On Audio Logs

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Excellent Review!! However, I actually prefer to play as Marines. I am a staunch Human Supremacist. Except when I play dungeons and dragons, then I am a Hafling Supremacist, for the sheer irony.

But I agree with a lot of what you said.

I hated the audio logs in Borderlands. BTW Yahtzee's review was so spot on for that game.

Bah, they're a clumsy generic storytelling gimmick. I don't know when I first got sick of them. I certainly remember thinking the first flood scene in Halo was about as scary as trick-or-treating.

If a story needs to resort to stuff like librarys full of scattered notes or audiologs to tell a story somethings wrong. Even if they do it well, is kills immersion. Its 2010 but videogames are still trying to be like Zork.

(Anyone else remember Zork?)

As silly as audio logs can be, "Oh no! The monster is breaking down the door! Now it's eating my legs! I think this will be my last entr-AHHHHHHHHHHHH-," I think they are quite reasonable in games.

Not saying every game that has them SHOULD have them, just saying I think people like to hear themselves talk enough that we should be lucky there aren't more in games. Look at real life: we've got livejournal, blogs, threads, forums, facebook, twitter. Basic fact, people like to share what they think and what they are doing. Also if we were left in top secret little base somewhere, I think we would all talk to our audio logs for days on end!

I think that Arkham Asylum does it right ant there are a few reasons why it works there and not in other games.
1. There is a reason for them existing. Recording whilst someone is sawing of your limbs is dumb, recording patient interviews aren't.
2. They aren't telling the story, they are simply expanding the experience. They let us experience more of all the baddies we love. Fan-service when at it's best.
3. We can listen whilst playing. (unless something happens, but still, not menu-bound)
4. We know why they are in the most unlikely places. The Riddler has actively placed them in wierd locations.
5. It's Batman! I know Yahtzee think's it's a bad exuse but I don't. Yes, I wonder how the Riddler hid things behind walls and on top of roofs with only a few days to set things up, but we know Batmans villans are nutorious for setting up traps that are more trouble to set up than to get out of. Most games don't bother to give you a "logical" reason for bonus content hidden in the game and this game would be forgiven if it didn't but it still does, and that makes it work

I assume the lack of progress report on Fun Space Game: The Game (a working title?) is because nothing interesting has happened?
Anyway. I have to sort of disagree with you on one point, not everyone has to be dead in order for a horror game to be scary. If you meet another survivor only for them to disappear somehow (i.e.. they get killed, you leave them behind they leave you behind, etc.) it can work quite well to help reinforce the oh-sweet-jesus-and-a-peanut-I'm all-alone feel of a game.
I prefer first person in some aspects, for sneaking and such third person is a must. and it is a bit more accurate to human vision, accept corner cover. you can't look around a corner without poking your head around the corner.

THGhost:
Yahtzee does realize that you CAN play AVP whilst listening to it's audio logs, right? Obviously not...

I think he was pointing out that there is no need for audio logs. It's AvP there isn't a lot of explanation needed.
The aliens want to eat you brains, the predator wants to slice up your brain, and the marines shoot the guns to prevent this from happening. Basically the entire story is summed up with a glance at the box art. Which Yahtzee pointed out.

The interview tapes were entertaining in Batman: Arkham Asylum... completely extraneous but cool none the less. While we are on the subject of batman it would be cool if a game incorporated the "crime scene" mechanic from that game except stick it on steroids...

Yes, yes and yes. I was just about to write an article for my blog on exactly this issue, but I need not bother now that Yahtzee has had his say. Audio logs bore my nipples off. And so does AVP.

Incidentally, I don't think everyone has to be dead by the time you arrive. Certainly horror films often involve large casts of people that gradually get whittled down. Imagine a game made from the original Alien movie. You start with a full crew in a lovely ship, and end up all alone with a cat in a box and a flamethrower for company. Seeing people getting dropped one by one, and the environment slowly falling apart, would be a real emotional experience that horror gaming has never approached.

I like audio logs with text, it means I can skip them if they are uninteresting...

Vis AVP:

I have to say I've always felt the third-person offered a more immersive experience than the first. In the third person, I feel like I am a physical body, occupying physical space. In the first, I can't get over the sensation that I'm a floating pair of hands. Or some kind of lobotomized dipshit that holds his (often weapon-containing) hands directly in front of his face at all time.

This also is probably to do with my finding the silent protagonist less immersive than the fully-voiced and personalized main character.

teknoarcanist:
Vis AVP:

I have to say I've always felt the third-person offered a more immersive experience than the first. In the third person, I feel like I am a physical body, occupying physical space. In the first, I can't get over the sensation that I'm a floating pair of hands. Or some kind of lobotomized dipshit that holds his (often weapon-containing) hands directly in front of his face at all time.

