Should we focus more on innovating with the characters and story rather than gameplay?
Yes, better characters are what the industry needs.
22.5% (32)
22.5% (32)
Maybe, it depends on how the narrative integrates with the gameplay.
57% (81)
57% (81)
No, never. Games are about gameplay. Always have been, always should be.
20.4% (29)
20.4% (29)
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Poll: Are we innovating the wrong way?

Almost everywhere you go on the Internet you'll find gamers complaining that the industry is stagnating, that we're seeing the same gameplay over and over again. It's not hard to find doomsayers proclaiming a near-future collapse because of the lack of innovation. My question is whether we're focusing to much on gameplay and not enough on innovativating in the storytelling department.

That's not to disparage gameplay, indeed there are many awesome titles that have either minimal or horribly done narratives. It's just that I find a richer and more memorable experience when I play a game with a well done story such as Jak II, GTA IV, FFX and inFamous, than when I play Mario, Red Faction: Guerilla or Skyrim.

Good characters are the one of the biggest reasons I loved the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games. But on the other hand, the cardboard cutout personalities of the gears of war characters rendered me unable to finish the game because I kept committing suicide just to stop the moron I was playing from saying "Sweet" every time he picked up a grenade (I was quite sad to learn he was voiced by the same guy who voices Bender in Futurama, come on dude, I know you aren't this bad of a voice actor!) My point is, that if they hadn't bothered with giving him a halfhearted "personality" they could have just focused on refining the gameplay (which wasn't too bad). So my opinion: either commit to have a good story and characters, or just don't bother at all.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

I want both.

Ahh why not have both. Why not indeed. Where's that Mexican taco girl when you need her.

I don't give a shit. I'll play the Darkness, then I'll play Vanquish. Either way I was blown away by both. One because of a great narrative and deep characters, the other because of amazingly fluid and tight gameplay and shooting mechanics, and a bloody cover system that emphasized on fast movement and pushing forward, rather than cowering behind a pillar.

I forgot which was which.

If you're thinking about the gameplay driving the character development rather then cutscenes then I think we are on the same page. That way, the gameplay changes the narrative flow such as lore, backgrounds, character personality changing, and more.

Unfortunately, it's not an easy thing to explain with words.

Yes, some games innovate the wrong way. Frankly, I believe games should have as fluent game play as possible while telling the story through bits and pieces of the narrative, instead of expensive cinematics and walls of text.

OT: You can have both, the developers just have to know what they are going for, if it's possible in the amount of time they have, and whether or not they can afford it.

They want to make the perfect experince and to appeal to as many people as possible, it's just some of them forget what makes a quality experience sometimes (or keep one part simple cause it might be bad for business).

All of the above.

And less emphasis on shiny bloom and crap like that. I could really care less how realistically sweaty your character looks. I truly wish for a time when graphics have topped out as far as reality goes so they can start concentrating on the game parts and less on how many wrinkles you can see in the main character's armpit. Can you imagine how deep, lengthy and awesome the games would be now if graphics had topped out about a decade ago?

I think one of the reasons retro gaming became so popular isn't so much because of the nostalgia, but the fact that many of those games despite their obvious graphical and auditory inferiority have far more interesting characters, deeper story and more fun gameplay than many that come out today.

(Don't get me wrong, I love graphics too, but I just wish they weren't the main selling point of games more often than not.)

I feel that as long as the gameplay is solid, not ground breaking, the story/characters should be more important. I just like good, well told stories that make you feel

They really need to do both, even with gameplay new games haven't exactly been innovating so much as cutting down and copy/pasting.
But from the sounds of things we got some good character driven games ahead and many more companies are bringing proper writers in, we have yet to see how things turn out but it sounds good for the time being.

However you should never jump from one extreme to another, we need improvements in both areas constantly, no game does it perfectly.

I like to think games are improving with regard to story and characterisation. While you do get your shiny, toothless shoot-em-up fun like Gears and CoD, you also get your gems like Red Dead Redemption, Infamous and the Mass Effect series, where the story and characters are an integral part of the experience.

Also, I do think their are a lot of games that have come out this generation which have tried to explore new things with game narrative. Bioshock gave us a big focus on moral choices (for better or worse) and a well done Fight Club-esque twist on the concept of linear gameplay, Grand Theft Auto IV deconstructed the series' destructive open world gameplay to create a gritty tragedy with a synpathetic protagonist, while the Saints Row series went in the opposite direction to create a madcap farce. Even some of the games that arguably didn't succeed, like Brutal Legend, Dragon Age 2 and LA Noire were all a product of developers trying to do new things with narrative.

So yeah, I would say (or at least like to hope) that games are getting better in this regard. At the very least I don't want to agree with those backwards looking luddites who insist that games have all been getting progressively worse since 1998, or whenever the hypothetical 'golden age' was.

