The Story

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Graham's avatar looks creepy, it kind of has the expression I think some guy who was filming porn for the first time would have. Hotpocket.

That's how this post ends.

There's room in this world for Half Life 2/Bioshock/Metroid Prime as well as Metal Gear Solid, Okami, Heavy Rain, Shadow of the Colossus and Limbo. Nothing needs "improving" in terms of what kind of story presentation style gaming takes; there's just different ways of doing things and all can be excellent if the core elements of storytelling are well done, and even THAT'S subjective based on the object of the game itself. Cutscenes, QTEs, first-person views, minimalism, what have you, what form the story takes is irrelevant as long as the emotions are conveyed.

(incoming rage)

I'm so sick of hearing how gaming needs to "be itself" and "quit copying movies/books/whatever" and other crap; it already IS itself as a result of being an amalgam of so many other media forms, with the element of interactivity and fun. I'm sick of Half Life 2 beign brought up as this thing that every game story has to strive to be. I love that I can have desolate, quiet, first-person Tallon IV right next to busy, chatty, movie-wannabe Kamurocho on my shelf, and they don't have to compete for my attention because I love both equally on their own merits.

If you MUST talk of "improving" things, let's talk nitty gritty details, not bring up some old ass game as an example of what the industry needs to "evolve" into, because no, Half Life 2 is NOT perfect, and it's not the only way to tell a story in a game.

Though none of that (or any of what I said at all, honestly) matters at all because in the end, much like movies and music and books, those who want to be SRSBSNS about the ART! of gaming will do what they want, and those who want to do nothing but blow shit up will do what they want, and EVERYONE WINS.

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

Yea, I have to agree with you and Graham: if it's a sandbox game you're making, concentrate less on a complex story and more on atmosphere and rewarding exploration.
The pretentious and sentimental stories that have become a part of GTA and Fallout this gen are either unnecessary and/or don't really work. I couldn't buy Niko trying to escape his past when I'm driving on the sidewalk lobbing grenades out the window. It made more sense with my Dr Girlfriend character I made for Saints Row2. Even San Andreas (which I love) would've made more sense to me if I had played as Catlina rather than CJ who reeked of pussy.

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. 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.

I'm sorry Graham, but you're totally in the minority on this one. Dialogue trees SHOULD impact the game, and there should be certain content that you have to replay the game and say/do something different in order to see.

I know this screws over game reviewers who have to churn through dozens of titles and only get to revisit a bare handful, but the majority of us play and replay the hell out of the few games we buy; branching content like this adds concrete replay value, which translates to bang for our gaming buck. Bioware, Bethesda et al. are doing the right thing by using this tool.

It's a small price to pay for making the players feel like their choices actually matter, which I think is more important than any completionist anxiety that may result.

i dont understand why HL2 is held up as an example by every blue faced preacher of supposedly "good" storytelling. HL2 was fine but i doubt it was - by any stretch of the imagination - the best way. it's a trial and error method, if developers don't try different things then how in hell will they find anything better? I find people who preach that HL2 is the ONLY way to deliver narrative to be as short sighted as Lord Kelvin in the jackie chan movie "Around the world in 80 days" when he said "Everything worth discovering, has already been discovered!"

Hey Yahtzee, have you ever played a game called Breakdown? It was the first game I've seen (and still only) that never left a first person view, you had control in most cutscenes, NPC's would get annoyed if you walked away when they talked an people talked when you walked up to them, and to this day I've never seen anything like it, it had most of the mechanics you mention and it kept you involved. For some reason, the game sold REALLY Shittily and I don't know why.

Also, to Graham, I don't see why you need to be scared of choices, choices happen in life, you make a choice and stick to it, don't feel bad about it later if something unpredictable happens, move on and learn what could've been done better next time, you'll know now, even if you never play the game again.

I do agree people seem to prefer an older medium of telling a story though.

