Million Dollar Actor, Five Dollar Writer

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I agree with Illustro Cado, compared to most games I've played, RE4's story telling Is almost epic.

i would say RedFaction.Gue
it had epic failure script with and even worse implemantion/bad grammar/..
and lolz @ DMC 4 harhar.. that sucked @ss..

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Million Dollar Actor, Five Dollar Writer

Why hire a master chef to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

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Because they can advertise "Oblivion" as "Starring Jean-Luc Picard" or "Fallout 3" as "Starring Oskar Schindler" while actually paying said actors for about half an hour's worth of actual work.

Jaredin:

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

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.

I played FF 2, 3, 6, and 10.

FF 2 I can't remember much of, since I was a wee lad back then, but 3 I know was really boring. 6 was actually alright, I have good memories from it. In FF 10 I just really hated the characters. They really annoyed me and I just couldn't get into the story because of it. The story may have been good, but the characters utterly ruined it.

I would have played FF7, but one of my friends decided it would be nice to tell me every single damn plot twist in the game, so it lost its appeal to me pretty quickly.

I haven't played them all, so I probably missed some good ones.
And I know people like the games, I understand that, but I just don't like them all that much.

I'm hopeing FF13 will be good though.

My rant/opinion

I think bad writing is as often as not in the eye of the beholder. This is why you have so many arguements between fanboys over what "rocks" and what "sucks".

When it comes to video games, I think in some cases more time could be spent, but I also think there are issues involved where the game developer and writer might not see see eye to eye, or a writer is being asked to pretty much create a story around a bunch of random stuff a comittee decided fanboys would think of as awesome. Not exactly an excuse, but me pointing out that in many cases I do not think bad writing could have been avoided within a franchise without changing the entire design process that spawned the game. What's more when a company is beating a franchise into a ground, coming up with say a fourth installment of a series that long ago tied up the initial storyline that made it great, and probably a couple of
spin off stories as well... there isn't much that can be done to save it.

This is to say nothing of series that change their writers/design teams between chapters, or ones that decide to write things to be mysterious and obtuse, and figure the mystery will keep things going and they can always wrap everything up later. Of course in the end they wind up with a situation where any answer they contrive to tie everything up will be unsatisfying.

But then again "bad" is subjective as you can see by all the people who either love or hate the plotline of "Halo". Not to mention games that are attempting to be a homage to a certain kind of genere. I mean when I play a "Zombie Survival" game I expect a certain kind of stereotypical plot. I don't expect anything really new and differant, and the quality mostly comes down to how well they manage to do the expected cliques rather than whether they use them at all. Some people automatically call something stereotypical bad for being stereotypical. I don't nessicarly agree.

Then of course there are works based on established properties. A lot of the best games of this type come accross as having bad writing to the uninitiated as they rarely take the time to explain themselves. In most cases this is the correct approach because to do otherwise wastes a lot of time in retreading things, or involves trying to relaunch and redefine a well loved franchise to simplify it for people first encountering it, to the vast annoyance of the core audience.

Looking at say the original "Alone In The Dark" game as an example, the quality of the writing is debatable. I personally believe that at the time that game was developed the core audience for it were horror fans and gamers. There was a lot of overlap then between PnP gamers and video gamers, while this still exists, then it was even more pronounced as you could guess by things like the various "D&D" Gold Box games and such. Most people gaming and who were into horror at least had a passing knowlege of HP Lovecraft's writing (directly, not just cribbed from others), or at least the "Call Of Cthulhu" RPG. The game had a few referances to the mythos, and took a rather investigative approach to the story rather than telling you exactly what was going on in excruiciating detail every 5 minutes (I guess similar to a recent article praising Half Life for a similar practice). When it was over a lot of people felt the game was well written/well designed because they felt they got enough of an answer and indication of what was going on as they should from that kind of a story. The game spawned not one, but TWO sequels as well as the "Jack In The Dark" mini game.

Opinions vary like with everything, but in some cases too much information winds up being a bad thing. It all depends on the effect your going for.

