How to make a storytelling game?

How do you develop a story game?

  • STEP 1: Pick an engine to tell your story in
  • STEP 2: Decide if you want to make a visual novel or a more traditional 3D adventure/shooter style game.
  • STEP 3: Acquire asset packs to speed up your development.
  • STEP 4: Start building a framework for development.
  • STEP 5: Build your story and themes around the feature set in your framework.
  • STEP 6: $$$ Storytelling.

What makes a good story game?

You need strong characters, an interesting narrative to chew on, and usually, a good story entails a good villain. A foil for the cast of characters and friends. It needs to be well written, and you should have a message you’re trying to send with your story.

Here’s a breakdown of what makes a good story in a JRPG, we get into a lot of depth. Baskin approved.

How do you write dialogue in a game?

You need to know your characters inside and out. You need to know how they think, what they think, what they believe, who they are, what their personality is like. You also need to place them in situations which bring out their inherent qualities, so they really shine.

Getting started

This is a very broad topic, with any number of potential resolutions and answers inherent in it. We could just jump right into Unreal Engine 4 or 5, and do things the professional way, conversely, any game engine with the ability to express speech can tell a story, you can even tell one without speech but let’s not get into that. Unity is of course an option. CryEngine is an option. You can make your visual novel in RenPy for example. Or you could get RPG Maker and tell your story that way, you could tell your story through Srpg Studio, Game Maker, or damn near anything else, you could probably do it with MS Paint and HTML if you really wanted to tell the story. I actually did that once. I converted it to Renpy, then converted the Renpy into FUNGUS in Unity. We will actually briefly be discussing FUNGUS in Unity.

Here’s a PC GAMER article on the best stories in gaming.

However, don’t bother with any of that, just go with Unreal Engine 4 or 5, you can make one hell of a game in that, and you can do it in a professional manner. Unity culls the beginners to programming with promises of a beginner friendly game engine, this is an illusion, it is not only misleading, it is damaging to young developers. First of all, Unity is not easier for a beginner than Unreal. Unreal has blueprints, so you can start making your game without ever learning how to code. In Unity, you will have to learn C# to do next to anything at all in the engine.

≠ easier for a beginner

Furthermore, you may also encounter development nightmares which destroy your dreams in Unity, as I did. If your deliverable builds, good for you, go your way and make that Unity game, mine did not. But my Unreal deliverable builds, guaranteed. And rather than a nightmare of upgrading, downgrading, remaking and rebuilding, switching to HDRP, switching back from HDRP when I realize it was horrible, etc, etc… What we have with Unreal is just a smooth and simple development pipeline from start to finish.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because the mythical and unattained easiness of Unity, also boasts it is better for 2D games or visual novels. This is only partly correct, if at all. Actually if you want to make a visual novel in Unreal, you just need to download the right asset pack, same with 2D games, you just need to buy a framework, and you can develop in comfort and safety, knowing that your have the superior engine. Development will go a lost faster from then.

So what type of Story Based Game are you making?

There are a number of story based game genre’s to choose from so let’s go over some of the most common.

1st or 3rd person shooter or adventure game

This is your bread and butter of game design, this is what Unreal was built for out of the box. If you are developing this kind of game, a serious game, emulating AAA standards, then build your game in Unreal…. or possibly CryEngine but I still need to work with it.

In Unreal, you can easily build 3D animated characters who run around and can talk to you, spout dialogue, engage in story trees, anything you would expect from a human character. It’s really not that difficult at all.

If you’re making this kind of game, all you need is a moving walking character, some lip sync would be nice of course, but it’s not needed. Then you just develop a system for making them produce sounds, put your dialogue in there, and you can start telling a story.

You can also tell your story through text, so if you have or buy or acquire through some means the ability to post text to the screen during gameplay, or outside of it, you can tell a story that way.

