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View Full Version : Are Game Stories "Too Cheap"?


SilentScope001
01-14-2008, 02:08 AM
This...is a flip-flop. This is so a flipflop because some time ago, I advocated making Tetris better by having a story (http://www.lucasforums.com/showthread.php?t=176654). But now, I realized something new that now make game stories, well, not that good anymore.

Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/).

You see, I never played Mass Effect. But I now have everything there is to know about Mass Effect on my fingertips. Especially the story. That's right, I now know what happened to <POST CENSORED DUE TO SPOILERS>.

Fine, fine, fine. I admit. Few people actually go and read the spoilers, because they want to play the game itself and learn the story then and get the 'suprise' effect. But I always been addicted to spoilers, because I don't LIKE games for the Gameplay, I like them for the Story. And if I really, really hate the gameplay, then why bother slogging through 60 hours just to figure out a real basic story? Only now am I starting to realize the implications of such a manveuer...

I have to play games with crummy storylines to experience the Awesome gameplay, which cannot be summarized on Wikipedia. But I don't have to play games with Awesome Stories and deal with the crummy Gameplay. In fact, if you believe you might not be able to play a game with both Awesome Gameplay and Awesome Story (like, say, Deus Ex), then you (read: me) might want to read the Awesome Story first, and later on, buy the game for the Awesome Gameplay. You never know when you are going to die, so you might as well figure out what happens in Deus Ex first.

Basically: "If a person can easily access the storyline for $0.00 for a Game that cost $60, and if the Storyline is the only reason a person actually will get that Game, then there is no real reason to buy the Game." I'm the only one who actually 'freeloads', to my knowledge, but it may harm the story industry in the long term: If people can figure out the story of a game, and they don't actually buy the game, then the Game Designers will less profit. And if the Game Designers spend too much money on Storyline, and not enough on Gameplay, then they may suffer too much losses. Even if the Storyline is good, you still have access to it on Wikipedia for free, meaning there is no incentive to buy the game. In the end, the Gaem Designer will have to devote resources out of coming up with an Awesome Story, and put it in the Awesome Gameplay.

A note: I count 'dialogue choices' in ME and in Indigo Properchy as part of gameplay. I don't count it as part of the plot itself, but rather as a 'mini-game' in and of itself which could act as a selling point. CYAs are actually, well, quite fun.

Ctrl Alt Del
01-14-2008, 12:55 PM
Fine, fine, fine. I admit. Few people actually go and read the spoilers, because they want to play the game itself and learn the story then and get the 'suprise' effect. But I always been addicted to spoilers, because I don't LIKE games for the Gameplay, I like them for the Story. And if I really, really hate the gameplay, then why bother slogging through 60 hours just to figure out a real basic story? Only now am I starting to realize the implications of such a manveuer...
Go read a book then. If the gameplay don't matters to you, then I can't see the difference between games and movies.

In fact, if you believe you might not be able to play a game with both Awesome Gameplay and Awesome Story (like, say, Deus Ex), then you (read: me) might want to read the Awesome Story first, and later on, buy the game for the Awesome Gameplay. You never know when you are going to die, so you might as well figure out what happens in Deus Ex first.
If one (read: SilentScope001) finds that the main attraction on a game is the story, why the hell would he want to spoil the thing for himself first and experience only "half" of the fun later - that is, if you consider the gameplay to be even a half.

DEUS:EX=Good gameplay? Where?

Basically: "If a person can easily access the storyline for $0.00 for a Game that cost $60, and if the Storyline is the only reason a person actually will get that Game, then there is no real reason to buy the Game."
I wouldn't say this is a menace to the game developers/producers and the industry as a whole. Books can have good stories, the same for movies. What makes good stories for games different from the ones on those two other medias? Gameplay.

I'm the only one who actually 'freeloads', to my knowledge, but it may harm the story industry in the long term: If people can figure out the story of a game, and they don't actually buy the game, then the Game Designers will less profit. And if the Game Designers spend too much money on Storyline, and not enough on Gameplay, then they may suffer too much losses.
Again, there won't be any danger... In my conception, four things make a game: Story (concepts, themes), mechanics (gameplay included), proposal, raw (Graphics, sounds etc). And a good game isn't complete without all those elements tied together.

