Million Dollar Actor, Five Dollar Writer

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Jonesy911:
I have always played games that I think will have an intersting story or at least an entertaining one. I find that a good story will make me care about the characters more and it makes me enjoy the game more.

Final Fantasy 7,8,9 are my best examples of games that made you care about the characters (even if the writing sometimes suffers due to translation)
Making me care about the characters greatly enhanced Lost Odyssey, Chrono Trigger, Mass Effect, KOTOR, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and even Splinter Cell: Double Agent (I may be alone on that last one)

QFFT (Quoted For Fucking Truth)
I hold up Final Fantasy 8 as one of the best examples I know of good, solid writing where I sympathized with protagonists and antagonists alike and enjoyed seeing them interact and/or involve. I do agree that some characters lack a bit of developement or depth, but Squall is FAR from the classical emo douchebag whiny pretty boy. He starts the game as a slightly arrogant lone wolf, but actually warms up in a genuine and at least to me, heartwarming manner. I also just loved raijin, fujin and seifer...heh...seifer was pretty fuckin' awesome.

When I think of terrible story, first two games I think of are Super Mario Sunshine and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. after the first 5-10 minutes, they stopped making any sense at all, and only went downhill from there.

DAVEoftheDEAD:

coldfrog:
Dead Rising had some pretty miserable half-assed junk, which was unfortunate because they did a great job of pacing the actual EVENTS of the story, like when certain things would happen, but when it came down to cutscenes or things that described what was going on, I felt like it was pretty miserable. I wish I could give some concrete examples but it's been so long since I played it.

You missed the point of the game entirely...

Re1!!! Cant beat that.

I thought the point of the game was to kill tons of zombies in a mall while saving people.

I had tons of fun with the game, don't get me wrong, but he asked for a game that stood out in our mind with bad cut scenes, and that one came to me instantly.

Mr.Squishy:

Jonesy911:
I have always played games that I think will have an intersting story or at least an entertaining one. I find that a good story will make me care about the characters more and it makes me enjoy the game more.

Final Fantasy 7,8,9 are my best examples of games that made you care about the characters (even if the writing sometimes suffers due to translation)
Making me care about the characters greatly enhanced Lost Odyssey, Chrono Trigger, Mass Effect, KOTOR, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and even Splinter Cell: Double Agent (I may be alone on that last one)

QFFT (Quoted For Fucking Truth)
I hold up Final Fantasy 8 as one of the best examples I know of good, solid writing where I sympathized with protagonists and antagonists alike and enjoyed seeing them interact and/or involve. I do agree that some characters lack a bit of developement or depth, but Squall is FAR from the classical emo douchebag whiny pretty boy. He starts the game as a slightly arrogant lone wolf, but actually warms up in a genuine and at least to me, heartwarming manner. I also just loved raijin, fujin and seifer...heh...seifer was pretty fuckin' awesome.

FF8 is my brother's favourite game, I love it too but I am yet to complete it, I got all the way to the 4th disk on the ps1 but it broke. I have it on psp now and just got to second disk and I am loving it more than any other game of the last decade. I couldn't agree more about Squall, anyone who says he is an emo pretty boy needs to either:
1. Actually play the game,
if they have they need to...
2. Pay attention to the story

Shamus you are a sexy sexy man and if I were a woman I would bear your child right now from the sheer awesomeness and truth of that article.

This leads one to think whether piss poor writing will in and of itself turn into a cult following like the various "sploitation" film genre's.

Illustro Cado:

Megamet:

Irridium:
Final Fantasy games have writing that makes me want to rage. All of the ones I played anyway.

Are you High? Final Fantasy games are the Epitome of good writing. It's the only thing it has going for it, considering it's gameplay is a turn based system of copious level grinding (FF 11 and 12 not withstanding). Have you actually played the games or are you just going by what every one else said?

Back on topic, I don't agree with what you said about unskipable being a collection of bad game stories, because there are quite a number of them whose plots get better as you progress further into the game.

Good writing by game standards, sure. But good writing overall? FFXII is the first game in the series that has a plot which could stand on its own and its one of the most reviled games in the series.