As far as Devil May Cry 4 goes, well ask yourself how many series of anything have managed to maintain good writing through 4 installments. It has happened, but it's rare. Most of the common exceptions like say "Final Fantasy" do it because the series is a label/brand name as opposed to an ongoing story. Chances are DMC4 was designed by a team of people who felt there were enough fanboys who wanted to thump more demons, that they could do another game. The cinematics like the one mentioned there were doubtlessly concocted to be pure fan service (Nero Vs. Dante, I always wanted to see it like that...). The whole set up being an excuse for that to happen. Grahm was saying (in Unskippable) that parts of it seemed pretty gay, but also consider that by this point a lot of the hardcore fanbase are probably people who were so obsessed that they were writing stuff like DMC slashfic. The writer was probably told flat out the scene was intended to be a pure fan service fight scene, with enough vague homoeroticism to fanservice that crowd, but not so gay as to alientate the heterosexual fanbase, with a piece of female eye candy present with one of the characters to make it obvious that they aren't ACTUALLY supposed to be gay.

Of course then again consider Devil May Cry already passed it's hero out to be used in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocture (fairly well actually). I got the impression then that they weren't taking the franchise seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if they think they can milk a couple of bucks if they decide to release "Devil May Cry 5: Devil May Crying Game" based on shocking gender revelations about "your favorite DMC characters" despite the fact that DMC 4 seemed to hit the budget shelves fairly quickly.

I don't know, don't usually pay as much attention to it, and that makes me feel alittle ashamed as a gamer whos two things he wants ina game is good story and good gameplay.

Although i guess i notice when it's good or bad, acceptable story seems to just slink through my radar like a stealth bomber over Soviet Russia. Luckily I am not in the same feild as Shamus, because i would have nothing to talk about.

SilverKyo:
I'm probably going to get a lot of hate for this, but I absolutely hated the plot for Bad Company... and the incredibly broken gameplay didn't help it's case at all, just served to piss me off more.

I agree ! I couldnt STAND that game!

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 :[

Dan Brown's novels can be viewed as a triumph of marketing over substance. But then, so can a lot of things. Which reminds me: Modern Warfare 2. There's Tom Clancy, and then there's Tom Clancy's wet dream. At least Duke Nukem never took himself too seriously.

Shujen:
Dan Brown's novels can be viewed as a triumph of marketing over substance. But then, so can a lot of things. Which reminds me: Modern Warfare 2. There's Tom Clancy, and then there's Tom Clancy's wet dream. At least Duke Nukem never took himself too seriously.

I suppose that's a decent description. I personally enjoy his stories if for nothing else than their utter uniqueness.

Shamus Young:
The Unskippable series is a catalog of agonizing scenes where developers squandered vast resources animating stories that weren't worth telling in the first place.

WITH some notable exceptions. Borderlands had a fairly well-done intro, for example. The reason Unskippable did an episode on it was because they saw a chance for some jokes in there. Otherwise though, the intro does a fairly good job of setting the pace for the rest of the game's atmosphere. Same goes with the Left 4 Dead intro. It wasn't a poorly done cinematic at all, just one that some people saw some opportunities to make jokes around.

All-in-all though, I agree with the article's main point. I'm not as analytical about stories as you or Yahtzee seem to be (though the more I see your guys' work, the more I find myself dissecting stories), but I'm the kind of guy they put the stories in for, just like you. Going back to your old Champions Online comic, I'm the guy in that trio who actually knew the completely absurd story behind that mission we all just did. In fact, whenever I'm questing with friends in an MMO I tend to fall behind because I'm the only guy in the group actually stopping to read the text, but I'm digressing.

As one of the people whom the story is included for, I have to agree with the sentiment that if they're going to tell me said story, then they might as well put an effort into it. Otherwise an FPS that claims story as one of its main selling points might as well just be Serious Sam if the story and/or storytelling are terrible, because at least Sam doesn't pull me out of the pwnfest of baddies being spammed at me to tell me some terrible story.

JeanLuc761:

Shujen:
Dan Brown's novels can be viewed as a triumph of marketing over substance. But then, so can a lot of things. Which reminds me: Modern Warfare 2. There's Tom Clancy, and then there's Tom Clancy's wet dream. At least Duke Nukem never took himself too seriously.

I suppose that's a decent description. I personally enjoy his stories if for nothing else than their utter uniqueness.

You must not have heard of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

WhiteTigerShiro:
As one of the people whom the story is included for, I have to agree with the sentiment that if they're going to tell me said story, then they might as well put an effort into it. Otherwise an FPS that claims story as one of its main selling points might as well just be Serious Sam if the story and/or storytelling are terrible, because at least Sam doesn't pull me out of the pwnfest of baddies being spammed at me to tell me some terrible story.