I find it ironic and troubling that yahtzee says he enjoys it when story is told from the game-play or environment, yet bashes Halo for lack of one.

The AMAZING part of Halo's story is told this way, fromt the broken bodies, audio logs, and atomspehere in ODST, to the easter eggs and ARG's in the main series.

That, and the books, of course.

Look, people keep bringing up Half-Life 2's cutscene-less approach as if somehow every game should start taking that approach. As if Valve intentionally created a template they wanted everyone to use. That is not true. The whole thing with the way Half-Life 2 never leave's Gordon's perspective is that it's a thematic choice, as much as anything. I mentioned this in another thread, but I'll bring it up here as well, as I feel it is apt:

The whole thing with Half-Life 2 is that Gordon is not free to make his own choices. His surname is Freeman, but ironically he is not free in any way at all. He is at the mercy of the G-Man, a seemingly omnipotent being who can manifest anytime and place, and he is unable to fulfil any objectives other than those that the G-Man gives him, or objectives given to him by others in pursuit of the G-Man's objectives. Gordon Freeman is the ultimate puppet, unable to make any kind of choice of his own. The voiceless, cutscene-free approach to the game's story cements this: The voice is one the greatest tools we have for displaying our own wants and ideas, and Gordon is denied this. He is robbed of the one thing that would let him exert his own true will in the world, and thus remains a puppet to thos who pull his strings (The G-Man and, at a higher level, the player). It's the same with how he is powerless to do anything when a set-piece happens: The G-Man wants Gordon to be a tool of force, a blunt instrument like a hammer. Therefore, all Gordon can do in the game is shoot things. As soon as any action comes along where shooting isn't the answer, he is unable to do anything, because as a puppet he lacks the power to do so.

This is why I get annoyed at people who think Half-Life 2's approach should be emulated for all games. Half-Life 2 had a very specific set of themes and symbols which allowed Valve to pursue this kind of narrative approach. This doesn't mean that all games should go for this approach. In fact, that would be a terrible course. Instead of a medium with the potential for all kinds of interesting stories, gaming would become a medium of mute protaganists.

There is no one single way to tell a good story in a game, just as there is no one single way to do so in a book, or a film. Yahtzee mentions that he prefers the world itself to tell the story. That's a good approach, but it only works for particular games: generally, games with wide open, often apocalyptic landscapes where there aren't too many NPCs to bother you (and strangely enough, Half-Life 2, Silent Hill 2 and Fallout 3 all fall under that umbrella). How would that approach work in a game set in bustling mid-20th Century New York, or on a thriving off-world colony? Sure, creating cues in the landscape could help set up the context, but stories are more than just context, and games are more than just their levels. If I'm playing as a gangster in New York city, I would expect story information to come from other characters in the game, not for me to go rooting for newspapers to try and find out what the hell is going on. A narrative is a constantly changing, twisting beast, and there is no one single way to best create it.

People tend to argue over whether gameplay should serve cutscenes and story, or whether cutscenes should serve gameplay. The one thing people forget is that both those things are in service to something else: creating an emotional response in the player. If a game uses a lot of cutscenes, but manages to have the player in tears at its end, then it has succeeded. If a game uses no cutscenes, but has elicited no emotional response from the player, then it has failed. We need to stop bickering over which method is best, admit that all methods (when used with maturity and responsibility) are valid, and instead look to how we can better include thematic and symbolic content in our game stories.

Because that is where games truly fall over. We have yet to master the art of creating narratives that are more than just the sum of their events, and that have deep thematic content. There are games that have achieved that, but they are so few and far between as to be considered flukes. We need to focus on that, and realise that any form of interactive storytelling, be it cutscene or gameplay-based, can help us achieve that goal. Until we do, game stories simply aren't worth the time we spoend arguing over them.

Neogeta:
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.

Well hey, thanks. I appreciate that a lot. Thanks for also being cool, despite our differing opinions.

ImprovizoR:
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.

