Tell Me a Story

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

Tell Me a Story

Everybody loves a good story but when you're waving a gun around like a maniac, is it really necessary?

Read Full Article

I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

I agree about Bioshock, a multiplayer just doesn't fit but since I'm still certain that it's not going to be as good as the first I'll give it a miss.

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

Wow, that's really great - you should turn it into a navel...

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

I only had a poem.

Hear the words I sing,
War's a horrid thing,
So I sing-sing-sing...
Ding-a-ling-a-ling.

Interesting article though. Not sure if I understood he bit about Half-Life's story camoflauging the lack of story.

I recall Valve stating there were no mirrors in Half-Life because the player is supposed to be Gordon Freeman.

The blockbuster mentality comes from the budgets involved, when you're spending as much as Hollywood does on a blockbuster you better make sure you make money like Hollywood does on a blockbuster or the bottom line won't match up. When somebody cuts the budget to make a cheaper game people decry it as casualization unless it's aimed at a tiny niche that'll have trouble even paying for the reduced development budget.

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

This story ticks all the boxes, not too long and it has a happy ending... Brilliant! *CLAPS* :D

There was once a young man from Goshum... sorry wrong kind of story >.> Seriously though

lostclause:
I agree about Bioshock, a multiplayer just doesn't fit but since I'm still certain that it's not going to be as good as the first I'll give it a miss.

This a story feels more important to a good game than multiplayer for me. Unless its a MMO game of course.

You said how Half-Life has managed to cover-up for not having a story at all, and it's not that i disagree with you, but i am more ocnfused on HOW, can you or somene else explain that tidbit a little farther?

Time Travelling Toaster:
There was once a young man from Goshum... sorry wrong kind of story >.> Seriously though

lostclause:
I agree about Bioshock, a multiplayer just doesn't fit but since I'm still certain that it's not going to be as good as the first I'll give it a miss.

This a story feels more important to a good game than multiplayer for me. Unless its a MMO game of course.

Hmm...I'll have to go with 'depends on the genre' with that one. Gameplay is the most important but I'm not sure about story. For something like bioshock or assassin's creed story is vastly more important than multiplayer but for other games (mainly shooters) multiplayer like co-op is fun. But the first bioshock had such a great story that ended very neatly, I don't think there should be a sequel there's no call for it. Sure bioshock was awesome but it was awesome because it was unique (and before people start gabbing on about SS 2, I know).

I have reflected on this troubling matter myself as well after the success of Transformers 2.

Games can be given considerable leeway in regards to story and depth so long as the gameplay is fun and interesting. One could say that story increases the duration in which a game might be remembered, but this too can be disregarded if the gameplay is extremely innovating.

In the end, while an artist dreams to achieve the things reflected upon in this article, businessmen run this ship, who can only short-sightedly produce what the majority desires, and as such it's a pity that the majority desire so little.

Not sure what to think of this article. On one hand I don't care that much about sequels to Bioshock and Max Payne and what they do with them. On the other hand I think that if they are not going to deliver what the writer enjoyed about the original then he has a right to be disappointed no matter what the majority think.

I would be annoyed if some hack took over something I love like the X-Com licence and tried to make it something completely different for his own entertainment! No matter how much he told me that nobody but me liked turn based tactical combat.

Story in games can make the game less fun and just be a self indulgent waste of time and money by the game creator but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Mostly, I have given up trying to guess what people will respond to the most because it can be depressing.

AkJay:
You said how Half-Life has managed to cover-up for not having a story at all, and it's not that i disagree with you, but i am more ocnfused on HOW, can you or somene else explain that tidbit a little farther?

This sums up what I think of the story in Half-Life and I'm prepared to weather the enmity of valve game storytelling methodology true believers.

This article depresses me because it is -truth-.

Money. Rules. Everything

Obtusifolius:

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

Wow, that's really great - you should turn it into a navel...

A navel...is that some sort of organ or weed?

SomeBritishDude:

Obtusifolius:

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

Wow, that's really great - you should turn it into a navel...

A navel...is that some sort of organ or weed?

It is a belly button, you ridiculous fellow.

Wait... how is the hero of Half Life Nameless Faceless and Generic? Gordon Freeman, Brown Hair, Beard, Glasses. Also MIT grad. How many action heroes have Doctorates?

Simriel:
Wait... how is the hero of Half Life Nameless Faceless and Generic? Gordon Freeman, Brown Hair, Beard, Glasses. Also MIT grad. How many action heroes have Doctorates?