Serious Sam doesn't take himself seriously. That's why it's fun.

nightwolf667:
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.

I basically agree with this. I don't believe that all writing in games is horrible, but I do think that most game writing isn't very good. But, it doesn't have to be. As long as it is semi interesting and/or facilitates the gameplay, I'm fine. I've never been moved or impressed with a game's story. Dragon age did a fairly good job... at least at drawing me into the universe it is set in. Also, I disagree with the FF hate. The writing isn't impeccable, but it's above average for games.

Bad writing? Almost every game I've played has seen at least a scene or two of bad writing.

It's simple. They don't want to go to the extra mile of hiring a professional writer. These cost money. You'll tell me: "But cutscenes and voice-acting cost more!" Yeah, guess what the companies believe that it sells and guess how much they actually care about the story.

A game doesn't have to rely on cutscenes to deliver a story. Silent Hill 2 wasn't filled to the brim with them. Developers should take note of a game that delivers its story mainly through its gameworld without interrupting the gameplay.

Alternatively, those developers should give up on cutscenes entirely. I mean, what do they hope to accomplish? To prove that they are some kind of geniuses when they aren't? (I am looking at you, Dennis Dyack) Developers are not writers in the same way that developers aren't artwork creators or musicians. They should concentrate on the things that they can do well (the game design) and leave the fluff out.

By the way, a terrible example of a recent game with such bad writing it is unbearable is Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. I spent the first hour of the game wishing that the main character would stop being such a pansy ass and that the developers stop interrupting the game to ram cutscenes down our throat. I actually stopped playing it twice because I couldn't take it anymore.

Certainly not my pick for worst writing ever, but in a similar vein:

Did anyone else get the feeling that the people who "wrote" (storyboarded, brainstormed, etc.) the content of Oblivion were totally separate from the people who actually wrote the dialogue of the game? Seriously, it's such a good story, so mediocre-ly told. :(

(Or that they fixed that for Sheogorath's dialogue in SI?)

All JRPGs. /thread. /existence.

DubMan:
All JRPGs. /thread. /existence.

Have to agree, simply can't get into the game. All hail western RPG's!

Gameplay gets tedious on me without a good story. Hell, I'll take a story-intence game with little actual playing (Sam & Max, Myst) over a game where I just run around & kill shit & loot & sell. That's good for awhile, but I don't feel compelled to play for days on end.

The Aveyond series has a good balance of story & action, & it's a budget franchise made in 2D, skipping steps 2, 4, 5, & 6. & of course RPGs like Baldur's Gate & Neverwinter Nights.

I'd just like to stand in defense of Devil May Cry 4 and state that the point of the cutscenes wasn't to tell a story (it's fairly simple), but rather to show off cool stuff. And in that regard, the game does it quite well. Also, this is one case where a deep and complex story might actually be harmful to the game...

Good point.
My friends always skip the cutscenes and never listen to dialogues. That's a lot of content wasted. Developers just lost their precious time doing something that no one cares about. Why not do something good with that time? I love a good story, but when game has awful writing, i just think about why they didn't make more guns and skins for enemies, because that's what i want.
Devil May Cry 3 had all these awful cutscenes where emo kids whine and throw cars at each other. But at the same time there was not much variety in monsters. Waste of time.
Oh, and recently i got my hands on Pokemon game. There's so much dialogue that's boring and pointless. People come at you and say that they like fishing or something, your mom speaks about moving in a new house or something, it's just boring. I'm killing the same Pokemon over and over again, but they had time to write boring dialogue? (not a good example, as there are no voice actors, no 3D e.t.c, but still a waste of time)

And one more thing - they don't work much on the story because who will notice? People are stupid! Most of them don't care. People think that Twilight has amazing story, for god sakes!
Game + good voice actors + shinny stuff + lazy story= loads of money
Game + good voice actors + shinny stuff + good story= loads of money
Game - good voice actors + shinny stuff +lazy(or good story, it does not matter)= not so much money

Personally I don't think game deveolpers may their writers enought to get good stories. Or rather they don't pay enough to attract writers who would write good stories.

