Complacency in Storytelling

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Complacency in Storytelling

I noticed it when I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins. The unearned assumption that we're on board seems to extend to the gameplay as well as the exposition.

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I miss tutorials, too. I remember in Gears of War 2 you could optionally do a tutorial by choosing to 'train the rook' or just sod the matter and rush ahead to the next mission. That's how you do it.

And yeah it's a bit odd that we're just supposed to know everything that has happened before. At least Black Ops II was largely unconnected to 1 but made occasional references to it (which is also how Black Ops is a 'sequel' to World at War). Have you not played Assassin's Creed III? Well sod you, here's a plot which ruins III for you.

I'm surprised you didn't say "PS4 and Xbox One" in that final sentence.

I actually kind of liked how Modern Warfare did its' tutorial mission, as an actual training session for the character as well as the player. Not only did it help new players learn the controls, it was also world building in that it showed us that the elite soldiers you hang with apparently prepares meticulously for their assignments (the tutorial has you clearing out a mock up of a ship, the very next mission has you boarding a freighter). Then you could repeat the section as many times as you wanted, either to get a better hang of the controls or just to see if you could beat your own high score.

I prefer either that or the good ol' System Shock 2/Deus Ex/Half-Life version with a stand alone tutorial level that also serves as an introduction to the game world.

This is how I felt about Gears of War 3. At first I liked it as a game with good gameplay with bad aesthetics. Then by the time it had the Pompeii/Hiroshima level and started flat out encouraging genocide, I was genuinely creeped out and it really affected my enjoyment of the game. When the game makes the massive assumption that we're on board with their worldview it becomes a weird outsider art/art brut deal.

Well there's always the Prince of Persia/God of War-style tutorials. Tell you how to do something and kill you dead if you do it wrong. Of course this method makes some players cry so...

But yes, despite the benefits of such an introduction, the flaws show with more and more games doing it. You want an action-packed opening but can't make things too hectic for the player before they learn how to walk. A separate tutorial can help avoid that and prevent repetition on repeat playthroughs (Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, etc.). One of the best examples of these I can think of would be Star Fox 64, which had a medal score like any other stage and an early Star Wolf cameo if you scored high.

Story-wise, you can't expect Call of Duty to pay any attention to narrative sense, their main audience doesn't care why they're shooting people, just that they are. Arkham Origins is a prequel so there's not much to bring you up to speed on, but aren't there dossiers for each villain anyway?

I actually like the way Arkham City does tutorials: you get a little blurb on how each gadget and ability works as you go, they're spread out through the game, and if you've played it before you don't have to wait for the tutorial to use them. In fact, the variety of Riddler trophies lying around encourages you to experiment. Take, as an example, the Remote Batarang. You aren't actually TOLD how to use it until you're in the museum, but it's available as soon as you get the Batsuit, and several of the trophies visible right off the bat require you to use it.

My problem with some games is that they make you do the standard course where they basically show you that look, jump and crouch all works the same as every other game you've played, but doesn't bother mentioning where the game adds to the mechanics or differ from them.

Give me a proper tutorial course that I can pick from the menu instead of ending up with the beginning of every game being the same crippled tutorial that doesn't actually teach you anything.

I think the complacency thing is dead on. Even with AAA games that I genuinely enjoy I do tend to get the sense that it was made knowing that by the time I was playing it my money would already be safely stored in the AAA Games Inc. vault. That said the alternative, at least of issues of morality (like with Killzone or CoD's propensity for assuming you want to teabag the underdog until it has two round dents in its face), is to put some kind of binary moral choice in like Infamous or even Mass Effect. Press X to help injured civilian up, press Y to execute him on the spot in case he's a turrrrrist.

Although considering the sales figures of the PS4 a lessening of respect for one's fellow man is something I can sympathize with.

Also it's pretty ballsy to insult 1 million plus Americans for your closing point (not that I disagree).

But now, it's almost as if the player has been roped to the game without the game's knowledge, and the game is simply proceeding forwards, oblivious. Sometimes it pauses as the player becomes momentarily caught on something, but then it just gives an extra-strong push and continues. Let me know if I'm not explaining this well.

