Extra Punctuation: Building Sequels Badly

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Yahtzee, you pose an interesting question about sequel storylines. Let's see if I can answer it.

Hmmmm... a self-contained, critically acclaimed game, with a sequel that many say surpassed it? One that also involves puzzles, a lone hero, and an omniscient but inhuman artificial intelligence?

[sarcasm] Gee, I can't THINK what game could possibly meet those criteria. [/sarcasm]

[Any gamer over the age of twenty who doesn't know I'm referring to "System Shock" here loses five "L33T" points and gets to call me "Daddy" for a month.]

Evil Tim:

Therumancer:
As a number of sources over the years seem to have been saying, the actual writer of a game winds up taking a back seat to the guys actually doing the development, and/or the artwork.

A story to a game is like a frame to a painting; it puts everything else into perspective and, done right, can be the perfect finishing touch; equally, done badly it can detract from the final work. It is not, however, anything like as important as the painting itself.

Your argument is like complaining that people just don't accept carpentry as an important aspect of painting. Of course they don't, it isn't. The writer's job is to create something that works within the planned mechanics, and he will never be as important as the people who create the mechanics in question.

... and that is EXACTLY the attitude that is causing the problem in question.

Right now everyone realizes that storytelling is an important aspect of doing games, irregardless of the genere. It's a cornerstone of the whole "games as art" arguement which was just sort of won by the goverment acknowleging them as such (I say 'sort of' because we still have a Supreme Court ruling in the pipe, and by it's nature The Surpreme court overrules everything else and can cause sweeping changes by overturning laws and precedents on a large scale with a single ruling. If it chooses to say that they aren't protected and that the goverment can regulate them for content, by setting and enforcing ratings criminally then it doesn't matter what anyone else has said in the meantime). Indeed it's one of the big things being promoted for games right now, where one of the big "speeches" used to sell "Old Republic Online" was how they considered storyline to be a major part of the game development, being treated equally to other parts of the game... (that speech sticking out because there were accusations of plagerism when another company said almost the same exact thing verbatim)

The thing is that Storytelling had to be given EQUAL time to the game development itself, you basically need to sit the developers and the writers down in a cubicle someplace, and not do anything until they both come up with something they can agree on. If you wind up siding too much with the writers as opposed to the game developers you wind up with trashy interactive movies like "Heavy Rain", and what Bioware and Square Enix both apparently want to turn their "games" into. If you side too much with the game developer, then you wind up with the kinds of problems being talked about where the "plot" will be things like tons of little jokes or mysterious elements being tossed around, without any central narrative, that makes wrapping them up very difficult, never mind expanding on them for sequels that weren't initially planned on.

The thing is that blending storytelling and gameplay together isn't EASY so nobody wants to take the time to do it right. Typically trying to give both equal time usually involves trying to seperate the story and gameplay into their own seperat cosms (a standard JRPG trap) where they have nothing really to do with each other. "Why doesn't Cloud toss a Pheonix Down on that silly bint Aeris like he does every other time she gets killed?" well the reason is that the combat mechanics have nothing to do with the storyline, so despite possessing towering cosmic power in combat, he's still a fairly mortal emo dude when it comes to the actual storytelling... where you know, suddenly the plot forgets that curing death simply amounts to dropping $50 at the local drug store for some feathers and a slingshot to deliver them to the carcass in question.

Simply put gaming isn't incapable of dealing with this kind of problem, it's just that nobody wants to put in the time. Everyone knows where things need to go, people write about it at great length, and game companies talk about it at length in press releases, the problem is actually getting the people to sit down to do it. It's not a matter of "carpentry has nothing to do with painting" so much as the storyline being the paint, and the game design itself being the brush (the mechanical part) used to deliver it. Sure you can just splash paint on there and wind up with say "Heavy Rain" or "Final Fantasy XIII", or you can scrape a dry brush on the canvas and wind up with say "Tetris", but to create an actual modern game, and get the genere to live up to it's full potential you need to get the two working together.

In the end though I think a lot of this actually comes down to money and control. I means having to pay writers a lot more money to do a lot more work than the gaming industry currently goes for, and it also means that the guys actually making the games need to work within the context of what is being set up. Simply put if your going to create a story where permadeath is an option for one of the major characters, then by definition the game developers should not be creating a world where pople actually die in combat and get brought back to life casually by spells and items bought from stores. Rather they should be working around the idea of characters being knocked out, and ensure that the graphics, items, and spell names reflect that reality. That means that the game developers and such might have to restrain their impulse to say put in graphics with major story characters being horribly dismembered as part of the battle animations, because it doesn't work as part of the whole project.