Except he isn't shown in the game and his qualifications are pretty much irrelevant to anything that happens.

How different is an action hero with a doctorate anyway?

You'll have to excuse me for the brutality of commenting like this in my first post. But I figure that someone who wants to be heard badly enough to post articles on sites shouldn't be afraid to hear other people, and *yes*, I am well aware of the hypocrisy.

So, for whom exactly is this article written? The game designers who are happily earning money? The average Joe customer who's happy with his storyless games? Or to likeminded individuals that are likely to visit the Escapist? I fail to see how anyone would change his mind. Plenty of people are happy with the way things are going and those who aren't... well, they're not doing much about it.

Don't get me wrong - I'm as dissatisfied with the state of the games industry as anyone, but I think venting on the Internet is not a solution. It's relieving, sure, but be aware that this isn't some storyteller's manifesto that'll change games even a tiny bit.

Some of the best art was made out of frustration. The Aeneid was written to teach those soft and corrupt Romans to be manly again. The Divine Comedy is one big piece of frustration about 14th century Florence and the papacy. Closer to home, Planescape Torment was created out of frustration with the lousy standard fantasy setting and overused gameplay concepts and World of Goo was made by EA employees who couldn't take working on EA's games anymore. So, and I do know I might be exaggerating here, why aren't you making something better? Yeah, gameplay and graphics will suffer, but World of Goo was made by only two guys and that even went out with the intention to sell, rather than some free indie game over the net that you could make.

Story just isn't going to sell. Maybe some people will have moderate successes with story-based games, but they're never going to be big, so stop trying. You saw it with Max Payne 2 - great story, never did too well. Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, featuring the most characterful characters you'll ever meet in a game killed Troika. Little wonder that the industry is what it is today. For the time being, I'm voicing my opinion with my wallet - no Gears of War coming through my door and the only Fallouts I have are the first two.

-

Secondly, and more fitted to the topic at hand, I very much believe that you can't apply non-interactive storytelling techniques directly in a game. Taken out of context and put next to other media, even Bioshock or Portal are no Hamlet or Oedipus Rex. Games are actually pretty terrible at telling stories. What a lot of them do is cop out and have parts that aren't a game at all to tell the story; cutscenes.

Now what they do do very well is create worlds and immerse you. A character in a game can interact with you - that's powerful. You can wander through imaginitive worlds. That's why Half-life is considered great. Yeah, Gordon Freeman isn't much of a character, but that's by design, since he's you. Barney, Alyx, Dr. Kleiner or even Dog and Lamarr are memorable. What's more, nobody ever tells you you've landed in a dystopia run by dictatorial aliens. You *experience* it. You get one or two lines about Nova Prospekt - that it was a prison, but now it's something much worse - but that's nothing compared to walking around there and seeing the inhuman place.

As another example, Max Payne 2 - I do love that game myself too - which tells its story in multiple ways. Moreso than the cutscenes or graphic novels, though, I think the dreams are absolutely awesome and the best levels in video game history. You don't get to do much real gameplay like the rest of the game, but the environments are simply amazing. The twisted reality, combining the various locations and the Pink Bird mental institute, is very dreamlike in its absurdness and it conveys Max' mind better than any part of its touted graphic novel. That's what video games are powerful at. Its stories aren't told. They aren't shown. They're experienced.

(And in that sense, I dare think that Team Fortress does better storytelling (English language not being helpful here) than many a shooter that does have a plot.)

Edit: I'd also like to mention that STALKER was way more enjoyable before the plot got in the way and explained everything that was ever mysterious and interesting about the game.

Obtusifolius:

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

Wow, that's really great - you should turn it into a navel...

I assume you meant novel, but I think if he made a game it could potentially be a best seller... As long as I get to slaughter waves of baddies out to get baldrick.

Whenever I think story in gaming is dead I think of BioWare. Then I feel better.

But yes, the lack of story in popular media is troubling now. However; I think that soon story will come back. The greatness of special effects will wear off soon enough and people will story going to movies because the trailer had cool special effects. Then developers and producers will have a problem: What can we do to get money now? And they will realize that the only thing left to do is make a story to captivate people.

At least... I hope so.

Zwebbie:
Story just isn't going to sell. Maybe some people will have moderate successes with story-based games, but they're never going to be big, so stop trying.

Never. As soon as you stop trying then you've just resigned yourself to failure.

