After coming up with some basic ideas for who the characters are and what the story is going to be how is that developed into a full blown story that the player is going to want to interact with or read? This is the hardest part of writing the story is keeping it interesting but not making it repetitive. Authors of books have mastered this but game developers can have problems getting it right. This is why so many games have terrible story lines or ones that seem like they were copied from another game. The truth is it probably was and then just adapted to the developers ideas of what it should be to fit within the game. However with a bit of imagination and time anyone can write a decent base story that can be expanded on by a professional author.
The first place the writer needs to start is with the main character. The game type does not matter it can be a single player game or a MMO. Because of this simple truth the writing of the story should not be different. However, in the MMO there are more possibilities that need to be considered. Because of this it is best to focus on a single player story line then expand it to support multiple players if necessary. With this in mind, the center of the story is the player and the writer needs to be aware of this at all times. It is not helpful to ignore the player and go off on a tangent for too long. If this happens the player will most likely lose interest. So where does the author start with the main character? Well that’s easy there are a few questions that need to be answered before the story can be written.
Who is the character?
Where are they from?
Why are they here?
Where are they going?
How are they going to get there?
Does the player start at the beginning or in the middle of a current story?
By answering these questions the writer has a good baseline for what is involved with the main character. So to better illustrate it here is an example. The main character is a soldier of fortune which was just abandoned by his former employer in a hostel land. He must find out why they stranded him and find new allies in order to survive in this territory and finally return to the company just to find out that they planed his death. He still does not know why but he will find out and return the favor one day. Something like that provides a good baseline for the main plot. But getting there is more than half the fun. The player is not just going to walk back to the corporate office and ask to see the CEO to talk about his involuntary dismissal. That is where the subplots come in. There would be several short stories that involve him getting out of immediate danger. Returning to base camp to find critical information and then try to find a way out of the combat area to get back to the HQ for more answers.
These are examples of the main and subplots that revolve around the player. However, if it was all about the main character the story would be quite dull. Some games are based on the single man verses the world however the players do not play them for the story they play for other reasons. However, in a story driven game the writers need to consider other areas of interest to the player. Perhaps there is a town nearby that is asking for help because it is under attack. This does not progress the main story however it provides details about the scope of the current environment and maybe even the intent of the enemy. It is these side stories that make a book good to read and a game should be no different.
In a game, like a book, what makes the story enjoyable is the detail that the writers expose the reader to. The more detail the more immersed the reader becomes. If it is done correctly the player may become personally invested in the goals of the other supporting characters. But here is the difference between a book and a game. The game can be both non-linier and optional. In a book the reader must go from cover to cover or they will miss important information and details about the book. However, in a game this is not the case. Players may do sub stories out of order or at different times within the main story. That is a concept that needs to be considered carefully when writing sub stories. The next thing that is important is don’t make the story static. If the player goes through the exact same story every time they play the game it is unlikely that they will play it more than one time. If the story changes with the players actions then it is slightly different every time they play. Sometimes they may kill the guy while other times they may defend him. This creates a unique play experience each time the game is played.
The main story will continue to unfold regardless of the players actions but if they feel like they are changing the story then it becomes more about the player and less about the author. Some games have done this very well but most choose to ignore it. But the kind of story whether it is linier, non-linier, semi-linier, or open ended is determined by the game, the developers and the writing staff. But if the different story ideas are mixed properly the player will feel like they are playing the main character in a book instead of reading one.