A good strong foundation

I find most of the early stages of game design is just laying the foundation for a system fit to tell a story in. I generally speaking develop my games with the goal of having a framework from which to tell a story. I am not thinking about what kind of game I’m going to make or what story I’m telling, we’re not that far into development yet. What I’m thinking about at the start, is how am I going to tell a story in this game? How can I build a framework to tell a story? What systems need to be in place before telling a story becomes viable? Then when I have built the framework, I look at it and think, ok, I have this framework now, what kind of story am I going to tell? 🙂

That’s actually a step in the process, when you look at your development framework and start to think, what kind of story and narrative can I tell with this framework, and what kind of story and message can I send through the mechanics?

The answer is usually forthcoming.

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Visual Novel

This is an interesting one because you can focus entirely on the story, and ignore all else. Actually, one of my favorite types of game to design, because it’s like writing an interactive novel. A choose your own adventure story. I actually write stuff like that more naturally than a structured story with a beginning middle and an end and usually I end up making something that resembles Virtue’s Last Reward.

So how do you tell a visual novel story

We’ll I’m not going to write the story for you, whatever story you’re trying to tell, it’s yours to tell, but let’s presume you already have your story ready and you just need to put it into a game form and start development, here are your options.

In Unreal Engine:


If you just want to write a visual novel in Unreal Engine, this thing is perfect. It has all the features of a modern visual novel engine for about 60 bucks, I got it on sale for about half off. You can make a really good visual novel with this, no harm no foul, one exception. This is a full project asset pack. Do not expect to migrate this successfully into your own separate game, it will most likely break, or at least I had no luck with it. If I was just making a visual novel, flat out, I’m writing Higurashi fanfic or something, this is the way to go, but since I am looking for a plugin to an existing game, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

Conversation 2D Plugin

This is a little better for integration into your existing game, it’s not even a content pack, it’s an engine plugin. You can add this to almost any game you want. It’s only 38 bucks. So what’s the issue, why use anything else?


First of all, this is not a fully featured visual novel engine. It will do the trick in a pinch, but it is neither user friendly, or containing standard features expected from a visual novel engine. For instance, you can have lots of dialogue back and forth between your characters, but there’s no button to hide the UI, in case you want people to see the really beautiful background images you’ve created without dialogue getting in the way.

In addition to this, I cannot for the life of me find a way to easily change the background image during the course of a visual novel segment, this would mean I’d have to make a new scene every time I change the picture, and I change the picture like 21 times a scene. I actually coded a system into it, I broke the blueprint apart and remade it so that I could change the background image in the same scene, but I can’t really expect you to do that as a beginner. So this is a sub-optimal solution. But it will integrate into your game no problem, so if integration is your issue, which it was for me, this thing is worth your money.

VN Builder – Visual Novel Complete

I don’t have this yet. It’s only 31 dollars, but I think this is what I’m looking for. It’s not a complete project VN system, it’s not an engine plugin lacking features, it’s a full visual novel system and it’s an asset pack, like an environment pack, just add it to your game, and build your visual novel segment. I cannot vouch for this one yet, but I think this is the engine I need for my game, and I’ll be picking it up, when I have the money to do so.


This is easy, there is only one visual novel engine in Unity you have to worry about. FUNGUS in Unity.



This is news to me, you’re telling me the best visual novel engine in the Unity Engine, and free, no less, is no longer available for download because the developer doesn’t give a…..


ok, moving on.


it translates into…. um….. a confused “WHAT?!?” novel in Japanese.

This will be a very nice visual novel engine to work with, you have professional visuals, fully featured everything, save and load mid game, animated characters if you’re smart enough, basically everything a boy could want.

It’s a Unity plugin so compatibility isn’t a huge issue, unless you mean does your deliverable build, which is another question. Basically, this is all you need, assuming you’re willing to work in Unity, and don’t expect to pick this up outside a sale for less than 150 dollars, it’s serious engine, for professional visual novel development, and it’s priced accordingly. With FUNGUS AWOL on the asset store, this is your only real option. There’s a cheaper one but we don’t even discuss it.

Wrapping up

We won’t be discussing much more than this, it is beyond the scope of this article. Just make sure to find a good framework to tell your story, and the story should kind of write itself. GOOD LUCK!!! TELL YOUR STORY!!!!

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