Sabretooth
01-14-2008, 01:04 PM
DEUS:EX=Good gameplay? Where?
INFIDEL! :p

Again, there won't be any danger... In my conception, three things make a game: Story (concepts, themes), mechanics (gameplay included), proposal, raw (Graphics, sounds etc). And a good game isn't complete without all those elements tied together.
Well spoken, and pretty much my thoughts on the topic. A game is special because it is a lot more than the words of a book or the view in a movie. In a game, you get to be in the story, because interactivity is maximum!

I'll say that games, however, have become so genre-specific, they've lost the atmosphere and environments that would make for a good story-telling, in favour of mindless, satisfying gameplay. Still, many games end up doing a better job of telling a story than books (arguably) and movies, in some rare cases (like Deus Ex, Indigo Prophecy, the LA Adventure games maybe, Vampire: The Masquerade, Fallout etc.) Try adapting those to books or movies and you'll be missing out a whole lot.

Ctrl Alt Del
01-14-2008, 01:15 PM
INFIDEL! :p
Revolutionary, and something that actually works aren't the same thing, you see. :xp:
I'll say that games, however, have become so genre-specific, they've lost the atmosphere and environments that would make for a good story-telling, in favour of mindless, satisfying gameplay.
Traces of the other medias. We have fiction/adventure/action/comedy/romantic/horror movies and books, should games have a similar classification? Of course. People need something to refer to, to know what to expect from a game. Still, that shouldn't EVER become a restriction, or the games will eventually, and inevitably, become too standardized as you said. Don't we have action movies with touches of comedy, romance, and adventure? And don't we consider these, essential to good "plots"? So should be on a game.

Pavlos
01-14-2008, 02:14 PM
Still, many games end up doing a better job of telling a story than books (arguably) and movies, in some rare cases (like Deus Ex, Indigo Prophecy, the LA Adventure games maybe, Vampire: The Masquerade, Fallout etc.) Try adapting those to books or movies and you'll be missing out a whole lot.

Try adapting Hamlet into game form :p. You can't transfer plots easily from one medium to another - it just doesn't work :).

To address the main issue: game narrative, at present, is limited. We cannot have a Raskolnikov or an Oedipus, forcing monomania, or paranoia, or inaction on the playable character violates the agency of the player and, in so doing, the nature of the medium. Because the hero is the player, being told how to act breaks the interactivity. The 'awesome factor' that few games are capable of earning comes about not through being told how to act but by doing the acting; being the master of one's own destiny - or at least being fooled into thinking that. So instantly, the protagonist of the plot is limited and we have to rely on our secondary characters. Which is a heavy anchor on what we want to do, to say the least.

But that is, of course, how the art-form works today. We no longer use soliloquy to reveal what a character is thinking, the playwright trusts that the audience will be able to pick up on what a character is thinking through action, or by subtle hinting; Biff Loman doesn't declare that he's going to hide that pipe from his father and then go on to list the advantages and disadvantages of such an action, he just does it and the audience understands the significance.

We don't do a split-screen when people are talking to one another on the phone, now. To do so makes your TV programme stink of the 80s. The characters simply talk into the phone and dialogue is designed in such a way as to be natural and for the audience at home to understand what's happening.

What we need to stop doing is comparing the virtues of one age-old medium to the virtues of an emerging one. Rome wasn't built in a day and games need to be criticised as an art-form of their own right if they are to offer something unique rather than remaining and forever being the soap-opera to the novel's art house film.

That, of course, doesn't mean we can't apply techniques used in other media to video game criticism. I'm quite happy to talk about the artistic aspects of BioShock's plot, or how the reversal of the gravity on the Von Braun in System Shock 2 means that the crucifix in the chapel before you meet SHODAN is making a wonderful statement about her character.

Besides, I don't think a complex plot necessarily means a good one. Crime and Punishment is astoundingly simple to understand. It's what you do with that plot and its characters that makes something great.