Oh! Well then you and I completely agree because San Andreas was outstanding.

GrizzlerBorno:
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.

I respect that, and appreciate what you're saying. Understand though, that I don't get to play game for a living. At all. I play way, way less games now that before we started working for the Escapist. I can see how that's your perception of it though. We don't play more than 15 minutes of most games we use for Unskippable.

In no way am I trying to act victimized or anything so stupid--I know I'm super lucky to have an amazing job doing what I love, but it's a job making videos, not playing games. I just beat Dead Rising 2 last week. That's how far behind I am.

Graham_LRR:

GrizzlerBorno:
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.

I respect that, and appreciate what you're saying. Understand though, that I don't get to play game for a living. At all. I play way, way less games now that before we started working for the Escapist. I can see how that's your perception of it though. We don't play more than 15 minutes of most games we use for Unskippable.

In no way am I trying to act victimized or anything so stupid--I know I'm super lucky to have an amazing job doing what I love, but it's a job making videos, not playing games. I just beat Dead Rising 2 last week. That's how far behind I am.

If...If it makes you feel any better, I'm just polishing off New Vegas (and loving the drastic implications of your dialogue choices; sorry)?......but, no wait; sorry scratch that, I burned through Bulletstorm last weekend, sorry :(

Anyway, I apologize profusely for my mistaken assumptions and I'm glad you get to do what you enjoy doing for a living, which, a lot of people would still...well, you know.....

On a friendlier note: May I recommend Bulletstorm? It doesn't have much Unskippable value (no tangible intro, see?) but it is moderately short (not "brown-FPS" short though), very entertaining, and a real kicker to boot.

(If you know the primary gimmick of that game, the intended pun should be obvious)

Graham_LRR:
I respect that, and appreciate what you're saying. Understand though, that I don't get to play game for a living. At all. I play way, way less games now that before we started working for the Escapist. I can see how that's your perception of it though. We don't play more than 15 minutes of most games we use for Unskippable.

In no way am I trying to act victimized or anything so stupid--I know I'm super lucky to have an amazing job doing what I love, but it's a job making videos, not playing games. I just beat Dead Rising 2 last week. That's how far behind I am.

Hurm. Long, long ago, I dipped my toe into freelance video game reviewing for awhile back when the PS1 was still going strong. I can sympathize.

I did like that you mentioned this:

Graham_LRR:
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.

I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

I was watching the Gamespot review of Duodecim and, in the review, they mentioned that the story is pretty blah. I made the comment that I have FF 1-2, Mystic Quest, 4-10 and 12-13 and Dissidia's storyline is really no better or worse than the other FFs. I remember when the fans were practically writing the life histories of the Street Fighters (until the anime came along and threw a bucket of ice water on the theories that Chun-li and Ryu were star-crossed lovers) and how the mysterious Sheng Long fit into all of it.

These days, we do have less to speculate on during the game and the ingame story often doesn't live up to the stories/life histories that gamers used to concoct in their heads. It's no wonder that we're often a little let down by the story.

Where is this week's Extra Punctuation, Yahtzee?

On topic though, I agree with Graham on this topic and I also think his voice has the most weight here because of Unskippable.

I still think that certain parts of Half-Life are basically forced cutscenes with a bad camera angle and I disagree with Yahtzee in wanted to be able to move around whilst talking. Just having the choice is distracting and it reminds you that in real life they'd respond if you weren't looking at them.

That said the way dialogue trees are currently done is even worse. I think the problem comes from the shopping list. Otherwise they could have the dialogue trees whilst something visually even a tiny bit interesting happened. At least during important moments.

And I think you were all missing some big places stories could go. Atmosphere stories, like Silent Hill, Bioshock and Half-Life are all good and amazing but that's not the only thing that can happen either. Just because you have stories that focus on setting doesn't mean that's the only way.

