The Story

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The Story

Yahtzee, Shamus and Graham sit down to share their thoughts about the proper place of story in videogames.

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We need more Consideration. *nod nod*
Maybe...Shamus, James, and Bob

OT: A game that had a great Story for me was Okami.

If anyone of you should wonder what a Plinkett Review is, as YZ mentioned it:
http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/

Sure google is always an option but I would like to grasp the oportunity to further recommend them. Great in-depth-coverage of some movies.

We just started playing Okami last night. My wife and I kept thinking "TOO..MUCH...COPY..."

There was no reason to overcharacterize, especially with characters you will be with for a significant portion of the game (I assume).

So apparently everyone but Yahtzee had their hands full but on week 2 they finally had to deliver *something* so the series doesn't get killed before it started?

Works for me!

Actually, a bit of rotation might be good. I initially was fascinated by Extra Consideration before even reading it, for the simple fact that three big influential characters were supposed to discuss something together, but it might be good to exchange parts of the cast every now and then if a special topic comes up where they might not have much to say about. For example, was a good idea to bring guys from Unskippable into this.

Keep it up, Extra Consideration is one of the most interesting things for me to read on The Escapist!

One word (and some periods)

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Specifically SoC (the other 2 didn't quite recreate the magic of SoC even if they were more polished)

The gameplay WAS the story, the environment was the star. There were a couple of small cutscenes but none of them took away exploration and discovery and most importantly none of them pulled you out of the immersion.

The Controller attack that removed player control and zoomed in exploded, and left the player's view all woozy is pee your pants scary if you aren't expecting it.

I'm a huge Planescape Torment fan but I agree the gameplay isn't anything to write home about. The game engine was just a vehicle to explore the detailed world and the rewards/equipment were just placeholders reminding you of things you already did and places you visited.

sort of felt like reading synopsis of 4 different articles, more interaction between the colomnists would make it much more interesting

Torment's story is undeniably excellent: I sympathise with Yahtzee's point about struggling to get into it - I certainly did too. In fact, it took me three times to get into it, and unless you play a mage it's incredibly hard (no armour means combat as a warrior is just brutal). It also requires an openness to what a game should be - and this one certainly blurs the line between book and game - but in a good way.
I'd urge anyone who struggled to get into it to give it another try.

The gameplay does certainly take a second seat to the story, that's something I can't deny. But if its the vehicle that delivers such a story - and one that has such impact - well, I'd celebrate.

At that, I wonder if the spectre of personal taste is hovering in the background? Given the choice between Torment and Half-Life 2 I'll go with Torment every time. But, this doesn't necessarily mean I think either is objectively better than the other.

I guess, it's not that I think Half-Life is worse, more that even if it is a better fusion of story and gameplay, it's not all that I'm personally looking for in a game. Be fair though I guess, call Planescape a piece of interactive fiction with gameplay elements and that's dandy for me.

Did this week's Extra Consideration seem a bit short to anyone else? I mean, I like the weekly discussion and all, but I needs me at least three pages of important people talking about stuff I find important to really get into it.

Graham Stark: Yahtzee, it's funny you mention Alpha Protocol, because it did another thing I liked when dealing with conversation trees, which is making your choices largely unimportant to the story. If they're giving you a time limit to answer, they'd pretty much have to, but you could make whatever choice you felt like, knowing that while you might miss out on something fun by picking the "wrong" option, you wouldn't ruin your whole experience.

This is why games will never really be what they could be as a medium for story telling. Everyone is still so focused on "Winning the Game" rather then enjoying the experience it has to offer. It reminds me a bit of when I used to play PnP RPGS in that there was always one or two (and I admit, sometimes it was me) who's aim was to "Beat the GM" rather then work with the GM to build a story. Games have the oppotunity to be a fantastic story telling medium, but the closest a game has ever really been to showing it in recent times are with Heavy Rain and The Witcher.

The first had branching, involved and mature story where even though there was a "Right" answer to it by getting everyone to the end alive and solving the mystery, failure at one point didn't kill the story completely. This shows the bredth that games could have (and often did have when graphics and voice wern't a problem). In Baldurs Gate you could kill important people without effecting the plot. This sort of story telling is gamings greatest strength. Its a glorified "Choose your own Adventure" which means whether you play it through just once or multiple times, you will still get a good game and a satisfying story.

