254: Playing for the Story

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This is exactly why I quit playing Uncharted. I want to like it because everyone else does, and so do I, for most of it. But then I find out that the REWARD for finding the right way to go forward is a billion dudes with unlimited ammo who will shoot you for ever. I don't want to slaughter thousands of mercenaries! I want to explore well-realized ruins and gorgeous environments?

Ditto for Castlevania. I love SotN and the DS games with their emphasis on exploration, but there is a definite sense that the game somehow resents me for playing it.

That's why I made fun of people who were pissed about Elika in PoP. If you aren't playing games to play them, then what are you playing them for?

Setsuhen:
Playing Oblivion for me was no easy task. I found myself getting killed time after time, and it just became a bore. I tried active leveling, and it worked, yet there were still parts that just made me want to rip my hair off. My "pride" refused to make me slide the difficulty bar all the way down, so I just set it down when fighting a monster I found impossible, then resetting it after getting it done.

I know what you mean. I hated this. I came into Oblivion after a history in JRPGs, where you can usually get past every monster by sharpening your sword on smaller monsters. But Oblivion has parallel leveling, so the monsters become stronger as you do. The moment the Ogres entered the world, I never won a single fight. The trick I found was to just never go to sleep. Win on level one, and you can sort of imagine that you're so single-minded and driven you just don't have time to check into a damn hotel.

While I enjoy games without stories my enjoyment of a game is definitely greater when there is a good story. However I actually enjoyed the combat in Mass Effect 2 and found myself using tactics when fighting whereas in most games I just charge in guns blazing. Overall I really enjoyed this article and feel that it captures how I feel about videogames very well and it is always nice to know that others play games for the story as many of my friends are the "no multiplayer,no buy" types. Which drives me crazy.

I am very happpy that I am not alone on this frontier.

Like most of the people that commented on here, I just drifted away from the gameplay mechanics and rather started to enjoy the story far more. It was so strong that I actually began supporting BioWare RPG's, after all, their story and writing skills are just top-notch. I sincerly enjoyed the universe they crafted, but like you, the combat bothered me to no end.

Dragon Age: Origins was fun, I loved the smooth way of fighting and chewing alot of dialogue like it was my last. I cherish the game, as a rough gem and has so much potential with the story. After all, I rarely feel emotionally attached to any game or character, but every party member touched me in different ways. That means something.

The only game I play for the gameplay and a bit of 'story' is Gears of War 2. I just love being an actual pro and test my skills against so many others. Once more, the gameplay got me interested and addicted, not the story. I could easily dismiss that.

An interesting article and a very interesting Issue so far!

Yep.. add me to the list. I can't stand combat just for combat. ME2, I loved. I even loved the combat on Normal/Hard. But, I only play on Easy when it's just too hard for me. Otherwise I get too bored with the game. DA:O was a pain. I hate the micromanagement (I never bothered with assigning points in ME/ME2, either... I just let the game do it). I think I dropped it back to casual for the last part, but I can't really remember.

Bayonetta, on the other hand... I just can't let myself drop to easy. I want so badly to beat that on normal mode. But, of course, that game is really more about the combat than the story.

This article exemplifies one reason I have never been able to finish FFVII, despite several tries. I can't stand all the nonsensical, grinding, leveling, random encounters I have to wade through once I'm out of the main city. Even when the combat's easy, it still takes several minutes to cross one screen! It's just not for me.

ben---neb:
Is it just me who feels that storytelling in gaming peaked at KOTOR, Morrowind and Half Life 2 and will never again reach such dizzy heights?

Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect (1+2), Dragon Age all had rubbish main quests that were adaquate rather than epic. It seems that most video game writers are good at doing the small stuff but always seem to try to hard when it comes to the big plot arcs.

i will agree with you there although i did enjoy Fallout 3 the story was somewhat interesting at best whereas KOTOR kept me wanting to play and explore. I guess in the wave of a new generation of gamers developers are having to go with the masses and as unfortuante as it is the masses demand headshots from across the map rather than a story that truly makes you feel tied to your character and the events that shape the world surrounding it.