FFX had a bad protagonist. Really, I can forgive its other flaws because they were testing the waters on a new console, but if I don't like the character I'm playing the rest of the story can be pure gold and it's not going to engage me. With that said, I'd begrudgingly concede that it's a decent story if they hadn't followed it up with X-2 and pissed all over their characters. (Yuna is NOT slutty pop-star material, dammit.)

FFIX was the amalgamation of all the classic stories polished to a mirror shine. It still has flaws, but if taken as a homage to old school gaming they're forgivable.

FFVIII was an abomination; none of it made any damn sense. FFVII was good but highly overrated; the story is very simple, and the writers (maybe the localizers?) mistook swear words for personality with two of the characters.

FFVI was... excellent. The story was simplistic, it couldn't stand on its own without being fleshed out, but for the time the game was released it was as close to perfect as an RPG storyline could get.

FFV was utterly forgettable, and while FFIV was good for its time it's laughable now. FFIII has a bare-bones story, as do FFII and FFI.

As far as JRPGS go, the FF series tells the best stories out of any of them. Within the wider scope of gaming, other games have told far superior stories.

I think you're wrong about FFVIII, the story made perfect sense, the plot wasn't even hard to follow and was one of the best in the series. The characters are among the best of any FF and it had the best soundtrack of any RPG on the PS1,2 or 3

If Devil May Cry 4 is so fantastically stupid (I've only seen the Unskippable version of it) and if nobody cares, then why bother? Why make cutscenes that are either ignored or loathed? Why not just give players more stuff to shoot and more places in which to shoot it?

While I see your point, I think that's the same type of question as "Why have those unknown random groupies warm up for the concert of Famous Group X when all fans want is to hear X live?" - flashy cutscenes supposedly warm up players for the pointless epic battles up ahead..and waste a lot of game dev resources on that *sigh*

Illustro Cado:
FFX had a bad protagonist. Really, I can forgive its other flaws because they were testing the waters on a new console, but if I don't like the character I'm playing the rest of the story can be pure gold and it's not going to engage me.

They made up for it with Auron, and Seymour was a good villain, I thought. Something about the way he talked just maked him all the more loathable.

I must testify that I've never really played any games with truly horrid writing, seeing as my taste in videogames is more refined to a fairly small selection of titles that I'd only pick up if they really interested me. Games with a heavy focus on combat (and, therefore, with only a minor focus on story and dialogue) don't interest me.

Fable gets a special mention for being overly generic and boring, but out of the games I have played, I really can't go past Final Fantasy X-2 as having the worst story. It was, simply put, painful to play.

Jonesy911:

Mr.Squishy:

Jonesy911:
I have always played games that I think will have an intersting story or at least an entertaining one. I find that a good story will make me care about the characters more and it makes me enjoy the game more.

Final Fantasy 7,8,9 are my best examples of games that made you care about the characters (even if the writing sometimes suffers due to translation)
Making me care about the characters greatly enhanced Lost Odyssey, Chrono Trigger, Mass Effect, KOTOR, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and even Splinter Cell: Double Agent (I may be alone on that last one)

QFFT (Quoted For Fucking Truth)
I hold up Final Fantasy 8 as one of the best examples I know of good, solid writing where I sympathized with protagonists and antagonists alike and enjoyed seeing them interact and/or involve. I do agree that some characters lack a bit of developement or depth, but Squall is FAR from the classical emo douchebag whiny pretty boy. He starts the game as a slightly arrogant lone wolf, but actually warms up in a genuine and at least to me, heartwarming manner. I also just loved raijin, fujin and seifer...heh...seifer was pretty fuckin' awesome.

FF8 is my brother's favourite game, I love it too but I am yet to complete it, I got all the way to the 4th disk on the ps1 but it broke. I have it on psp now and just got to second disk and I am loving it more than any other game of the last decade. I couldn't agree more about Squall, anyone who says he is an emo pretty boy needs to either:
1. Actually play the game,
if they have they need to...
2. Pay attention to the story

Yeah...and I'm just warning you, the story gets pretty strange from the end of disk 3 i think it was...a friend of mine says it was kind of like an acid trip..not that he's tried but still...I was very liable to agree, but it's still great, even though there are a few plot holes you can fit a whale through. Or explain in tedious detail if you have enough time and initiative. Also, this game had the best motherf*** limit breaks of all! Each is so unique, yet they're all possible to pick up pretty fast. Although...one of rinoa's limit breaks is fairly useless if not done right, but that's a very minor gripe.