The second handles the story in a different way by there not being any "Right" answer. You had no idea what the consequences would be of your actions because there was purposely no Good and Evil and chosing one option would close off one quest but open up another. This meant that as the player you made choices and moved the plot foward depending on what you thought was right rather then by trying to get the "Right Answer" and in games with branching stories like RPGs, this needs to be used more.

In linier games, I agree with whats said, but the reason its done is simple. The designers are scared people will miss something. If you let people do their own thing, there is a risk they are likely to miss important information because the player is focusing on something else (like playing with the teleporter in Kliners lab) In Yatzee's Bulletpoint review, he mentioned how you got points by looking at certain things when the developer wanted you to and because of this, he purposely didn't. This is why they take it out of the players hands and shove it in a cutscene instead (personally, I thought it was a nifty idea that should be used more).

Glad to see Graham and Shamus getting involved in this, too.

I'm actually going to argue for the use of cutscenes. They are a good, cinematic way of telling a story. They especially work when they involve things that aren't possible with the regular game mechanics (this can be as simple as dialogue in a game that doesn't have a dialogue system - and no, not every game needs that sort of thing). I'm not going to argue that cutscenes are perfect, because they're not, or that they belong in every game, because they don't, but they do have their place and can be used well.

This is where games like the new Fallouts (which I otherwise love) and Mass Effect take me out of the game because I'm always worried about what I might be unknowingly screwing up by selecting one dialogue choice over another. Like yourself, gaming is my job as well as my hobby, and I don't have time for unlimited playthroughs of a game, so I want the one play I DO get to be good. But I find myself afraid to pick dialogue options as I please, and instead scrutinize a walkthrough for fear that if I choose poorly then NPC 1 will die later, or Quest-Line X will lock down... all because I said "Yes" to someone who seemed nice at the time.

This I partially disagree with. I think that sometimes you should have to make an actual choice, you get one or the other, but not both. This means that you will indeed need multiple playtroughs if you want to see everything, but you don't need to see everything at all.

However, I can see the point of not wanting to get locked out of content because you picked the wrong choice at a time it wasn't obvious the choice would have consequences. The game should let you know if what you're doing is an important choice.

Story really is over rated in games. I feel it is hubris when game designers bore their players over and over with cut scenes. MGS and Final Fantasy come to mind, what pretentious wankery.

Story and game play that worked together? COD4. The different perspectives. You could easily have been Soap all through and seen the Americans get nuked in a cut scene. Cpt. Price could have explained with some still images he had tried to assassinate Z in a past mission. The end chase where you are handed the gun on the bridge was fantastic.

This was a great piece. I look forward to more.

Text-dumps are the very worst thing for a game's story (im looking at you FF13! and always will be!) but cinematics can be good if used sparingly and properly, like they totally weren't in MGS4.

I think what Yhatzee is talking about is IMMERSION. This is distinct from "Story" in many peoples minds as it is more about how you relate to the game world. But relating to the game world should be how 90% of your story is told. "Show don't tell" is the mantra of the movie industry and "Play don't show" should be the mantra of the games industry. I think immersion is 1/2 the battle in game stories and something sorely neglected in most modern games. STALKER is often refered to as a bit 'story light' but the richness of the world allows players to experience the world on their own terms and, most admirably, create their own stories within the ruleset of the world.

a wise forum denizen once said to me in relation to th modern JRPG (a forget who it was) "Don't create 60 hours worth of tedious dungeons/ cutscenes, create a world that will support 60 hours worth of player driven narratives"

This is where the best games succeed. Why is the Sea level so low in HL2? Why are those roving bandits attacking those poor STALKERS? Why do the splicers whistle? Game world should be an intruiging place for the player and it's richness should unfold through play. A game, unlike the set narrative stlyes of TV and films, is the sum of a lot of parts.

Yahtzee's rule of never making non-interactive what could be interactive needs a name, as does Shamus's formula for kill-watch-kill-watch. Anyone want to christen either idea with an official term?

The insight of Graham's inputs caught me by surprise. I agree completely with him that in sandbox games, the story either needs to be removed completely or tailor-made to futzing about. Saints Row II is actually a pretty poor example in my opinion (the story surprised me with its linearity after hearing Yahtzee rave about it), and after replaying Red Faction: Guerrilla, I think it was completely underrated in this regard - it really does seem very well-built for being as realistic or no as you'd like it to be, as open-ended or no as you need it to be.