I don't know if anyone's mentioned this yet, but sequels have been around for far longer than games or film. Going back centuries, in fact. They're not a new phenomenon, and they're not ruining entertainment. I get what Yahtzee is trying to say, but abolishing them is quite simply not going to happen. This is, after all, an entertainment industry, and sequels make money.

Yahtzee also seems to be oblivious to the fact that he, himself, is also a fan of the original Portal... and as such, he seems to think that he knows better than the developers what could or should be done with the intellectual property. I frequently agree with him, and even when I don't, I still enjoy his contrarian opinions; however, when it comes to this particular franchise, he's being more than a little hypocritical.

2xDouble:
Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

EDIT One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

I'll add Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within. Peace :)

I've often held the opinion that there are 2 types of adequate sequels- those that do basically the same thing as their predecessor only better (satisfying the desire for more that you're left with after beating the first game) and those that are basically the same series, but do things in a radically different manner so they don't need to be compared, favourably or unfavourably, to their predecessor.

My all-time favourite example of the former is Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. Warcraft was a good real time strategy game, but Warcraft II was SO MUCH MORE. Gameplay was fundamentally the same, but there were many more units, most notably including air and sea units. Gameplay was radically improved, from minor tweaks like being able to see actual unit stats and being able to select 9 units at once rather than only 4, to major improvements such as the much faster game speed and unit reaction (in Warcraft I the units seem to be moving through treacle by comparison) and massively improved balance (no more hordes or crossbowmen/spearmen mowing down entire armies one volley at a time). Aesthetically the game was miles ahead, with beautifully clear graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, more interesting units like Elven Archers, Troll Axethrowers, Dwarven Demo Teams, Two Headed Ogres and Death Knights replacing the all-human and all-orc armies of the first game. In every way, Warcraft II surpassed its predecessor.

One of the best examples of the latter is Resident Evil 4. This requires little explanation; the series had always been reasonably well-regarded but had been becoming stale. Resident Evil 4 basically threw the entire series before it out- it brought back Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong but otherwise discarded everything that had come before. The fixed camera perspective, the simple slot-based inventory, typewriter ribbons, hell, even the ZOMBIES. It was completely different to every other game in the Resident Evil series to that point and was received as one of the greatest action games ever made. (By contrast, Resi 5 basically rehashed Resi 4 only not as well and was comparatively panned.)

The worst sequels are the ones that do the same thing as their predecessor but can't say they're actually BETTER. This is why a lot of people think Smash Bros Brawl was disappointing- although there was a lot more content (more characters, more game modes, more stages, more items) the gameplay was simultaneously too similar to Melee's while at the same time being generally consider simply NOT AS GOOD. While it was largely a matter of opinion, it was generally accepted that the control was floatier, the character balance was shot to hell and the "tripping" mechanic (where your character would randomly fall over for no reason) was spawned from the nether negions of Satan. The same applies to Bioshock 2 and Modern Warfare 2- basically the same game as the predecessor with a few tweaks, but can you say it's actually BETTER? No, probably not.

Therumancer:
Right now everyone realizes that storytelling is an important aspect of doing games, irregardless of the genere.

Using the word "irregardless" is a good way to make people ignore everything else you have to say, being as it's a pretentious word that actually contradicts itself on closer inspection (ir-regardless? So, we're with regard?).

Therumancer:
It's a cornerstone of the whole "games as art" arguement which was just sort of won by the goverment acknowleging them as such (I say 'sort of' because we still have a Supreme Court ruling in the pipe, and by it's nature The Surpreme court overrules everything else and can cause sweeping changes by overturning laws and precedents on a large scale with a single ruling.

There is a difference between games being a form of art and games being a form of art where storytelling is an important element. Architecture is a form of art too, that doesn't mean you have to stuff a fucking 3-act play into every building. Cooking is a form of art, but cooking is certainly not a means of telling a story.

Games are still a very insecure medium that are trying to show they're art by apeing the conventions of other mediums that already are; primarily books and film. A painting doesn't need a writer to furnish it with a really well-written plaque to tell you what's going on; indeed, art critics shit on such paintings, saying you should tell any story entirely through the medium of the work itself. Statues don't come with supplementary novels. Only games feel they need to do this kind of thing, and the sooner they realise they don't, the sooner they'll start being their own artform.