This also is probably to do with my finding the silent protagonist less immersive than the fully-voiced and personalized main character.

Its the opposite for me, I am a thing occupying a space not me or my player character, the FP view is how we see and thus far more immersive to me. But there are times when 3rd P comes in handy so both need to be used together alot more than they are now.

Audio logs tend to be more personal - you get to hear the person and in their tone you can understand what they feel. Who'd like to read tons of lines on a paper anyway? It's not practical.

The problem I have with audio logs that, conjoined with some bloody writing on the walls and a few bodies, they're the ONLY things that people have left behind them.

In the ruined remnants of shooter-world, it seems, there were no posters, no diaries, no sketchpads, no graffitti, no emails, no sticky notes, no footprints- the strange inhabitants appear to have communicated solely through the only medium they possesed: the five-minute storage tape recorder.

And it's so predictable, too. They record down their every thought, making sure to leave adequate context about where they were and what they were doing before pouring out their hearts, making sure everything's set up for the hypothetical future listener. You never find the kind of random indeciferable nonsense you'd see in a REAL audio log. Unless you count the "Nothing but screaming" variant.

I'm all for leaving chunks of story around the place, but not in convienient tape recorders. Let's have books, posters, old records or TV shows on infinite loop, arty sketchpads with scribbles in the margins, ancient memos. All of that kind of thing builds up to far more of a sense of place than some scattered messages. Harder to implement, though, of course, which is why they don't.

Bioshock did pretty well at everything OUTSIDE the audio logs, which is why they were good- you're not just walking down a generic video-game corridor before a story thrusts itself in your face without warning.

I heard Silent Hill: Shattered Memories had a really cool Phone audio-log-style device: You have a supernatural phone that picks up past phone calls from the area. The sound comes in through the crackly wii-remote speaker.

Audio logs like any journal can be good but it all depends on what my mood is while playing a game, sometimes I just go into something wanting to play non stop and other times I go through my inventory for hours reading/listening to different logs. It's only a problem to me when they take up inventory space -.-

I'm sure someone will have mentioned this already, but check out the Audio Logs in Halo 3 ODST. They tell a side-story of a single character going through the city as it's falling apart, and it lets you listen to them while you go about exploring the city, even going so far as to lower the volume on all the shooty-shooty-bang-bang stuff. I was really impressed with their methodology.

I tend to dislike the use of audio logs, but listen to them anyway otherwise I'll feel like I've missed part of the game or something. When they are used as the primary mode of story telling I feel a little cheated and that the developers are being a little bit lazy. I feel they work best when they add in a little side-story a bit in Halo 3 ODST (like Boter said). Hearing about someone's experience of the Covenant invasion and how following the audio links to the end with the whole conspiracy thingy was very interesting. I probably could have been more eloquent in explaining myself but whatever >_>

Hey!! Spoilers!! I've just bought Dead Space two days ago and I'm at the beginning, damn you!

They CAN be used well, however.
Vault 92 in Fallout 3 was very well explained through a combination of journals and audiologs, making it way creepier than overt exposition could have accomplished.

I'd like to see a horror game that involves both an insane/malfunctioning AI and monsters/aliens/demons. Like if you, a normal civi caught in the wrong place at the wrong time on board SS Deathtrap, were following a squad of marines and then the AI separates you from them with a door and unleashes the monsters on them. And conveniently, you can hear the bloody murder take place until the doors open for you to precede. That would be interesting.

Also the thing about audio logs (or text logs or other random reading stuff) is, you don't have to listen to them if you don't want to. They're there to fill in some gaps; just some more additional content. I didn't like logs in Bioshock and I don't like them in Dead Space very much, but I remember it worked quite well in Doom 3, to fill in pieces of atmosphere. Now everyone is doing it and it's not a novelty anymore. But still the point remains - you don't need to listen to them, so why complain about it.

It's the same as logs and books in Deus Ex - just some MORE story bits besides the main storyline. You see, not all games need to be simple & stupid - with some, the additional content actually works. And for games who don't like them - well, just skip them duh!

VCRs as earmuffs... That's new, gotta remember that one..
Anyways, about audio logs - "don't use them" is a bit harsh. When they work, they work beautifully. Take Bioshock, as obvious example. Yes, you'd still experience the city at it's finest without the logs, but the characters? A bit tougher without logs, considering that now they're hanging from walls or are pierced throught the chest by a giant drill...

@ZippyDSMlee
I would, however, make an exception and agree with you for anything by Valve.

as previous comments have said, ODST featured an audio-log system, which covered the backstory of some girl trying to find her father in the war-torn city. However, disagreeing with the previous comments, I hated the audio logs in ODST.