Good games really think and manipulate the choice you have. Uncharted 2 was getting very good at it and One Chance the flash game (if you haven't played it, go now!) is a fantastic example of how well the medium works at telling stories. Everyone whose played Heavy Rain knows the shear mechanics of the thing managed to elevate quite an awful story (even Yahtzee recognised that in his awards thing)

The best bits of MGS' story all come from clever little combinations of story and game. I think we need to be freer with genre and what players can do. Recognise there are different levels of interaction that can all be appropriate in the same game and really work with them. The nuke scene in CoD4 is another great example. As is the bit in Heavy Rain where you can shoot someone, but you can just never pull the trigger if that's not a choice you want to make

You know, probably my favorite in game story was that of Red Dead Redemption, but it was BECAUSE it was open world that it worked. John Marston's out-of-cutscene attitude was strong enough that just dicking around in the sandbox still furthered characterization.

Yahtzee, you may just get that kind of dialogue in Skyrim. :P
And I had to laugh at Graham's caricature.
"I don't play GTA for the pathos, I play it for the stealing cars and the running down elderly pedestrians." LOL.
But anyway, on topic. I totally agree (who doesn't?) with how cutscenes are misused by game developers. Though I admit I quite liked how in Assassins Creed II you could often opt in to an (entirely optional) quicktime event during dialogue, where if you pressed the right button at the right time you'd get a few extra lines of dialogue, often humorous. It gives you interactivity without compromising flow, unlike all those games which let you sit for hours mulling over what dialogue option you'll say.
And story - almost always what I play a game for. Except for games that are just pure epic like the Assassins Creed series, Crysis, and perhaps Prototype.
So it's very important to me that the story is done right; that it's not mind-bogglingly confusing, or unbelievable or unengaging. So few games fit the criteria for a good story - and the cutscenes rarely help this.
Still, I believe there's hope yet; game development teams are getting ever larger, and just maybe they'll get some sane writers onboard sooner or later.

Half-Life 2 was remarkable that for a purely linear game, it never felt restrictive. You followed exactly the path that the developers laid out for you, but it always feels like you choose that path.

Hah, I don't agree with anything any of the three people said in this. Funny. :)

I love cutscenes when done well, it makes the character come alive for me. When all the characters do is go through the standard animations of movement, they feel too much like puppets to me. That's why I love the cutscenes in for example ME2. While talking the characters sit down, walk around, grab things off tables etc. It makes it all feel a lot more organic.

Also wanted to mention how strongly I disagree with the point of choices in games, I think it's good that sometimes a single choice can lead to a situation you didn't want (ie a character dying). If none of your actions would have consequences, what would be the point?

Incomprehensible to me is the lack of criticism aimed at Homefront. That story is ludicrous, demonizing, and insulting to intelligence. I have searched in vain for someone from The Escapist, GameSpot, IGN, PC Gamer, X-Play, CVG, etc., to ask an obvious rhetorical question: How is North Korea, a bankrupt gulag full of wretched, starving political prisoners, supposed to invade and occupy America? I made this point in another forum, and some angry man (boy?) replied, "Because. It's. FICTION." Maybe his Internet shouting explains why video game stories are consistently terrible... Dishonest cliches about psychopathic super-soldiers are good enough to meet low expectations. Stories driven by sympathetic characters possessed of humanity (and all its faults) are probably unprofitable.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.269298-296-On-the-Front-Lines#10339199

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.269298-296-On-the-Front-Lines#10343494

I like what Yahtzee mentioned about moving around and doing things in conversation. It's true, people don't just stand there staring at each other, they move around and fiddle with stuff. I remember the first Mercenaries game did this actually. While the United Na...sorry, Allied Nations commander was telling you about where to go find the artillery to blow up or whatever, you could walk around the room fiddling with televisions or maps or the vending machine. If I recall, you could mess with the dude at the Mafia HQ and the guy would keep swatting your hand. I'd just sit there the entire conversation trying to poke him, seeing if he would eventually get up and stab me or something.

