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How FPS Storylines Are Written 165

Posted by Zonk
from the insert-bullets-rinse-repeat dept.
Might E. Mouse writes "Cynics might say 'Who needs a storyline for an FPS game?' and if we're talking Quake or Doom then fair enough. But to brand the entire genre as lacking in story is to condemn gems like Half-Life 2 or Chronicles of Riddick. So what goes into writing a really compelling storyline for an FPS game? bit-tech has an article exploring this topic with the likes of Martin Lancaster, writer / designer for Crysis, Rob Yescombe, writer of Haze and more: 'There's nothing wrong with that of course, back in the day Quake was amazing in its own, essentially plotless, right. But it's interesting that only recently has a push for coherently told storylines appeared among FPS fans, bought on by another few years of maturity in what is an undeniably young medium. Paintings and music have both been around since time out of mind, but computer games have only been around for a couple of decades and only recently have they begun to be recognized for the artistic merit posed by their interactivity.'"
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How FPS Storylines Are Written

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  • Never been done (Score:5, Interesting)

    by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @10:46AM (#19969557)
    I've never played a FPS with a truly compelling story. Every FPS story feels totally contrived, like they were written by 12-year olds. It could be that there is a disconnect between what the writers have written and how that is implemented as the game itself, so maybe the stories are good and it's just bad execution. In any event, in my experience nobody has come very close to delivering a good compelling FPS story.
  • by garett_spencley (193892) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @10:48AM (#19969593) Journal
    ... solely for that reason.

    I love FPS games, but Quake and Quake II just seemed too pointless and lacking in any kind of reward.

    Quake III Arena was much different because it was multi player and the point was more to compete and develop your "skills" (pardon the term, I just can't think of anything more appropriate) against other human players.

    But Quake and Quake II had absolutely no rewards. The protagonist was not someone that you could relate to. The monsters seemed rather random. There was no hot chick waiting for you to save her at the end of the game. The game play didn't progress in any interesting fashion. Nothing really happened. It was just point, shoot, kill for absolutely no reason.

    The graphics were better than Doom but I found Doom to be more fun. The levels were shorter, and I guess it was just new. With Quake/QuakeII it was like Doom but with better graphics and different weapons and aliens. Been there. Done that.

    So yeah ... I think story lines are essential to a fun FPS even when (correction: especially when) the main activity is just pointing and shooting.
  • by Wulfstan (180404) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @10:58AM (#19969753)
    The Marathon series was a mac-only creation written by Bungie (before they were bought by Microsoft - they went on to do Halo I think) and it was an example of a FPS with a seriously deep storyline. It was so complex and deep that I couldn't even follow it! But they put in loads of effort to make it consistent, a great game and practically an FPS novel. An oldie but a goodie.
  • Half life (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordBafford (1087463) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @10:59AM (#19969759) Homepage
    I think the original halflife had a good story behind it, and as they added mods for it the story was played through different angles, with specific points relating to the original story. Like in Opposing Forces, you played HL through the eyes of the marines involved, then in blue shift you go to go through the story as a black mesa gaurd. I even played a user made mod that had you play as a an alien and see their side of the story. With a basic plot line of Scientists cause a problem and open portal to another dimension, they did quite a lot with it to let you see it from many angles.

    Another mod for HL1 was They Hunger, which had a pretty decent storyline, it had 3 installments and was a zombie based game. In all it had a good story to it.

    So to sum up FPS games can have good story lines, but depending on what the game is a bout and when it is set matters and might limit what story can be conveyed.
  • Re:Never been done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:03AM (#19969835) Journal

    Get Deus Ex immediately. Later move on to Half-Life 1 and 2.
    Deus Ex is a definite yes. HL has good cinematic elements to it in the form of scripted events, but I don't know that you can necessarily say it has a great story. I can't comment on HL2, as I haven't played it. Halo is so-so, but the crowning gem of FPS stories has to be Marathon [bungie.org].
  • DeusEX, Thief and Chronicles of Riddick Butcher Bay are all grossly underrated as far as storyline goes. Compared to even most RPG's out there today they stand head and shoulders above 95% of the games out there. I'd go so far to say that the story of the Riddick game is actually better than the second movie. All three are completely different in genre and atmosphere and actually engage the player with a goal in mind far beyond getting to the next level. Prey was another that was fun to play and had a decent attempt at a story.
  • Theif (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JeremyGNJ (1102465) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:22AM (#19970111)
    I think the closest I've seen to a good plot in an FPS was the Thief series. Or maybe the plot wasn't so much good, as the game play was immersive, so you're more accepting of what plot there was. Another good one was the original Max Payne! The stuff with his baby being killed and the dream sequences that followed were a good plot that really "made you mad" and want. It is hard to write a plot line that involves "kills lots of stuff indiscriminately". I think the best way to get that effect is to do the RPG trick of "sub quests" so that you're running around "open endedly" and choosing different things to do, even though in the end you have to do X Y Z. There should also be an element of "Choose your own adventure", so that different plot lines can come out based on how you play. The problem with that is the production cost of levels and cut-scenes that some players will never see.
  • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:33AM (#19970299)
    I would - First Person Sneaker. We need more of those, dangit. The Thief trilogy is one of my absolute favorites and needs to come back! That, and No One Lives Forever. Totally overlooked, IMO.
  • by Soul-Burn666 (574119) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:33AM (#19970315) Journal
    Who needs storyline when you have co-op?

