casualconnect-stackThis is a little outside of what we'd normally post on TouchArcade, but I'm always watching (or listening to) talks from all sorts of industry-relevant events and you'd be surprised by the sort of super interesting or inspiring stuff you come across. This particular talk comes from Chillingo's Levi Buchanan at Casual Connect. Levi discusses ways developers squeeze impactful narrative into mobile games which might only be played for a few seconds at a time. He focuses on Cut the Rope [$0.99 / Free / $0.99 (HD) / Free (HD)], Where's My Water [$1.99 / Free], and Canabalt [$2.99] as three great examples as games with "thin slice narrative," arguing that the best mobile narratives take three things into consideration: Relevance, momentum, and voice.

Anyway, there's not much reason for me to paraphrase it, as much like the ideas Buchanan conveys, his talk is similarly brief and to the point:

If this sort of thing interests you, either as a gamer or a developer, be sure to check out the rest of the Casual Connect YouTube channel, or the GDC Vault. Levi offers some awesome advice here, and hopefully developers take note... As I'd really love some more iOS experiences with narrative as flawlessly executed as Canabalt.

  • Mirkwood

    Levi is a great guy, I used to love him on the IGN podcasts.


  • Barc

    More stuff like this is welcome in TouchArcade!

  • InkyTheGhost

    Super interesting, but man, that was a tough crowd.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Haha, yeah, they usually are at these sort of conferences.

      • InkyTheGhost

        Thanks for sharing this Eli. I feel like the best illustration of this has got to be Tiny Wings.

  • witedahlia

    Thanks for sharing! I love stuff like this.

  • Luthur

    I like this type of stuff on touch arcade as it is usually one of my first daily stops.
    My initial response however was somewhat negative. Nothing personal to the speaker, as his perspective is both informed and thought provoking. I may not be like every person who plays mobile games, but I have not paid 1 cent for those games mentioned & I have played all 4 of them.
    I was mostly opposed to his use of the word "story" to those games. Those games went from mechanic to artist/animator. A story was never, ever in mind. He can try to argue through the various characters, that there is a hint of storyline, but he would fail. He uses the word "audience" but I feel that he assumes that there is only ONE type of "audience" and that all games played on 'mobile' (even iPad) are "pick-up-and-play". I view my iPad/iPhone as a convenience (for example, when I'm relaxing in bed or on the sofa) as opposed to a minute-by-minute escape during my daily routine, and I do appreciate a story.
    Perhaps the speaker is addressing the supposition that the mobile device "audience" only consists of a populace suffering from "Attention Deficient Disorder" and overexposure to non-story reality television. Hhmmm... Perhaps his supposition is correct.

    • InkyTheGhost

      Maybe he is stretching the definition of "narrative," and maybe these aren't the most compelling narratives, but it's pretty hard to argue that these games are totally devoid of story. The stories are just really, really simple, and largely implicit. I'm pretty sure that the speaker is aware of the many ways to tell a story in mobile gaming - he's just focusing his talk on one of those ways.

    • daniel schroeder

      The title of his talk was "Bite-Sized Narratives in Mobile Games" which makes me think he's not focusing on games that are made to sit and enjoy for long stretches of time. He also never seems to imply that this is the only way to go for mobile games. You said you "feel" he "assumes" that there's only one type of audience, but I think that's just you making the assumptions.

      Furthermore, I don't think it's fair to factually state that none of those games he mentioned were made with a story in mind. Canabalt, while it may not have some deep backstory that they decided to cut for brevity, definitely seems like a narrative was considered in development stages. There's just too much going on in that game to think it was simply "hey, that art looks good, throw it in and ship it." I think from several editorials on the subject, Levi isn't the first person to talk about Canabalt as having some kind of story.

  • daniel schroeder

    Chillingo makes/publishes some of the more consistently enjoyable games on iOS. And I think when you consider how often these games come out, that's saying a lot. Even if I've grown out of their typical style of games, I can see why a lot of people like them.

  • Red986

    I'd say that was about quickly and efficiently communicating character, and tone, or a premise, or engagement, etc. -- but not creating narrative. The video is still useful, but I don't think it's nitpicking semantics to disagree with his definition of narrative; there are mobile games that do aim for creating narrative beyond a premise. One's not better than the other, but the distinction does exist.