You are explaining yourself quite well. I have the same issue with a lot of games...

The first one that I noticed and really bothered me was God of War 3, where it assumes Kratos is justified to commit genocide because he just IS. No explanation is ever given to show it as more than a tantrum and it never stops to consider that you are not an antihero, you are a villain (to call him an antihero would be like calling Jason Voorhees an antihero). He kills everyone he meets (except those he fucks) so by the time they introduce Pandora and act like we should be grateful that he finds redemption, all I could do was glare in disbelief at the laziness of the writing.

Its not even about the lack of a tutorial. Its about some basics of writing and world building: Who am I? What do I want? and Why would the player care about it? If they can't answer those questions at the beginning (or, at least, address them at some point), what is the point of even having writing? Call of Duty Ghosts went the extra mile in laziness with that by having your commanding official being you father, and your partner your brother, so that they didn't even have to build on those relationships.

Just because the protagonists are always Vektan doesn't mean that the developer expects you to be fully on their side. I think there are a lot of opportunities for the player to make their own judgement about who is more right or wrong, particularly with the collectible audio logs and newspapers of Killzone: Shadowfall.

vun:
My problem with some games is that they make you do the standard course where they basically show you that look, jump and crouch all works the same as every other game you've played, but doesn't bother mentioning where the game adds to the mechanics or differ from them.

Give me a proper tutorial course that I can pick from the menu instead of ending up with the beginning of every game being the same crippled tutorial that doesn't actually teach you anything.

You know, making multiple tutorials isn't that bad of idea
For example you start the game
You choose difficulty and next you are provided with an options
A)Full tutorial
B)Quick tutorial
C)No tutorial
A assumes you haven't played any similar game before, so it teaches you all you need to know before you start the game.
B assumes you have played some games similar to on you're playing now, so it teaches you only how this game differs from genre baseline
C assumes you are experienced gamer (and have played previous games if there is established series), so it quickly mentions only the things you absolutely need to know (and can't know on your first playthrough)
That would allow players to setup level of help they need

The Call Of Duty series started out as a world war 2 shooter, so the title actually fits the time it was meant to portray. A time where nationalism and jingoism was much more prevalent than it is today.

Ghosts takes place in an alternate timeline and so my guess is that they wanted to present a world where the balance of power is significantly changed from how it is today.

Also, just because you jumped ship doesn't mean that others can't still enjoy playing on consoles.

Believe it or not, my point is not whether or not the alleged good guys have a claim to the moral high ground. My point is that it's a growing trend that new games can't even be bothered to try to convince you that they do, and simply sweep forward, without glancing backward to make sure you're keeping up.

The worst thing is, developers can claim that as some way that the game encourages you to think about the morality of your decisions. Unfortunately, they rarely make it clear what the choice and the consequences are, or they present a "choice" that is decided for you by the bland non-characters.

DataSnake:
I actually like the way Arkham City does tutorials: you get a little blurb on how each gadget and ability works as you go, they're spread out through the game, and if you've played it before you don't have to wait for the tutorial to use them. In fact, the variety of Riddler trophies lying around encourages you to experiment. Take, as an example, the Remote Batarang. You aren't actually TOLD how to use it until you're in the museum, but it's available as soon as you get the Batsuit, and several of the trophies visible right off the bat require you to use it.

The bit I don't like is that you don't know what the Remote Batarang does until you get to the museum, which might be hours in depending on how much you muck about. It's present, but nothing draws you to it unless you have some idea what it does from previous games, or your just going through all the gadgets and experimenting. Everyone can work out punching people, but it can be frustrating to have a deep system presented to you (and the expectation that you know how to use it, if the fights are any indication) but not know how to use it until an unknown (to you) point in the game.

DataSnake:
I actually like the way Arkham City does tutorials: you get a little blurb on how each gadget and ability works as you go, they're spread out through the game, and if you've played it before you don't have to wait for the tutorial to use them. In fact, the variety of Riddler trophies lying around encourages you to experiment. Take, as an example, the Remote Batarang. You aren't actually TOLD how to use it until you're in the museum, but it's available as soon as you get the Batsuit, and several of the trophies visible right off the bat require you to use it.