As for bad plots: Dragon Age was predictable and dull, Prototype was dire, Overlord 2 wasn't great, Mass Effect was ok at best, Main Quest of Fallout 3 was crap, Assassin's Creed was workable, the Warhammer Dawn of War games were just bland, never finished Unreal 3 plot and didn't care about it anyway, Bioshock story didn't do much for me either, Crysis was so bad I almost liked it, the less said about The Witcher the better, Oblivion Main Quest was pitiful, Supreme Commander is a huge 'meh'...

The only plots in games I've ever cared for were Beyond Good and Evil, Pysconauts, both KOTOR games, Morrowind Main Quest and Valve.

It really comes to something when the game with the best plot released in 2009 was Plants vs Zombies.

I think you can have a piss poor plot without bad writing though. Most of Bioware's RPGs follow the same basic premise - ancient evil, only you are bad ass enough to stop it, shit gets real, world saved - yet contain some absolutely fantastic writing and general story-telling.

Similarly, you can have bad writing as long as it fits. Gears of War is probably the most common example... the dialogue and the story is ridiculous trite... but it's exactly what you want out of a game of that nature, much the same as Resident Evil - although here is probably a good example of perfect writing poorly executed.

I think a lot of the problem is essentially this;

The Random One:

Eh, not every one of them. Take The Darkness, for instance. Despite the agonizing opening in which we learn the main character lives in the GTA world and treats shotguns like a ship in a bottle, it's actually a very interesting take on the gritty 90's comics, making every character more humane and making the conflict of being a vessel for utter darkness an actual conflict. I think it's got a pretty good story.

...for a videogame. YEAH I WENT THERE

While not really concerned with The Darkness, the point at the bottom rings true regardless - I played Bioshock and thought the plot was fantastic, the story and the way it played out was brilliant, which is why I can happily agree when it's lauded as such. However, most games follow writing which, yeah, are great - for a videogame.

Somebody in the thread mentioned Zelda games as suffering from atrocious writing, which I quite vehemently disagree with. Sure, this is coming from a self-professed fanboy, but the writing is great, the stories are fine even if the plot is clichéd... but it's only fine for a videogame. You could take Twilight Princess - probably the best story in the series - and put it to paper or the big screen and it'd be ridiculous. Even I wouldn't watch it. (Well, maybe)

A lot has been made on a lot of Escapist columns in that games seem to be trying to tell stories worthy of the most epic of movies, in the style of those movies, forgetting the core thing that sets them apart from the film medium - the interactivity and gameplay aspect.

Do we need both to enjoy a game? No, not really, but it helps in a lot of titles. Imagine playing, I don't know, Grand Theft Auto IV without the storyline. All you have is an open world sandbox with absolutely no reason or drive to move forward, and nowhere to go. Fun? Probably... for a very short time.

I think I've started to lose my point. Basically, I agree that gameplay should come first and foremost. If I want fantastic story I'd read a book or watch a film... if I want interactive entertainment, I'll play a videogame... but a believable story, well executed and fit within the confines of the game itself, shouldn't be too much to ask.

I thought the story telling in Lost Odyssey was horrible. I couldn't finish it just because I stopped caring... actually I never started caring.

Onyx Oblivion:
A recent examples that earns my scorn: Why did Darksiders hire Mark "The Joker" Hamill for a completely forgettable story and as a tutorial guide?

Why did the Spiderman games hire Bruce Campbell as the tutorial guy? Answers itself, because he's fucking Bruce Campbell.

They should put Bruce Campbell in more Videogames.

To make them more awesome.

On a different note:

Dawn of War II.

It actually had terrific dialogue in my opinion, some amazing quotes, and great characters. HOWEVER, it failed completely when presenting these moments well. All of this would occur in a static map overlay screen with talking character bubbles. Cutscenes would have done wonders for the game in my opinion.

I think that it's best if you're not good at making a story, don't have one at all. Crackdown didn't have one, and it's a better game for it. Also, one thing that strikes me as odd is all the terrible writers coming together to write an awful script for a great game (see Resident Evil 4) while Valve, as they've shown us in the Meet the... series, Half-Life 2, and Portal, has some excellent writers that actually know how to put together a story, yet refused to in Left 4 Dead. I honestly think that it's a game that maybe with some cutscenes added in between each level or something could make an excellent game with a great story and maybe even a movie. But yet they only make a surprisingly good opening cutscene and just leave it at that.

Soul Calibur, or games that introduce a story line through the use of narrative paragraphs and a still life. Just give us the big, damn sword and let us kill the damn people and be happy, k?

