World Ends With You, Console game: Nintendo DS: Square Enix.

Square-Enix, 2010. Final Fantasy XIII, Console game: Xbox 360, Playstation 3: Square-Enix.

Squaresoft, 1987. Final Fantasy, Console game: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): Nintendo.

Telltale Games, 2012. The Walking Dead, Computer game: iOS, Mac OS, Windows, Plyastation 3, Xbox 360: Telltale Games.

Tenky, 2008. Time Hollow, Console game: Nintendo DS: Konami.

The escapist, 2013. Poll: Would you pay for an RPG Maker game?. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

tri-Crescendo, Monolyth Soft, 2005. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, Console game: Nintendo Gamecube: Namco.

TV Tropes, 2014. TV Tropes. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2014].

Unity Technologies, 2005. Unity, Computer Software: Mac OS, Microsoft Windows: Unity Technologies.

William Crowther, D. W., 1976. Colossal Cave Adventure, Computer Game: PDP-10: CRL.

Yal, 2012. SisterEngine, Computer Software: Microsoft Windows: Yal.

Screenshot of Phantasy Star:

Leave a Reply