Quite a few people have been talking lately about the remastered edition of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 which have been released by Gearbox Software. The new version of Homeworld is apparently not exactly like the original in terms of gameplay, but I have heard a lot of good things about the graphics and it was great to see that Gearbox had gone to the trouble to properly credit Martin Cirulis and me separately for our joint work on the Narrative Design for the project. A gamer friend of mine actually sent me this .png via Twitter to show me the credits for the game.
Homeworld holds a special place in my heart because it was the first professional game project that I worked on. I have always worked best in background fiction and world-building, in creating factions, races and characters that have emotional impact. To this day, I still have people come up to me at conferences and conventions to say how much they loved Homeworld, and I’m quite pleased with my small contribution to that project.
As I noted in my talk at the Full Indie Summit in 2014, it’s not hard to see how a small contribution to narrative design can have a big impact. While writing the background fiction for Homeworld, I made up a new word, “kiith”, to describe the kin groups that serve as the major social and political unit of Hiigaran society. If you google that word today, you’ll find over 82,000 hits for it, and almost every one leads to a fan-created page–wikis, guilds, community forums, reviews and blogs, you name it.
It’s a crude but effective illustration of my point about the way Lore functions as a feature in game design. The purpose of background fiction in Narrative Design is to provide a springboard for the player’s imagination! A good Narrative Designer can give players a much greater level of emotional engagement with the games they play. And a solid relationship between Narrative Design and Campaign Design, or core Gameplay Design, can create a really rich experience for the player.
Ideally, you draw people into a world that feels genuinely alive. That’s what I’m shooting for with every game.