The Story

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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.

Wait, what? Alpha Protocol is a leading candidate for the exact opposite: your choices matter more in that game than in most others. (This is also true for Heavy Rain, as another commenter pointed out; I think it's also true for the Witcher, although I don't have enough personal experience with that yet.) Certainly your choices in AP matter much more than in the Mass Effect games, which are themselves a rung or two above most other games. (Games outside the RPG genre tend not to have choices matter to the story in the slightest.)

What's done particularly well in Alpha Protocol and Heavy Rain is the integration of the choice -- the game will continue on without interruption; the choices aren't "pass" or "fail" or even "good" or "bad", they just alter the outcomes of later events in appropriate ways.

MattAn24:
That Graham drawing is by the awesome Mike Lunsford, creator of the Supernormal Step webcomic. He also drew the massive Desert Bus for Hope IV poster!

Oh. Awesome. Well, we must send Mike Lunsford cookies, then.

...and really, anytime Yahtzee shows up in anything not Zero Punctuation, he really should show up as this.

image

...the real-life, slow-talking Ben Croshaw should be kept as far away from the foul-mouthed verbal diarrhea-spewing Zero Punctuation Ben Croshaw. Thus, he should be given a cartoon avatar of himself.

That's what I think, anyway. Zero Punctuation and Extra Punctuation showcase two very different sides of Yahtzee, and this column should reflect this, too.

icaritos:
Did you just praise MW story while saying HL2's was inferior? Sir be thankful for free speech or i would be obliged to murder you.

On the more serious side, i read both your main points and it essentially boils down to "I'm not shooting stuff, something is wrong!" while it's perfectly fine for you to prefer that kind of gameplay, don't attempt to twist things to match your world view. MW story is mediocre (with the exception of the ending that provided a nice atmosphere, assuming we are talking about MW 1, MW 2 was just a steaming pile of shit story wise), while Half-Life story is much more engaging and with a much better atmosphere.

Simple check, try to separate by plot development the different areas you experienced in the game, this is a good way to tell a story impact. When you think MW you have a bunch of slightly different shooting locations that blend together in a horrible mess, while HF can easily (even by non-fans) be separated and have a clearly stronger impression. Boat section, beginning oppressive city 17, ravenholm, citadel, antlions, it is all much richer and distinct.

You got it all wrong.

First of all - I'm not the 'shooting things is important, the plot is irrelevant' guy. I love the good story in games, and my top 3 games of all time reflect that (Heavy Rain, KotOR II, Planescape Torment). But if the plot is going to work, it must be executed well.

I never said anything abut the quality of the plot. MW story, although quite nice, is still only a political fiction, that would be suitable for a B class movie at best. HL2 story is really good though. But this is story, and I'm talking about storyTELLING. And this is the point where MW shines, while HL2 fails.

In MW, even though there are things that will just happen, and you don't have any control over it, it still feels like you are doing everything you can, and that's just the case of 'shit happens, you did your best, but sometimes it just ends like that' (you crawling on the ground after the nuke went off in MW, or even Roach's last mission in MW2). In HL2 there's also stuff that will happen regardless of your actions, that's normal for EVERY video-game, but in HL2, this is the case of holding you back, because it MUST HAPPEN for the sake of the plot. Gordon could've easily prevent the sad ending of Ep2, if your control over character would be full. You don't have it though, you see that it's just an illusion, and that's why it's frustrating. MW did a damn good job at not breaking that illusion, and that's why Infinity Ward did it better.

Also, don't even try to tell me, that HL2 has a good pace. Just look at the beginning. You're in Orwellian City 17, you're in trouble, but Alyx helps you. So far so good. Then you go to Eli's lab, where you listen, and listen, and listen. Okay, exposition. A little boring, but I can cope with that. And then 'OMIGOD Gordon, the teleportation got fucked up, you need to fight your way through Combine to actually start the plot for real.' Gah, okay. I understand. It was the plot device to get a look at Breen and letting him know that Gordon is in town, although I can think of multiple ways to make that happen better. Nevermind, let's move on. After FINALLY reaching your destination point, it seems like the plot is finally going to sta- oh no wait, the rubble separated us, you need to go through the scary Ravenholm to start it for real. And at this point I was like 'GOD DAMN! THIS SUCKS!' Again, I know it was the introduction of the priest, but come on, there are better ways to do this! I'm not an enemy of a slow pace in games, Heavy Rain, and to lesser extent, KotOR II did that as well, but in those cases it was meaningful (establishing Ethan as a main character and showing his personal tragedy before the main game starts, and then Jayden and Shelby showing both their strong and weak sides [unfortunately, proper Madison introduction got cut, so she felt a little bit bland] and quite slow but interesting mystery about the lifeless mining station + introduction of Sion, Krea and Atton as the characters, respectively). In this case, it felt like Valve were trolls saying 'u can't has the plot u want. U MAD?' And indeed, I was mad. Unfortunately, even though the plot starts later, some of the bad parts remain like a lot of monologues of exposition that could be done in a more interesting way (like through the newspapers. Or maybe through audio-logs Bioshock style, as it was really cool).