Irridium:
Final Fantasy games have writing that makes me want to rage. All of the ones I played anyway.

Final Fantasy writing has some of the best there is out there. I have even seen people who have never seen a video game enjoy them...

If anyone in the industry wants to aspire to great stories, its always good to take a lef from the FF Book

I Hate the story to Bayonetta. Like... a lot. I'm told that's just me though.

Tomb Raider games focus on the least likeable character ever and then continually try to get us to empathize with her. Also...

Uncharted games, while funny, focus on the least likeable character since Lara Croft. Seriously, I hate him so much.

Finally, Top of the Class (Or Dunce Hat, as is more accurate) goes to Army of Two. The first one, I haven't played the second. Everything those guys said was impossibly stupid.

Shamus Young:
Question: When you think of painfully bad writing, what game earns your scorn?

Gotta go with Culdecept Saga. The game itself is pretty neat; a pretty decent take on the turn-based board game style of games (I have no idea what the genre is actually called). But the cutscenes and dialogue are ATROCIOUS! Holy cuss they're TERRIBLE!

Jonesy911:
I think you're wrong about FFVIII, the story made perfect sense, the plot wasn't even hard to follow and was one of the best in the series. The characters are among the best of any FF and it had the best soundtrack of any RPG on the PS1,2 or 3

I'm not gonna say much on FFVIII because I think Spoony said everything that could possibly be said about that game. It's trash, plain and simple. Enjoyable trash, maybe, but the writing is horrid by any objective standard.

Andronicus:

They made up for it with Auron, and Seymour was a good villain, I thought. Something about the way he talked just maked him all the more loathable.

Seymour was a good villain, I'll grant you that. Auron was too generic-badass for my taste. Keep in mind I personally love badass characters-I eat that shit up-but there's no question it's creative laziness on the part of the writers, and for me Auron wasn't enough to make me overlook the game's other flaws.

FFX had all the makings of an excellent story, it just fell short of its potential. I don't consider it horrid, and I acknowledge it for the accomplishment it was at the time of its release, but now? It's the FFIV of its generation. That's not a bad place to be, but it's something to be appreciated rather than played.

While I'm at it, I wanna say that I think FFVIII had all the makings of a great game, too. I'd love to see the junction system resurrected and refined in another game. The way they did it in VIII was downright tedious but if you change it up a bit I think you'd have something as good as the materia system from VII. The plot reads like it was based off the first draft of the script; it would take a lot to salvage it but with some work it could be turned into something decent. As it is, though? I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Terrible. Just terrible.
And they broke the damn web-slinging!
And the fighting, too.
And it had all that potential!

I really need to punch something right now.

I guess I'm the only one that noticed, but did anyone else snicker when he mentioned the world class chef being a her and also making a sandwich? I'm not sexist and I don't think he is either but I couldn't help it.

What writing in a game earned my scorn?
Gears
of
War.

Shujen:

Also, Assassin's Creed. Fantastically detailed period-specific cities, marred by a Dan Brown plotline.

Am I the only one who thinks Dan Brown is an exceptional writer? Digital Fortress, Deception Point and The Da Vinchi Code are among my favorite books :[

I'd love to be a writer when I'm older and seeing some of the truely awful dialogue in games nowday, I really hope that I could get a shot.

008Zulu:
Alone in the Dark was horrid on many levels. Also Fallout 3 and Oblivion were poorly written.

I'm genuinly on the fence about Fallout 3 and Oblivion. The format is kinda weird, expecially Morrowind and Oblivion's whole hypertext dialog system, but the games themselves weren't poorly writen, just the dialog. Fallout 3's ironically the inverse, the dialog isn't particularly bad (not good, by any stretch), but the narrative is a railroad. If it had been The Wastelander's Chronicle: Washington or something I kinda doubt there'd be as much complaint about it's writing.