I know I've found myself playing games on easy/medium just for the story now.

Come to think of it, the first game I did this with was the original BioShock. I just wanted to see the story unfold, and not bang my head against the wall. Also, I hit a wall in DA:O as well...I must try this with that game too, because I found having the pause the game after every action got pretty tedious...

I too am much more interested in entertainment than difficulty. Unfortunately I think games have lost their way. They want to be like movies, but movies are a passive medium and games are an active one. They need to be more like books. Books are an active medium. They are more engaging than movies. Have you ever stayed up reading all night because you just want to read one more chapter? Sounds like an addictive game doesn't it. Besides, the movies in games are always too slow, too stilted and too boring.

wolfister:

ben---neb:
Is it just me who feels that storytelling in gaming peaked at KOTOR, Morrowind and Half Life 2 and will never again reach such dizzy heights?

Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect (1+2), Dragon Age all had rubbish main quests that were adaquate rather than epic. It seems that most video game writers are good at doing the small stuff but always seem to try to hard when it comes to the big plot arcs.

i will agree with you there although i did enjoy Fallout 3 the story was somewhat interesting at best whereas KOTOR kept me wanting to play and explore. I guess in the wave of a new generation of gamers developers are having to go with the masses and as unfortuante as it is the masses demand headshots from across the map rather than a story that truly makes you feel tied to your character and the events that shape the world surrounding it.

I don't even think its 'pandering to the masses' I just think it's plain lack of ability of game writers because they probably don't get paid enough. Or maybe it's just laziness....

Have to agree with the general consensus about Dragon Age, I also turned it down to easy, mainly because I was sick of damaging my party with every spell I cast.

Mass Effect on the other hand, I will play through on the harder difficulties (especially 1, as even Hardcore is pathetically easy), those games are pretty much unique in that I must beat everything the game offers.

ben---neb:

wolfister:

ben---neb:
Is it just me who feels that storytelling in gaming peaked at KOTOR, Morrowind and Half Life 2 and will never again reach such dizzy heights?

Oblivion, Fallout 3, Mass Effect (1+2), Dragon Age all had rubbish main quests that were adaquate rather than epic. It seems that most video game writers are good at doing the small stuff but always seem to try to hard when it comes to the big plot arcs.

i will agree with you there although i did enjoy Fallout 3 the story was somewhat interesting at best whereas KOTOR kept me wanting to play and explore. I guess in the wave of a new generation of gamers developers are having to go with the masses and as unfortuante as it is the masses demand headshots from across the map rather than a story that truly makes you feel tied to your character and the events that shape the world surrounding it.

I don't even think its 'pandering to the masses' I just think it's plain lack of ability of game writers because they probably don't get paid enough. Or maybe it's just laziness....

Yes this could also be true yet again if it was pay we all know pay in video game design is directly related to how well a game sells and ergo requires, as you pointed out, "pandering to the masses". So i guess my question is why is it game developers will pump millions into the fighting side of a game yet story writing for the most part is mostly forgotten? (hmm that could be an interesting thread question)

I think this is something our generation is having, more good and sometimes awesome story going on and a god-awfully hard difficulty, or simply a chore to play.

Last year, after finishing Fallout 3, I became interested in the franchise and I bought the first two Fallouts. Around that time, my GPU died on me and I started to play humbler games (in graphics department) and the Fallout games combined with Guild Wars were like life savers.

I started playing Fallout 1 in my old laptop and after a bit steep learning curve, I found an amazing game with an even more amazing story. The combat was a bit of a chore, but I simply overlooked at it because of the story. But after reaching the 2 main "dungeons" at the end game, my character was so poorly prepared that I simply couldn't do even a scratch to the Super Mutant General.