On a side note - you must be joking about the boat sections. Other examples - fine. I didn't like Ravenholm, but I get that it could be interesting and/or scary for someone else. Other locations were interesting and making you feel connected with the world, I agree. But the boat sections? Bland, annoying levels with almost zero connections to the plot and the world? Seriously?

Graham Starke is right. Stories weren't any better in the past then they are now. I think they're fundamentally the same. Rise of the Triad vs. Gears of War. Mass Effect 2 vs. Final Fantasy VII. Zelda vs....Zelda?

The major difference between the past and the present is that there's a larger forum of the internet for people to bitch about it.

I have an on again off again relationship with cut scenes. If they're good, I don't mind them at all. If they're crap, well... Devil May Cry 3 was actually one of my favorite uses of cut scenes, though it certainly isn't innocent of some crappy cut scenes. Two aspects I enjoyed in the cut scenes is that 1) There are some actions that Dante performs that he can actually do in game and 2) The over the top acting and action helped to create an unmistakable style.

The first point is not in agreement with Mr. Croshaw's remarks about having cut scenes not show actions that the player can do in game. I am more often annoyed that cut scenes show scenarios that I wish I were playing instead of the game. Starcraft 2 is the most recent violator. I was dying to play their in-game engine cut scenes, especially the parts that occur late in the single player campaign. Instead, I was stuck in omnipotent mode moving toys around a fake battlefield. The pre-Subsistance MGS games were another case. I hated how the cut scenes would show really cool stuff, but I was stuck in a goofy camera angle that limited my ability to feel like I could do anything nearly as fantastic in the game world.

The second point is more of a specific case of "good" cut scenes in Devil May Cry 3. There were definitely some throw away cinematics squeezed in between levels, but other cut scenes were outstanding in their production. I won't argue that this does or doesn't ruin "immersion", as I believe that it is totally a matter of opinion.

Yahtzee's Red Letter Media reference is absolutely spot on in terms of analogy. I really wish I could get into Dragon Age 2, but I just can't.

I can't help but feel like there was much less focus on Story in gaming, and much of talk on "Why Story is Oil & The rest of the game is Water". That aside, pretty much agree with what they said.

It isn't a bad thing to have gameplay and story-line seperated between cutscenes and gameplay, but it does ruin what COULD BE a very good/well-thought out story. If you really think about it, a lot of games out there are either turning the story or gameplay into "filler".

Think of TV shows or anime, some of them are filled with 23 minutes of no-progress, then the random 4 minutes of juicy delicious story-progressing sauce. Some have full episodes of "filler". You've probably seen this too many times in action-heavy games (or others) and not even noticed. God of War II & III is all "Gameplay is happy fun killy time" while the story is kind of filler to more Kill Kill Stab Stab. This doesn't make the game bad, but it makes the story even lesser than it is. At the same time, if the story wasn't there at all, you'd just have another button-mashing senseless killer. All the same.

On the other hand, God of War (If you really want to seperate it, David Jaffe's God of War), did the same formula, but the storyline was captivating, and could somehow make you have an emotional connection with Kratos. Let me remind you that this is the same guy who was considered the most badass character of its year when the game came out. Even killers have tragedies?

One thing that did bother me about Assassin's Creed. Yes, there were story-progressing scenes that had you walking, talking, and doing various things, but there were still scenes where you were on the railroad tracks...what happened? I can't count how many times I was out IN PUBLIC AREAS talking two someone when the guards would pass-by right behind me. Wow, I guess I was invisible...