I wish Graham elaborated more on why he feels Saints Row II is better than GTA, but I found his comment about "the good ol' days" (stories aren't any better, they just leave less room for the superior writing of our imaginations to fill in the gaps) to be priceless, as well as surprising in the sense that he's telling this to Shamus - didn't Shamus himself write an article providing examples of this being the case, at one point? I'm certain I've read an article arguing that idea on The Escapist before.

:) great topic.

Graham:"This is where games like the new Fallouts (which I otherwise love) and Mass Effect take me out of the game because I'm always worried about what I might be unknowingly screwing up by selecting one dialogue choice over another."

hehe. See, that.. really is Alpha Protocol's... "greatest achievement". Technically, you have several times as many branches in this game compared to, say, Mass Effect. Within the story-segments, from the start to the finish of the mission, and between the locations depending on the path you picked, etc. But you don't notice that when you play through it.

Same as with Heavy Rain - it actually does branch fairly often. But you don't react to it because of the lack of "shopping list", or "job interview" presentation.

Instead the choices and branching is used to help smooth out the immersion breakers when the story moves in a direction you might not wish. Mass Effect 1 is a minimalistic version of that approach, where you roleplay your character's motivation instead of actually making any choices along the way.

(By the way - hobby-reviewers picked up on this *ahahahahehemmmemmm!!* while playing the game in their spare time. It's not that difficult when a playthrough barely lasts 8 hours, is it..)

First of all, the thumbnail of Graham with his old FX1 is beyond words in levels of cool. Good on whoever drew that.

A note on Planescape: Torment. I think Yahtzee was both right and wrong on the game, though this was mostly the fault of the developers. The game has two polar opposites in terms of how you play it. There is combat, and there is dialogue. In many ways, Planescape is a dialogue based game, as you can easily avoid all but three battles by using your words. This form of weaving it into the narrative was a total triumph, but unfortunately it also had the dreary combat aspect. In that regard, Yahtzee is totally correct. Compared to other Infinity Engine games, the combat was pretty cold and unresponsive, making the game kind of a chore to play in the early sections. The curve for when the game gets you hooked is a bit too long even for my taste, and I think it's one of the greatest games ever made.

Storytelling is a very slippery slope. I think we can get incredibly involved in a story more than we ever could from a book with methods like Bioware has taken, but I agree that it isn't the best way to tell stories. While I always want the Bioware formula there for a story that is truly epic in scale, I'd prefer we come up with solutions like Alpha Protocol did for other games. If we do that, we can have pieces of dialogue that are organic to the scene and the actions of the characters. Yahtzee citing Plinkett's Revenge of the Sith review was a piece of genius in that regard. The language of cinema might be different from the language of gaming, but ultimately it's about telling a slice of the human condition, right? How much more could a developer tell us about a character or a world through a gameplay sequence as opposed to a cutscene?

Without an eye to the integration of mechanics with story, choice is inherently damaging to narrative (or at best, just makes it hard to create). When a writer sits down to write a novel, he/she is going to come up with a bunch of possible story branches but in the end, only takes the strongest. Even after that, in the editing, large chunks of "not good enough" will get ripped out, and necessary bits filled in.

Contrast this with the plight of the poor game writer. Choice is good, right? But what if the player's choices are uninteresting or don't contribute to advancing the plot? Games by their very nature funnel choice-- I can't just tell Gordon Freeman to drop what he's doing and look for ice cream, for example. But even with limited choices, the writer is going to have to come up with intriguing development for each and every possible branch. Sure, you can dead end (perhaps literally) the ones which don't head in the direction the writer feels the story should go. But too much of that, and the player will rightfully feel as if there is no choice, and interactivity is destroyed.

I don't have an answer :) But it does seem to me that the columnists are right-- so far, writers have tried to apply the rules and techniques of other mediums such as novels and movies to games. There has to be a new path.

Graham Stark: Yahtzee, it's funny you mention Alpha Protocol, because it did another thing I liked when dealing with conversation trees, which is making your choices largely unimportant to the story. If they're giving you a time limit to answer, they'd pretty much have to, but you could make whatever choice you felt like, knowing that while you might miss out on something fun by picking the "wrong" option, you wouldn't ruin your whole experience.

I'm sorry but I completely disagree with you. The only point of having dialogue options is to allow the player to make significant choices that affect the story. If your choices don't matter than there is absolutely no point in having choices at all. I feel that the word "game" is a bit of a misnomer for some "games" (e.g. Silent Hill 2, The Void, and Heavy Rain) as a game is something which can be either won or lost. These "games" each have multiple endings determined by player choice; they're a bit like PnP RPGs in that the point is not to win but to craft a good story. Are the "bad" endings of Silent Hill 2 worsen the player's experience when compared to the "good" endings? I say that all endings are worthwhile in their own way.