I didn't turned down the difficulty, but what I like about this game is that you can come up with a non-violent solution that has almost the same results as if you gibbed in a million of pieces that bastard. Same after reaching the Master Mind, that bastard, I didn't know I had to be equiped with certain items to even get close to him and I tried everything, buying lots and lots of stimpacks, ammo, weapons, laser gattlings, everything I thought would give me a chance to fight him was an epic fail. Then, again, the non-violent solution came in and after saving the Vault 13, I was more than sattisfied for gibbing in a million pieces that mother f***ng Overseer.

I just hope Obsidian don't screw up with Fallout New Vegas.

That is why it is high time the Adventure genre is revived to all its glory. Games like Myst, the old ones coming from LucasArts and now Telltale Games is also doing great are all about the story.

I beat Nethack Slash'em legit after >10 years of trying and not with a Monk. All games are easy mode now.

As an old adventure gamer at heart, I can totally relate. While I do like a bit of a challenge, if it starts to interfere with the narrative I'm not really interested. I rarely these days have the compulsion to move the slider up past normal. The main cases where I do, seem to be in FPS settings where increased difficulty may help to emphasize the struggle for survival (ie. Half-Life, both of them). Still I'd much rather be pulled into the story than work on my fast-twitch reflexes. I'm still well rounded I guess,I can kick some serious ass in Left 4 Dead, but I'd trade it all to play Grim Fandango through again for the first time.

It all comes down to the game for me, really. If I find that a game is challenging me so much that I can't enjoy it, I'll lower the difficulty (e.g. the original Baldur's Gate, in which I died pretty much every eight seconds until I put it down to easy), but if I find that the challenge is really invigorating and exciting me, I'll keep it up or even ramp up the difficulty a bit (e.g. Devil May Cry 3, which I wound up beating on Dante Must Die mode, because I am a complete lunatic).

That's an eerily accurate description of my personal mindset - I'm not in any way bad at games, but I'm not playing them to be challenged, I'm playing them because I find immersing myself into the narrative framework of a universe to be a fulfilling experience. It helps if the gameplay is fun too of course, but purely skill-based gaming experiences are not even remotely appealing to me - as far as my brain is concerned, I might as well be playing an exceptionally difficult game of "Bejeweled".

Mind you, I'm flexible enough that even the barest skeleton of a story will tide me over, but I literally cannot make myself care about a game that has no story at all - without that narrative framework, there is no meaning or purpose behind my actions, and any illusions I might possess that what I'm doing is not inherently pointless are quickly dispelled.

Finding oneself frustrated by seemingly insurmountable odds or dealing with the annoyance of frequently having to replay things because your avatar keeps shuffling off the mortal coil are therefore impediments to the reason I game in the first place, and the thus I happily play on easy all the time, unless that changes the game in a meaningful way that makes it less fun (like removing/altering things rather than simply changing stat balances) - if I could cheat and be invulnerable in every game then I would do it in a heartbeat, as dying typically makes the story stop and why would I want that to ever happen?

This flies in the face of the traditional truism that "success is more meaningful when it is achieved at great effort" of course, but one doesn't read books or watch films to "succeed" at them: the point is the experience itself.

This almost perfectly describes me, but generally I am wayyyy too arrogant to ever admit that. I am doing ME2 on insanity just because I want the last elusive gamerscore/achievement. I am honestly not really enjoying this playthrough very much at all...

Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of what I feel. I used to love games with huge sprawling stories; played them on normal or below for the most part. Now? I like having a story that intrudes as little as possible with actual game time. If there's little to no story to interfere with that, no biggie.

These days if a game doesn't challenge me, it quickly becomes boring. I understand that it's fun feeling like being a badass but if the game offers no resistance, I don't really get that feeling.

That's also a part of why I don't really rate Bioshock that high: the story and aesthetics are awesome but the game itself is a really loose feeling generic FPS. I barely could complete the game because the game part just felt shoddy.