The only thing that bugged me about that game was that they had the EXACT same HQ's in both locations. It's like they built them perfectly to scale in a new place. Oh, and falling in water killed you. That was retarded. Otherwise an awesome game.

This is a greta topic and one ive been wrestling with some time. I come from a background in filmmaking and script development but I've been a gamer since i bought a Microbee hand-build kit in 1983 and played Defender till my fingers cramped.

To my mind one of the primary problematic elements is the word 'Game' itself - one banal (and diminutive) word to describe an artform and screen-experience that spans from Tetris to Bioshock. I think Narrative and Gaming are a fantastic combo (when done well and I agree with the panel that halfLife 2 has not been bettered for seamless integration) but this is not to say that ALL of the stuff we call games need or deserve narratives. This is a topic I have written about in a post entitled "From Sandpit to Cinema: Charting the spectrum of Story vs Narrative"

http://www.mikejones.tv/journal/2010/6/12/from-sandpit-to-cinema-charting-the-spectrum-of-story-vs-nar.html

Also "Video game Taxonomies"

http://www.mikejones.tv/video-game-taxonomy/

This is trying to think through what the difference is between a Story and a Narrative. the idea that Tetris has a Story, written by the player as they play - a journey from start to end full of obstacles and challenges. But that this is not the same as the Narrative of a game like Bioshock - which is a delicate and sophisticated orchestration of events - a narrative that is Authored and passively Narrated.

Once we've made that separation we can start talking about Narrative-Gaming without clouding the debate with games that do not have or need to have such a narrative - narrow the field so to speak. Within this I think the key element missing from game Narratives is Subtext. After writing an article on Screenplay subtext in film and Tv I was prompted to turn the same critical thinking to gaming and wrote a piece called "Unearthing the subtext in game narrative"

http://www.mikejones.tv/journal/2011/2/28/unearthing-the-subtext-in-game-narrative.html

The macro perspective I take in regard Game Narratives is that too often the discussion around gaming and its relationship with traditional media (namely film) has too much 'baby out with the bathwater' about it. There tends to be a rather ignorant and arrogant stand that gaming is a Revolution of Story, that the old 'rules' don't apply, that Game storytelling is all different and unique. And I just cant buy that, simply because there is no precedent for it. Narrative Gaming is an Evolution of storytelling NOT a Revolution. its just the latest in a long history of evolution. Cinema didn't' revolutionise storytelling form the theatre - it just added new vocabulary and form. Likewise Radio dramas didn't revolutionise Story, and why humans like Dramatic Story, they just did it with a different set of tools.

Thus what i find disappointing in many game narratives is they ignore or are ignorant of the long standing principles of what makes a Story Compelling for a viewer/player. A fear too often we get shirty with Game Narrative as somehow incompatible with the medium instead of seeing such game Narratives for what they are - bad Storytelling.

Thanks for a great discussion and i look forward to reading more.

Cheers
Mike Jones
www.mikejones.tv

rembrandtqeinstein:
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.

I totally agree. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: SoC is hands down my complete favorite game for that exact reason.

You couldn't have said it better.

I might add though, that another standout in Stalker SOC was the incredible atmosphere. Fallout 3 attempted it, but they only succeeded in making a shadow of the atmosphere of Stalker.

Seriously they didn't even need atmosphere. It could have just been a generic shooter - it had all the elements - zombies, trogs, and just normal shooty dudes.

But no, they managed to make all that feel like a gripping, agonizing fight for bare survival in a terror-filled wasteland stalked by unimaginable evils.

Again, atmosphere?

And in the end, that's how the whole game was. Even the ending sequence with you wandering through the sarcophagus... That creepy russian? HIVE MIND droning away at you from INSIDE YOUR HEAD!!!
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: SoC wins.

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.

Well, true, but the same is true of most dialogue-based games. There are, however, quite a few significant points where your attitude can make you friends or enemies, or even get someone killed. And the order in which you do the missions can sometimes make quite a big difference.

