The Story Snob

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I had to read the line about Sonic 3 or 4 times to make sure I saw it right.

A good story will suck me in and I may not even notice if the gameplay isn't up to snuff. I wish it would happen more often though.

Scrumpmonkey:

It does not help that FF13's storyline is, how do we say, outlandish putting it nicely and pants on head retarded putting it bluntly. But many games when you come right down to it have stupid overal plots.

...

To go back to my FF13 example you just get dumped with loads of text (and i mean LOADS) to try and fill in the stuff in the story no one ever bothered explaining. This goes counter to the notion of "Interactive story telling" you know, being a game?

I didn't think FF13's story itself was bad, but that the story-telling was pretty terrible. I remember going through a little scene a few times when I was still actually reading the datalog. Reading a synopsis of a short scene and wondering how I was supposed to pick up on all the info explained. I also found the cutscene when you return to Cocoon baffling.

The original L4D movie is just astonishingly well put together, and stands head and shoulders above the second one.

Simply should be the qualifier for a GOOD intro.

Crunchy English:
Totally nailed me on the Sonic Unleashed trick, you jerk. Also, yes, yes a thousand times yes. I want to wrap this column around me like a warm, safe, blanket and tell myself everything will be ok.

Hey game developers, when it comes to story less is always more! Portal, Shadow of the Colossus, Fighting Games, etc.

If that seems like a cop out to you, then don't try to build a fifty hour story, build a world that will sustain 50 hours worth of player-built narratives.

My words exactly, at least on the Sonic part. I'm not sure I'd say less is *always* more, but it can certainly work.

One game that follows your last point, though, is Oblivion. Game world is huge, and there's so much to explore, so much to do, and I often found myself imagining stories for why certain things happened. Or at least, I was saying "oh, it works because of magic" to fully and happily suspend my disbelief.

"Sure, I'm a story snob. Not because I demand that all games tell Planescape: Torment-level with Shadow of the Colossus-level emotional impact, but because I demand that if a story is in the game, it should be worth seeing."

I'm pretty sure you forgot a word in there somewhere near Planescape.

Good article.

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

burningdragoon:
I had to read the line about Sonic 3 or 4 times to make sure I saw it right.

A good story will suck me in and I may not even notice if the gameplay isn't up to snuff. I wish it would happen more often though.

Scrumpmonkey:

It does not help that FF13's storyline is, how do we say, outlandish putting it nicely and pants on head retarded putting it bluntly. But many games when you come right down to it have stupid overal plots.

...

To go back to my FF13 example you just get dumped with loads of text (and i mean LOADS) to try and fill in the stuff in the story no one ever bothered explaining. This goes counter to the notion of "Interactive story telling" you know, being a game?

I didn't think FF13's story itself was bad, but that the story-telling was pretty terrible. I remember going through a little scene a few times when I was still actually reading the datalog. Reading a synopsis of a short scene and wondering how I was supposed to pick up on all the info explained. I also found the cutscene when you return to Cocoon baffling.

I'm kinda in the same boat here. I actually thought the story in Final Fantasy XIII was on of the best in the series. If it was just condensed a little, and then released as a movie, it could have been appreciated so much more. But that's just the point; it's not a movie, it's a game. It's just that the story and gameplay (what little of it there is) are so far removed from each other, that what you end up with is a convoluted plotline broken up into itty-bitty pieces, dispersed with large portions of mostly boring travel from A to B and even more yawn inducing battle sequences.

I felt kinda sorry for the world designers at SE. Here they built not one, but two magnficent worlds, and then are forced to make all the pathways linear. Players don't get a chance to stop and admire the scenery; all they want to do is get through the stupid battles as fast as possible, and then you're not even allowed to go back and revisit some of the earlier parts if you felt so inclined. Tragic.

For me The Darkness was a great example of Story telling done right. I was hooked on that game. The narrative kept me playing and made me muscle through the slightly wooly controls.

There were parts I found quite disturbing, areas that made me want to get out of as soon as possible and others I wanted to explore. Charecters I was attatched to and others I really wanted dead. Finally there was one guy I thought I wanted dead but his death was quite hollow once it was all done.