Therumancer:
The thing is that Storytelling had to be given EQUAL time to the game development itself

You are insane. Again, it's like saying the carpenter who makes a picture frame is as important as the painter who makes the picture. The story can only ever act as a frame and setup for the play aspect of the game, which is what makes the medium what it is. Games will never be art while people like you are trying to force them to be something they're not.

Therumancer:
The thing is that blending storytelling and gameplay together isn't EASY so nobody wants to take the time to do it right.

Or maybe it's that the modern non-play approach to game storytelling is totally wrong. Remember in Castlevania, how Simon Belmont slew the fearsome Medusa? How did we know he'd done that? Why, because we did it ourselves, without needing anything but our actions in the game to tell us that.

Is Sonic better for the asinine "universe" that's been built around it? Most people would rather it was just Sonic fighting Robotnik because he's evil. Mega Man has recently gone back to that. Is Homefront a better game than Black and Doom 2 because it's more willing to interrupt the actual gameplay with tedious storyline?

Therumancer:
It's not a matter of "carpentry has nothing to do with painting" so much as the storyline being the paint, and the game design itself being the brush (the mechanical part) used to deliver it.

If you seriously think that's how important story is then you have no idea what videogames are. What about Tetris? Are you saying Tetris would be better with a plot? What about chess? Would chess be a better game if on white's turn ten white had to lose their kingside knight to the corrupt black Bishop because on move five it was established that knight had great faith and it would be both tragic and ironic for him to die at the Bishop's hands? Don't worry, on white's turn fourteen the E-file pawn is going to avenge his father.

Nevermind that none of this is playing chess, we're having a story now!

A game needs as much story as a game needs. Story provides a basis for visualising the game's mechanics in a less abstract way; more story suits games with more complex mechanics that need to be tied together. For example, Mastermind has no story; it's just a guessing / logic game on a board with coloured pieces. Battleships has more story; the pieces are ships, the board is a radar screen. Clue has even more storyline, with each piece a character, the board a house with secret passages, and even an overall outline of what the players are trying to do in the place. In each case it's as much as they need; Mastermind would seem absurd with the level of story Clue has, while Clue would seem like an abstract collection of arbitrary rules without the story to frame them.

Narrative is something games are terrible at; the best they tend to be able to do with it is have the game and narrative alternate, meaning the "story" (as you call it) is just the thing that happens between the game. They're much better when the narrative is built around the player's actions, which is the "no story" that the games-are-art crowd so despise.

Therumancer:
Simply put if your going to create a story where permadeath is an option for one of the major characters, then by definition the game developers should not be creating a world where pople actually die in combat and get brought back to life casually by spells and items bought from stores. Rather they should be working around the idea of characters being knocked out, and ensure that the graphics, items, and spell names reflect that reality.

Wait, have you ever played any game that isn't an RPG?

Most of the sequels that are good didn't even need to be made. I think I enjoyed majora's mask better than ocarina of time, If it hadn't been made no one would have been disappointed because OOT tied everything of nicely, I'm still glad they chose to make majoras mask though. It was because of all the things that they tweaked and added, it was like an entirely new game. Also it was terrifying at some spots, it felt like experimental film. Especially when the mask salesman talked. Also, the time fact that you were timed to do stuff forced you to stop dicking around and made the game more intense at some times.

System Shock 2?

Devil May Cry 3 had a pretty interesting story compared to the original (don't think about it too hard, though).
Jak II's story was pretty good compared to the original's

Can't think of anymore at the moment, but there ya go

Evil Tim:

Therumancer:
Right now everyone realizes that storytelling is an important aspect of doing games, irregardless of the genere.

Using the word "irregardless" is a good way to make people ignore everything else you have to say, being as it's a pretentious word that actually contradicts itself on closer inspection (ir-regardless? So, we're with regard?).

A game needs as much story as a game needs. Story provides a basis for visualising the game's mechanics in a less abstract way; more story suits games with more complex mechanics that need to be tied together. For example, Mastermind has no story; it's just a guessing / logic game on a board with coloured pieces. Battleships has more story; the pieces are ships, the board is a radar screen. Clue has even more storyline, with each piece a character, the board a house with secret passages, and even an overall outline of what the players are trying to do in the place. In each case it's as much as they need; Mastermind would seem absurd with the level of story Clue has, while Clue would seem like an abstract collection of arbitrary rules without the story to frame them.

Narrative is something games are terrible at; the best they tend to be able to do with it is have the game and narrative alternate, meaning the "story" (as you call it) is just the thing that happens between the game. They're much better when the narrative is built around the player's actions, which is the "no story" that the games-are-art crowd so despise.

