Very nice thread, good idea to start it.
I've made some notes on this subject, specifically, I've tried to make some simple templates for story/plot/level designs that directly links gameplay elements and game mechanics with the story-telling. To do this, I first started to narrow down what I imagine a common mission would consist of, in terms of gameplay, which for me is the most important part. If a mission is not fun to play, it doesn't matter how well-written a plot might be.
So, let's say you are a thief, which is quite common in TDM missions. What do thieves do? They steal things from others! In the TDM universe, this usually involves entering/breaking into locations where valuables are kept, like big mansions, religious buildings, warehouses, and such.
A natural start for a mission would then be to present the player with a location they are supposed to break into. A fairly straight-forward start of a story idea right there if you ask me. So what to pick? Castles, mansions, churches, temples, workshops, taverns, inns, forts, towers, warehouses, mines, sewers... all of these would fit quite well into TDM and its medieval steampunky, grimy setting.
So here comes the actual organization of gameplay elements I've done so far, namely methods and routes that can be used to enter a location.
I've divided these possible routes into three easily definable larger categories, which I have called the following:
Street Level, Roof Level and Underground Level.
By doing this, we can begin asking ourselves questions about the location we have chosen, and by doing so, expand on different plot ideas we might consider, but might be unsure of how to develop further. Here's some examples of routes that falls into the different categories.
- Through doors, gates, windows.
- Through/over crumbled or collapsed walls, construction sites.
- Through abandoned, adjacent buildings/structures.
- Secret doors, hidden passages.
- Jumping from adjacent buildings.
- Natural formations; hills, cliffs, trees.
- Climbing on facades, balconies, higher set windows.
- Ladders, vines, ropes, chains, pipes.
- Ventilation systems.
- Skylights, holes in roof.
It might seem obvious and not very helpful, but when doing this and making a few choices in planning a mission from a gameplay perspective, I think it will be easier to come up with a consistent story and plot that fits seamlessly into the level design, and also make it easier to plan out different features of a level. Of course, these categories are just suggestions and quite broad in definition. Most of them can be divided up into smaller segments and combined in various ways, or to offer ideas for alternative, optional routes into, or out of, the same location.
I hope some of you might find this interesting and/or helpful in some way. This way of thinking and dividing down things into concrete bits of gameplay can also be used when considering loot placement, audio queues, AI patrols, progression tempo, etc.