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A gameplay period diegetically localized in time and space.

Some games divide gameplay into several different sequences differentiate by where and when they take place in the game world. Such individual sequences are Scenes.


Scenes are a game concept is primarily used in Tabletop Roleplaying Games, and is explicitly discussed in Toon and Vampire: The Masquerade. The latter defines Scenes as “one compact period of time in one location”[1]. Fiasco and Universalis are examples of more modern Roleplaying Games which explores alternative power structures by letting players, rather than game masters, create Scenes

Since Levels create rigidly-confined Scenes, many Computer Games exhibits the pattern also. Adventure Games are among those that most often make use of Levels for narrative purposes, with Grim Fandango and the Walking Dead series as examples of how Scenes unlock the narration as gameplay challenges are overcome. Fahrenheit shows a more complex use of Scenes in that it shifts which character the player controls between each of them.

The Assassin's Creed series is an example of how Action Games can make use of Scenes to construct more complex narratives. Here, the main historical gameplay is framed by Scenes of focused on the modern day character Desmond Miles. Another example of use of Scenes in the series is from the second game, where players briefly get to play Altaïr from the first game as to get knowledge about how Altaïr's bloodline continued.


Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft are examples of games with Open Worlds and no Cutscenes.

Using the pattern

A first option when considering the use of Scenes is it they should be Levels. This subpattern of Scenes put emphasis on defining all diegetic elements and gameplay actions while not using it allows a focus on Narration Structures. Other options relate to where the Scenes should be located, which Characters should be present, and how long each Scenes should last. Cutscenes are Scenes in which players cannot affect what happens; Summary Updates are a subtype of Cutscenes which can provide a prologue or epilogue to other Scenes. The Contextualization technique introduces Scenes within ongoing Scenes to enhance these with explanations of former events or foreshadowing of future events.

For Predetermined Story Structures the length of Scenes are more or less determined, either in actual time through Time Limits or when certain end conditions are met. More flexibility regarding the length of Scenes can be achieved through the use of Game Masters, which also can improvise Scenes according to the need to the players, the narration, or the gameplay. Meta-Techniques can allow both way to communicate meta information during Scenes as well as convey information to players that Scenes should start or end. One example of this is Prompting Techniques, which allow both players and Game Masters to indicate when Scenes should end or when new Scenes should start.

All Scenes which change location from the previous Scene make use of Quick Travel.

Diegetic Aspects

Scenes that are not created through Levels allow details about the Game Worlds to be decided or created only when they need to be. This can be used to have both Game Element Insertion and Reconfigurable Game Worlds and opens up for Storytelling. Fiasco and Universalis shows how this can be used to provide players with Creative Control.

Narrative Aspects

Scenes allows designers great control over Narration Structures such as Adventures. This can for example be used to have Predetermined Story Structures (and thereby prevent Open Destinies) and guarantee breaks in Temporal Consistency (as for example the Assassin's Creed series does). They also allow special focus to be placed on individual Characters, and can create Melodramatic Structures when this is not only done for narrative purposes but also change which Characters can act.

They use of Scenes can also guarantee that players are exposed to Boss Monsters or Environmental Storytelling. Finale Levels can be Scenes where narrative arcs are brought to a conclusion (e.g. by fighting Boss Monsters).


Scenes are one way of presenting Game Worlds to players. By limiting the area in these where gameplay can occur, Scenes typically limit or make Movement irrelevant and can be used to structure the development of Adventures.


Can Instantiate

Adventures, Game Element Insertion, Game Worlds, Narration Structures, Predetermined Story Structures, Reconfigurable Game Worlds

with Characters

Melodramatic Structures

Can Modulate

Boss Monsters, Characters, Environmental Storytelling, Movement, Storytelling

Can Be Instantiated By

Contextualization, Cutscenes, Finale Levels, Game Masters, Levels

Can Be Modulated By

Contextualization, Creative Control, Game Masters, Meta-Techniques, Prompting Techniques, Quick Travel, Summary Updates, Time Limits

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Movement, Open Destiny, Temporal Consistency


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Mark Rein·Hagen (1991). Vampire - The Masquerade, page 31. White Wolf.