Therumancer:
Simply put if your going to create a story where permadeath is an option for one of the major characters, then by definition the game developers should not be creating a world where pople actually die in combat and get brought back to life casually by spells and items bought from stores. Rather they should be working around the idea of characters being knocked out, and ensure that the graphics, items, and spell names reflect that reality.

Wait, have you ever played any game that isn't an RPG?

Irregardless of what you think of the word irregardless it's a commonly used term. Someone who would ignore posts because of it's use probably reflects more negatively on the person than the post. It's like getting all bent out of shape because ain't ain't a word, yet we all know what it means. Simply put the worst thing about language, are those who get tied up in technical minutae when they can't otherwise find something to say. I also notice that it tends to be an issue raised more by those who are getting spanked by someone they disagree with an start groping for something to make an arguement with. "I don't want to admit I'm losing, so I need to attack the person and find something to grip onto to try and taint the discussion in the eyes of a possible observer. I know, I'll pick on the word irregardless, ain't I the clever one!!!

At any rate, it's also a bad sign when someone feels the need to make their arguement out of absurdities (many of which I clipped from quoting), such as trying to make arguements based on timeless boardgames, in relation to an evolving media... while also overlooking what the entire conversation is actually about, which was a response to things said by Yahtzee, in talking about storytelling and video game sequels. In paticular one comment he made about how games shouldn't even bother to explain mysteries they set up, because they always manage to muck it up and never create answers that are as satisfying at the conundrums they posed to begin with. My point in response to this being that the problem is that we don't see satisfying answers because video games generally have crap writers, or when they don't, the writers are rarely if ever part of the development process of a franchise. There are plenty of examples of writing where conundrums introduced through a story are given a perfectly satisfying answer, but the problem is that video game developers don't take the writing seriously enough when they need to have these people involved, and that will solve the problem. The "other side" of the debate being that one should just introduce mystery after mystery to a game and then decide to leave them all hanging rather than trying to resolve things since there have been failures otherwise.... your contribution to this has largely been "OMG, games don't need writing" and then to start going off about classic board games, and my choice of words. There is such a thing as context when it comes to a conversation and your missing it by trying to go off about how not all games need a story, when really we're not talking about bloody Tetris, but about games like "Portal 2" and the "Silent Hill" franchise which were in the material/point that started this.... and I re-read my posts, I'm pretty consistant given the start point of this conversation. I think your either unaware of, or forgetting, that this entire thing is a response to an article, and to really "get it" you ned to understand the point it's being made in response to... and I specified what I was responding to when I started to make the context clear.

You seem to have become so concerned about proving me wrong, for whatever reason, that you have lost sight of what the discussion is even about, and are running off in nonsensical directions that have nothing to do with well... anything.

Now, I know you might want to rage against this point, or try and argue about how I was somehow unclear, but really it's probably not worth the time. If you want to discuss the actual point, given what it's being made in response to (which assumes games that will have a storyline as the start point, not all this drek you've increasingly been trying to turn it into), that's fine. Otherwise, there is no point to continueing to bicker.

Otherwise to answer the question, I've probably played every genere of video game that exists, and that includes some of "new generes" that people tried to start, that never took off and as a result don't exist anymore. Things like say "Star Saga One" which was an attempt to blend a party game, a board game, and a computer game into one package. It did well enough to spawn one sequel called "Star Saga Two" (creative eh?) before promptly dying a screaming death and being sucked into the black hole of obscurity. RPGs and fighting games (even if I'm terrible at them) are however my generes of choice. Fighting games less so because an increasingly lack of interest due to the inabillity of the guys running today's networks to find a way to administrate them properly. The abillity to login to say Xbox Live and play against other people is amazing when your 35 and don't head to arcades (not that many exist anymore) or have anyone around to play with, but it's not so amazing when the system is so poorly conceived that any time you beat someone they can log an "unsportsmanlike conduct" complaint on you for lack of anything else and lower your player rating, which can make it harder to find other people to play against, and ultimatly get you banned for nothing other than having the misfortune of being pitted against tempormental 12 year olds who want to try and ensure they won't have to play against someone who spanked them again.

I haven't finished playing it yet but would Monkey Island 2 qualify as "one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first"? I did make it through the first one and there wasn't any set up for the sequal. Yahtzee liked both of them. I don't know if the second one's story is better than the first one though because I have yet to complete it, but so far it seems about on par quality wise with the first one.