Podunk:

Zwebbie:
Story just isn't going to sell. Maybe some people will have moderate successes with story-based games, but they're never going to be big, so stop trying.

Never. As soon as you stop trying then you've just resigned yourself to failure.

Perhaps, but you're surely trying the wrong way if you just go and make good games with good stories. People won't buy a good game because it has a good story too, they'll buy it because it's a good game, story be damned. Unfortunately, the only way to make people buy games to which the narritave is integral is to make them care about said narritave. Good luck. How about we check the library for the number of people they get, compared to VideoEzy* or Blockbuster*.

I'm just happy that some developers still bother. Makes me feel a little better inside.

* If you're elsewhere and these names are meaningless to you, VideoEzy and Blockbuster are Australian movie/game rental shops.

I have said this on quite a few threads. The entertainment business over the past few years have put more emphasis on the "business" side of things. They don't care that much anymore about quality as long as it makes money for them. The result being however that the consumer doesn't benefit as we're paying the same amount of money as a good quality game, if not more, for one which has had corners cut to speed up the process, yet the consumer isn't going to say anything because they're not professional critics, and probably don't know what a truly amzing quality game is like to play.

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

That made me cry.

AmrasCalmacil:

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

I only had a poem.

Hear the words I sing,
War's a horrid thing,
So I sing-sing-sing...
Ding-a-ling-a-ling.

Well it started badly, tailed off a bit in the middle, and the less said about the end the better. But apart from that it was excellent ;)

The great unwashed mass of gamers is apparently quite happy to just run around mindlessly blowing the crap out of everything they see.

I don't really see a problem with this.

In Super Mario, what is the first thing you do in the game? You don't have an FMV introducing you to the characters or the story. You don't have some crap text you have to read. You choose 1 or 2 players, hit start, and you crush things.

Why? Why do you crush them? What is the reason I crush them? Do I NEED to crush them? No, I can jump over them and let them live. But... do I want to let that first goomba live? Not really. So, I jump on him.

When I start up Contra, what is the first thing that happens? No story. I fall in from the sky and I start killing things. Does it really matter why? No. I'm just doing it.

Even Final Fantasy on the NES was like that. It was only after you beat the 'first boss' that the story was given to you. And it was pretty bare bones. And it rocked. Hard.

BioShock was a run-of-the-mill FPS that excelled on the strength of its setting, story...

I can't seem to fathom this statement, mainly because I can't detect any tongue-in-cheek commentary or sarcasm. Maybe it's because you don't really play FPS that often or you've never actually played a real run-of-the-mill FPS game before.

A run-of-the-mill FPS game is CoD, Halo, Resistance, or any other game where you do absolutely nothing but shoot at things. Any game where the best answer to an enemy is to ALWAYS shoot them every time. I.E. You aren't given a choice (remember that).

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SPOILERS<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Bioshock was a great game because you had choices you could make, none of which related to the story. Yeah, choosing to harvest or save a girl was a choice that had an impact on the ending, but it had nothing to do with the story. It didn't matter how many you harvested, Fontaine was going to hand you that golf club.

In Bioshock I could play however I wanted to play. An example of a scenario:

A Big Daddy is fighting a small group of Splicers. There is a camera and a machine gun turret near by. I have the Charm Big Daddy plasmid, Security Bullseye plasmid, the Target Dummy Plasmid, and a shotgun with some electro buck. I am also able to hack the turret and disable that camera if I need to.

So, what would you do?

That is what makes Bioshock a good game. I have the ability to choose EXACTLY how I want to deal with any situation. In the above situation I could:

Charm the Big Daddy and assault the splicers while disarming the camera and turret.

I could destroy the turret and camera, and go guns blazing on the Big Daddy after he finishes off the splicers.

I could hack the turret, get the Big Daddies attention, place a target dummy down, and then stun him with the electro buck and let the turret deal with him.

I could use the Security Bullseye plasmid on the Big Daddy while, stun him with the electro buck, run past him to the next room, and deal with him there (or just run away from him).

I could do anything because I had the choice. In CoD, Halo, Resistance, etc. I wouldn't be presented with that ability to do whatever I'd like to do. The gameplay is what made the game good.

Are you really suggesting that a story akin to something M. Night Shyamalan would direct/write is a good one? Really? It's your classic M. Night twist. The only thing that is truly outstanding about the game that isn't gameplay related is the setting, but the game could have taken place in space on a ship and would have been just as good. And it was when it was System Shock 2.