For me, they were a boring distraction that revealed nothing to the player, other than how the AI came into control of the city. I wouldnt have bothered with them had there been an acheivement for collecting them all. Plus I hated the bitch who the logs followed, she was a predictable "independent" woman that developers feel they have to add to the game to fill the quota

CyanLink:
I'm starting to get the same idea about the "them thinking we are stupid" thing. The other option I see is that developers want to explain everything... EVERYTHING. They don't want to leave anything to the gamer's imagination because it's the dev's game and they want things explained the way they want to explain them.

This. Now, I like when the writers/dev have thought about everything. There are novelists who write novella-length backstories for their main characters, or pull one single fact from the 400-page book they read for their research. This comes across in the finished product, where everything seems to connect together seamlessly, hinting at the greater depths of the characters and setting.

But they don't have to shove everything in your face. If they want to post their bibliography and other research and development resources up on their website, that's a nice added bonus. If they want to reveal these details on a blog or in a dev diary, that's cool too. But we don't need it thrust in our face in-game. Not at the expense of flow or immersion.

All the paper has been used to wipe the backsides of the monsters.

arkham asylum did the whole audio log thing pretty well
they were well voice acted, not too central to the story that they were telling it, but not too far away as to be pointless

image

Falseprophet:

CyanLink:
I'm starting to get the same idea about the "them thinking we are stupid" thing. The other option I see is that developers want to explain everything... EVERYTHING. They don't want to leave anything to the gamer's imagination because it's the dev's game and they want things explained the way they want to explain them.

This. Now, I like when the writers/dev have thought about everything. There are novelists who write novella-length backstories for their main characters, or pull one single fact from the 400-page book they read for their research. This comes across in the finished product, where everything seems to connect together seamlessly, hinting at the greater depths of the characters and setting.

But they don't have to shove everything in your face. If they want to post their bibliography and other research and development resources up on their website, that's a nice added bonus. If they want to reveal these details on a blog or in a dev diary, that's cool too. But we don't need it thrust in our face in-game. Not at the expense of flow or immersion.

Yes, outside media is perfectly acceptable. It gives the hard core fans the ability to have their nerdgasm while still making the product enjoyable to a larger audience.

Excellent read. One thing that has always struck me as odd about audio logs is that they are usually in a setting that is futuristic or otherwise technologically advanced in some ways. Why would they still be using answering machine cassettes at that point? In BioShock it made sense because of the time period (audio logs might of even been pretty advanced for that time), but in Doom3 they made no sense. Wouldn't you think they'd be using video logs by then at least?
I guess it's done because it's much easier to produce for the game than something more advanced would be, but more often than not it feels rather anachronistic.

Leaving Audio logs out of Bioshock 1&2 would be the biggest mistake ever;
The placement of these audio logs always had something to do with what people were about to do or doing.
And sometimes actually a lot of the times you kill the people who've recorded these Logs
It's something not many people seem to have understood

Also: Don't forget that in Bioshock You get details about the Ryan VS Atlas war and Ryan VS Lamb
Ryan VS Atlas btw is what the entire multiplayer story is about and the entire reason why everything went to crap

So Bioshock HAS shown how to do it properly

Retroshotv1:

CyricZ:

I'd like to see a mainstream game these days about a man in a top hat jumping down a toilet.

We already have that, roughly, only his name is Mario, it's a personalized painter's cap, and the pipes are simple allegories to the can, rather than actually being the can.

...I assume. Oh dear God.

Im not 100% sure but I think he may be referring to jet set willy, but he didnt jusmp down a toilet, Im not sure id like to know what hes talking about though

Willy *did* jump headfirst into a toilet if you completed the game, but it was so unutterably tedious that only three people ever discovered that - unless they disabled the "Maria" guarding the toilet with a POKE command.

The only audio-log I can remember working in the game is in Killer 7, the Holborn tapes. They made sense (unlike most of the game!), as Holborn was a detective who was investigating the place where you were going through, and because they chronicle the insanity of the building itself as well as his own growing madness, the make sense in context. And the reason why they are scattered is actually explained by Holborn himself in the first tape; he is hiding the tapes around the area to leave traces of his investigation, and of his own fate in order for someone else to possibly find and continue his work.
Being that thats the very reason you are there, to investigate the same area and situation, they play directly into your playing of the game, the relate to what you are doing. In stuff like bioshock, the people who leave these tape about seem to have recorded audio diaries, then discarded them wherever. That's kinda slipshod, and serves only to distance myself from the story of the game, it breaks immersion.

Probably not the first to mention it, but...A man in a top hat jumping down a toilet?
Uhhhh...The Mario games are about two guys in old-fashioned caps jumping down a bathtub drain...

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