I only tend to complain about stories when they interfere with my enjoyment of the game. MGS comes to mind. Longwinded, pretentious, boring, wankey cut scenes put there to fill the developer with a false sense of importance.

I put up with it in MGS on the PSX as it was new and innovative as far as the actual game was concerned. I've not been able to stomach a MGS title following the first one.

I feel that half of the shoehorned story phenomenon is about developers believing that games need to be art. This is not the case.

wow almost got me with that sonic...i was reading them BAM massive wtf enraged until the end.

completely agree with this though

im a story snob at heart so this is really put my thoughts/likes into perspective

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Dude, read the article.

"(Also, I was just trolling you with Sonic Unleashed. Let's see if anyone ragequits the article and comments without reading all the way through.)"

ROFLMAO! I had actually thought you'd taken leave of your senses myself. Well played.

Totally with you, if they're going to do it, and spend millions doing it, then do it well. Otherwise, leave well enough alone if you would please.

hamster mk 4:
Some of my favorite games don't have any thing resembeling a traditional story in them. Civilization 3 and Mount & Blade being examples. Perhaps I am drawing a different conclusion from this article than the author, but there are many games today that could be greatly improoved by stripping out of all story element.

I also like open-world sandbox games like Mount and Blade or Starflight, like "here's a cool place, now go play in it". Obviously, other people like other things, but I agree that if you're telling a story, it should be a good one. I particularly am rubbish at it, but I appreciate those who can tell one.

PedroSteckecilo:

Crunchy English:

If that seems like a cop out to you, then don't try to build a fifty hour story, build a world that will sustain 50 hours worth of player-built narratives.

Different Strokes for Different Folks I guess. As a lifelong writer and roleplayer I really dislike this intense focus on "nonexistant" narrative in games, that somehow a story "invented" by the player and not present in the game is better than one put forward. If I wanted to create my own story, I could write one myself and if I wanted to create a story with other people I could play a pen and paper game.

Sorry folks, "Player Driven Narrative" as shown in games where there is basically no story is a cop out. This isn't a ringing endorsement of cutscene heavy storytelling either mind you, I just demand dialogue, interaction and plot, not silence and minimalism that barely soaks through the scenery.

There's a difference between "write your own story" games and games that don't bog you down with narrative. Not telling you who the Mono is in Shadow of the Colossus isn't a cop-out. It allows a player to make her into whatever would work with them. They could have had some long dialog and exposition about who Mono, where you are, why you're doing what you're doing and how she died in the first place, but that would just be playing a game set to a book's plot. It works much better when you're just there, fighting massive beasts with your trusted Agro for the life of a girl who you (presumably) love very much, and that's all it needs. If that's a cop-out, then I've never seen good writing, but I can tell you that the way SotC works emotional content into story that's not been told you works, plain and simple, and I desperately wish somebody out there could try to do a little bit of what Team Ico did.

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

PWNED!!1!

Shamus Young:
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Ok! I'm going to ask this completely honestly:

What was the plot of PoP:SoT and why was it so good?

No seriously, I played the game and to this day it's one of the incredibly few games I couldn't understand why people praise it so much. Everyone mentions the story but whenever I ask "what story?" I never seem to get an honest reply.

To me the game was about the egotistical prince, who got tricked by an evil vizier (duh!), and needs to collaborate with the hot chick who he initially hates but falls madly in love with at the end of the day (I'll admit the prince/chick dialogue was well done, but it didn't excuse the fact that it was horribly cliché).
The above summary takes place around the 1st hour mark of the game. It was followed by about 8 hours of nothing of importance happening (including the bad guy being completely absent), and then the rest of the story takes place in about the last hour of the game, and was not only horribly anti-climatic (he passes around him? really?) but it undid the WHOLE game.

So, in complete honesty, please tell me what exactly was so good about PoP's story?

Andronicus:

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Dude, read the article.

Or even just the rest of the comment...

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Story Snob

You don't have to put a story in your game, but if you do, try to make it not suck.

Read Full Article

I'm just curious what your thoughts on Borderlands was. I don't think I can classify myself as a story snob, but it sure as hell makes a HUGE difference for me too. Borderlands had an embarrassingly bad story and lack of conclusion, yet I've beat that game 10 or so times now. I really can't say that about any other game I've played. I'm just wondering if there are exceptions for you where the gameplay can be good enough to overlook the bad story, or if you feel that if a story is present, it should be either good or not there at all.