Shamus' comment on Far Cry kinda leaves me uncertain as well. The game's writing is hillariously bad, but does it actually benifit from this as parody or is it just that bad?

Anyway, the one that sends me over the edge is, ironically, Dragon Age. For all Bioware hyped it as sweeping, epic dark fantisy game... it's none of those. It's a standard fantasy. Setting slightly lighter in tone than Lord of the f---ing Rings, and it's not even epic, not really. Epic would imply to me that there would be more content in the game than the standard four to five plot coupon game format they've used in every release this decade (Okay, technically Neverwinter Nights had about three of these in a row, but Dragon Age only has a single round of collect the pieces).

Bioware, get off your f'ing laurals and either lapse into hillariously bad writing for our ammusement or actually write something good.

...

Hmm. I dunno'. Maybe I'm just more accepting of all the nonsenes I am fed when I play my games, but I really do not see bad writing in the same places you do. I thought RE4's writing was good, I thought Metal Gear's writing was completely brilliant, and I thought that Fable 2's writing was just fine. Never once during any of those games did I stop and say "Well, why didn't they just do _____ instead?"

Certainly, there is bad writing in the games industry, I will not argue that, but I really don't see it in the same places. I will say, however, that some of the games you mentioned for having good writing were indeed very good. (Except maybe Portal... Did that game even have a real story? <_<)

The only real bad writing I have encountered has generally been in games which were bad in general, or games that were simply meant for the mindless droves. The early Call of Duty games come to mind.

JeanLuc761:

Shujen:

Also, Assassin's Creed. Fantastically detailed period-specific cities, marred by a Dan Brown plotline.

Am I the only one who thinks Dan Brown is an exceptional writer? Digital Fortress, Deception Point and The Da Vinchi Code are among my favorite books :[

No, you're not... unfortunatly. I'll leave savaging him to someone else, but there is MUCH better writing out there than Dan Brown. Hell, I'd recomend Michael Crichton over Dan Brown. At least with Crichton you can (usually) learn something factual.

EDIT: I'd also throw Neil Stepenson on the list, one of the founding fathers of cyberpunk. He's the variety of author that has published both fiction and non-fiction material. In the Begining There Was the Command Line (A look at the history of computer technology) was assigned reading in one of my classes back in college.

If unconventional perspectives on history is what stimulates your fondness for Brown there is better work on the subject by much better authors, but off hand I can't remember whom.

EDIT2: I should probably admit to reading Robert Ludlum books, so I'm not exactly comming here with clean hands myself.

I think the major problem is that most creators of video games believe that writing is either easy or that they can do it themselves. If they think that then they are wrong on both counts, if the truly abysmal list of video games with bad writing says anything. And that, quite honestly, is most of them. (And that includes Bioware.) In fact, writing in video games is so bad that most players wouldn't know good writing if it bit them in the ass.

If the ones being mentioned in this forum are any indication.

But I am an English major and that makes me snotty. It doesn't mean that I don't enjoy a poorly written game if everything comes together, but a poorly written game is still a poorly written game. Most of the time I have to shut off the part of my brain that does critical analysis, if only to save it from the horror of being savaged. But that happens to be because I look at the writing. Plain and simple. I judge a video game on plot, dialogue, and how well they build their world. (And believe it or not world building is different from setting.) I'm not asking for an interactive novel, I am asking for my ears not to bleed when the game decides to spout off crap. (Which is something most of them do.) For those reasons, I have very few video games on my shelf and I thank my sensibilities because they save me money.

Personally I like anything from Obsidian, because in those I actually get witty repartee between my character and the NPCs. The dialogue is surprising, funny, and I can be a snarky bastard without having to be a complete asshole. (Which is something that happens in every Bioware game...ever...) Grand Theft Auto is another set of games with a lot of depth, good plot, etc. And Bioshock was okay but I saw that plot twist coming several miles away.

I know I said Obsidian but since no one has mentioned it yet: Planescape Torment.