Innovation can go in many different ways. Although I hesitate to call any direction "wrong" but a lot of it right now is going in a direction I personally don't care for. Motion controls and making games more accessible means they can become more shallow. That's not necessarily a bad thing. There is a place for simpler games for people who are daunted by the more esoteric styles of games. But trying to turn games that are already well designed as they are and to water them down and try appease those who aren't interested anyway is a fool's errand.

Innovation in story telling is one direction that would be good to explore, but there are many others too. Like experimentation with game mechanics etc. But the direction of innovation should be appropriate, and not in a way that clashes with the existing design of the game.

Bastion. Gameplay wasn't worth much - the weapon dynamics are fun for a while, then you upgrade them all and you're invincible. It's the story that got me to replay it over and over.

Wait, wait, wait.

'Innovating in the wrong direction'?

Isn't that an oxymoron?

I've always really liked stories over gameplay. Don't get me wrong, I love the gameplay. But stories are what keeps me coming back to a game... depending on the type of game obviously.

Zhukov:
The two are not mutually exclusive.

I want both.

This, I'd rather read a book if the story was amazing but the gameplay was just terrible. Why can't we have a game that plays well with good story?

That said, if they focus on gameplay a lot more I can often overlook the story, but not the other way round.

Daystar Clarion:
Wait, wait, wait.

'Innovating in the wrong direction'?

Isn't that an oxymoron?

Well innovation is just defined as "Make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products." So it could very well be in the "wrong direction".

I really like a good story (it usually masks the fact that most games boil down to a repetition) but some sort of innovation that isn't shoddily implemented motion controls or yelling at the screen would be nice. These were interesting ideas but the problem is 1) they weren't nearly as responsive as they should have been and 2) if I'm sick and can't/don't want to move, it would be nice to have a game that doesn't require me to have epileptic fits to kill the baddie trying to make love to my face with his sword.

So, while I'm all for experimenting, can we realize certain innovations need a bit more time to cook? Until we get fully immersive wet-wired into my brain games, bring me good story and characterizations to lessen the pain of knowing I still don't have my flying car.

Using games to tell stories that aren't integrated into the game mechanics is like using a movie to display text. So in other words, I think "gameplay vs. story" is a bit of a false dichotomy.

Austin Manning:
Almost everywhere you go on the Internet you'll find gamers complaining that the industry is stagnating, that we're seeing the same gameplay over and over again. It's not hard to find doomsayers proclaiming a near-future collapse because of the lack of innovation. My question is whether we're focusing to much on gameplay and not enough on innovativating in the storytelling department.

Heh. Maybe stagnating on consoles, but on PC I'm aware of at least eleven recent and upcoming titles that do something I haven't seen before or haven't seen in a long time.

Kahunaburger:
Using games to tell stories that aren't integrated into the game mechanics is like using a movie to display text. So in other words, I think "gameplay vs. story" is a bit of a false dichotomy.

I think Star Wars did that one fine. Hay they all start out with a paragraph or two of text. AkA it can work if done sparingly.

Eddie the head:

Kahunaburger:
Using games to tell stories that aren't integrated into the game mechanics is like using a movie to display text. So in other words, I think "gameplay vs. story" is a bit of a false dichotomy.

I think Star Wars did that one fine. Hay they all start out with a paragraph or two of text. AkA it can work if done sparingly.

I agree - there's nothing wrong with a text crawl (when it's well-written) or subtitles, just like there's nothing wrong with a game that integrates a linear narrative in a way that contextualizes gameplay without undermining it. Like Sands of Time.

I'll just be happy if developers are innovating on anything other than graphics.

Do you know what games fundamentally are? They are simulations of space, objects and physics.

You move, navigate obstacles, and interact with objects. In most cases the gameplay is basically progression through the overcoming of adversity (which usually comes down to killing the enemy through the application of force and/ or the solving of puzzles).

Don't you think that this limitation (for that's what it is in the end) affects narrative?

Protagonists need a driving force (motive) to propel them through the elaborate obstacle course. We all know the two main ones; fighting "evil" (saving the day/ doing what is right) and revenge.

If we were to use other motives (like survival in an unknown environment and/ or the unraveling of a mystery), we might see completely different obstacle courses and interactions within it.

I think it also depends on the game. Mario is a platformer. I don't expect an earth-shattering performance from him. As long as it's fun to try and out run Bullet Bills and such I don't care if he's two dimensional (no pun intended). But for a game that's going to have me interacting with a lot of NPCs and going to many different places, I would like there to be more focus on making characters and missions likeable. But I think when it comes down to it: A game with good story but bad gameplay is hard to enjoy, and a game with good gameplay but bad story is hard to enjoy. Finding a medium is the best solution for some games.

None of the above. I don't really think it's possible to "innovate the wrong way." Different developers can innovate in different ways and different games require different emphases.

Sure, I'd love to see better writing and characters in games, but I'm not about to condemn anyone who focuses on gameplay.

 

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