Session- October 2021 – Narrative Design

This month we will be using SMILE Game Builder and several other tools to build a story driven RPG.

Creating the stories of a game is called Narrative Design.

“Narrative design is the use of story to make sense of gameplay in a video game. Like a novelist, the narrative designer focuses on elements such as structure, character, and setting, but the key difference is that the hero in the story is the player and their experience is interactive.”


For this activity, you will need to design and write for characters, world, and plot. You choose which one to start on. You will need to skip around or go back to each as they all interact with each other.

Character Design

Your most important character is the main player character. For simplicity, we will only have one main character.

Each of these Aspects needs the following to be decided:

  • Alignment

    Here are some examples of Alignment. Alignment is about who someone is deep down and doesn’t normally change.

  • Role

    Role is what they contribute to the story. Role’s can change a bit but they tend to have a main role that stays true.

    • Hero
    • Villain
    • Mentor
    • Damsel in Distress
    • Rogue
    • Tomboy
    • Anti-Hero
    • Jokester
    • Chosen One
    • Femme Fatale
    • Caregiver/Lover
    • Sidekick
    • Average Guy
    • Leader
    • Explorer
    • Ruler/King
    • Bully
    • Dreamer
    • Scholar/Nerd
    • Innocent
  • Race/Gender

    This is also a status of the character that doesn’t generally change. Certain characteristics of the person are built in from what they are biologically. Their race or gender may also set them at odds with the expected norms.

  • Class

    This can be who they are in relation to other characters, their job or status. Class changes more during stories.

  • Twist/Spin

    This is what makes the character unique. It is often a creative difference or a contradiction to the norm. It is unlikely or unexpected. It is what makes the character interesting, likeable, or memorable.

  • Weapon/Object

    Often in Fantasy/Science Fiction, a character either has an item or weapon that is unique to them – maybe multiple ones. Lord of the Rings is not a story without Frodo and the Ring. Star Wars is nothing without Jedis and lightsabers. Harry Potter can’t cast spells without his wand.

  • Accent Color

    Most memorable game characters have a color theme. It doesn’t mean that’s their only color. But what color do you know them by? Sonic is Blue. Mario is Red. Pikachu is Yellow. Kirby is Pink.

  • Backstory

    This is where, when and what has happened to your character before the current story. This often is half of who they are so it is important to know this. Connected to World Design, some of what has happened to them deals with where they live and the actions of others.

If you are struggling with ideas, use this tool Carl designed-

To complete a character, you need to have all 8 aspects decided and a visual representation of the character.

To get the badge, you need to create at least 1 main character, 2 supporting characters, the main antagonist (bad guy) and two story NPCs.

World Design

The world is where your characters live. Given the limits of SMILE Game Builder, it must be land or floor they walk on. Water, flying or floating in space is not an option.

World’s tend to be Realistic, Fantasy, Science Fiction, or a mixture of a few.

There are biomes in a world like forests, desert, snow, etc. There are levels of civilization from camps to huge cities.

Worlds also include

  • Buildings
  • Rules & Laws
  • Wars & Conflicts
  • Countries
  • Important Documents
  • Ethnicities
  • Geographic Locations
  • Items & Goods
  • Monsters, Animals
  • Languages
  • Materials
  • Myths & Legends
  • Natural & Supernatural Laws
  • Religions
  • Towns & Cities
  • Spells
  • Science & Technology
  • Vehicles

To complete world design, you need to have a few biomes/areas decided and at least 4 things from the list above decided.

Plot Design

This is the situation of the game. What was happening has now turned into what is happening and your job as a player is to change what will happen.

Pixar is famous for it’s stories. All of their movies, and really any good story follows this:

Your story is about the main character, an event that happens to them, and an antagonist that is against what they are trying to accomplish. Your world, supporting characters, and NPCs are contribute in their own way to help or hinder the character. As a game that has combat, monsters or other creatures may also be encountered.

It is really impossible to finish the Plot without some information from the other two so it is likely that this section will be finished last.

If you have trouble coming up with ideas, use this tool Carl designed to get ideas-

To complete the Plot, have at least a sentence of two for each section of the Story Spine.

So that if you need a writing or design break, you will also get to use SMILE Game Builder to put your characters, world, and story inside something playable. Ask for a STEAM code to get your copy.

SMILE Characters

Don’t get caught up making a bunch of these. This is time consuming to make but it’s how you’re character will walk around in the game.

This is the templates for the character sprites. If you want to design a main character, you need to color and design all 13 images. If you want to focus mostly on story, you really only need to do the first walking animation. Reference your character design and put a simpler version of it into this playable character.

If you want to do an NPC, you only need to do the walking one (it’s first in the gallery). These images are also in the files you were given.

A great program for pixel art is


This is the game engine you will use to build your game in.

Files to Download