I see what you did there! Even if you didn't mean to do it!

I do miss proper, full tutorials now that Yahtzee mentions it. Especially when they do that thing he described where they try to make it all super dramatic and rushed while still trying to teach you things. Like in Arkham Origins, you start off at a prison break at Blackgate and you arrive, alas, mere seconds too late to stop the main dramatic event. But it's the very first section of the game, so for many players they're going to feel like Batman was "just too late" because he was busy spazzing out with the explosive gel sprayer, trying to learn how to detonate it properly.

Actually, one other thing that I've suddenly remembered from Arkham Origins which is pretty unrelated. They absolutely fucked up the colour design of large portions of the game, in a way that actually makes combat harder. See, most of the game takes place in the open city, during a blizzard. And the colour of the standard counter icon is pale blue, verging on white. So you're trying to see this thing against a snowy background, and it fucks you over so hard some times. Oh, and it's really hard to distinguish armoured enemies from non-armoured ones. In Arkham City it was a doddle because the armour was either bright red or a full metal suit, but in Origins it's barely noticeable. And you can kind of fix these problems by keeping on detective vision in combat, but the problems with that are A) Detective vision turns off the moment you get hit and you have to flick it back on again, and that B) It's yet another situation where you end up using detective vision and losing all the visual details.

Isn't the real question: "Why didn't the makers of Call Ghosts of Duty grow have the guts to drop the narrative completely, and focus utterly on the gunplay?"

Its vestigial storytelling. All of it is like so many words knitted together like an appendix that exists so it can, as typical of an appendix that is expected to do something, explode.

LiMaSaRe:
Just because the protagonists are always Vektan doesn't mean that the developer expects you to be fully on their side. I think there are a lot of opportunities for the player to make their own judgement about who is more right or wrong, particularly with the collectible audio logs and newspapers of Killzone: Shadowfall.

A problem though, and this is coming from a huge Killzone fan who hasn't played Shadow Fall yet, is that in one to three there's virtually no implication that maybe what the ISA are doing is ultimately wrong. Yes, they HINT at it, but ultimately everybody moves on. You could also say that the writers are just expecting you to fill in the blanks, and there could be truth to that statement, but sometimes a narrative is better suited to a simple progression, and Killzone's is indefinitely one of those. For example, in Killzone 3 Captain Narville is the consistently sensible ISA agent in the entire game. He sees the value in retreating and not acting like some kind of adrenaline-fueled, jingoistic, cave-man. However, throughout the entire game, he's treated like some kind of stuffy bureaucrat, and it's completely straight.

I still remember being extremely wierded out about how the opening cut-scene goes out of its way to pain the Helghans as slaves of an oppressive Nazi/Stalinist hybrid regime, but then a) you never actually see any Helghast who aren't loyal soldiers trying to kill you and b) you end up destroying the entire planet at the end.

I get the feeling they were going for a parallel to Hiroshima- brutal war ends with a highly morally questionable act of destruction against the enemy side- but the thing is if America had literally reduced the entirety of Japan to ashes at the end of WWII I think even the most die-hard jingoistic warmonger would have trouble condoning it. I remember sitting there thinking "wait didn't that just kill, like, millions of Helghast children? Aren't I the bad guy now?"

tutorials??? REAL gamers wade through 200+ page manuals before they start a game!

sometimes the hardcore gamer demographic reminds me of the gung-ho, nationalistic BS you see in games like COD. dont agree? they you are a filthy casual, er communist.. er nazi !

these days with the AAA+ market you are expected to play the gaqme in the exact way the developers designed, do not deviate, do not pass go. the future of gaming was meant to huge expansive worlds with characters and locations that were fully immersive, not a bunch of cut scenes and set pieces that the game is annoyed you arent seeing fast enough or that you DARE set off the designated path

Pseudonym2:
This is how I felt about Gears of War 3. At first I liked it as a game with good gameplay with bad aesthetics. Then by the time it had the Pompeii/Hiroshima level and started flat out encouraging genocide, I was genuinely creeped out and it really affected my enjoyment of the game. When the game makes the massive assumption that we're on board with their worldview it becomes a weird outsider art/art brut deal.

