Hahaha. Yeah, that is understood.
It's a funny thing about storytelling in games, because there are basically two ways:
1. Set up interesting situations for the player, with bits of thematic stuff surrounding those situations.
2. Lots of explanation, narrative, dialogue, and backstory.
The goal here is #1 all the way. There will be dialogue, but it's kept short and quippy and is to the point of explaining what the AI wants, etc. And there is some backstory that you can uncover, but it's not done via exposition, but rather lots of tiny scattered clues. So if you want to figure out what the backstory fully is, that's going to take work on your part with keeping track of the things people mention and fitting that into your own mental framework. There's not some point where someone sits down and gives you four pages of explanatory text.
The general rule I'm trying to keep it to is that AIs are allowed to say one sentence to you in order to get their point across.
Let me use Silent Hill 2 as an example of what I mean, to some extent:
- First of all, it has verbose and extended cutscenes. So let's cut each cutscene down to one or two lines, max.
- And of course, note that this is kind of facetious text, not with a lot of thought behind it, so it's not indicative of the game quality writing.
James: Damn, Silent Hill looks different than I remember.
<Looks at letter>
James: So strange to get a letter from my dead wife. (I can read it in more detail if I want.) She says she's waiting for me here, so I guess I'd better go look.
<Runs through woods on long scary path>
Creepy Lady: Oh, you surprised me. I'm looking for my mom.
James: Well, seems dangerous, but good luck with that. I'm off!
Creepy Lady: Good luck, I'm sure I'll be important to the plot later.
<Runs through deserted streets>
James: Is that big pool of blood... blood!?
<Walks over to blood and sees scary figure shambling in mist>
James: What the heck was that? I'd better follow it, because that was totally freaky and irrelevant to what I'm doing.
James: Wow, a broken radio. But I'm a hoarder, and this is relevant to gameplay, so I'll take it.
<Monster rises slowly behind him.>
James: Whoa, a monster! Better bash its head in with this plank.
James: This town has really gone downhill.
<He goes back into foggy streets.>
James: Whoa, look at all the monsters suddenly around. It's like they were waiting for me to pick up that board and radio.
<Runs past monsters, who ineffectually run around him.>
James: Oh right, my wife said meet her at our special place, which probably means that park over by the lake.
<Tries to go to lake, finds gaping hole.>
James: Well, I guess I'd better find a way around.
<Works hard on finding a way around, eventually finds key to apartments going in that vague direction.>
James: Ha! That will show that hole. I'm sure there's nothing terrifying going to happen as I go through this apartment to the other side.
The point there isn't that it's giving me a ton of text or that it's constantly talking to me. There's actually really long segments of gameplay between that, and the dialogue is mildly amusing at least and helps give me clarity and a sense of purpose. I have a thematic reason for the things that I'm doing, and clear story-driven goals.
Of course, when we're talking about much more dynamic storytelling, then the idea is that there's a ton more choice and a ton more storylines in general, which interweave. But the point is that they give context to what you are doing, as well as giving you reasons for potentially doing things that are nonoptimal from a spreadsheet-balancing point of view if you take the story out. Aka, maybe the Fenyn want to save all the animals, and you can win favor by bringing them animal resources. Okay, normally the animal resources are not something you'd really class resources by -- you look at their bonuses and that's it. But suddenly there's a new meaning to the fact that this thing's a hare and that thing's a cactus.
Why exactly are the Thoraxians pissy on this map? What sort of varied work-together scenarios can there be for escaping into space, blowing up the planet, or even doing the Transcendence victory? The idea with those things is to make it so that those aren't simply "optimize your volcanoes and then wait" sort of situations.
TLF was actually pretty darn good at setting up this sort of meta-narrative in a lot of ways. But the ultimate example, to me, is again Boatmurdered. The problem is, that took not only an interesting situation to create, but also funny sarcastic writing. We're trying to make a bit of a mix of the two so that it doesn't require an external LP for you to get that sort of sense from the game. We'll see how it works, but that's the goal.