I can really relate to this article, I've always turned the difficulty level in games to easy as soon as I can so i can breeze through the story then later on down the line if i ever feel like playing it again, then I'll turn it up to hard.

Why play a game if it isn't immersive? I mean I was really hooked by mw2, but the good games are those where I feel like I am someone. So Elder scrolls games and Fallout where I got a world and they told me to be whoever I wanted to be, well that was bliss.

I often find myself in a rut of compulsively retrying part of a game or playing a similar experience over and over again (read: Modern Warfare 2) instead of actually doing things that I want to do, like helping Ezio take revenge against his enemies, or trying out some of those source mods I downloaded but haven't played yet. If I spend an hour or two repeatedly mashing my character against campers in Wasteland, I feel like I've wasted my time.

Mass Effect 2 somehow contained both sides of this. I spent ages trying to procure enough raw minerals to develop new tools of destructo-mayhem so I could get through the missions more easily, but I found myself rushing through the shooting, crouching, and hacking just to get back to the ship and continue to learn about the crew's stories and character developments. I started to spend time just running around the space stations, talking to people, doing non-combat side quests and listening to the game salesman making cryptic references to games sold nearly 200 years earlier. When I got to the suicide mission, I found, for the first time, gameplay which directly rewarded the time spent shamelessly trying to make Miranda remove her space-suit. This was the first time I had seen anything like this in a game and it made me realise that there can be such a thing as [Warning: cliched title insertion] Playing for the Story.

tjarne:
Why play a game if it isn't immersive? I mean I was really hooked by mw2, but the good games are those where I feel like I am someone. So Elder scrolls games and Fallout where I got a world and they told me to be whoever I wanted to be, well that was bliss.

Depends what you mean by "immersion". I've sank more than 500 hours into (S)SF4 not because "I feel like I am someone" but because I like a game where there is room for near infinite improvement. Competition and/or breaking the system is as good a reason as any to play these games.

That's one reason why games are such an interesting medium. Your game doesn't really have to have a story or dialogue to be a success in its own way.

I'm a retired Marine, cyber "shooting" doesn't have the appeal it did when I was younger. If I wish to, I go to the range and blow the X ring out of some targets (or head shot the zombie targets!) yet struggle to do well with twitch based titles.

My gaming preferences have changed as I get older. Twitch games and mass shootout ones leave me cold now. My son was jazzed with Borderlands but an hour or so of it and I felt like I had experienced what the game had on offer.

Both age and a love of reading make the Bioware (I know, everybody has said this) products more enjoyable all the time.

I'll play on whatever difficulty setting lets me play through without dying at all if possible and experience the flow of the story like an interactive book.

In recent years I have struggled to even finish a game due to flagging interest, but I was so engrossed with Mass Effect 1&2 that I did multiple playthroughs with multiple characters to experience the myriad story branchings and am still on the edge of my seat for what the story arc will bring in the third act of the trilogy.

If cheat codes, mods Casual difficulty settings are necessary for me to play through the way I want then that's what I do without apology. It seems a lot better than leaving yet another game half finished due to frustration.

And if anyone is a fan of Twin Peaks and can cope with a game having ugly graphics, sound and controls but still offer an always quirky, surprising story, then don't miss out on "Deadly Premonition."

The $20 sleeper hit for people who love all things oddball in their stories. Breaks every rule of good game making yet succeeds. A real joy.

Woe Is You:

tjarne:
Why play a game if it isn't immersive? I mean I was really hooked by mw2, but the good games are those where I feel like I am someone. So Elder scrolls games and Fallout where I got a world and they told me to be whoever I wanted to be, well that was bliss.

Depends what you mean by "immersion". I've sank more than 500 hours into (S)SF4 not because "I feel like I am someone" but because I like a game where there is room for near infinite improvement. Competition and/or breaking the system is as good a reason as any to play these games.

That's one reason why games are such an interesting medium. Your game doesn't really have to have a story or dialogue to be a success in its own way.