Pompeii/Hiroshima level...? You mean the one where all the main characters walk past the ash statues of dead people and act horrified? As in, they're actively condemning what happened through their reactions? Does that really seem like encouragement to you?

And if you're referring to the completely separate neutron bomb you'd know it was entirely necessary to save any semblance of life remaining on the planet from extinction if you were even half paying attention when it was explained.

Don't forget the old-school tutorials where characters broke the fourth wall and literally told you to press A to jump.

To be fair, I think the Helghast lost the right to being the underdog when they nuked their own city, killing countless innocent Heglhast citizens, just to try and kill a few ISA in the blast as well. At that point you kind of lose the right to act like the victims because you really are just a bunch of rotten evil asshats.

Of course, there still could have been better writing in the games so we never had such an inane thing happen in the first place, but it did so I'm all on board for the Helghast being the villains in the story now. Besides, it was still better writing than what Shadow Fall's campaign brought to the table.

Evonisia:
I miss tutorials, too. I remember in Gears of War 2 you could optionally do a tutorial by choosing to 'train the rook' or just sod the matter and rush ahead to the next mission. That's how you do it.

That really pissed me off in Gears 3 when they got rid of the "do you want a tutorial" thing and just forced it on everyone. I mean damn Gears 3, I already played and beat Gears 1 and 2. I already beat you on regular-hard. Now I just want to give the actual hardest difficulty setting (that's another thing that pisses me off: let me go for the hardest setting first if I want) a go and you still treat me like I don't know how to play? Bite me, Gears 3.

wombat_of_war:
tutorials??? REAL gamers wade through 200+ page manuals before they start a game!

sometimes the hardcore gamer demographic reminds me of the gung-ho, nationalistic BS you see in games like COD. dont agree? they you are a filthy casual, er communist.. er nazi !

these days with the AAA+ market you are expected to play the gaqme in the exact way the developers designed, do not deviate, do not pass go. the future of gaming was meant to huge expansive worlds with characters and locations that were fully immersive, not a bunch of cut scenes and set pieces that the game is annoyed you arent seeing fast enough or that you DARE set off the designated path

OMG, I feel old that I miss games coming with MANUALS! The books that not only tell you the controls, but the weapons/power-ups, enemies, locations, and characters. Nowadays, you have to look in the games' menus for the manual. I get they're trying to "go green", but it just doesn't feel the same.

As for KillZone, I always thought that the Helghast were mutated descendants of the original human colonists on Helghan, but they thought they were better than the rest of humanity. Plus, it's hard to make a direct USA vs. someone else comparison since the developer is based in the Netherlands, so make of that what you will.
This means tomorrow's ZP will be about Killzone, won't it? Or Battlefield 4?

Darth_Payn:
Plus, it's hard to make a direct USA vs. someone else comparison since the developer is based in the Netherlands, so make of that what you will.

The Netherlands are sufficiently exposed to bad American story-telling to mindlessly copy many of the same tropes.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Although considering the sales figures of the PS4 a lessening of respect for one's fellow man is something I can sympathize with.

I hate to say it, but this dig seems extremely petty Mr. Croshaw. Not only does it have very little relation to the topic at hand, but it also fails to follow up on any significant topic that you brought up. Rather than getting the impression you're going in for another blow or trying to make the viewer laugh, I get the impression that you just wanted to throw the comment in to satisfy your own disdain for the more closely related topic that the comment relates to.

Anyways, I pretty much agree with the article. It seems extremely odd that game developers don't just segment their tutorials to an option in the main menu so that the developers can get on with creating interesting game content rather than trying to cram in a tutorial.

The Batman

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I noticed it when I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins. The game seems to assume that you know the backstory of the Joker as told in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke as well as who Black Mask is and why we give a shit. But the unearned assumption that we're on board seems to extend to the gameplay as well as the exposition. You start the game with a bunch of the same gadgets from previous games and none of them are introduced, the game just kind of assumes you know how they're all used. The combat with ground-level mooks at the very beginning of the game is, I'd say, on a level of difficulty you'd have found at about half-way through Arkham City's campaign.
Read more at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/10777-Complacency-in-Storytelling.2#wqSzJrUzw9wHLHjr.99

Try Splinter Cell : Double Agent.