Graham_LRR:
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.

You should love Dragon Age II, then. Its dialogue system is all about that sort of thing. :)

Wonder how Yahtzee feels about the "dialogue tree" treatment in Heavy Rain. It was almost exactly like what he suggested.

You know, this column would be great with Yahtzee, Shamus, Graham, and James. <-- Nobody excluded accidentally.

That was a great read.

I completly agree with what Graham said, and for the most part it was what I hated about Dragon Age 2. Dragon Age: Origins left more to the imagination with the silent character. In DA2 it feels like everything is set with a talking character and I especially hated the part where wrong, and at that point unfigurably, decision would lead to something bad 10 hours later in the game. It feels like there isn't a lot of RPG's anymore that let me, as the player, make and decide the story, it's more the game that wants to tell a story, which is fine, but if that story doesn't fit with what I had in mind myself, it will be a turn down.

So if you are gonna make a semi-open story in RPG, let me feel like it is open. A lot of times the dialog ends in the same thing, the only difference is the way it comes out of my character's mouth.

ill go with something completely different, since it seems wierd that people in this discussion focus on shooter - "shooterish" games.
Wouldnt everyone agree that by definition the games with the best/ most immersive story line/ story telling tools should be rpgs? but having said that the 3 lads in the discussion probably pointed EVERYTHING out that EVER (at least the ones i played) mmorpg did wrong - yea we back to bitching about pages of "plot"...zzzzZZzzz. and even most singleplayer rpgs seems to make the same mistake, interessting at least from reading this thread and i havent played many of the games mentioned here it seems that the FPS comm by now gets better stories than us wizzard and elve nerds - kinda upside down.
i actually started a new mmorpg RIFT and TRIED to read through quests and give a shit about what i was doing.....that worked for about 30mins after that i was back to checkin my map for the cute circles telling me where to go to kill shit for w/e reason - what drove that home to me was that some kid warned me of a werewolf quest chain and some know bug. after being told that i realised i had finished that chain 4 hours prior without triggering the bug (by chance) but it took me another 2 hours of running arround to realise that ive done it thats how "immersed" i had been in the story - but hey i mad 4 lvls and earned 8 platinum in cash so who cares right :P???
Also on a side note i gotta go with the flow of pps here saying that choices in discusions should have an affect on the game but rather than just locking some content if x choice is made it should lock one aspect and unlock another and visa verca.
Who knows maybe the idea of having a fully voiced mmorpg will actually make for an immersive mmorpg - looking at you SWtoR.
appart from that yea i think there should be story lines in some more complex games, but games like Serious Sam etc will never ever need much story or any at all since the reason u play those games is a different one.

Yahtzee: Dead Space is one recent game I can think of that tends to keep its cutscenes within gameplay, as well as telling quite a bit of story in the background and ancillary details, but it still falls down for me because it lacks another vital component of storytelling, that is, effective pacing. The importance of that depends to some degree on what sort of game you're making, and in horror it's crucial.
As for dialogue trees, it depends how they're done. The Bioware standard of having the characters stand woodenly across from each other running down a shopping list of options one by one like a job interview, I always find that slightly tortuous. I liked how Alpha Protocol did it, with a little timer and an analog stick selector to keep the discussion ticking along, I just wish it could be worked more organically into gameplay.

I'd like an NPC to start talking to me as soon as I come close to them, rather than staring mutely at me until I hit the context-sensitive prompt flashing over their heads. I'd then like to still be in control of my character throughout the conversation, walking around, fiddling with ornaments, hunting through drawers, shooting arrows at bunny rabbits, etc, with dialogue options being selected with some quick on-screen prompt using a button or control that is otherwise unoccupied. I don't know if you guys saw the Plinkett review of Revenge of the Sith, but he makes a good point that all the dialogue scenes are just two people standing (or sitting) and gabbing at each other, and it's incredibly dull. People do other things while they talk; it makes for more dynamic discourse and an opportunity for characterization.

