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TUG is a multiplayer open-world sandbox-RPG using new technology and social sciences to directly involve players in the game’s design.
7,231 backers pledged $293,184 to help bring this project to life.

Narrative Design

Posted by Nerd Kingdom (Creator)

In approaching the narrative design for TUG, we decided from the outset that we didn’t want this game to have a traditional linear narrative. It is a true sandbox at its heart; there is no “campaign” and no “ending,” and no branching dialogue trees, cut-scenes, or bottle-necked scripted moments. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have TONS of lore and backstory and world-building in TUG! Bear with me in this post; if it seems like I’m being super vague at points... that’s only because I’m trying reaaaally hard not to spoil things. (Trust me... I’d love to geek out and just spill all the exciting stuff we’ve been coming up with... but that would ruin all the fun!)

The storytelling in TUG is rooted firmly in exploration and discovery. As a young Seed, you’ll begin exploring the world around you; you’ll encounter critters, explore caves, visit different biomes, and have to contend with day, night, and seasonal cycles. But as you explore, you will also stumble upon strange ruins, odd-looking statues, or shrines scattered throughout the world. By excavating, studying, or deciphering these mysterious items, you’ll be able to slowly start piecing together the backstory of the world of TUG... and all its secrets. You may find instructions for strange rituals or quests (try them and see what happens!), or fragments of information on the history of the world, or crafting recipes for mysterious, advanced, or seemingly magical technology. These tidbits may be hidden in strange materials found buried beneath the earth, mysterious runes or glyphs on stone structures, abandoned temples, strange sounds you hear in the night (or day!), odd beings sighted from a distance that vanish when you try to approach them, and more... and it will be up to you, the players, to begin putting these all together. Of course, part of the fun will be working with other players in piecing together these clues!

Part of our reason for designing the game this way is that, after all, this is the way we’ve pieced together the story of our own history, in the real world, as human beings. The narrative we’ve constructed of our collective past, in our own world, is one that we’ve pieced together from historical documents, ruins, and other primary sources, and we’ve built entire cultures and communities around trying to understand our own past, and in many cases, to reinvent it. The way we interpret these cultural remains has led to many beautiful things in our art, in our stories, and in our cultures today. Structuring TUG in this way gives us an opportunity to see how the player community interprets the TUG history... and what cultures, understandings, or theories about the world players will create as a result, and how those theories, assumptions, and interpretations of the lore of the world might create conflict or collaboration. As social scientists, this will be an amazing thing to see unfold, and may even give us some insights into society today.

It’s important to note as well that TUG will not be a static world. The lore isn’t just some backstory that happened long ago, and is more or less set in stone and unevolving at the point when the player arrives. Rather, the story will continue to grow as you play the game, and eventually, these mysterious shrines may lead you towards adventures and into more structured narrative arcs. Perhaps you will you will vie for the favor of various ancient beings and create social structures with other players based around these lore-driven mechanics. Perhaps you will band together with other players to defend a city or a temple from followers of a rival deity. Perhaps you will become a hermetic monk... and devote your Seed’s life to studying the ancient mysteries of the world. Or, who knows, you might even decide that you don’t care about all these ancient mysteries and just want to craft and build and trade, and that’s fine, too!

You may awaken old secrets and ancient powers, and how they affect the world once they are unleashed will depend largely on how you, the players, will interact with them. There are no factions in TUG, but there may be points where you will have to chose between differing paths, and make trade-offs based on what kinds of gameplay you prefer.

All of the game’s fundamental mechanics are tied deeply to the lore, as well. We’ve attempted to build TUG’s lore and gameplay following an internally consistent logic system, and all magic, crafting, and technology are intrinsically tied into this. It’s designed to work in a way that allows for a wide range of fun and complex mechanics to exist that don’t challenge the rules of the world, and also don’t require tons of hand-waving and wading through endless wiki’s to understand. The way energy and energy consumption work in the game is also deeply linked to the lore... a clue for new players would be to pay attention to the glowing crystal embedded in the Seed’s right hand!