2xDouble:
Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

EDIT One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

And Fallout 2, and Donkey Kong 2. Man, it's pretty easy to contradict that statement.

Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

I dunno, man. 12, I felt, was a MASSIVE step forward from FF10, which to me felt rather idiotic and downright Narm at times.

That said, 10 was still good. It felt like a step back, for me, despite its quality, but it wasn't the MASSIVE LEAP backward that 13 was.

6 and 7, for me, made the series. They were both massive leaps forward for RPGs and video gaming in general. 8 helped push the surreal techno-punk designs of the series, taking them far into the future in regards to 7. 9, IMO, was a brilliant callback to the series' high fantasy days, complete with the cartoony style of the classics.

10 just felt like the part where the series hit Stagnation Plateau. It didn't seem to have any real aim. For me, THAT was where the series hit the "style over substance" that Yahtzee decries the modern series for(though he starts at 7, which I thoroughly disagree with). It was like "Hey, look at these cool visuals! Characters have voices, now! Watch as we utilize these advanced graphics to give you awesome snapshots of action!" Overall, it just felt rather lifeless in comparison to 6, 8, 9, and especially 7(which, IMO, best balanced style and substance for the series).

12 was as step forward for me because it had these interesting characters(sans Penelo and possibly Vaan) set in this fantastic world. The fact that they set 12 on Ivalice is what, I think, was what made 12 such a magnificent jump forward after 10's step backward. The overall theme of the game, instead of the series' main theme of "You are the heroes, you make a difference", was "You may be heroes, but you're merely parts of a bigger machine. Your actions make no difference, in the end." That theme characterized the Tactics series, and that sort of theme was what made 12 so good. The fact that its redesigned battle system was a huge plus, too.

13 was, just...well, lets not get into 13. Suffice to say it's the first FF I've considered "bad" and we'll leave it at that. Oh, and the fact that they idiotically decided to perform fanservice by designing their main character "as a female Cloud" really annoyed the hell outta me.

bue519:

2xDouble:
Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

EDIT One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

And Fallout 2, and Donkey Kong 2. Man, it's pretty easy to contradict that statement.

I dunno, man. Fallout 1 gave us the Master and FO2 it was ripped to shreds by No Mutants Allowed(then again, those elitist fucks are elitist fucks) for being too "tongue-in-cheek."

My answer to that question, BTW, is Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall. And following that, Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. Oblivion...heh, no.

OMG I JUST HAD TEH BEST IDEA. Portal 3: you play as GLADoS. SEE?? Fans CAN have amazing ideas.

I bet Yahtzee has never heard of Sonic Generations..... Yet.

I'm even a Sonic fan and I have to say its a bad idea. :P

He's talking as if there was no connection between portal 1 and portal 2.
*Portal 1 spoilers*
If you play it through right, at the end you get dragged back inside Aperture's facility at the end, and a robot says "thank you for assuming the party escort submission position" and that Glados is of course Still Alive.
*End spoilers*
Portal 2 was a good (not great but still worthwhile) expansion of the 1st portal.

Sequels. The frustration I understand, but to condemn them entirely is a huge mistake. For example, the Super Mario Bros. series. The first game was great and didn't require a sequel. I played the lost levels and can say that the game was basically Super Mario Bros. 1.5. If we follow Yahtzee's rule for sequels than Super Mario Bros. 3 would have never come to existence because we, as costumers, would not of believed that a game like SMB3 could exist...and it did.

What I believe is this. For a video game series, you should not expect too much of a change in game play or game mechanics. But should expect polishing and improvement compared to the predecessors.

If you want a game with a different game mechanic, than THAT is when the company SHOULD throw out new IP. Than when that games sequels start to lessen than that is when you make a new game with a new game mechanic.

To me, there are many exceptions to the sequels rule as Yahtzee has said. Sonic 1 had it's own contained story and did not need a sequel, but we got Sonic 2 and it is a fantastic game. Street Fighter 1 had it's own story finished, but we still got SFII that is loved by millions of fans.

In my own opinion, taking away the familiarity of a series/IP would be a huge mistake. Familiarity lets us know what to expect and hits a certain "comfort" zone we have as people. This is the reason why no matter where we go when we see a McD, Burger King, Tacobell, KFC, we know what to expect and feel at ease. When something is different, we expect it to be different and prepare for it. We just work in such a way.

-My 2 cents.

P.S. Proof reading is a *****.

The Empire Strikes Back was tacked on to a movie that tied itself up pretty nicely, and many agree that it was better than the original.