Art that seeks to validate itself as art by coming up with a convoluted narrative is very rarely art; entertainment that happens to have artistic merit is art. Else, I'd much rather build a house or a decorative water-feature with my books than read them - they're stories first and theses on life second... something Ayn Rand should have had beaten into her before she wrote all 1100 pages of Atlas Shrugged.

So, I'd say that the game that allows you to run through corridors shooting things and, at the same time, allows you to analyse what the game is really driving at, or the aesthetic value of the art direction, is the closest that we can get, at the moment, to art.

Sabretooth
01-14-2008, 11:50 PM
Try adapting Hamlet into game form :p. You can't transfer plots easily from one medium to another - it just doesn't work :).
Wait, that's what I was saying. :indif:

Pavlos
01-15-2008, 01:40 PM
Wait, that's what I was saying. :indif:

I can read... honestly >_>.

I read it as you saying that you can transfer books and films to games but not the other way around. You don't honestly expect me to think before I post, do you?

igyman
01-15-2008, 05:37 PM
Actually, games are much less standardized when it comes to genre than they were five to ten years ago. Today we have more mixtures of genres, than games that fall under one specific genre. For example Deus Ex (since it's been mentioned already) is a mixture of a FPS, RPG and adventure (though the FPS element is dominant, at least in DE1, in Invisible War it's a bit more balanced, you have a bit of FPS, a bit of RPG and a bit of an adventure game), then the latest Dawn of War is a mixture of turn-based (the world map) and RTS (the mission itself), it even has a bit of an RPG element (upgrading your commander with unlocked equipment, or elite bodyguard). I could name examples of mixed genres all day.

As for the main issue - the story. I agree that the developers won't suffer due to online spoilers, since reading a short version of what happened isn't the same as playing through and seeing and hearing what happened in a game. I personally haven't yet played a game with a great story and poor gameplay (or vice-versa). I find it that the two are usually well balanced - usually it's a game with a great story and gameplay, or a game with a mediocre story and gameplay. Personally, I find both aspects of the game very important and sometimes even consider the story a part of the gameplay and I usually won't play a game, if it doesn't have an interesting story that will make me keep playing.

Ctrl Alt Del
01-16-2008, 03:17 PM
Want a game with an excellent story and a good gameplay? Any Metal Gear will do.

Lance Monance
01-18-2008, 11:13 AM
I'm curious, how would you guys define a "great story" in a game. What makes a story great? If it has no inconsistencies? If it's complex? If nothing comparable has ever been released before?

Imo, it's rather difficult to apply any kind of objectivity to the quality of a story... if you like it or not will always remain subjective.

I get the impression that quite a lot of people don't like the "save the world" concept. I'd argue that there are only so much concepts that are worthwhile/important enough for a player character to pursue. One of them being "save the world", another would be "find out the truth about yourself/save yourself/anything focusing on yourself". The second one seems to be the one which is considered inherently "better". Why is that? Is the concept itself truly better or is just because it has not been done to death?

From my perspective the ultimate goal does not matter as long as it is sufficiently motivated (for the player character/me). It's the actual story build around that concept that matters.

PoiuyWired
01-18-2008, 12:21 PM
Well, if you think "spoilers" is THE negative effect on games, then you can say the same about movies, tv series, etc...

No, story is only a part of a game. Sure, a good story goes a long way for some games, but even this is not always true. Do you really need a story for things like Team Fortress, or Pong?

In the end, it all depends on what you are trying to archieve with a game. Some games would greatly benefit from a good story, a morew rpg genuine game for example, others much less so. I probably don't feel more excited if there is some complex story behind DigDug, but a mindless kill'em all text rpg would be stupid indeed(multi player not withstanding).

As for games as artworks, well it will be one day, but probably not yet. The thing is, games does require a high level of interactivity, and some mad skillz for some. Hence, its even harder to reach the audience in some cases. Take a semi-decent shoot'em up at normal level... how far can you get without continue within 10 tries? Then you get into loads of skillz problem, not to mention the n00b factor and what not.

