Welcome to part 2 of my articles about writing good adventure games. Sorry for the delay between the first article and this one, but between the Christmas/New Year holiday and my contribution of a game to the AGS Bake Sale, I was a bit short on time of late. Part one of this series dealt with character development, and this part deals with the importance of the game's setting.
The setting of a story in a nutshell tells where the story takes place. While it may show the geographical "where" of a story, it should also show the "when". The setting of your game should help set the mood of the game, influence the way your various characters act and interact, affect the game's dialog, can help to foreshadow events, invoke an emotional response with the player, and sometimes even play a part in the story itself.
Picking an appropriate setting for the type of game you're doing is important. Using a tropical location when the game involves romance or exotic thrill-rides is a good idea since that is what our brains are conditioned to think. Likewise, using mountains or woods if a game has to do with running from a crazed madman will be more effective than using a setting like a child's birthday party. There is more suspense to be had running your character through streams, dodging between trees and hiding in abandoned log cabins than there would be if he was blowing up balloons for Timmy the birthday boy.
The mood of a setting is very important to get the character immersed in the game. If you have a setting with an abandoned mansion that is gloomy, dusty, creaking from age, and add flickering candles, scary music and cobwebs, you've got a heck of a spooky scene. This wouldn't fit for a light hearted comedy game. The more immersive the game, the more the players will enjoy it. The mood can be enhanced further by adding weather to your game. If your game takes place high in the Alps in a cabin where you're waiting for a delivery from a secret agent, adding a blizzard can increase drama, tension and overall atmosphere for the game.
And finally, it's the little things make all the difference. If you're making a game that takes place in New Orleans, like the original Gabriel Knight game, you'll want to make sure you thoroughly research your target scene. Referring to places correctly, using slang terms that are correct to the country or region of the country, and even perfecting the dialects are important things. People who live in Louisiana sound much different from people who live in New York or California. This is especially important if you're doing a speech pack for your game. Adding this level of complexity will do much to immerse the player in the game world you have created.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series coming soon dealing with the game's plot.