Part of what's holding back gaming as an artistic medium is the concept that games need to be won. Citizen Kane wouldn't work as a videogame in the industry today because Kane did not win. A good deal of the fun of gaming is the idea of player agency; it's why Minecraft is so popular. The quality of the story is not dependent on the protagonist being positively affected.

This is where games like the new Fallouts (which I otherwise love) and Mass Effect take me out of the game because I'm always worried about what I might be unknowingly screwing up by selecting one dialogue choice over another. Like yourself, gaming is my job as well as my hobby, and I don't have time for unlimited playthroughs of a game, so I want the one play I DO get to be good. But I find myself afraid to pick dialogue options as I please, and instead scrutinize a walkthrough for fear that if I choose poorly then NPC 1 will die later, or Quest-Line X will lock down... all because I said "Yes" to someone who seemed nice at the time.

Disagree, we like getting locked out of and into choices, cuz we actually BUY the game, spend our money on ONE game, and want to be rewarded for multiple play thrus. Don't be so cocky and think that since u get to play lots of games that we all do. It would be dumb if your choices in dialogue had no effect. If that was the case, why even have them??? Gosh i dont like this guy.

As usual, Yahtzee hits the nail on the head. Games are an interactive storytelling medium. Without your own in-game actions visibly driving the story, why would you not just read a book?

A couple of ways games do interactive stories well:

Oblivion (and predecessor Morrowind) had a surprisingly expansive library of in-game literature. 'The Real Benezia' alone weighed in at over 100 pages, and the rest included a veritable treasure trove of short-stories. Of course, you had to actually stop playing in order to read any of it, and the energy wastefulness of reading a book on my 1080 plasma screen wasn't lost on me..

As for GTA, that series actually has one of the most seamless integrations of story and gameplay I've ever seen; not the cut scenes, but the radio stations. Those channels give you a rolling commentary on what the game world is, what it's all about, who the big players are, and it does it all that without interrupting the gameplay. They also serve to distract you from the fact you're commuting in virtual traffic.

I always liked how Ico and Shadow of the Colossus handled their story. Though all there really is is backstory which serves as a catalyst to propel you into the game, you are still presented with visuals that pique your interest in the gameworld's mysteries.

Though, I wouldn't want cutscenes to go the way of the dodo either. I'd just miss them way too much. Half-Life 2 was brilliant in how it made gameplay and story work with eachother instead of against eachother. But I don't think such a set up would work for all games. Also, games are probably the only medium in which a story can be told in a meriad of ways. And I kinda like that I can choose between either a cutscene-heavy game like Uncharted and Resident Evil 4, or a more involved approach like Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect.

nothing that hasn't been said already

one thing i would like to point out, it shouldn't matter how a well written story is told, sure games have many unique ways of conveying a narative but always going off against non interactive methods can be annoying

sometimes dialogue and wise use of cutscenes can greatly improve a game's story

Neogeta:

Disagree, we like getting locked out of and into choices, cuz we actually BUY the game, spend our money on ONE game, and want to be rewarded for multiple play thrus. Don't be so cocky and think that since u get to play lots of games that we all do. It would be dumb if your choices in dialogue had no effect. If that was the case, why even have them??? Gosh i dont like this guy.

Is "we" like the royal we? I buy my games and there are very few games I give multiple play throughs. I have a family, a career, other interests and a life away from my console and PC. I am not 16 with time to game 8 hours a day, gamers are individuals with different lifestyles.

If I get a satisfying play through where I feel like I have experienced all a game has to offer then do I need a second play through? Multiple play throughs via withholding content feels like a cheap way to extend the life of a title.

On a seperate note, you are posting on a forum, you have plenty of time to write your post. Were you really in such a hurry that you needed to use "u" and "cuz"?

Marik Bentusi:
So apparently everyone but Yahtzee had their hands full but on week 2 they finally had to deliver *something* so the series doesn't get killed before it started?

Works for me!

Actually, a bit of rotation might be good. I initially was fascinated by Extra Consideration before even reading it, for the simple fact that three big influential characters were supposed to discuss something together, but it might be good to exchange parts of the cast every now and then if a special topic comes up where they might not have much to say about. For example, was a good idea to bring guys from Unskippable into this.