Jandau:
I'd just like to stand in defense of Devil May Cry 4 and state that the point of the cutscenes wasn't to tell a story (it's fairly simple), but rather to show off cool stuff. And in that regard, the game does it quite well. Also, this is one case where a deep and complex story might actually be harmful to the game...

The problem with Devil May Cry 4 is: Why not let us (the goddamn players) do all this cool stuff? It's really annoying at times.

Georgeman:

Jandau:
I'd just like to stand in defense of Devil May Cry 4 and state that the point of the cutscenes wasn't to tell a story (it's fairly simple), but rather to show off cool stuff. And in that regard, the game does it quite well. Also, this is one case where a deep and complex story might actually be harmful to the game...

The problem with Devil May Cry 4 is: Why not let us (the goddamn players) do all this cool stuff? It's really annoying at times.

Let me guess, you got that from the ZP review of the game, right?

I'd love to hear how you would include all the stuff that's done in the cutscenes into the control scheme without having to add half a dozen extra buttons and even more otherwise useless combinations.

That, or quick time events, which would likely annoy you even more...

Amen to culdcept saga. I loved that game, but every aspect of writing was cringe worthy.

I also nominate any and all of the dynasty warrior games. They have a good story (formation of China) which they absolutely savage. The voice acting is horrible too.

Jandau:

Georgeman:

Jandau:
I'd just like to stand in defense of Devil May Cry 4 and state that the point of the cutscenes wasn't to tell a story (it's fairly simple), but rather to show off cool stuff. And in that regard, the game does it quite well. Also, this is one case where a deep and complex story might actually be harmful to the game...

The problem with Devil May Cry 4 is: Why not let us (the goddamn players) do all this cool stuff? It's really annoying at times.

Let me guess, you got that from the ZP review of the game, right?

I'd love to hear how you would include all the stuff that's done in the cutscenes into the control scheme without having to add half a dozen extra buttons and even more otherwise useless combinations.

That, or quick time events, which would likely annoy you even more...

Don't jump into conclusions. I have played the game before I even knew of the Escapist's existence.

The point is that without a meaningful reason for the cutscenes' existence, it stops being relevant and therefore necessary. Ok, you might not be able to do all this "cool stuff" in game but at least it's YOU who will be doing all this less cool stuff, not the fucking game.
You start feeling cheated and asking: "Why the hell do the developers not include all this in the game itself rather than contain it on cutscenes?"

And quick-time events aren't so bad... as long as they are not one-hit kills if you miss.

Furburt:
The Longest Journey you mentioned!

This makes you cool.

The fact that you mentioned this game makes you one the coolest people on the planet. One of the best written and enjoyable games I've ever played. The only taint in that game was that it had to be followed by a terribly written sequel (IMHO), Dreamfall. It almost brings tears to my eyes to consider that such a high point in gaming be connected to such a low one.

mass effect. the texts were unnatural and the expressions, intonation and motion in cutscenes plainly sucked. so did side missions. they just didn't try(I'm saying if something will be in there it has to be awesome in all ways,BTW same counts for the shadows), maybe only Ash's performance was interesting and quite believable.

Resident Evil comes to mind immediately. its not the worst or best however you would rate it but it is the most mainstream. Next in line would be Bayonetta XD

KazNecro:

Furburt:
The Longest Journey you mentioned!

This makes you cool.

The fact that you mentioned this game makes you one the coolest people on the planet. One of the best written and enjoyable games I've ever played. The only taint in that game was that it had to be followed by a terribly written sequel (IMHO), Dreamfall. It almost brings tears to my eyes to consider that such a high point in gaming be connected to such a low one.

It seems The Longest Journey is experiencing some kind of renaissance.
I approve.
But I enjoyed Dreamfall for all its flaws.
Though I do not count the writing as one of them.
In many ways, what Tørnquist did in Dreamfall was more daring than what the aforementioned (and brilliant) original set out to do.
The way I see it; if the fundamental theme of The Longest Journey was growth and the search for ones function, then Dreamfall concerns itself with the loss of purpose.
April Ryan has undergone an obvious and severe change between the two incarnations, and I myself think the transition is perfectly fleshed-out.
Zoë Castillo‎ was also likeable, and served as a more than passable reintroduction to the world of Arcadia.

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