Heavy Rain is such a unique case to bring up that it has to be on Not-A-Planet Pluto. It isn't going by formula, it isn't all cutscene, yet it is all cutscene. It makes the story THE gameplay, and the actions your cause & effect. Before the game even came out, everybody had question marks hovering over their heads over it. L.A. Noire is another one of those titles. High Hopes?

As for where PURE STORY has gone (ha, on topic), it has progressed but only as much as technology has grown. Still in the age where Nintendo ruled the gaming world (as gaming, NOT sales numbers), and they were still using franchise characters for pure gameplay fun with other various furries. Everybody was still following behind this method. Now we have better technology, can see human expressions like a widescreen close-up in the movies. If anything we are only recently using technology make characters more of "The Face" of the game, than just the object we use to shoot things.

Story will become more of the forefront as we get more successful games to use it better. We can still count notable games on our hands with amazing story:gameplay ratio, we have to get more.

I hole hardheartedly agree with the last comment; with technology as good as it is now, game makers are not allowed to get away with strait forward text bubble dialog seams, and expect the player to immagen how thing are being said, like in a book. But with game makers able to show all parts of the story, they are also able to over tell the games, with JRPG's being the worst. XenoSaga, I got a good 60 hours of gameplay in my first play through, but when I played it agen (skipping most of the cutseens) I only got around 20 hours of game-play. or the most resent FFXIII, were I didn't feel like I was actually playing the game until the last disk, and by then I had stopped caring about the characters.

I think that in most games cutseens are unavoidable, as when your in a situation were you cant do anything anyways, but same games try to get around that with interactive cutseens (PRESS "B" OR YOU DIE!!!) Half-Life 2 is just the kind of game that is useing the set up from the first game made in a time were FPS didn't have much in the way of cutseens, and the main characters did not talk much, or ar all, so they were abule to get away with a mute Gordon Freeman, thus not needing a cutseen other then at the start and end of the game.

But with how good the tech is now a days, I gess the name of the game for story's is "Tell less, show more"

The problem is that they don't consider the limitations we still have now. Maybe not technologically, but in terms of resources.
It's a little more difficult than it sounds to program the character doing something else while they're carrying on a conversation. And even if they are doing something else, too much business makes the scene about that, not about the conversation.
For example, take Mass Effect. Let's say you're having a conversation with Garrus as he's fidling with his rifle. If that went on, the scene would become about the rifle, and you'd completely lose track of the conversation.
It's actually a part of the film industry. Actors who get too busy with a prop are not good actors. Unless it's about the prop.
And not every conversation can be made walking down a hallway, since the timing with which you respond may not match the time it takes to travel said hallway. So those conventions don't necessarily work in the favor of the narrative.
So the way Bioware has it now, I'd say, is as good as we can get. And yes, they could give you a time limit on your responses. But do you honestly want a time limit on your responses in Mass Effect? They do decide some crucial things, so they allow you to consider the consequences.

The problem I have with discussions about video game storylins is that everyone who has a problem with conventional cinematics thinks they have the ultimate answer for the way storytelling in games should be done. Well, frankly, I don't consider "always letting you have control" or silent hero games to be the best solution. Like Half-Life... I mean, it's one possible convention for storytelling. But personally, I don't like it, and have no interest in the game. I like main characters with personality, and are vocal about it. Not ALL games have to be that way, but last I checked, I saw no problem with games like Uncharted, and its cutscenes.

Everyone has their preference, and that's why there is no "solution" for game storytelling. Take Metal Gear Solid, for example. MGS is known to have some long ass cutscenes. But the first MGS game has time and again been acclaimed to be one of the best the PS1 had to offer. And heck, the other MGS games did too, for their respective platforms. What does that mean? It means that all games should have cinematics as long as Metal Gear Solid.... I'm kidding. No, it doesn't, but I bet that kind of a statement could really infuriate some people. My point is, long drawn out cutscenes are a key part of what Metal Gear Solid is. So let MGS be MGS. Some people don't like it, they don't have to play it.
I didn't like the narrative style of Bioshock. I didn't complain about it, I just moved on to a different game. It's that simple.

There's nothing wrong with how the narrative is told in Fallout, or Mass Effect, or Metal Gear Solid, or Heavy Rain, or Bioshock. They're just very different styles of narratives. There are plenty of people out there for each, so I don't see why someone needs to dictate, "Video Game storytelling should be like this."