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Took until comment #40 until we got one!

:)

Signa:

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Story Snob

You don't have to put a story in your game, but if you do, try to make it not suck.

Read Full Article

I'm just curious what your thoughts on Borderlands was. I don't think I can classify myself as a story snob, but it sure as hell makes a HUGE difference for me too. Borderlands had an embarrassingly bad story and lack of conclusion, yet I've beat that game 10 or so times now. I really can't say that about any other game I've played. I'm just wondering if there are exceptions for you where the gameplay can be good enough to overlook the bad story, or if you feel that if a story is present, it should be either good or not there at all.

I agree that the Borderlands story was shameful.

The worst part was, they had everything they needed to make it work. The premise, the voice acting, and the pacing were all well done. But the story was criminally dumb. Even the guardian angel could have been a really cool idea to play with, but they did NOTHING with her.

1) You are about to face a huge challenge, I hope you're ready!

2) You beat the challenge! I never doubted you for a second! Now go.

Once was tolerable. Twice was pushing it. Half a dozen times was just lazy and insulting. She could have been a great hook, and instead she was basically an applause sign. Boo.

I beat the game a couple of times. The game was very close to being a classic, but it missed a few marks, and story was one of them.

Xocrates:

Shamus Young:
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Ok! I'm going to ask this completely honestly:

What was the plot of PoP:SoT and why was it so good?

No seriously, I played the game and to this day it's one of the incredibly few games I couldn't understand why people praise it so much. Everyone mentions the story but whenever I ask "what story?" I never seem to get an honest reply.

To me the game was about the egotistical prince, who got tricked by an evil vizier (duh!), and needs to collaborate with the hot chick who he initially hates but falls madly in love with at the end of the day (I'll admit the prince/chick dialogue was well done, but it didn't excuse the fact that it was horribly cliché).
The above summary takes place around the 1st hour mark of the game. It was followed by about 8 hours of nothing of importance happening (including the bad guy being completely absent), and then the rest of the story takes place in about the last hour of the game, and was not only horribly anti-climatic (he passes around him? really?) but it undid the WHOLE game.

So, in complete honesty, please tell me what exactly was so good about PoP's story?

I think a lot to do with storytelling is its presentation. I won't argue that the story was cliche, but it was kept interesting by watching your character's struggle for survival and the reliance and romance that is developed by the two survivors. Throw in a few tragedies like having to kill his father and the fact that the whole adventure gets erased at the end, destroying the love they shared, and you have some storytelling gold.

Oh, and one thing that I really liked is how the whole game you think the prince is telling YOU his story, but realize at the end that he's telling the princess his story. Little, minute details suddenly become massively relevant like starting a new game by sneaking into the princess's chambers.

Shamus Young:

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Took until comment #40 until we got one!

:)

Excuse me?

PedroSteckecilo:

Crunchy English:

I'm having a hard time discerning what kind of story telling you actually like. Just to clarify, what methods tell a decent story in your opinion? Legend of Zelda's cutscenes at regular intervals maybe? or do you prefer the on-the-fly dialogue of say, Uncharted 2?

Either or really, my dislike comes in the form of people feeling that Portal, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead tell "TEH BEST STORAIZ EVAR!" considering they barely have characters, barely have dialogue and barely have plots. What they have is good storytelling, not good stories in and of themselves. I guess it's a "Just because a game doesn't have cutscenes doesn't mean it's brilliant" gut reaction.

Even then I suppose this was a mostly a misdirected rant at Multiplayer Storytelling.

I don't think that really applies to Half Life, or at least Half Life 2. Your rules base themselves almost exclusively around the player character and forget the NPCs.

Shamus Young:
(Also, I was just trolling you with Sonic Unleashed. Let's see if anyone ragequits the article and comments without reading all the way through.)

Almost got me. Did a triple take before wondering "...has he gone raving mad...?". Kept reading to see if you'd go anywhere with it though.

PedroSteckecilo:

Crunchy English:

If that seems like a cop out to you, then don't try to build a fifty hour story, build a world that will sustain 50 hours worth of player-built narratives.