    Doom, Quake and later SeriousSam were all games with pretty much no important story but fun fun fun in multiplayer co-op.

    I don't know if I'm alone in this thought, but for me it was much funner to play jDoom [doomsdayhq.com] in coop than Doom3 single. Simple graphics, simple levels and a whole lot of fun.
  • Re:Never been done (Score:3, Interesting)

    by immcintosh (1089551) <slashdot@NOspam.ianmcintosh.org> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:38AM (#19970369) Homepage
    I'm not sure I would describe any of those storylines as "truly compelling" in the sens in which the GP poster is speaking. Deux Ex, I would say, stepped above the level of contrived garbage written for a 12-year old to more of a trashy sci-fi fan-fic level of quality. Half-life 1 and 2 had great atmosphere, but their stories were really nothing special. Half-life 1 especially was just your run of the mill save-the-world-from-aliens bit. Half-life 2, while it had its good points along the way, I found was totally ruined by an absolutely absurd deus ex machina resolution; it really ruined the whole thing for me.
  • Re:Never been done (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:25PM (#19971169) Homepage
    Get Deus Ex immediately. Later move on to Half-Life 1 and 2. And there are probably other ones that I don't remember.

    Thief 1 and 2, and even 3 is decent, though not as good as the others. Extremely well-written fantasy, far better than most of the stuff that makes it to the fantasy section in the bookstores.
  • Defending Half Life (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BeansBaxter (918704) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:44PM (#19972437)
    I am not sure why Half Life is getting the rap so badly. While the story might not be the strongest in the world as it leaves plenty for you to fill in. Like why the man in black is walking around and why he is at the end of the game. If you take your time going through the game there were some truly classic moments. One of my favorites was crawling through and air duct and listening to some of the soldiers complain about Freeman and why they wanted him dead. The game worked really well for me and made me feel like it was all about me and my actions had consequences. Obviously they were scripted but the game really pulled me in and made me care about trying to live to the next fight. The scripted sequences and the way that characters interacted with Freeman was exception in my opinion. Anyway just thought I'd lend some support to my favorite game of all time.
  • Re:Never been done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Broken scope (973885) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:51PM (#19972585) Homepage
    Your comment about the human dungeon master something I have thought about.

    Imagine a game world styled like EvE, just as large, and just as expansive. Now smash together EvE and planetside. Space ships in space, marines on the ground and fighters and bombers in air and space. Now of course the game should start off structured. You want to be a marine, you join your respective factions AI or possibly human/employee/game master controlled military. Your opening story denotes a time of peace, and thus your initial job as a player is to do thinks like eliminate a pirate base inside your factions space. Now you could be the only player within your group of 20 marines, or you could be leading a fire team of 9 other players or 4 players and 5 ai marines. So you get your "briefing" from an Ai mission dispenser who is a superior officer.

    So you and your buddies or your men or you by yourself go towards the mission. Well you can't attack a pirate base with just your transport, so you get matched up with either some Ai fighter pilots or a mixture of players and Ai. The problem is, the pirate base is in an asteroid belt that is about 4Au away from your assigned station. Well you need a ship with jump drives to get there so you and your fighters get loaded onto a small corvette that might have an AI crew with some humans, or it could just be a single Ai Captain with an Ai crew.
    Then you attack your target and hopefully win, if you lead enough successful operations, the men below, above, and beside you could also note you for leadership, thus allowing you to move up in the ranks.

    Say you don't want to be part of the military, say you want to be a miner or an explorer, you would start out in your respective structure and work you way up. Slowly as players moved up in the structure, you would allow them to take over things to an extent. You wouldn't give complete control over a factions military to a single player, though you could allow them into the very upper echelons of power. There will be people who stay within their factions structure, and those that abandon it for their own structure of choice, they could even make their own.

    Slowly let the players take control, then after say 2 month of play just long enough to let people get into it introduce some chaos using your game masters (Think of them as a race of loki like aliens, make them killable too, cause frankly the hunting them would be neat), have a major NPC leader get assassinated by what looks like the other faction, put another NPC in or let a player take those reins, then let the war begin.

    Do what you think you need to do to keep the game going, assassinate, impersonate, and manipulate.

    Let the players write the story. It's rather interesting what happens sometimes.

    Now if only computers could do this now..

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