I agree. I guess the reason to why I prefer story based games is because I have never learned how to play fighting games for example, which makes RPG's and such games much more accessible to me.

One last thought, dying and reloading repeatedly seems like an anachronism left over from the arcade gaming days, got to keep pumping in those tokens, that doesn't even need to exist in gaming except in the current versions of arcade type games.
Seems like some mechanic other than dying/reloading might better fit todays RPG and other story based games as an incentive.
Or just plain incentive vs disincentive.
Why are we still stuck with this as the primary penalty 30 years after arcades died? It doesn't even make sense with save anywhere and save as you go systems these days.
Does that strike anyone else as a little odd?

JuryNelson:
This is exactly why I quit playing Uncharted. I want to like it because everyone else does, and so do I, for most of it. But then I find out that the REWARD for finding the right way to go forward is a billion dudes with unlimited ammo who will shoot you for ever. I don't want to slaughter thousands of mercenaries! I want to explore well-realized ruins and gorgeous environments?

Ditto for Castlevania. I love SotN and the DS games with their emphasis on exploration, but there is a definite sense that the game somehow resents me for playing it.

That's why I made fun of people who were pissed about Elika in PoP. If you aren't playing games to play them, then what are you playing them for?

Same with the Elika issue. I loved PoP4 because it flowed well and the lack of deaths made the game much more enjoyable and I was able to focus on the story and characters.

I played ME1 on Insanity because it was incredibly easy on a soldier even without ever using Immunity (I died once during the entire game). But with ME2, I play on normal and veteran. I played on insanity but at the collector ship level on the platforms I just stopped as it wasn't fun. Dragon Age is always on easy for me and FPS's like CoD I usually play on normal or easy, with the occasional foray into veteran.

I do this for some games. When I played Metal gear solid 4 for instance, I could have put it on big boss hard, as I had played all the other games, but I was more interested in seeing where the story went, and I just played it on normal. Honestly, it all depends on the game. If the game has a real narrative driven plot, then I probably won't even try it on hard, because those games are best the first time. The gameplay a means to an end, of sucking you in for the ride. Increasing the difficulty could easily kill that with constant dying, so I'm okay with just playing on normal and nothing but.

I know exactly what you're talking about. I feel very much the same way, but for whatever reason I love the old Super Mario Bros. games, and constantly find myself wanting to be better at them. Most of the time though, especially with FPS's like Bioshock 2, gameplay just bores me.

I'm kinda divided on this. I like the games for the story AND I like games for the fun/challenge. But both levels of enjoyment seem to be totally separate for me. The latter is more like a "hobby" kind of game enjoyment, I like to play games for fun/challenge just as I could pratice some sport or have some other hobby. Something to "kill time", something to just enjoy myself. As of experiencing the story, it's different. I could play a game for the story even if the gameplay sucked hard. That's because I like the general storytelling structure games can have. I enjoy games like this just like I'd enjoy a movie or a book. Of course, not every game has a story good enough to be compared to that of a book or movie. Sometimes, storytelling in games are just that for the sake of being there, but they aren't really the focus.

Someone said: "playing only for the story? go read a book or watch a movie". I don't agree with that. There are a few games with storytelling so immersive and complex that they can beat most books or movies. I say that because I READ A LOT and I WATCH A LOT OF MOVIES, but I can't say there are a lot of movies or books I've experienced that I enjoyed as much as Metal Gear Solid, for example. Also, I like to think playing for the story can improve your cultural references if you pick the right games. I'm a amateur writer (already published some short stories in my main language, Portuguese), and I've used some games' atmosphere as inspirational source for some of my literary works. And that was quite successful, because there are not a lot of writers that actually play videogames. As we all know, art inspires art. The more you read/watch/live, the more you can create. Writers are looking for inspirational sources everywhere. They're constantly reading new books, watching new movies etc. I feel like games can be a fresh and unexplored source of inspiration. They obviously don't exclude the other means, but game storytelling shouldn't be ignored when it has that much potential.