Different Strokes for Different Folks I guess. As a lifelong writer and roleplayer I really dislike this intense focus on "nonexistant" narrative in games, that somehow a story "invented" by the player and not present in the game is better than one put forward. If I wanted to create my own story, I could write one myself and if I wanted to create a story with other people I could play a pen and paper game.

Sorry folks, "Player Driven Narrative" as shown in games where there is basically no story is a cop out. This isn't a ringing endorsement of cutscene heavy storytelling either mind you, I just demand dialogue, interaction and plot, not silence and minimalism that barely soaks through the scenery.

And if I wanted to play an action scene I'd join the army!

...See how that doesn't work? The bottom line is, some games don't lend themselves to the typical "story" structure, and as such are better off letting the player weave his own tale.

The point, however, was that if you're not going to have a good story, you're better of not having any story at all.

Hmmm, I'm reminded of X-Com. People are complaining that the upcoming sequellike thing will have a story. It seems like a bad thing to complain about, unless you know that the very fact that the original X-Com games' story is little more than ALIENS ARE ATTACKING THE WORLD ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH DUDE TO SAVE THE WORLD allowed players to create their own stories out of the faceless characters you are given, creating a tale that feels much more personal.

I agree with Shamus entirely, as usual. (Shamus is the new Yahtzee!) Games are about gameplay, so if your game doesn't need a story, don't put one in it. If your story doesn't help gameplay, take it away. Developers are way too worried to prove games can do anything movies can, when in fact they can't, but they can do lots of things movies can't and they should be focusing on that.

Oh god. Oh thank god. For a second there I thought you were serious about the Sonic game. You should save that kinda shit for April fool's or people are more liable to take you seriously lol

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Took until comment #40 until we got one!

:)

Excuse me?

Shamus Young:
(Also, I was just trolling you with Sonic Unleashed. Let's see if anyone ragequits the article and comments without reading all the way through.)

In any case, brilliant article, Shamus. I could not agree more with your thoughts.

I think the problem with game developers is that they are unwilling to pay for top quality storytelling. They are willing to hire top-of-the-line artists, voice actors, musicians.....but when it comes to story, they are content with using a scribble a developer made during lunch.

Basically, if they want to convey good stories, they need to start hiring people that will make good stories. They should not be content with merely making something up as they go along.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Story Snob

You don't have to put a story in your game, but if you do, try to make it not suck.

Read Full Article

Thanks Shamus, good article as usual. Hit my sentiments on the issue verbatim.

I get sick of people telling me that games aren't about the story. I like how you put it. If it has a story, then it better be good. Otherwise just have pacman eat some damn pixels and we won't question why there's no story.

Signa:

Xocrates:

Shamus Young:
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Ok! I'm going to ask this completely honestly:

What was the plot of PoP:SoT and why was it so good?

No seriously, I played the game and to this day it's one of the incredibly few games I couldn't understand why people praise it so much. Everyone mentions the story but whenever I ask "what story?" I never seem to get an honest reply.

To me the game was about the egotistical prince, who got tricked by an evil vizier (duh!), and needs to collaborate with the hot chick who he initially hates but falls madly in love with at the end of the day (I'll admit the prince/chick dialogue was well done, but it didn't excuse the fact that it was horribly cliché).
The above summary takes place around the 1st hour mark of the game. It was followed by about 8 hours of nothing of importance happening (including the bad guy being completely absent), and then the rest of the story takes place in about the last hour of the game, and was not only horribly anti-climatic (he passes around him? really?) but it undid the WHOLE game.

So, in complete honesty, please tell me what exactly was so good about PoP's story?

I think a lot to do with storytelling is its presentation. I won't argue that the story was cliche, but it was kept interesting by watching your character's struggle for survival and the reliance and romance that is developed by the two survivors. Throw in a few tragedies like having to kill his father and the fact that the whole adventure gets erased at the end, destroying the love they shared, and you have some storytelling gold.

Oh, and one thing that I really liked is how the whole game you think the prince is telling YOU his story, but realize at the end that he's telling the princess his story. Little, minute details suddenly become massively relevant like starting a new game by sneaking into the princess's chambers.

