GameHouse Studios makes games with budgets only a fraction of that of Guerrilla’s Games (see previous article), but with a clear idea of the importance of story in games.
The ‘kings of casual’ develop high-end casual games for a specific target group, women. Most of the titles are time management games, but differentiate from competitors by being story driven. Games like Delicious, Campfire Legends and Heart’s Medicine all feature well written stories and clever dialogue. Studio Director Ard Bonewald: “We want the stories in our games to be interesting for the player and not just some excuse for another round of pointing and clicking.”
Story is leading in the development of a new game at GameHouse Studios. “Everything starts with the framework of the story and the emotion it should evoke. We write the first draft ourselves and bring in a professional writer to wrap it up.” Then it’s time for the very first test. “At that point we bring in our target group for a series of story tests. We present these women with the written story and dialogue and give them some time to read it. This is a very effective way to see if the target group relates to the events and characters in the game. ‘Fine’ just won’t cut it. We want ‘Great!’. The last Delicious story was very well received at this stage and turned to be quite a success. We use all the feedback and try to come up with a final draft. Then we keep fine tuning the story and gameplay until they fit nicely together. It has to become more than just a game with a story.”
The studio never runs low on ideas. The developers use their own life and experiences as reference. “Delicious is all about the personal growth of main character Emily. She tries to run a business and still have time for a meaningful personal life. We all have to deal with that at some point in our life, so that makes our target group relate to the events and characters.”
“We know exactly how we want to convey a story in our games. All the theories and techniques are there, but it’s meaningless if your story doesn’t have a soul. It has to be told from the heart. Classic tales from around the world deal with love and morality and ethical values. And these stories are still fun to read nowadays, or to play or to watch, because they revolve around basic human emotions. And you can’t fake real emotion. We have a saying in the studio that we firmly believe in: Emotions last longer than technology.”
This article is part of a series