That's the only example I can think of.

Maybe this is why Valve isn't making Episode 3?

Anyone played this portal mod called PORTAL : Prelude?
damn good prequel. actually more centered on game mechanics than Portal 2. Could have been a good start for an official sequel... prequel... whatever.

I think it's rather silly to ban or limit sequels for the sake that most of them are crap. It's just the effect of Sturgeon's Law. 90% of everything is crap. Sequels are no more or less likely to be crap then non-sequels. Yes, it might be true that the compulsion people have to make sequels just because the original was successful or to cater to fans is silly, but I don't think that alone makes a bad sequel, and if we didn't have sequels we would just have clones. You can't force innovation just by saying sequels are not allowed, and in fact it may stifle it.

I sincerely hope Yahtzee, that when you say us fans idea's are stupid; you refer to our plot idea's only. There is ocaisionly a gem in the dirt for mechanics or gameplay idea's.

Warachia:

System shock wasn't open ended enough for a sequel, but system shock 2 definitely was. He was only asking about the sequels, not the previous games.

I think you need to read his article a bit more carefully, then re-read the challenge, because you're not reading it as it was intended. You're seeing "Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels" as saying that the game in question (the sequel) is not itself open for a sequel, when what he clearly meant by it was that the game in question's predecessor wasn't left open for a sequel, and the sequel was made anyway. So pointing out that SS2 was left open for a sequel doesn't matter. His wording is somewhat ambiguous when set apart on its own like that, but in the context of the article it's clear that he's specifying that the first game not have been left open for a sequel, because (as he argues is the case of portal) when this is the case any sequels that do get made tend to mess things up. The first System Shock wasn't left open to sequels, so SS2 still meets his criteria.

Really, if that was too complicated, then just think about this for a second: why on earth would he specify that the SEQUEL not be left open for another sequel, when that's the game we're evaluating?

This is an issue I tent to go back and forth on.

Outside of games conceived as series from the start (like Mass Effect), most sequels tend to just rehash the previous game in the hopes of recapturing what made it great. While that usually doesn't work, it can pay off sometimes. For example, I thought Bioshock 2 was much better than Bioshock 1 even though it was fundamentally a retread of familiar territory.

I think I'd prefer more developers to go the Team Ico route. Shadow of the Colossus is completely different from Ico and has only a fairly loose story connection that doesn't become apparent till the end of the game, but the two games are usually assumed to be part of the same "series" because there are enough thematic and stylistic elements to make them similar.

On an interesting side note, Portal 2 was apparently originally going to go in this direction, but play testers of an early build wanted Glados and Chell back. I'm glad Valve listened to them for this game, but if they want to do something totally new for the next one I'd be all for it. As far as I'm concerned that story is now over.

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

Silent Hill 3? I realise that might be stretching it a bit since it shares one character with the first game, who only appears very briefly in a non-speaking role, but it is undoubtedly a continuation of Silent Hill 1 and (in my opinion) has a much better story.

I hate this prevailing feeling that sequels have some obligation to the fans, retch retch. Let me tell you something about fans. Fans do not know what they want

I am in total agreement with this. Whether it's a direct sequel or a remake, the idea that new entries in a series belong to the fans and must cater to their every whim is poisonous and a major roadblock to procreativity.

Evil Tim:

Therumancer:
Right now everyone realizes that storytelling is an important aspect of doing games, irregardless of the genere.

Using the word "irregardless" is a good way to make people ignore everything else you have to say, being as it's a pretentious word that actually contradicts itself on closer inspection (ir-regardless? So, we're with regard?).

Therumancer:
It's a cornerstone of the whole "games as art" arguement which was just sort of won by the goverment acknowleging them as such (I say 'sort of' because we still have a Supreme Court ruling in the pipe, and by it's nature The Surpreme court overrules everything else and can cause sweeping changes by overturning laws and precedents on a large scale with a single ruling.

There is a difference between games being a form of art and games being a form of art where storytelling is an important element. Architecture is a form of art too, that doesn't mean you have to stuff a fucking 3-act play into every building. Cooking is a form of art, but cooking is certainly not a means of telling a story.

Games are still a very insecure medium that are trying to show they're art by apeing the conventions of other mediums that already are; primarily books and film. A painting doesn't need a writer to furnish it with a really well-written plaque to tell you what's going on; indeed, art critics shit on such paintings, saying you should tell any story entirely through the medium of the work itself. Statues don't come with supplementary novels. Only games feel they need to do this kind of thing, and the sooner they realise they don't, the sooner they'll start being their own artform.