There are two tutorial levels : the first is just to do basic movement controls (literally "move into the patch of light") and the second is a full on stealth insertion, take down three armed guards while remaining utterly undetected. Wait what? I get how we covered "do you want the analogue sticks inverted?" but otherwise you're just throwing me in midway through a stealth game. Yes the franchise was established by then but I'm pretty sure Double Agent was the first Xbox 360 Splinter Cell game and having never owned a standard XBox, I never got past the "tutorials".

Being thrust into a battle with no context or motivation only really works in the historically based Call of duty games.
World War 2 provided all the backstory and context, so Call of Duty games haven't had to, until now.

Even Modern Warfare 1 was close enough to reality to understand what was probably going on in the bigger picture, but by the opening of MW2, Russia has turned evil without explanation so someone can invade Washington D.C.

WWII: Kill Nazis is enough context and motivation for me, but it can't just be switched to Present: Kill Invaders.
I want to know why I'm doing something, even if my character doesn't.

Call of Duty should go back to history, or at least the real world. There are lots of conflicts they could shine a light on, instead of cooking up another sci-fi invasion of America.

WhiteFangofWar:
Story-wise, you can't expect Call of Duty to pay any attention to narrative sense, their main audience doesn't care why they're shooting people, just that they are. Arkham Origins is a prequel so there's not much to bring you up to speed on, but aren't there dossiers for each villain anyway?

See the problem there is that you're making assumptions about Call of Duty players in the first instance, and assuming that "Origins" players will know the context of the game / past games in the second. I remember playing the original "Halo", and I never touched the multiplayer apart from a couple of goes of split-screen on my mate's X-box. Yet whenever "Halo" gets mentioned nowadays, it always seems to be regarding the multiplayer. I'm not saying that your assumptions aren't generally correct, but CoD isn't TF2. There are always going to be people who play it for the single-player.

To others: "System Shock 2"'s opening actually put me off a bit the first time I played it (and yes, this is the guy who's completed that game about sixteen times talking.) I find that it gives you too many decisions, too early on. It's a little too confusing. That and the early enemies are ridiculously powerful, even on "Normal" mode, if you're new and haven't learnt about health conservation yet.

I think "Skyrim" is a great example of a game that starts off well. You start the game fleeing a freakin' dragon attack! Compare that to, say, "Oblivion", where your first enemies in the game are... rats. Yeah. (I know there's the Mythic Dawn guys as well, but come on... you can just stand back and let the guards take them out without breaking a sweat.) Then there's the question of how an essentially linear situation that you can't really affect is presented. In "Skyrim" control is never taken away from you, forcing you to make use of what little resources you have at that point. This makes a great introduction to the game. In "Oblivion" the plot depends on the Emperor dying, which happens while you are literally rooted to the spot - after being told that you're supposed to guard him! Add that to the Emperor immediately entrusting you, a prisoner in the city jails, with a vitally important artefact (instead of one of his own guards) for no other reason than he apparently likes your face... It's not exactly immersion-building.

V8 Ninja:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Although considering the sales figures of the PS4 a lessening of respect for one's fellow man is something I can sympathize with.

I hate to say it, but this dig seems extremely petty Mr. Croshaw. Not only does it have very little relation to the topic at hand, but it also fails to follow up on any significant topic that you brought up. Rather than getting the impression you're going in for another blow or trying to make the viewer laugh, I get the impression that you just wanted to throw the comment in to satisfy your own disdain for the more closely related topic that the comment relates to.

you're not alone in seeing it that way, rest assured. XD Not that the sort of opinion he takes is all that uncommon on the escapist.

I try to be as divorced from emotions as possible when it comes to these sorts of things, but given that the "PC master race" is always as tactless, arrogant, and condescending as possible when they try to make a point about anything, I find myself in a position where I no longer care about how objectively superior the PC is as a gaming unit. Their elitism literally annoys me to the point where I'm perfectly happy to play on inferior consoles just so that I have one less thing in common with them.