Where did James go?
Ideally, I'd have this panel be slightly longer; only four things after waiting to weeks :( - and have James, Shamus and Yahtzee as the most regular contributors, with the others coming in and out to talk about this stuff as well.

Hmph, when James died in Fallout 3 all I thought was "Well that was a waste of time".

So Yahtzee is pro Skyrim apparently, since he described what Skryim says its going to try to do. That is to say, real time conversations.
Maybe we should make developers play Dungeons and Dragons as a DM. I now realize being a Dungeon Master is the same as a developer, but I can modify and change in real time, since its personal. Constantly I try to give my players an amazing story, but making them involved. Ofcourse, there are no cutscenes, so the players can just attack my monologue giving villian anytime.

Totally with you guys on this one. Not only was the story of the HL universe great, but the way it was told was excellent as well. Interesting discussion guys!

constantcompile:
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?

I vote for combining kill-watch into Kwatch. That way when we get a game with too many cut scenes we can say that the game needs to be shot wight in the Kwatch.

Miral:
Alpha Protocol is a leading candidate for the exact opposite: your choices matter more in that game than in most others.

The vast majority of the dialogue options in that game affect whether you talk like a douche, a likeable douche, or a clever douche, but you usually end up saying basically the same thing.

ImprovizoR:
Boy am I glad these guy aren't in charge of gaming industry. I love cutscenes and I think free roaming games can have good stories. GTA, Assassin's Creed and MAFIA come to mind. Seriously, they didn't mention Mafia? The characters, the story progression and character development, the pacing slowly building up to a grand finale? And they didn't even mention it?!

I love cutscenes too! Just because I make fun of them doesn't mean I hate them :D

But seriously, what I said was sandbox gameplay opposes a good story. You may like the story in GTA IV (I thought it was very 1-dimensional myself, but whatever), but nothing you do in gameplay really affects it. All the cutscenes together might make an interesting movie about an immigrant rising the crime ranks, but as a story-telling medium sandbox games are useless because there's too much choice for the gamer.

Someone else in the thread mentioned an instance where in the plot Nico is trying to keep a low-profile, but in the game he's running over pedestrian and blowing up helicopters. This is an example of the gameplay and story being at odds.

A sandbox game must be open and non-linear. Stories aren't, so forcing a non-linear experience around a linear narrative will always feel contrived.

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.

Can't say as I much care for you either, friend.

I think you missed the part where I said I rarely get to play games. And I buy all my own games too, but thanks for making assumptions.

As to a real response, not everyone does like getting locked into a given choice, but regardless, I never said it was bad, just something I tend to bent out of shape about.
All I said was that I liked how Alpha Protocol did it, not that all games should. Alpha Protocol had issues, for sure, but getting my choice of how the character responds from a "tone of voice" aspect is a neat idea. I like it more than "I WILL DO THE GOOD THING" or "I WILL DO THE BAD THING", and it helps the designer move the story forward in one direction, while still giving the player input.

Because the question was about storytelling in games, not what kind of dialogue trees are better.

I really have to disagree with Graham. Having different dialog choices have different options in the story is great. It means that me and my friends wont have the exact same play though, and it also means that the complete game map will be delayed a bit longer online than in other more linear games.

Bottom line, if your going to include a story, dynamic elements based on how characters interact is a GOOD thing. I hope the games that have started this never stop.

This is the type of thing that extra credits has been pointing towards in a lot of there episodes. Remember the one part in ME2 were James sat pondering whether to mind wipe, or kill the geth? Its good when games have to make us think for a change and not just button mash though pointless dialog trees with no meaning. (Why put them in in the first place?)

Could a game with no cutscenes, such as an fps in which you run from fight to fight while hearing the dialouge being spoken from your squad be successful?

What not to do
imageAlthough I loved how Splinter Cell had you

in co-op. Besides the confusing plot it was a pretty good story.
Metal gear solid 4 had an epic ending but most of it was just O.o wut? I was really young when I played that game though... I wish the story had made the game-play more tense and immerse me though.

Man, PST was awesome...

[prepares to play it again]

Graham_LRR:
[quote="Miral" post="6.272083.10491091"]Can't say as I much care for you either, friend.

I think you missed the part where I said I rarely get to play games. And I buy all my own games too, but thanks for making assumptions.