Therumancer:
The thing is that Storytelling had to be given EQUAL time to the game development itself

You are insane. Again, it's like saying the carpenter who makes a picture frame is as important as the painter who makes the picture. The story can only ever act as a frame and setup for the play aspect of the game, which is what makes the medium what it is. Games will never be art while people like you are trying to force them to be something they're not.

Therumancer:
The thing is that blending storytelling and gameplay together isn't EASY so nobody wants to take the time to do it right.

Or maybe it's that the modern non-play approach to game storytelling is totally wrong. Remember in Castlevania, how Simon Belmont slew the fearsome Medusa? How did we know he'd done that? Why, because we did it ourselves, without needing anything but our actions in the game to tell us that.

Is Sonic better for the asinine "universe" that's been built around it? Most people would rather it was just Sonic fighting Robotnik because he's evil. Mega Man has recently gone back to that. Is Homefront a better game than Black and Doom 2 because it's more willing to interrupt the actual gameplay with tedious storyline?

Therumancer:
It's not a matter of "carpentry has nothing to do with painting" so much as the storyline being the paint, and the game design itself being the brush (the mechanical part) used to deliver it.

If you seriously think that's how important story is then you have no idea what videogames are. What about Tetris? Are you saying Tetris would be better with a plot? What about chess? Would chess be a better game if on white's turn ten white had to lose their kingside knight to the corrupt black Bishop because on move five it was established that knight had great faith and it would be both tragic and ironic for him to die at the Bishop's hands? Don't worry, on white's turn fourteen the E-file pawn is going to avenge his father.

Nevermind that none of this is playing chess, we're having a story now!

A game needs as much story as a game needs. Story provides a basis for visualising the game's mechanics in a less abstract way; more story suits games with more complex mechanics that need to be tied together. For example, Mastermind has no story; it's just a guessing / logic game on a board with coloured pieces. Battleships has more story; the pieces are ships, the board is a radar screen. Clue has even more storyline, with each piece a character, the board a house with secret passages, and even an overall outline of what the players are trying to do in the place. In each case it's as much as they need; Mastermind would seem absurd with the level of story Clue has, while Clue would seem like an abstract collection of arbitrary rules without the story to frame them.

Narrative is something games are terrible at; the best they tend to be able to do with it is have the game and narrative alternate, meaning the "story" (as you call it) is just the thing that happens between the game. They're much better when the narrative is built around the player's actions, which is the "no story" that the games-are-art crowd so despise.

Therumancer:
Simply put if your going to create a story where permadeath is an option for one of the major characters, then by definition the game developers should not be creating a world where pople actually die in combat and get brought back to life casually by spells and items bought from stores. Rather they should be working around the idea of characters being knocked out, and ensure that the graphics, items, and spell names reflect that reality.

Wait, have you ever played any game that isn't an RPG?

I'll agree that we need more games based around limited story than we have currently. X-com: UFO Defense has no story really, but you build your own through how you play and it's awesome. Other games like Metroid Prime, Shadow of the Colossus, and Ico have such minimalistic storytelling it's hardly storytelling. Yet the gameplay in each tells a fascinating story.

I strongly disagree with the idea that we need to move beyond trying to tell narratives in games. You're arguing that it has to be one or the other. No middle ground. No variation between games. If that was true we would never have been able to play such incredibly well done stories/ games as Silent Hill 2, Portal (1&2), Deus Ex, Psychonauts, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Planescape: Torment, Okami, Grim Fandango, the Half-life series, Bioshock, The Longest Journey. etc. (Or even classic Mikami games that seem to mock gaming stories like God Hand and Resident Evil 4).

Do we need more games that try to convey stories without traditional narrative? Absolutely. X-com has told me some of my favorite stories in videogames, and they were conveyed to me solely via gameplay and with my input. But if that's all we had then we'd miss out on a hell of a lot of incredible games. Frankly I'm glad we have both.

Evil Tim:

shimyia:
Hey Yahtzee... What are your thoughts on the announcement of Max Payne 3???

personally i am veeeeryyyy pesimistic about this and definetly think that Max Payne 2 Ended the story the way it should...

No, Max Payne 1 did that. 2 just killed everyone left over from 1.

that's just your opinion...
and srsly: i don't give a shit what you think...

i just wanna know if he's optimistic or pesimistic about it :D

Monkey Island 2? I personally thought the story was better than the first.