And yes, that does mean I prefer KoTOR II to KoTOR. Call blasphemy if you wish.

How does RE4 suck, I don't get it.

"Story" is no different than motivation when it comes to video games. Simply put, why are you playing? As you ponder this question even games such as Pac-man and Tetris have a "Story", where the objectives are to gather as many points as possible before the game becomes too difficult. RPGs elaborate on this motivation by expanding the question into several others, in turn producing a narrative the player has to carry out to win the game. It should also allow the player to immediately recognise the part of the story they're into when returning to the game. Hence yes, if the goal and the means to achieve it are not designed properly any game will suffer.

If we use my ideology for a story, then Spore wins. Back during its beta phases the game was going to be a modern evolution simulator, which unfortunately was scrapped for five mini-games on release and later on trying to expand the franchise with more inane mini-games. Where exactly has the goal to oversee the evolution of a being gone off to?

Starke:
Anyway, the one that sends me over the edge is, ironically, Dragon Age. For all Bioware hyped it as sweeping, epic dark fantisy game... it's none of those. It's a standard fantasy. Setting slightly lighter in tone than Lord of the f---ing Rings, and it's not even epic, not really. Epic would imply to me that there would be more content in the game than the standard four to five plot coupon game format they've used in every release this decade (Okay, technically Neverwinter Nights had about three of these in a row, but Dragon Age only has a single round of collect the pieces).

Have to agree on Dragon Age, no where near what it was built up to be.

Illustro Cado:
The plot reads like it was based off the first draft of the script; it would take a lot to salvage it but with some work it could be turned into something decent.

That's how a I feel for most of the FF games, aside from the Tactics one for PSX.

Not quite bad (I still consider FF VI to be as interesting idea), but preocuppied with so many plot elements that in the end it kinda of shoehorns the power of friendship and a few other tropes just to add some kind of sense of tying the loose ends of the game plot overall.

Zalinski:
How does RE4 suck, I don't get it.

The writing was once catagorized as the product of an 8 year old ADHD sufferer locked in a room with a stack of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics. Oddly that's about the only way I can adiquitly explain how something could appear in nature that is that poorly written.

I'm not sure what it is, genuinly. It could be as simple as horrifically bad translation, or complex as social concepts of what it means to be a writer in Japanese culture. But the Resident Evil games as a franchise exhibit some of the worst writing in the industry.

Mordwyl:
"Story" is no different than motivation when it comes to video games. Simply put, why are you playing? As you ponder this question even games such as Pac-man and Tetris have a "Story", where the objectives are to gather as many points as possible before the game becomes too difficult. RPGs elaborate on this motivation by expanding the question into several others, in turn producing a narrative the player has to carry out to win the game. It should also allow the player to immediately recognise the part of the story they're into when returning to the game. Hence yes, if the goal and the means to achieve it are not designed properly any game will suffer.

If we use my ideology for a story, then Spore wins. Back during its beta phases the game was going to be a modern evolution simulator, which unfortunately was scrapped for five mini-games on release and later on trying to expand the franchise with more inane mini-games. Where exactly has the goal to oversee the evolution of a being gone off to?

Uh... no.

I'm sorry. But, no.

I could spend a dozzen paragraphs explaining why each piece of your post is in error, but it boils down to this. A game has two major seperate components: gameplay and story. The quality of one will never effect the quality of the other. If you eliminate gameplay what you have is an interactive story, like the Star Trek "games" of the late 90s. If you eliminate the story you have an abstract game like Tetris or Bedazzeled.

Either one (or both) of these elements can drive player interest. My phone doesn't have nearly 2000 games of Bubble Breaker logged because it has an engaging story, it's because the gameplay is f'cking addictive as hell. On the other hand I can't remember how many games I've finished because I simply wanted to see the end of the story, and had long since become incredibly pissed with the gameplay. (Off hand Chrome saddly comes to mind as an example of this.) In some cases these do work hand in hand, Bioshock is a fairly savy and effective synergy of game and story, as is Half-Life 2. In other cases one has nothing to do with the other. This is the norm. Most recently, I've been playing Divinity 2, where the gameplay (kill things and take their shit), and the story (something about saving the world) have nothing to do with one another.