More on topic, I actually wonder if the trend he discusses was born precisely because military shooters came to prominence. Games that take a more hero-centric focus can't go anywhere without you because... well, without the hero, there's no story. The military "realism" for a given value of the word came to prominence, and thus was born a situation where the player is literally just one in an entire army of equally outfitted soldiers, and thus the battle will progress, more or less in the same way, whether the player's avatar was there or not. It's a strange paradigm shift, one that suits the nature of a multiplayer focused game at the expense of the singleplayer experience.

Regarding Batman... I think that may well just be a case of a long-running franchise game assuming everyone has already played the games leading up to it... more a case of not being considerate than anything.

As a European who studied a little bit of history, all these dumb scenario's of "the US is being attacked!! oh noes!!" do kind of annoy me. They don't dig into any profound reasons for the attack, but just keep hammering on the perception that there are some kind of attackers out there for little to no reason.

I mean, even the 9/11 attacks and the whole legacy of Bin Laden has roots going far back, involving both the US and Europe during and after the first world war, no one just says "Lol lets attack!" in geopolitics.

Not that I wonna say that these games are meant to create fear amongst the public opinion or whatever, I'm not the kind of guy who thinks people can just be injected with ideas like that. But still, it annoys me that they can't manage to come up with something better.

This is something I've been thinking about these past few days. I honestly don't know why more games don't have a separate non-canon tutorial. It would be best for everyone, so far as I can see. Those who don't know what they're doing can boot up the tutorial and get taught the basics in a stress-free environment, those experienced with the game or similar games can skip it altogether, and the developers don't have to worry about front-loading everything the player will need.

Everyone would win, maybe with the exception of the people who think they're above a "tutorial" and still can't figure out the game, but in that case, it's their own fault. How big could that demographic be, anyway?

Also, I noticed that motivation seems lacking in a lot of games too. I played through RAGE again recently, and at no point did I know why I was doing anything the game was telling me to do. To a certain extent, this seems to be par for the course.

Killzone: Shadow Fall lost me in the first 15 seconds because apparently (I don't think this is a spoiler, because it literally is the first 15 seconds of opening movie): The Vektans nuke the Helghast planet into a lifeless cinder, then invite all the remaining Soviet Nazi Space Empire back home and give them half their home planet. What could go wrong?

Now maybe there's some backstory or whatever that makes this less stupid than it sounds, but that just reinforces the main point of the article. I lost track of the Killzone lore long ago (first game) because it was so WoW-ishly bad I just gave up caring. So for I, or anyone else who has never played a Killzone before, you start out with the plot being completely asinine before you've even gotten into the game. And then, yes, it does seem to expect you to have played all the previous games to make sense of anything other than 'Okay, we need you to go here and do this Dead Space bit.'

I hear you loud and clear, Yahtzee. I find a lot of games *expect* me to feel emotional or invested in their stories, but just jam them forward without giving me time to figure out what the stakes are. Just 'in you go, kid - and by the way, you're supposed to care about this!'

Upon early previews of CoD:MW2 I was truly excited. Truly, truly excited. What I heard was that a few missions were going to take place in Afghanistan; that we'd have to deal with enemies whom we knew were our enemies but couldn't fire on because RoE bullshit. I heard about generals landing airstrikes way too close to friendly forces, and an interesting mission with frustratingly sketchy details about whether or not the Player himself would actually be involved in a terrorist attack.

"Yes!" I thought "Finally, someone's going to tackle the War on Terror with the unflinching 'harsh-light-of-day' scope that conflict's been crying out for years now." I was fully prepared to be thrust into situations where who the enemy was remained uncertain; the psychologically draining reality that an attack could happen at any time, from any direction, from anyONE without warning. That we'd glimpse, perhaps, into what drives our enemies to do what they do and despair as a bloated, inefficient military bureaucracy gives fighting so many rules that fighting itself is near impossible.