P.S.: Just noting most of the posters in "The Escapist" forums are PC Gamers and/or fans of Western games mostly. All I can read is "BioWare" and "Valve". As much as I like BioWare and Valve, I don't think their games are the only ones that should be taken into account when talking about Storytelling in videogames. I don't even think their games have the best stories at all... but that's just personal opinion.

wonkify:
One last thought, dying and reloading repeatedly seems like an anachronism left over from the arcade gaming days, got to keep pumping in those tokens, that doesn't even need to exist in gaming except in the current versions of arcade type games.
Seems like some mechanic other than dying/reloading might better fit todays RPG and other story based games as an incentive.
Or just plain incentive vs disincentive.
Why are we still stuck with this as the primary penalty 30 years after arcades died? It doesn't even make sense with save anywhere and save as you go systems these days.
Does that strike anyone else as a little odd?

Arcades aren't dead. Great and numerous games have released in arcades every year. And save anywhere isn't in every game.

For me a challanging game is more rewarding then just cruising through a game. Even starting from the very start of the game can be rewarding. Arcade games have ways for the player to improve extensively even if thier facing the same pattern. Ikaruga for instance allows you to master the chaining system so that you maximize your score. The dying and starting over in a game isn't anacronistic it just required a differenty mindset.

I find that the story element is important but immersion into the character that is being played is what i care about the most.

Let me tell you something: I love micromanagement, I love leveling my party members and pausing to issue orders all the time. I HATE THE COMBAT IN DA:O. It is awful, so awful I tossed it after 45 hours or so of gameplay. All they had to do to fix the whole combat problem was add one option that was in BG2: "Auto-pause when I lose my target." That's it, that's all. If the game were playable with all of the character's tactics slots emptied out so that I could micromanage MORE I'd have enjoyed it immensely, but to not know when someone is done fighting (by pausing, like I mentioned) is horrifying. And to try and fill the tactics slots in some generic way is damn near impossible. Blech.

The combat in that game is terrible, terrible, terrible. Terrible. Did I mention it was terrible? It is.

I did actually have to tone down the difficulty in Dragon Age: Origins at one point, but since then I've been fine on medium difficulty, probably because I do all the sidequests (because I want to make sure I find all the content and cool items). I am enjoying the battles because of all the spell effects available to me.

Sometimes I do feel that certain sections of some games drag on though, and it does bother me that games often make it harder to progress during some of the more interesting plot developments (sometimes breaking the narrative flow) but on the whole I can't hold it against these games because it's mostly a case of the climax of a particular story arc affecting the playable parts of the game as well as the narrative.

As they said in my thread (above), there's no shame in turning the difficulty down.
If you are stuck in one area, it's better to move on to a part of the game you like better, otherwise you might feel discouraged from returning to the game at all, and never finish it.

You know, you could've done the exp exploit when you have to gather those scrolls for Duncan (before being inducted to the Grey Wardens). You could be lvl.25 in as many minutes, and proceed to effortlessly slaughter everything in your attempts to drive back the Darkspawn. :)

Reminds me of when I finished my Insanity run in ME2 (holy fuck, that was a headache). The first thing I did after that was... well, I talked to Legion first, then I started a new game, put the s.o.b. on Casual, and tore ass with my FemShep Infiltrator. I got the feeling that my character actually earned her rank, and what a feeling it was. Plus, being able to one-shot-one-kill enemies with the sniper is awesomesauce.

I never quite understood when people say "t3h 1st thing i do iz put the diffculty on hardest". I always viewed that as trying to pose as a pretentious jackass, especially for complex action games (ie DMC, Bayonetta, and NG2) where you not knowing what you're doing will result in you wondering why your name is spelled in your own entrails on the ground. I for one applaud you for admitting that you don't mind putting the game on Easy; you play the game how you want. Everyone else can stick it.

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