Keep it up, Extra Consideration is one of the most interesting things for me to read on The Escapist!

this also if it means we get more articles of it.

also I would be fine with it branching if that's how the convo rolls

The Dot Hack games and most jrpgs are a victim of this. I would be in a field slashing monsters up and then a cutscene appears. Most of them are completely irrelevant. Though I rather have it in the middle arc of a game rather than the beginning because it turns me off usually.

Off Topic: I think we are going to see a lot of members now that would say "Oh I didn't like PST, because the story and gameplay didn't mix well."

For me some of the most compelling storytelling was No More Heroes, but probably because it was confusing as hell and required research on my part. Same goes for the MGS series. For some reason despite those games being utterly incomprehensible the first time you play them after I go and do the research it becomes suddenly very exciting and well written. Credit to NMH in particular, which has a much larger meta-storyline flowing through the whole thing.

As for storytelling games that were straightforward and good, Oddworld gets my vote with their twisted fable approach and Brutal Legend packed a hell of a punch with witty dialogue and a mix of conversations and action. It worked really well, and I keep having to give Schafer credit for his accomplishment with that.

And for unique storytelling, Heavy Rain was certainly interesting, but a real one off for me. If you were to try it again, unless the plot was really good, I'd probably hate it. That game was essentially a branching path collection of cutscenes, quite good cutscenes with some bad voice acting, but never the less the whole thing is a long film you have to constantly occasionally interactive with. I found it interesting as I played it with a friend and we um'd and ah'd over who we thought the killer was, but the actual game with only mildly interesting at best. After we finished heavy Rain we decided to get Fahrenheit to do the same all over again and MY GOD THAT THING HAS AGED. Do not get Fahrenheit if you played Heavy Rain first.

Best thing about this article?

Graham's picture. Made me chuckle for quite a while.

I'd like an NPC to start talking to me as soon as I come close to them

Final Fantasy XIII did this, and I have to say that I really didn't enjoy it. I'd much rather click a to talk to an NPC and get some interesting information, a la earlier Final Fantasies.

I enjoyed reading this piece a lot.
I think there's a lot to be said for the transition from PS1 to PS2 era of consoles. If we take final fantasy as an example: Final Fantasy VII told a story that so many gamers connected to on an emotive level. The story was told entirely through text, so players could connect to characters like they would reading a novel. With the power of the PS2 we had fully voiced cut scenes, however hammy voice acting in Final Fantasy X put me off the story, and I could not connect to any of the characters as they all felt like something out of a bad anime.
Now, since the games industry has swelled, we have bigger budgets, and Hollywood actors voice act in games. However so few developers seem to succeed in bringing depth to characters.

Interesting stuff said here as to weather or not games NEED a story. As the lines between Cinema and games blur, we should consider if this is always such a good thing?

I will certainly agree with what Yahtzee said about the game stopping play to show you something in the room. I hate that so much, especially when it's done constantly. The bottom line is that I want to PLAY this game, not watch it. When you take control away from me, it had better be for a good reason and it had better be worth it. I know this example doesn't really pertain to story, but take something like Burnout Paradise which constantly takes control away from you to show you a slow-mo of your crash and then a few more seconds of the enemy who just got you if you were rammed into the crash. And you crash a LOT in Burnout, so it's constantly going "HEEEEEY check out this crash you were in bro isn't it cooooooooooool in slooooooooow mooooooooootiooooooon?". It pisses me off to the point where I can't stand to play the game anymore.

To tie this back to the story theme, if you're going to stop me playing in the middle of something for some story bits, then it had better be some good and useful story bits, and there had better not be ages of loading in there too. The only thing worse than a constant stream of gameplay | cutscene | gameplay | cutscene | gameplay when the cutscenes aren't important is a constant stream of gameplay | loading | cutscene | loading | gameplay | loading | cutscene and so on. It's not as bad in a game with levels and you just get cutscene in between each level, because at least then you have a decent breaking point for saying "okay, I finished this bit, now I can relax for a bit and watch this." But I hate it in the middle of gameplay, you're trying to do something and then "LAWL CUTSCENE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING STUPID ENJOY HAHAHAHA!" I hate this so much about modern Command and Conquer games, C&C3 especially. You're trying to start playing and then all of a sudden it yanks the controls away again to show you what your objectives are, even though I already know what they are. Just bugger off and let me play! Or in Red Alert 3 Commander's Challenge where they are constantly taking away your radar-screen mid battle to have someone deliver one or two lines either taunting you or whining about losing. STFU and give me my radar back, it's important to gameplay you asshat!