As to a real response, not everyone does like getting locked into a given choice, but regardless, I never said it was bad, just something I tend to bent out of shape about.
All I said was that I liked how Alpha Protocol did it, not that all games should. Alpha Protocol had issues, for sure, but getting my choice of how the character responds from a "tone of voice" aspect is a neat idea. I like it more than "I WILL DO THE GOOD THING" or "I WILL DO THE BAD THING", and it helps the designer move the story forward in one direction, while still giving the player input.

Because the question was about storytelling in games, not what kind of dialogue trees are better.

I like you quite a bit more now. :) Thank you for being accessible, seeing you on here has put an unreasonably large smile on my face. I still disagree with you, but I love that you came on here to defend/clarify your point. I am also sorry about how I came off, I was pissed about something else and never thought it would actually reach anybody. Once again +1 for being rad.

So, peripheral storytelling through the environment is the way to go?

I agree that story should go hand-in-hand with gameplay, but that goes to if the design of the game starts with the story in mind e.g. Heavy Rain, Half Life, Alan Wake, The Darkness.

Littlee300:
What not to do
imageAlthough I loved howS plinter Cell had you

in co-op. I think I liked co-op's campaign more which is ironic because it had 10 times less work.
Metal gear solid 4 had an epic ending but most of it was just O.o wut? I was really young when I played that game though... I wish the story had made the game-play more tense and immerse me though.

That one bit in SC Conviction when Fisher sees the words on the walls to show his emotions, and then go super marksman badass was the best moment of storytelling because you're now playing in Sam's crazy anger mode. And the ending where you're walking as Grimsdottir drags you to the President's office where Reed is. So effective.

GiantRaven:

Iron Lightning:
The only point of having dialogue options is to allow the player to make significant choices that affect the story.

What? There is only one function of dialogue within a story? Do you not find that idea somewhat limiting?

No, you misunderstand me, I said that is the only point of dialogue options. If the dialogue options have no effect on the story then there's no point in having dialogue options at all.

I have no problem with linear storytelling, but if a game goes to the trouble of including dialogue options then they'd better have a point.

Yossarian1507:

icaritos:
Snippity

Snip

As this exchange shows, I think another problem with games in terms of storytelling is there often appears to be a bit of a dischord between Narrative and Worldbuilding and I think Yossarian had it right when he said MW2 told a better story. For a games stroy to do well, it must strike a balance between the two and sadly a lot of games don't.

Great Worldbuilding, Poor Narrative: Half Life 2, Oblivion. Both of these games build up a great world with a fantastic backstory through different methods. HL2 does it by showing you the aftermath of the attack and through peoples casaul conversations and Oblivion by have mountains of books and documents you could hunt down and read. Sadly, the narrative in both is lacking. In HL2 its poorly paced (Boat section stands out here) and you as Gordon Freeman has no real motivation to do anything other then "Someone told me too". Oblivion has the same problem most sandbox games have in that the main narrative gets lost in amongst all the background noise of additional plots and quests.

Great Narrative, Poor Worldbuilding: Modern Warfare, Final Fantasy VIII. Both of these games have a strong, well paced narrative with consistent motivations for the player characters. MW does mainly does this by keeping you within the military structure (so railroading you a bit) while giving you enough information at the beginning of each mission so you know why you have to do what you're told to do. However, outside of the current mission, the rest of the story and background information goes largly untold. In FFVIII, you again have consistant and changing motivations (Following orders -> saving a loved one -> saving the world) and a well paced narrative that keeps upping the ante while providing breathers from the action. Sadly, a lot of the backstory and world history is never shown or poorly explained giving you little context for what you're doing.

Great Narrative, Great Worldbuiling: Bioshock, Final Fantasy XIII (Hear me out). Both of htese games manage to strike a balance by having a good narrative while also building up the world around you. In Bioshock, there is successful worldbuilding and backstory through showing the ruins of what was and combining it with the audio diaries to help give it all context. Inside of this it has a good narrative through a believable motivation alongside good pacing and well rounded characters. In Final Fantasy XIII, the narrative weaves between different characters and locations constantly helping to keep things fresh and interesting while combining it with a slight deconstruction of the standard Hero's Journey. It builds up the world using exposition, visual clues and through a comprehensive (though slightly unecessary) encyclopedia.

While each person has a preference in games (personally I prefer a strong narrative over freedom) game makers need to work on getting the balance better overall.