I agree with this statement.

That is to say that I think storytelling should be done NO MATTER WHAT. It should bear some form, be it an involved network to uncover, an ultimate goal or a distinct culture. Even sandbox games need that.

I also think that a decision that becomes inconsequential serves to diminish the game, though you should know what you're saying. To me, the ideal game offers dialogue options via the d-pad (because it's so rarely used), without interrupting gameplay. You always know what reactions your choices generally provoke (for instance, up is the moral high ground option, right is the suspicious option, low is the zero-tolerance option, left shifts to an alternate menu where up is the "it'll all be all right" option, left is the sarcastic option, down is the total prick option and right shifts back), while these will dictate future actions of the NPCs, you can't accidentally kill someone or block off a quest (accidentally applies to that, too). What it should do is dictate how the NPCs react to you, if they're likely to show a blatant dislike of you in public and how they propose character-specific quests, as well as the romance options because what game isn't better without those.

What I agree with is the fact that cutscenes are abused. Don't get me wrong, some are a good idea, but all too often they force the linearity of a game and are used much to frequently to do something an interactive medium isn't supposed to do, which is tell a story over which you have no control other than in which order the baddies die.

This may also overlap into an interactivity debate because even without conversation a player could influence the game. In a good game (a really good one) the way you complete one section could dictate parts of the next. Fire emblem almost managed this: if you let a character die, they no longer appear in cutscenes. But I think it needs to be farther-eaching than that.

If there is one thing that should be drawn from this it is that every part of a game should be its story. The environments and random NPCs/enemies define its culture, the important NPCs should be at least complete characters, all of the player's actions should have consequences (though only small ones) and the flow should never stop except for a very good reason.

That's a perfect game.

This would also call up the importance of atmosphere and atmosphere versus graphics, but I think I've run off at the mouth long enough for today.

To everyone complaining about Okami and Issun's interruptions:

Don't play Okamiden.

It's MUCH worse.

I just don't get it, either. It's a portable game, but it's LOADED with cutscenes, unnecessary characters, and exposition dumps. There are so many unnecessary characters in Okamiden, the made the plot needlessly convoluted just to make them fit.

Yes, the cutscenes are skippable, but most of the time you start in one situation, and by the end of the cutscene, everything is completely different: new partner, new location, new quest... and you're left wondering - "WTF did I miss??" *reset* *sit through dreary, dull, long cutscene*

ugh... rant over.

lol I kept clicking to go on the second page thinking the discussion wasn't over.

This kinda gave me some insight. As much as I love games like Fallout 3, I should still consider criticizing it on some bits rather than assuming its perfect.

Alright fellas, let's get into this topic. Storytelling is an important feature in any event wherein you want to draw someone into an unfamiliar setting. Some games are good at it (Saint's Row, GTA, Mass Effect) and others make you wonder what the hell you are doing or why you are doing it (sorry, no specific example jumps to mind but just add any generic game titles here that aren't triple A games). That being said, some games with a good story are just torturous to deal with.

Take for example Dragon Age. Everyone talked up what a great game this was, and the fact that Bioware was attached got a lot of fans frothing at the mouths. Being a fan of Bioware myself, I gave Dragon Age a shot a few months after it had come out and was more easily available. Granted, the combat was nice and the character animations were great, but I could have given two craps' less about the story... but you aren't allowed to really ignore it. Hours upon hours spent reading dialogue and going through trees just to try and resolve a conflict that you really had no stake in, you just need to complete this senseless quest in order to further the game. And you have to stand there for a virtual eternity while some dead-eyed doll lays out their life story for you. Not even half way through the game, I was just rushing through the dialog to get back to cutting off heads. The dialog got to be so much that I just didn't care anymore. Has that happened to anyone else? Have you ever had a game tell you so much story that it actually caused you to stop caring about it?