The problem is, you are trying to generate an ideology, what you need is a methodology.

EDIT: I'll admit to one serious exception to the rule that there's never any crossover between gameplay and story. Games like X-Com, Civilizaiton, Sins of a Solar Empire, or (I assume) Spore really don't have a story inherantly, what they do is encourage the player to create one based on their game. I'm not discounting those, and this kind of inherant player created story can lead to some incredibly fantastic experiences, and these stories can theoretically drive player engagement. But Pac-Man and Tetris are not examples of this in the least.

My vote goes out to Oblivion. It wasn't that badly written(nowhere near Morrowind though. Yeah, i'm one of them. But still, and I know i'm the thirty-balillionth person to point this out, but the fucking voice actors. there were about 12 of them, not counting Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart. My favorite bit where this comes up is when the Blades are swearing allegiance to Martin at Cloud Top, hearing the same 2 voices go "Hail!" 6 times in a row is actually funny.

The Halo series, all I can say to that plot is "Bwaaaaaa? Am I reading this right or are they just joking?"

the protaginist:
My vote goes out to Oblivion. It wasn't that badly written(nowhere near Morrowind though. Yeah, i'm one of them. But still, and I know i'm the thirty-balillionth person to point this out, but the fucking voice actors. there were about 12 of them, not counting Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart. My favorite bit where this comes up is when the Blades are swearing allegiance to Martin at Cloud Top, hearing the same 2 voices go "Hail!" 6 times in a row is actually funny.

Oblivion's voice asignment was pretty theroughly fucked. If they'd created a system that would slightly alter the character's voices, it might have worked. As it is, the writing is just really bland.

Is it wrong that I loved the cliched lines of Leon and his cocky demeanor? Am I in the minority here?

Zalinski:
Is it wrong that I loved the cliched lines of Leon and his cocky demeanor? Am I in the minority here?

Probably not. Yeah, there's definitly territory where you can find the terrible writing in a game endeering. I'm guilty of this with Two Worlds and Far Cry. As for if you're in the minority? I don't know. There's a lot of fans of the RE franchise.

EDIT: If I came across as chewing on you, I appologize, that wasn't my intent at all.

Rainboq:
The Halo series, all I can say to that plot is "Bwaaaaaa? Am I reading this right or are they just joking?"

Bungie's pretty (im)famous for burring depth into their games, but my understanding is that Halo does get deeper and more complex when you include the novels and other suplemental material. (I say "I understand" because sometime between Myth and Oni I stopped caring about Bungie's writing, so I never actually dug into the suplimentary material for Halo.)

Crunchy English:
I Hate the story to Bayonetta. Like... a lot. I'm told that's just me though.

Don't believe what other people tell you. We are very much on the same page.
Why all the hate for Alone in the Dark?
I actually liked the story of the first one back then. Turned out to be pretty Lovecraftian.
Or is everybody talking about the most recent entry (which I skipped)?

Tears of Blood:
I thought RE4's writing was good, I thought Metal Gear's writing was completely brilliant, and I thought that Fable 2's writing was just fine. Never once during any of those games did I stop and say "Well, why didn't they just do _____ instead?"

I concur on RE4. Not because it was good per se, but because it felt like I was playing a B movie. It was "Evil Dead: The Game"-it didn't take itself seriously, the atmosphere was fantastic, and some the things you could do (and have happen to you) were mind-blowingly awesome. The only thing that could have made it better is if they replaced Leon with Ash and let Bruce Campbell have at it.

Metal Gear is a mixed bag. Kojima knows how to compel, the problem is that he -really- needs an editor. I remember watching a friend play through the end sequence once and there was a character who said the same damn thing five times in a row with slightly different wording each time. I don't mind long cutscenes when they get to the point; as you can imagine, that bugged the hell out of me.

I've not played enough of Fable II to have an opinion one way or another, I just know I wasn't impressed by what I saw. I had borrowed a friend's 360 at the time and after an hour of gameplay I decided I'd rather blow through Mass Effect again.

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