I don't really understand why people are so bent out of shape about cutscenes. I mean, as long as you can skip past them if you don't want to see them for whatever reason. Half-Life 2 imposes it's story on me by making characters I don't care about go through their exposition in a locked room and refusing to open the door until they were done talking. Which was made worse by Half-Life 2 having a story that was pretty damn dull. I actually find the latter to be worse.

Graham_LRR:

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.

Can't say as I much care for you either, friend.

I think you missed the part where I said I rarely get to play games. And I buy all my own games too, but thanks for making assumptions.

As to a real response, not everyone does like getting locked into a given choice, but regardless, I never said it was bad, just something I tend to bent out of shape about.
All I said was that I liked how Alpha Protocol did it, not that all games should. Alpha Protocol had issues, for sure, but getting my choice of how the character responds from a "tone of voice" aspect is a neat idea. I like it more than "I WILL DO THE GOOD THING" or "I WILL DO THE BAD THING", and it helps the designer move the story forward in one direction, while still giving the player input.

Because the question was about storytelling in games, not what kind of dialogue trees are better.

It sucks that that guy was so offensive to you, but you have to understand that not many people are going to agree with you (and have already said so). Know that I, for one, understand your dilemma, though I don't agree with your opinion itself.

That being said.... you get to play video games for a living (in some capacity), a lifestyle any of us would kill to have. Pardon us for not agreeing to the perceived unfairness of your situation, man.

Lastly and OT: I will say that, if a game offers choices that can potentially lock out parts of the game: It should be perfectly, crystal clear about these outcomes. It might not always be "realistic" that way, (since we can't always know the outcomes of our choices from the get go irl) it is for the best, I believe.
Bethesda games are usually not very good at doing this; though Bioware is, in my experience. Can't say about Alpha Protocol as I never played it.

Moeez:
That one bit in SC Conviction when Fisher sees the words on the walls to show his emotions, and then go super marksman badass was the best moment of storytelling because you're now playing in Sam's crazy anger mode.

Definitely agree with this. That was the BEST use of gameplay to portray emotion that I have ever seen, pushing the Batman Arkham Asylum "Trip down Crime Alley sequence" into a close second.

Wow, Graham and Shamus?? You're really getting everybody in one place, maybe a 6 person live podcast would be something?
But this is just mean, only having 2 pages. We need more!!

Strange, I found MGS4 to be much more immersive and replayable than HL2. Cutscenes make sense when an unpreventable plot element is actually taking place in games with no cutscenes you struggle through a level as the plot is told around you. You defeat the mighty dragon and rescue the princess, only to have a glass box dropped on you whilst the evil sorceror drops down gloats at you and kills the princess. Of course once the princess is dead and the sorceror gone the box falls apart like wet cereal. It makes the main character look retarded and the game designer look unimaginative.

The example that most sticks in my mind is from fallout 3. I have no idea how to make spoiler tags, I'll attempt them though

Lastly cutscenes are mostly skippable whereas there's not usually much you can do to skip playing during a speech.

Graham_LRR:

Miral:
Alpha Protocol is a leading candidate for the exact opposite: your choices matter more in that game than in most others.

The vast majority of the dialogue options in that game affect whether you talk like a douche, a likeable douche, or a clever douche, but you usually end up saying basically the same thing.

End even the choice between types of 'douche' DOES matter in this game, thanks to the sympathy points. Grigori, the Russian informant for example. If you'll be aggressive, then obviously there's no way in hell he's going to help you, after you literally beat the informations out of him. If you'll be professional, he won't care much about you. He'll give you the info you want, but also he'll tell Surkov about you, because hey - money. But if you're suave, then he likes your guts, and doesn't inform Surkov which means easier next mission for you. Marburg pisses you off, and you want to kill him? Suave his ass off, so he'll hate you so much, he'll decide to stay in Rome instead of running, after the fight went bad for him. OR go the very alternative way:

And those are only two example. If Leland won't like your guts in the dialogs, he won't even propose switching sides to you. I can go on, and on (I'm a self proclaimed Alpha Protocol Fan Club leader :P), but the bottom line is - every dialog is relevant in Alpha Protocol. It's not a Bioware's typical 'choose Paragon to be nice, Renegade to be a dick, but the outcome is the same but in a slightly, irrelevant way' (funnily enough, DA II seemed to copy the sympathy points, which was a GREAT upgrade after shamefully bad approve/dissaprove system).