The goal is to give the game an aesthetic and thematic coherence while still allowing for a ton of player freedom and creativity. We don’t view lore as a limitation... in TUG, “lore-friendly” shouldn’t imply restrictions or confinement, or limit the scope of a player’s imagination. Rather, the lore for TUG will serve as a framework in which you, the player, will be living out your own stories, both on an individual level and on a server level... Essentially, you’ll be crafting a new chapter in the story of TUG.


p.s. In fact, if something really cool happens to you in-game, we want you to tell us about it! Who knows, we might get get some of our artists to illustrate and feature some of these stories on our websites and forums eventually! :P

p.p.s. If you like these updates, please don’t forget to share them! Thanks guys!!!

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    1. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Scott, we intend to continuously add new content, even far beyond launch, so as long as players are playing and enjoying TUG, we'll keep making new stuff to uncover and new lore elements to explore!

    2. Missing avatar

      Scott on

      It's true!! This is the game I've been waiting for!! If I understand correctly, a big part of this game will be to discover the history/lore of the world along with other players and to, in effect, culturally and technologically advance the online civilization of seeds through said exploration and discovery.

      My question is about those players that start playing the game 6, 12, or 18 months after the game is launched. Wont most, if not all, of that lore already be discovered by other players? The lore's effects would already be manifesting itself through the way communities have come together and through the way most players behave. A new seed would just have to ask a more seasoned seed(or read one of the books an older seed has written!) to find out what's going on.
      How will it be made so that new players still find all the value in all of the narrative design which makes this game so stinkin' cool?

      Regardless, I wont be one of those players, so I'm STOKED!!!

    3. Missing avatar

      Brian Stottlemyre on

      Anyone else keep doing a knee jerk reaction by throwing a fistfull of dollars right through your screen and screaming "TAKE MY MONEY!" and then realizing you already pledged haha. No but in all seriousness i have to say every time i read one of these (so far) it reminds me of the observations ive made on mmos in the past and how ive wanted games like this. And how is "should" be done. I really hope this project succeeds, it will be a dream come true for me.

    4. Glitch2210 on

      This is very interesting and I like it a lot. Tho I think there should still be some level of written or verbal lore. Finding a half destroyed manuscript in a ruin has always felt very organic and provided an interesting opertunity for collection =) also I am not sure is there going to be no dialogue at all with npcs?

    5. Philip Bretschneider on

      I love this. The Concept of having to uncover the lore behind the game is great compared to the lore just being dishes out to you immediately. In my opinion this gives you time to be intrigued and wonder 'what if', making the game more personal to you.

    6. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Dirk, yes, definitely! We would love to implement in-game writing systems like that at some point! I absolutely agree stuff like that would be awesome, and really add to the kind of lore we're trying to build in TUG.

    7. Dirk Remmelzwaal on

      Is there any idea of implementing in-game write-able books and things like paintings? It would be an amazing experience to have the stories of the players written and read in the game itself, giving it a feeling that the players truly participate in the development of TUG's history and culture. It would also allow people to share their discoveries in a way other than directly telling it. Things like drawn maps and making sketches of sights could help discovering pieces of the puzzle and putting them together. Copyists could copy a book and spread its knowledge over the community. In my eyes, writing and other forms of making art in-game could make a great contribution to the game experience.

    8. Timothy McFadden

      Pretty stoked about this. It would be interesting to see the different theorires people come up with. For example, these stone figures were once the great rulers of a ancient kingdom but greed and corruption brought them low or they are the Four Pillars of all life and thus the creators of the world or ne artist thoguht it would be fun to curve images of his family, who knows?

    9. Daniel Roy on

      This is what will set TUG aside from the rest of the sandbox games, in that you aren't pushing story directly onto a user but offering various amounts of lore around the user in a meaningful and exciting way. By giving the user the choice of whether to dig up and cipher that statue you are opening up the story for them because they chose to.

      The idea that I can launch the game and just go and explore and find an exciting new world is just awesome, can't wait to see and hear more!

    10. Cori KS on

      My level of excitement for this game is so high that I'm determined to finish as much of my grad school work as possible now so that I can give it my full attention later. Not many things motivate me to get work done early. :D

    11. Bryan Bessette on

      This sounds sooooooo crazy amazing! I want to be a crazy hermit/monk/Indiana Jones guy! haha

    12. J.L. on

      Sooo tempting to ask you to just geek out and spill those virtual beans and sprouts and what-not's... (c;