Serpentine Cougar
01-22-2008, 01:50 AM
I get the impression that quite a lot of people don't like the "save the world" concept.
Saving the world's fine with me, I just don't want to do it the same way every time. Farmboy goes out into big world, makes friends, collects all the crystals, and slays the evil-demon-king - that's just been done too much. But a sports star who gets sucked out of his world and meets different people and eventually saves the world by ending an endless cycle of destruction (Final Fantasy X) - that's different enough that I like it. A lot. So saving the world is fine, but there needs to be some new ideas thrown in to mix things up a little and keep it fresh. That's my opinion, anyway.

Ctrl Alt Del
01-22-2008, 01:10 PM
Saving the world's fine with me, I just don't want to do it the same way every time. Farmboy goes out into big world, makes friends, collects all the crystals, and slays the evil-demon-king - that's just been done too much. But a sports star who gets sucked out of his world and meets different people and eventually saves the world by ending an endless cycle of destruction (Final Fantasy X) - that's different enough that I like it. A lot. So saving the world is fine, but there needs to be some new ideas thrown in to mix things up a little and keep it fresh. That's my opinion, anyway.
That's a much more reasonable view than that of some people that simply despises anything related to this premise. The variants aren't important, if we end up saving the world, it's cliché and deserves to be dumped.

Pavlos
01-22-2008, 01:21 PM
I would have to agree with that.

If the variants still follow the monomyth then they are essentially the same story but it is what you do with the raw materials you are given that is important - what sort of characters do you have, how do they interact, is there some element of moral ambiguity or emotional turmoil?

SilentScope001
01-22-2008, 10:04 PM
That's a much more reasonable view than that of some people that simply despises anything related to this premise. The variants aren't important, if we end up saving the world, it's cliché and deserves to be dumped.

Well, the whole "saving the world" concept has been overdone. It's been overdone for a reason, but it's still 'overdone' for a VERY VERY LONG TIME. (It also makes you feel that you done something important, that you are great, and, uh, I feel sorta uncomfortable with ego-boosting.) That why I prefer some change. You don't have to have a plotline with an obligatory 'save the world', you can have differnet plotlines as well, making them very unique. What plotlines? Why here is a list of all generic RPG plots (http://www.io.com/~sjohn/plots.htm). Steal to your heart's content.

It may also be due to a difference of taste. One may play a game because they like the characters. Others (read: only me) may play a game not because they like any character there, but because they want to know the overall political theme. Just because a person doesn't like a story doesn't mean that story is bad. Conversly, just because someone loves the story doesn't mean it is good.

DeadYorick
01-22-2008, 11:51 PM
Want a game with an excellent story and a good gameplay? Any Metal Gear will do.

Okay this is going to get into an opinion topic now?

Deus EX sounds actually like a game with a good enough plot and gameplay. But I disagree with the whole Plot is the most important. Since in reality both plot and gameplay really need to work together on this. I have beaten Kotor a few times before but I can't bring myself to play it again a year later. I can't remember the story line well enough. Its just that it's gameplay was so tedious and I remember pausing so much

Anyway I agree. A game without plot is tetris, a game without gameplay is a book. If you lean on one side you will get a crap game. Only within perfect balance can you achieve a worth wile gaming experience

If you want a good game with moderate gameplay and good storyline I would recommend the first Max Payne and maybe the second one

Ctrl Alt Del
01-23-2008, 05:50 PM
Well, the whole "saving the world" concept has been overdone. It's been overdone for a reason, but it's still 'overdone' for a VERY VERY LONG TIME. (It also makes you feel that you done something important, that you are great, and, uh, I feel sorta uncomfortable with ego-boosting.)
I agree with the bold part. But you answered it: It's overdone because RPG games tend to make the character feel like he/she is someone important, that plays an essential role on that world. And what role is more essential (and still compels you to play) than saving it?


If you want a good game with moderate gameplay and good storyline I would recommend the first Max Payne and maybe the second one
I'm going to quote you for that :xp:
Okay this is going to get into an opinion topic now?
About the game itself: I don't really think it has a "moderate" gameplay, as you can't really target anyone unless using the Bullet Time, Matrix style "power". The story didn't satisfied me, but the thriller atmosphere about frenzied drug users could have if the dialogs weren't so laughable.