This is the game I was excited for...but, obviously, that's not what I got. Instead, 'Call of Duty' should be rebranded to 'America: Fuck Yeah! The Game.' Now I'm as American as they make 'em, but even I have to pause and scratch my head at CoD's recent portrayal of my nation and its enemies. Mainly: do they really expect me to swallow this?

Y'know, Call of Duty used to be pretty even-handed in its portrayal of its heroes and enemies. Americans, British, Russians; we were all just doing our thing - fighting the Germans...who were never really portrayed as cartoonishly evil, by the way, just dudes doing their jobs as well. Hell, the Jerries in CoD2 were tendering wounded Allied troops in one mission adhering to the Geneva Conventions despite being associated with arguably the most evil organized government in modern history. They were just young and scared as any of the rest of them.

Even CoD4 slapped military jingoism in the face when it went and nuked an entire Battalion of Marines.

I fear I have strayed from the point, here. Yeah, there's definitely a lot of 'complacency in story telling' going around. And it will be a joyous day when developers realize again that drawing your players in and giving them a reason for what they do is part of the reward of playing.

I don't really agree with the tutorial business. I think at this point it's pretty fair to assume the players know the basics and to allow the game design to teach you how to play. A list of controls in the menu is plenty for any game that isn't particularly complex. And keep in mind these games are often rated 15 or 18 so we can assume most people picking it up know what they are doing.

As for the story - I kinda agree but at the same time you are in control so the assumption you are on board with the character is already a given. If I don't care about the character or the story then I often won't play the game after the gameplay has worn thin. There are countless games where I've gotten to an end boss or even just a tricky section and stopped playing all together because I simply did not care about the resolution. I don't think the problem is really easily isolated to the creator's assuming we are on board. It's just crappy writing and I'm skeptical this will ever be fixed for any game that involves larges amounts of killing because you just cannot have a character murder thousands of people and have me believe your story. I can't have sympathy or empathy for this monster and I can't really believe in imminent peril because I know if I were in full control I'd be hauling ass.

Considering the "sequelitis" and "like X but..." design that triple-A games suffer from, why should it be too surprising that they make certain basic assumptions?

For that matter, why do we spend so much time going on about triple-A games all the time? Fuck 'em! They suck! Really, how many times has Jim, Yahtzee, and any number of other people constantly lamented on the sad state of triple-A games? Honestly, guys, if it's that bad, let's just stop buying it and move on. Let's focus on games that are actually inventive, creative, fun, and...edifying, rather than waste so many electrons crying incessantly over games that make us so disgusted. At what point do we just admit to ourselves that this just isn't a horse worth saving (holy hell, it's dead, Jim)? Just shoot it, be done with it, and move on to better fields (and better horses).

To be honest, I have to lay the sad state of the triple-A game industry not at the feet of the publishers but squarely at the feet of the gamers themselves. Why? Because we keep buying it. There's no real incentive for any of it to change. If the triple-A industry has become complacent it's because it knows it can be. There's no pressure to improve or do better, because it knows all it has to do it flash some new shiny graphics and watch every gamer come running with fists full of dollars ready to plunk down on the latest release of Churn-Grind Sequel Game No. Whatever: The Unending Toilet Overflow, completely forgetting how we got scammed out of our money with the last umpteen games. We go on the Internet to cry and whine about it all for a week or two, and then we're right back to throwing our money at these same games and publishers when the next new graphically shiny scam-a-thon gets dangled in front of us.

I think it would be nice to have a section devoted entirely to the lesser known, lesser advertised games, like small and independent developer games. What about a place where non-triple-A publishers can have their games receive a bit more press and attention. I think it would be nice to turn away from the beaten path of triple-A games to find some alternatives and save ourselves the constant acid-reflux over how bad the triple-A industry is. Really, if it's all as bad as we constantly lament it to be, let's just leave it behind and move on, cause it's not going to get better by us continuing to throw money at it for garbage.

Or, maybe, it's not as bad as we lament, and sometimes we just over-generalize.

I believe the term you're looking for here Yahtzee is "middle ground." We don't need things over-tutorialized, but we don't want to be left in the dust either.

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