The Witcher 3 uses the same basic storytelling structure as South Park, and it’s why even the game’s sidequests are so compelling.
We’ll call it Therefore/But Structure. It’s purpose is to link scenes, be it from a film, novel, or game, with conflict and resolution. It gives stories logic. And its really simple to understand.
It works like this:
You have a scene and the next scene must be a logical conclusion of the one before it. So scene 1 happens therefore scene 2 happens. Or, scene 1 happens but scene 2 happens. Never scene 1 happens
and then scene 2 happens–that’s just boring storytelling.
Here’s an example:
Scene 1: Geralt unsheathes his sword.
Scene 2: The beast lunges at Geralt before he can swipe.
Scene 3: Geralt dodges.
See what I mean? The scene after the beast lunges at Geralt should logically include Geralt dealing with that. In our case he dodged it, but it could be any reaction. The key is that he responds to what came before. There’s continuity that you can follow and it makes for better stories.
My example was on a very small scale, but it’s not limited to that. The Witcher 3 uses it in its main story and most significantly in its sidequests.
One quest had me go and fetch a box for a frightened merchant that said he was traveling and was attacked by monsters. (THEREFORE) I traveled to the location, fought some Drowners, and found the box. (BUT) It was curiously covered in blood with arrows stuck in the ground nearby. (THEREFORE) I went back to the merchant and told him. (BUT) He ran. (THEREFORE) I chased him and asked him who he really was. (THEREFORE) It turns out he was a undercover agent that killed whoever was transporting this box.
Compare this to a Dragon Age: Inquisition sidequest:
I met a woman who said her husband was killed and she wanted his wedding ring back. I traveled and fought the men who killed him. I picked up the ring. I went back to the woman and gave it back. She said thanks.
See how boring that was? All I did was do exactly what she said to and nothing complicated my task. There was no conflict and therefore no story. Lame.
The Witcher 3 understands what makes stories work, just like the co-creators of South Park. This video has been around for a while now, but it’s a great way to see them talk about how simple the format for a hugely popular show is. It’s all therefores and buts (heh).
So, next time you’re playing a game and its story or sidequests seem boring. Think about it. Were they using the Therefore/But structure?