I found this entry in the Game Development Essentials series to be a surprise. It was everything I expected in a book regarding game story concept and creation, and did not let me down on delivering what it promised: a primer on story and character development for use in games.
Let me state that I am an aspiring writer, and I have read a number of books specifically dealing with story and character development, emotional impact, ways to describe or show characters and making the story reach out to the audience. This book did cover these aspects, albeit not as in depth as the other specific books I had read previously, but it was not expected to. However, it does do a great job at pointing out the pitfalls of considering a game to be similar to other media types. The book drove home the point that developing a game is a meshing of movie, audio, and writing industries, and even the programming quality will affect a story, such as whether or not facial expressions on characters will be detailed.
Chapter 1: The History of Story
--covers in brief detail the development of modern storytelling
Chapter 2: Game Genres
--Explains how the storytelling process is affected by the game's genre or genres that it is trying to fit into
Chapter 3: Building Your Story
--covers the story creation process from concept to execution, with emphasis on different story structures and adding plot points and twists
Chapter 4: Game Storytelling Devices
--Pros and cons, benefits and pitfalls of the game story process. This chapter talks about the differences between cinematics or brief cut scenes, types of player control, and creating emotions that engage the players (the audience)
Chapter 5: Character Types
--Makes distinctions between main characters, NPCs, ancillary characters, and the archetypes heroes can fall into.
Chapter 6: Character Development
--This chapter goes further in depth on character development including character backstories, using physical, mental, and emotional elements, developing the interactions with ancillary characters, and character relationships
Chapter 7: Verbal Character Development
--Narration, monologue, and dialogue as character development devices, including the pros and cons of different types of viewpoints and tips on making the script sound great rather than cliché.
Chapter 8: Gameplay and Story
--Details how gameplay elements such as puzzles, strategies, and other challenges factor into a story experience as well as creating balance and tension in the story
Chapter 9: Putting Your Plan Into Action
--Planning out the story process, setting goals towards the finished product, and some examples of game documentation and development based on example story/game concepts
I've always lumped video games into three categories: those with a plot, those that do not need a plot, and bad games. A puzzle game or straight fighting game really doesn't need much in the way of plot at all, and not many people will pay attention to it. Games that have bad stories are simply bad games unless they have other factors that make the bad story irrelevant. That's the standpoint I had going into writing this review.
I enjoyed the blurbs from the game industry insiders in this book that are present in all of the Game Development series titles. Overall, this was a good read.