*ahem* Anyway. I guess I ought to hurry up and start playing Half-Life, so I can finish playing it and then move on to Half-Life 2 to see what Yahtzee and Shamus were talking about.

Oh, and I loved that the icon of Graham has him holding a camera. Very nice. :p

Impluse_101:
OT: A game that had a great Story for me was Okami.

I personally couldn't stand it while I was still playing it. Basically I was just so annoyed with Isun constantly interrupting gameplay to talk for what felt like 10 minutes for about every 30 minutes or so of gameplay. Once he starts talking he just about never shuts up, and he never has anything terribly interesting to say.

JuggernautFox:
Did this week's Extra Consideration seem a bit short to anyone else? I mean, I like the weekly discussion and all, but I needs me at least three pages of important people talking about stuff I find important to really get into it.

Yeah, very short. It seemed like it was just starting and then come back next week? Is this as far as the three of them got in their conversation so far? I hope it's not being held back just for the sake of having something next week, because that was a really odd place to end it.

Shamus Young:
1) Just about everyone who plays the game [HL2] agrees that this integration of gameplay and story is wonderfully done

No! Not everyone. I like the idea of the integration of gameplay and story (for example in Modern Warfare, where they did it right), but the way HL2 did it was horrible in my opinion, for two reasons:

1) I prefer no freedom (cutscene, scripted events in MW etc.) to the illusion of freedom that HL2 gives. Yes, you can run around, play with your gravity gun or whatever, but on a couple of occasions I was just screaming 'COME ON! LET ME AT IT! I could easily prevent the disaster, if you would just let me take the full control!' The ending of Ep 2 is a good example. I get it, you were hit by some sort of anti-gravity pulse or whatever, but so did Alyx and Eli, and somehow he could hit the advisor with a pipe. So I say - let me just blast it to hell with my weaponry. But no. It's a scripted event, and you can't do shit. God, that pissed me off so much. It's just annoying and extremely frustrating.

2) PACING! Oh my God, pacing! It's actually funny that Yahtzee writes about importance of it, while praising the storytelling of HL2. It's just way too slow. Too many monologues (because Gordon is a mute), while literally NOTHING happens. Say what you want, but if someone talks to you, and instead of listening, you're dicking around and throwing stuff against the wall because it's more interesting - that means someone screwed up. Big time.

Sorry for that outburst. I'm just so sick of people praising HL2 left and right. >.< It's not a bad game (though I didn't like it at all, and points above are about half of the reason why), but definitely not worth all the praise it gets.

Marik Bentusi:

Actually, a bit of rotation might be good. I initially was fascinated by Extra Consideration before even reading it, for the simple fact that three big influential characters were supposed to discuss something together, but it might be good to exchange parts of the cast every now and then if a special topic comes up where they might not have much to say about. For example, was a good idea to bring guys from Unskippable into this.

Keep it up, Extra Consideration is one of the most interesting things for me to read on The Escapist!

I have nothing to add, but the more people support this, the more likely it will happen.

Neogeta:

This is where games like the new Fallouts (which I otherwise love) and Mass Effect take me out of the game because I'm always worried about what I might be unknowingly screwing up by selecting one dialogue choice over another. Like yourself, gaming is my job as well as my hobby, and I don't have time for unlimited playthroughs of a game, so I want the one play I DO get to be good. But I find myself afraid to pick dialogue options as I please, and instead scrutinize a walkthrough for fear that if I choose poorly then NPC 1 will die later, or Quest-Line X will lock down... all because I said "Yes" to someone who seemed nice at the time.

Disagree, we like getting locked out of and into choices, cuz we actually BUY the game, spend our money on ONE game, and want to be rewarded for multiple play thrus. Don't be so cocky and think that since u get to play lots of games that we all do. It would be dumb if your choices in dialogue had no effect. If that was the case, why even have them??? Gosh i dont like this guy.

You sound much more cocky than this guy, and he completely excuses himself earlier by admitting that most people get to play single games more than him as he is ferried onto the next one after a week.
I think you just don't like him because he's not Yahtzee or Moviebob, quite frankly.

In other news, these two guys are better than the other two -- the other two are great, but they are afraid to offer their opinions, seemingly.

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