Dammit Soveru!
Why must you make so much brutal sense

" Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any."

Um... BG2>>BG1?

Oh Yahtzee you sound like a disgruntled dad.

Gotta disagree with you, Portal 2 > Portal

bue519:

2xDouble:
Case in point: Final Fantasy. Look at what happened when they stopped creating and started polling: Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 14... None of which deserve numerals. (XI doesn't either, but for different reasons. It's pretty good I guess, so I'll let it slide).

EDIT One thing though:

Name me one sequel to a game that wasn't left open for sequels, with the same main characters as before, whose story was regarded as better than the first. Let me help you out: there aren't any.

MegaMan 2 and 3.

And Fallout 2, and Donkey Kong 2. Man, it's pretty easy to contradict that statement.

If you look through the history of gaming there are a lot of examples.
I would actually include Portal 2.
I thought it was a better game than the first. Don't get me wrong, I loved the first but it wasn't really a complete game; it was the introduction of an ingenious game concept that I got as a bonus to a game.
But then again, I don't really consider story an important part of a game; and if I did, I don't think I would be much of a gamer.
At the same time, I greatly appreciated the new archetypes they slipped into Portal 2 from the fool to the god that created it all. It wasn't contrived or pretentious and while the hilarity wasn't as surprising, it was just as clever.
To me what was more important was adding new elements to the existing structure of the "test chamber" and to that end I was most satisfied.

If I want a good story experience, I'm not going to reach for a game and many of the games that people say have good story experiences only have good stories when compared to other games and tend to have some tedious and/or sparse gameplay.

On the subject of sequels, I cast my mind back to the Metal Gear Solid series, (PSX Onwards).

Although heavily criticised for being a total mind-bend, I still enjoyed playing/watching the series, and although I can't say that I entirely get the story...I just became engrossed, and it became a guilty-ish pleasure.

Now I'm sure we can say that the first Metal Gear Solid was great fun, (If you want to count the NES version as well, since that technically was the first, be my guest :) ). I was psyched at a sequel, but all the points raised in Yahtzee's posts were evident, direct sequelage can just water the experience.

Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't gotten around to playing MGS Sons of Liberty. When I found out that Liquid snake was still alive, I rolled my eyes back. It was unnecessary. Granted, I know a few that think that the whole game was unnecessary, but you can tell that was just a bid to toss him into the sequel. This is why I agree with Yahtzee, and that the fans are being looked at to in-adversely 'guide' them to construct their sequels. When a game is made, the fans are created, and the problem with the fans is that their 'likes' and 'dislikes' are expressed to help shape what the sequel should be...I just don't see that as a positive thing.

Before that's misconstrued, Positives and Negative of game mechanic sure help in designing a game that appeals and works, but I'm talking about events of the game, or characters...take 'Pyramid Head' for example; we Silent Hill lovers mostly think that Pyramid head was inventive and probably the best Silent Hill monster to date. The Westerner Silent Hill pick-up team realise this, and say with a 'Bill & Ted esq.' tone, "That's a brilliant idea! What this game needs is more Pyramid Head! I need more Pyramid Head!" (Anyone else get the image of Walken and the Cowbell scene from reading that?). What I'm saying is, games should not be done to appease the fan-base, and Pyramid Head should have stayed in Silent Hill 2, where he belongs, *trying to urge not to rant about how Pyramid Head doesn't make sense being in anything else*.

Quickly back to Metal Gear: Did anyone 'really' enjoy playing as Raiden for the later-half of the game? If you did, fine, but the developers themselves admitted that Raiden was there to make you appreciate Snake. I get the impression that a lot of MGS Sons of Liberty was laid out with the skeleton of the old game, and new skin of different colours was just stapled on here and there, making the whole experience just botched in places and quite disjointed. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but knew it could have been a far more engaging game.

Speaking of which, we all know that Riaden was the weaker of the two; why is it that weaker characters from previous titles need to be introduced into later ones as total bad-asses, (MGS 4 reference). We said: "Raiden's a Pussy", they said, "Then we'll stick him in Cyborg Armour and give him a Batman growl". I call it: Bad-Ass-Dertising a character, and when you say "BadAssDertising" it sounds like you're saying "Bastardising", which is about right.

Any games you can think of where pussy-characters are re-vamped as bad-asses in sequels?

Good post Yahtzee.

So basically they should do sequels Elder Scrolls style? Just taking the premise of the game but with a whole new story?

So basically they should do sequels Elder Scrolls style? Just taking the premise of the game but with a whole new story?

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