The thing that made Bioshock good was choice. The primary element of that game is choice. You can choose to deal with situations however you like, using whatever weapons you want, whatever plasmids you want, and using whatever else exists in the level however you please. Then you have the plot that revolves around choice.

And that's exactly what makes the game good. Everything is tied in together. It makes the game feel complete and not just a series of levels. Of course, if the gameplay wasn't good, then it wouldn't be good.

And that's sort of the point. Games are fun because they're fun. If a game isn't fun, then it has failed at what it is supposed to do, be fun. The fun part of the game is the gameplay. If the gameplay is not fun, then the game is not fun. A story exists solely to compliment the gameplay. It exists to increase the joy of the game. Of course, when you have a story, there always exists the problem of it detracting from the experience, in which case I'd rather not have plots in most of my games.

Make the action exciting, make the gameplay rich and deep, make the weaponry unique and interesting, and above all else: make the game fun to play.

Story be damned, just make games fun.

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

OMG i love that episode :)

runedeadthA:

Obtusifolius:

Cpt_Oblivious:
I thought this would be something silly. I was going to tell you a story too.

There once was a little sausage called Baldrick.
Who lived happily ever after.

Wow, that's really great - you should turn it into a navel...

I assume you meant novel, but I think if he made a game it could potentially be a best seller... As long as I get to slaughter waves of baddies out to get baldrick.

OK, just to clear this up... it was a Blackadder reference and the mistake was deliberate :)

Whenever capitalism creeps into the very roots of an industry, thats when there are real problems. It has already happened to the music industry, and in Hollywood, and they dont seem to be even looking in the direction of coming back. This is a real worry for me, as I am a firm believer that Computer Games are one of the most complete artforms that we have come up with. It will be painful to see it go down, but if somthing is not done soon, thats what is going to happen.

Credge:
I don't really see a problem with this.

Well that's really the point, isn't it? Is there a problem with it? Do games that purport to be built on a story really need to focus on that story in order to make us happy? The answer up to now has pretty clearly been "no" but is that because story really doesn't matter or simply that we just don't know any better?

BioShock was a run-of-the-mill FPS that excelled on the strength of its setting, story...

I can't seem to fathom this statement, mainly because I can't detect any tongue-in-cheek commentary or sarcasm. Maybe it's because you don't really play FPS that often or you've never actually played a real run-of-the-mill FPS game before.

A run-of-the-mill FPS game is CoD, Halo, Resistance, or any other game where you do absolutely nothing but shoot at things. Any game where the best answer to an enemy is to ALWAYS shoot them every time. I.E. You aren't given a choice (remember that).

Nope, no sarcasm or irony there. BioShock was what it was, and what it was was a competent shooter wrapped in a brilliant package and a good story (until the wheels came off at the very end). In fact, one of the great things about the game is the way it's able to mask the fact that it's System Shock 2 Lite, with all the potentially confusing "thinkie" bits stripped out so gamers can get on with... well, with the shooting. "Choice" in the game was largely an illusion - there are different ways to shoot guys, sure, but at the end of the day guys are getting shot.

The fun part of the game is the gameplay. If the gameplay is not fun, then the game is not fun. A story exists solely to compliment the gameplay. It exists to increase the joy of the game. Of course, when you have a story, there always exists the problem of it detracting from the experience, in which case I'd rather not have plots in most of my games.

Now we're getting somewhere. :) Not all that long ago I would've argued that point loud and long because I held the opposite view: Games that don't properly invest in story (where it's relevant) suffer as a result. But lately I'm wondering if that's actually the case at all, or if I'm just weird.

Malygris:
Nope, no sarcasm or irony there. BioShock was what it was, and what it was was a competent shooter wrapped in a brilliant package and a good story (until the wheels came off at the very end). In fact, one of the great things about the game is the way it's able to mask the fact that it's System Shock 2 Lite, with all the potentially confusing "thinkie" bits stripped out so gamers can get on with... well, with the shooting. "Choice" in the game was largely an illusion - there are different ways to shoot guys, sure, but at the end of the day guys are getting shot.

Maybe you have a case of shooter fatigue and need to play some games that are not mainly about waving a gun around like a maniac. How about a bit of Endless Ocean for the Wii? I can't promise that it will make you think differently about game stories and gameplay but it's a relaxing change of pace for both.