Back in Atari days, there were games either that had a brief story (sometimes in the manual) or had none. What was the story with Pitfall? Q-Bert? Pac-Man? Nobody knows, nobody cares. Once we started seeing stories and story arches play out in games, like the original Final Fantasy, it was exciting. You saw you were making an impact on this virtual world, and for you could clearly see you were doing something. Now? Sure, you get the same experience, just with fancier cut-scenes and voice acting. The concept is the same, only the technology has changed. Some would say it has improved the landscape, but really we're still doing things the same old way. Now if we could do something about the action-cutscene-action-cutscene-action formula...

I like seeing the 3 of you put your heads together on topics like this, you should do it more often. :)

...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.

I had this problem, right up until the point I played Mass Effect. My OCD mechanism had an aneurysm and I'm pretty sure about 10 hours into the first game I heard the audible *ping!* of a mental spring flying across the room, but I was able to play through one time on each game and treated it like I would a really long but interactive movie. This sometimes left me skipping entire dialogue trees because some situations made some of the dialogue options improbable. Had a blast all because I just let go an imagined that this is how the story happened. I just gave John Sheppard a temperament and just tried to stick to that throughout the game making choices accordingly.

I wonder if, at least sometimes, it's not the story that limits our enjoyment but the player that limits themselves. I know it is that way with me. I often imagine that the (game play | cut scene | game play | cut scene) formula is to try and eliminate the "player" from ruining a "great game".

To an extend I disagree with them. While I can't stand japanese games and their long boring cinematics I'm not for the Half-Life/Bioshock kind of story telling. In my opinion only works with FPS in the way they can actually implement a story behind the mindless excuse for shooting stuff. Extending this to everything is 3D Avatar,crappy film but huge succes because of the 3D so everybody and his friends now makes 3D movies regardless if there is not "scenario" to benefit from beeing in 3D. Anyway point is I want games to have the classic way of interaction because it feels like a reward seeing how the chars act after the options you made along the way(good example DA2 with the long time span).

I still say the prime example of a good story-telling in games are the ones who does it very little and let us connect the dots for ourselves. Remember how fun it was to play through "Shadow of the Colossus"? Half of that fun is because we came up with the story ourselves, with the game only dropping us hints of what the hell happened in that limited time and space. I agree with one of the earlier posters there, saying that "play, don't show" should have been the motto in good game-making/story-telling, harkening back to the days of yore when the only semblance of story we got is "plumber rescues princess from deranged giant mutant turtle".

I don't wanna be an old codger about this, but really fellas, I feel that the original GTA games was much more fun to play due to the fact that it was not bloated with too much story. As one smart guy whom I can't name at the moment and is too lazy to look up: "Perfection and beauty in art is when a piece allows the viewers' imagination to roam free", and I guess we can agree that our beloved medium IS an art form, right?

Cenequus:
To an extend I disagree with them. While I can't stand japanese games and their long boring cinematics I'm not for the Half-Life/Bioshock kind of story telling. In my opinion only works with FPS in the way they can actually implement a story behind the mindless excuse for shooting stuff. Extending this to everything is 3D Avatar,crappy film but huge succes because of the 3D so everybody and his friends now makes 3D movies regardless if there is not "scenario" to benefit from beeing in 3D. Anyway point is I want games to have the classic way of interaction because it feels like a reward seeing how the chars act after the options you made along the way(good example DA2 with the long time span).

Hooo boy, won't you be disappointed when watching Yahtzee tore DA2 a new one in this week's review. "Gobbing your handsome friend". LOL! XD

Why would I be disappointed? He's doing shock humour reviews anyway.

As for the review itself I found it pretty mellow and he could have done way better if he was on the hate wagon.

As for the gay jokes he always does those why this time would have been different.

As for the lack of "epicness" of the story I actually enjoyed a change in the usual "you're the Chosen save the world" game story that all RPGs have. Yahztee sees that as a minus I see it as a plus.Different tastes who cares right?

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