ThisIsSnake:
Lastly cutscenes are mostly skippable whereas there's not usually much you can do to skip playing during a speech.

Graham_LRR:
I love cutscenes too! Just because I make fun of them doesn't mean I hate them :D

I firmly believe that cutscenes that have actual relevance (be it involving action or story), they shouldn't be blatantly ignored. If you skip a cutscene the first time it plays, what's the point in playing the damn game? You're usually missing a meaty chunk of story (and the like)!

This doesn't mean I think cutscenes should be Unskippable! (New episodes every Monday at The Escapist! Pluuuuug~) Far from it! Personally, I like how some games seem to do it where the first time a scene is played, you can't skip it. After that has played once and you're either on a second playthrough or you died soon after and had to return to a save point before it? Definitely, skip away! You've seen the cutscene, so you know what happens.

Graham_LRR:
I love cutscenes too! Just because I make fun of them doesn't mean I hate them :D

But seriously, what I said was sandbox gameplay opposes a good story. You may like the story in GTA IV (I thought it was very 1-dimensional myself, but whatever), but nothing you do in gameplay really affects it. All the cutscenes together might make an interesting movie about an immigrant rising the crime ranks, but as a story-telling medium sandbox games are useless because there's too much choice for the gamer.

Someone else in the thread mentioned an instance where in the plot Nico is trying to keep a low-profile, but in the game he's running over pedestrian and blowing up helicopters. This is an example of the gameplay and story being at odds.

A sandbox game must be open and non-linear. Stories aren't, so forcing a non-linear experience around a linear narrative will always feel contrived.

I wasn't actually talking about GTA IV. Everything about that game was mediocre at best. I was referring to GTA 3 era (GTA 3, VC, SA, LCS, VCS). That's when GTA made more sense but it didn't actually take itself very seriously like GTA IV. San Andreas is a perfect example. I still think you need stories in games like GTA. When you feel like causing mayhem you can run around shooting things for no reason, and when you feel like engaging yourself in the story you can do that. And in GTA, story progression always opened up more land to explore, more vehicles, more weapons etc. So the game rewarded you for progressing through the story by allowing you even more freedom, making sure you don't get bored. And it was fun to play through these stories. I can't count how many times I played through Vice City and San Andreas because I really enjoyed the story progression and crazy characters, and because causing mayhem for no reason gets old after a while.

But that's just me I guess. I really like all of my games to have a meaningful story. There are a few games that don't need stories, like Just Cause 2. And I clocked more hours in it than I did in most free roaming games. But I would still like it better if it had a good story.

hey, maybe we should have all of them eh? shamus and graham both did pretty good.

Blackhawk670:
Could a game with no cutscenes, such as an fps in which you run from fight to fight while hearing the dialouge being spoken from your squad be successful?

yahtzee actually wrote a script for a game like that, its on his website. i suggest you give it a read, i for one would give my soul and various other parts to see it made.

Graham Stark:
Shamus, I don't think gaming's stories WERE better in the past. I think they're the exact same now, but more of it is laid bare for us with useless cutscenes and wooden acting, and because we're not having to use our imagination to fill in the gaps, we're realizing how lame the stories really are.

Fascinating. This is an interesting idea and probably a very good assessment. Incidentally it puts into words exactly how I feel about neo-Doctor Who versus classic Doctor Who, and now that I think about it probably explains my fading interest in so many games nowadays.

Extra Consideration:
Graham Stark: "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."

I picked the "wrong" answer a game recently. I screwed up. It had the most heart-breaking consequence I've ever experienced in a game and, despite how I felt at that time, I love the game's developers for including that option.

I just fail to see why people even mention Half-Life 2 when talking about story. It is indeed a wonderful game, but it's story... it doesn't even have any. I mean, besides fighting a few hundred battles, what happens to Mr. Freeman? Arrives to City17, is told to meet some doctor at location A, by the time he gets there the doctor is gone, so he's sent to location B, then likewise, to location C, where the game ends. Is this a story, really?

Sure, there's some background, you get to know a bit about what happened to _other_ people, but nothing ever happens to the lead character. This is not interactive storytelling, this is pure gameplay with no story, plus some independent stories told non-interactively. No problem with that, the gameplay is great, just don't praise it for its story.

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