Frankly, I'd prefer even fewer attempts to put some kind of "story" into our games. Story in games seems to have crept up on us very slowly over the years, starting with 5 second cutscenes in coin-op games that gave some context for the mayhem, and somewhere along the way, developers began to think that those cutscenes are why we liked the games in the first place.

But for the most part, they were just there for fun, or to give you a little zing of accomplishment (did anyone REALLY care about the romance between Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man?). If a developer has a story to tell, a game is probably the least effective way to do so, unless the story has at its core something to say about the playing of games (e.g., Bioshock, Braid or Shadow of the Colossus). Let movies be movies, and let games be games; the path to mainstream respectibility won't be through aping blockbuster moviemaking techniques.

AkJay:
You said how Half-Life has managed to cover-up for not having a story at all, and it's not that i disagree with you, but i am more ocnfused on HOW, can you or somene else explain that tidbit a little farther?

I on the other hand find myself really content knowing there are people out there who find Half Life story uninteresting and redundant as I do.

Here's my story:

"Let's tell a story to pass the time. Once upon a time, there was this robot. His name was Holy Toledo, and he was really powerful! Then, one day, a spaceship landed right in front of him, and a big green alien came out and started eating people! Was our hero scared? You bet he was! He cried like a little baby; Wa wa wa! The End. Thank you, thank y..."

(Lone Wanderer shoots him in the head)

Malygris:

BioShock was a run-of-the-mill FPS that excelled on the strength of its setting, story...

I can't seem to fathom this statement, mainly because I can't detect any tongue-in-cheek commentary or sarcasm. Maybe it's because you don't really play FPS that often or you've never actually played a real run-of-the-mill FPS game before.

A run-of-the-mill FPS game is CoD, Halo, Resistance, or any other game where you do absolutely nothing but shoot at things. Any game where the best answer to an enemy is to ALWAYS shoot them every time. I.E. You aren't given a choice (remember that).

Nope, no sarcasm or irony there. BioShock was what it was, and what it was was a competent shooter wrapped in a brilliant package and a good story (until the wheels came off at the very end). In fact, one of the great things about the game is the way it's able to mask the fact that it's System Shock 2 Lite, with all the potentially confusing "thinkie" bits stripped out so gamers can get on with... well, with the shooting. "Choice" in the game was largely an illusion - there are different ways to shoot guys, sure, but at the end of the day guys are getting shot.

Just wondering, but what are your thoughts on the Metriod Prime games? The gameplay is split relatively evenly between platforming and shooting. Also, there is no story unless you look for it. You can't really even say that the action-heavy parts are that great because they are generally you just figuring out how to damage the enemies.

On the issue on stories in videogames, I believe that when people start involving their creative department from the begining we will see better stories, even in games where the story isn't important. Giving a character a weapon that fits into the setting will help immerse the player more than trying to construct the story around the weapon.

Zwebbie:

Now what they do do very well is create worlds and immerse you. A character in a game can interact with you - that's powerful. You can wander through imaginitive worlds. That's why Half-life is considered great. Yeah, Gordon Freeman isn't much of a character, but that's by design, since he's you. Barney, Alyx, Dr. Kleiner or even Dog and Lamarr are memorable. What's more, nobody ever tells you you've landed in a dystopia run by dictatorial aliens. You *experience* it. You get one or two lines about Nova Prospekt - that it was a prison, but now it's something much worse - but that's nothing compared to walking around there and seeing the inhuman place.

/Agree

What impresses me the most about Valve games, and other games like them, is how they do not tell you a story; you ARE the story, you experience the story, and though often at a first glance it is a complete mystery as to how or why things are the way they are...looking closer can reveal the truth, and fill in pieces of the puzzle. Looking closer at all of the newspaper clippings and photos on Dr. Kleiner's wall reveals the '7 Hour war' (I think it was?) and some small details about what happened to put the earth in such a state. Does it answer all of the questions? No. But that is half of what is amazing about those games...they are wrapped in mystery and though you may solve some of it, you'll never know all of it...JUST like everyone else there experiencing that world. Gordon Freeman fell into his situation without a clue, so why should they lay out the answers for the player in cutscenes or extensive dialog?

We probably will never fully understand who Gman is. Or if we do, it'll only be because he is middle management and there's something bigger.

Also: Bioshock is fun because in no other FPS can you hit someone with lightning, light them on fire and then cover them with bees. BEEEEEEEEES!!!
And THEN you could shoot them in the face. If you were merciful anyway.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here