GDC08 Notes – Staging Workshop: Visual storytelling Masterclass


Here are my notes from the day-long workshop, Staging Workshop: Visual storytelling Masterclass. It centered around using film and actors to portray (interactive) cutscenes and being able to “prototype” changes made to the actions of the characters to portray events very differently. Interesting stuff and one of the main non-programming things I attended during the week.

American Beauty – Car Scene

The scene where the argument is about the car, was used as the example film scene to do staging with. Film techniques might be old to most, but were new to me and explained briefly;

  1. What is the STORY really about? – what do you want the film to say? etc.
  2. What is this SCENE really all about? – confrontation? expectations? etc
  3. Why is this SCENE in the movie? – why is it there? if deleted, would it matter? – maybe rewrite/redo if can’t answer first, or answer no to second
  4. What must I achieve with this scene?
  5. What are the character objectives, obstacles, risks, expectations etc?

You project yourselves into scripts or books

  • Also, no internal stuff
  • Scripts don’t say what people wanted to do, or whatever
    • Don’t say really true feelings or needs or wants
    • Too dangerous to do this! – but important to have – the scene is not what they are really trying to say.

Say “Thank you, very good!” to actors reading lines – no criticism, like raising children
If you hated it “You’ve given me a whole new idea on how to do the scene!”

Actors with plans = problem!

  • The script isn’t like real life
    • Is not realistic to think about the script
  • direct the characters not the actors (talk to them in character! use the characters name even)

Asking the actors to do something – no

  • Set a scene state
  • Let the actors perform
  • The director is part of the committee (explained earlier; the voices in your head saying “don’t do this” etc.)
    • eg; ally , enemy
    • Good for single performances
    • Don’t tell, ask…
  • Do the scene with no player first (first event)
    • Then add the player… (second event)
    • Continue with other events the player can do – play them out.
  • Be careful of the shoulds – instead do coulds
  • Staging will allow script rewrites and logic errors to be fixed
    • Early error catches (compared to rewriting when dialogue is recorded)
    • Even “one take” can work
  • Control attention (of the player) by staging looks (of the actors) – direction of view, where the characters are looking

When adding the player

  • Actors need to react naturally to the new actor (the PC) and their movements
    • eg; Stopping talking when PC is moving – adds a relationship
    • or even “I’ll start again” if the player breaks off
  • Additional “trigger camera” if the player wants another angle in scene in Fable 2
  • Changing the delivery of the lines – speed, gaps, pauses – change pacing

That’s it – my notes. He had slides (and the scripts) in a handout, which I’m not going to upload since I hope it’ll be at the GDC site eventually – and if not, it’s not much being missed.