I think for me its the way that they seamlessly integrated the story into the gameplay. They story may have been simple with cliche elements, but cliche doesn't have to mean bad. If something is cliche it means its been done before a bunch. Why would people repeat it if it was a bad idea to begin with?
The game just focused on a simple story, a few characters that you could really get behind, and then went to integrate it with the gameplay in a way that was compelling and didn't separate the two from each other.

sry fer double post

Whenever I bang on my "this story sucks" drum I invariably get someone asking me, "Why don't you just go watch a movie if you want to see a story so bad?" Which seems to imply that you shouldn't expect good stories from games. But if you think videogame stories have to suck, then you've been playing the wrong games. KOTOR, Jade Empire, Thief, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Max Payne, Sonic Unleashed and the aforementioned Left 4 Dead all manage to deliver both engaging gameplay and a well-written story.

SONIC. UNLEASHED!?

manwhat?

My thoughts on it are that if the game is about story, then it better be a good one. Otherwise I just take a page from Carmack.

John Carmack:
Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.

I was so confused when you listed Sonic as a game with a good story, I had to think, maybe I might want to check that game out. Thank God you came clean with that one at the end, I was worried.

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Took until comment #40 until we got one!

:)

Excuse me?

sigh....

Ya know story can take a flying leap for all I care I am not watching a game I am interacting with it, if the game mechanics are fuckared or poorly implamaneted(Bioshock,Fallout 3, most AAA titles made in the last 5 years) what was the point of me playing it? I could care less about cinemagic,effect and the crap the media industry dose to distract you from the core of the media you are consuming ......

I think it speaks well of the Escapist that there is not a single "Holy crap, SONIC UNLEASHED?!" post. A legitimate one. It's so refreshing after using the RS forums for so long...just wanted to say that. I'm sure you guys know you're awesome.

Edit: Wait, no, there they are...but none on the first page! Go us!

Anywho, the article: exactly! I'm a story snob myself, I suppose, but I really don't mind when a game lacks one. As well as being a Nintendo fan, I'm a big flash gamer, and real plots are few and far between in that genre. It's just about gameplay, and when the gameplay works...that's all you need.

Probably the game I most regret buying in all my life is The Conduit. It is a competently-made shooter, but the story is GOD AWFUL, and they make you sit through cringe-worthy exposition after every mission. Honestly...games like that should always have a skip option. I don't even life shooters, with a few exceptions. Lord knows what possessed me to buy that game.

Brainst0rm:
I think it speaks well of the Escapist that there is not a single "Holy crap, SONIC UNLEASHED?!" post. A legitimate one. It's so refreshing after using the RS forums for so long...just wanted to say that. I'm sure you guys know you're awesome.

Anywho, the article: exactly! I'm a story snob myself, I suppose, but I really don't mind when a game lacks one. As well as being a Nintendo fan, I'm a big flash gamer, and real plots are few and far between in that genre. It's just about gameplay, and when the gameplay works...that's all you need.

Probably the game I most regret buying in all my life is The Conduit. It is a competently-made shooter, but the story is GOD AWFUL, and they make you sit through cringe-worthy exposition after every mission. Honestly...games like that should always have a skip option. I don't even life shooters, with a few exceptions. Lord knows what possessed me to buy that game.

Bullet witch and dark sector are worse dailog/story wise :P

Tom Phoenix:

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:

Not G. Ivingname:

Shamus Young:
Sonic Unleashedand

Umm... you thought Sonic Unleashed, the game that brought the most annoying character that the Sonic world has ever brought upon us, had a good story?

Took until comment #40 until we got one!

:)

Excuse me?

Shamus Young:
(Also, I was just trolling you with Sonic Unleashed. Let's see if anyone ragequits the article and comments without reading all the way through.)

In any case, brilliant article, Shamus. I could not agree more with your thoughts.

I think the problem with game developers is that they are unwilling to pay for top quality storytelling. They are willing to hire top-of-the-line artists, voice actors, musicians.....but when it comes to story, they are content with using a scribble a developer made during lunch.

Basically, if they want to convey good stories, they need to start hiring people that will make good stories. They should not be content with merely making something up as they go along.

Oh... I am a moron.

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