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First Person Shooters (Games) Entertainment Games

id Software On Rage, Storytelling In Games 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-rocket-launcher-does-the-talking dept.
Tom Willits of id Software took some time recently to speak about storytelling as it relates to id's previous games, and how it will be a part of their upcoming shooter, Rage. He also dispelled rumors that Rage would suffer content cuts due to Xbox hardware limitations. Unfortunately, he called into question whether mods will be a possibility for the game, saying that the issue is still under consideration.
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id Software On Rage, Storytelling In Games

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  • hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:02PM (#25046467) Homepage
    As if reading the audience's minds, Willits began, "So id Software is actually giving a talk on storytelling -- that doesn't make much sense!" But Willits feels id's public perception is "sometimes a bit skewed."

    No, our perception is spot on I think.
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:34PM (#25046909)

      Hey! Some of the best stories ever made are just about a lone marine killing tons of aliens, Nazis, and hellspawn. It is just like Shakespeare. Only without the words and with more firearms.

    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @07:36PM (#25047869)

      To help clarify, I'll translate some key excerpts:

      FPS pioneer id Software doesn't exactly have a reputation rooted in strong game stories.

      Here at id, we feel that any "story" beyond "here's a gun, shoot anything that moves" is for pansies.

      Yes, in the past, we have developed games that have very limited narratives. But to say that a game with limited narrative has bad storytelling is really a narrow-minded approach to what storytelling is.

      But it turns out that there are a lot of pansies out there, and it turns out they have money. So now I'm going to actually redefine what "storytelling" is in order to make it fit more nicely with what we've done in the past, and more importantly, what we'll be doing in the future.

      Information, he maintains, is learned through experiences, and the experience of playing a game is what forms a narrative, by its nature.

      See, here we go. "gameplay" ------>>> "storytelling"... Done!

      The first and most important thing is start with a solid, straightforward plot.

      *Really* straightforward. As in, get a gun, kill anything that moves. That counts, right?

      Matt Castello, who penned the story for Doom 3...

      I'll bet that napkin could be sold on eBay for a bundle!

      If you've played Doom 3 you know that our pacing was pretty intense. It started up easy enough, but then we kicked up the intensity and kept it there for the whole game.

      Non-stop hellspawn popping out of closets behind the player! It was insane, I tell you!

      Broad stroke visuals really portray to the user about the wasteland, and what the authorities are trying to do to the wasteland. A character is not trying to tell you, 'Hey these guys are bad, look what they did to the wasteland.' You can see it for yourself."

      You can tell this is going to be an innovative game, because we're going to be subtle. And also, we have a *wasteland*! How original is that? Seriously, it's not just dark dungeons and corridors - er, well, it's mostly that inside - but outside, it's a wasteland!

      Willits says that Doom 3 players "zoomed right through" the game's highly handcrafted levels, so for Rage, "we have focused on reusability."

      It takes an assload of time to hand-craft these levels. Appreciate them, damn you!

      His bottom line for Rage? Delivering more choices and more variety for more people, while still delivering "classic id-style mayhem."

      Don't worry, it will all come down to shooting everything that moves anyhow.

      • by SirSlud (67381)

        Don't worry, it will all come down to shooting everything that moves anyhow.

        in a way I agree with you

        and in another way, I think you're being hypercritical

        even the best 'storytelling games' involves really poor writing and really poor story telling

        why place this demand on game developers?

        if you want a good story, read a book
        be sensitive to games - they can't attract the talent for story telling because ultimately, if your good at writing stories, you wouldn't be working in the industry

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          even the best 'storytelling games' involves really poor writing and really poor story telling

          why place this demand on game developers?

          if you want a good story, read a book
          be sensitive to games - they can't attract the talent for story telling because ultimately, if your good at writing stories, you wouldn't be working in the industry

          While that is true, I liked the stories of e.g. Deus Ex and Wing Commander IV, and of course several adventure games and RPGs (including KotoR).

          Of course, none of these reach the levels of literature, but they are good stories, as opposed to "run through this level, shoot at everything that moves and push the button".

          While shooting at stuff is cool, the story keeps me motivated enough to turn that next corner and shoot more stuff. Or, if there is a lack of story, I get bored relatively quickly.

        • by Dutch Gun (899105)

          and in another way, I think you're being hypercritical

          I hope you can tell I was just trying to be funny. I actually like id, and the work they do - at least from a technical standpoint. I just think it's slightly amusing that they're trying to re-define what "storytelling" means. Why not just own up to the fact that your games have been all about the action and cool technology? If you want to go a different direction, just say it.

          if you want a good story, read a book
          be sensitive to games - they can't attract the talent for story telling because ultimately, if your good at writing stories, you wouldn't be working in the industry

          I hear that a lot. Why do you feel games shouldn't tell stories? A story provides a great motivation for moving my character t

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        Willits says that Doom 3 players "zoomed right through" the game's highly handcrafted levels, so for Rage, "we have focused on reusability."

        It takes an assload of time to hand-craft these levels. Appreciate them, damn you!

        More like "People bought Halo in droves so we're going to use copypasta level design too".

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by oracle128 (899787)
      What you talkin' bout Willits?
  • New record? (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaseyB (1105) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:11PM (#25046597)

    The very first word in this post is wrong.

    Nice work, Soulskill.

  • by modzer0 (1366073) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:18PM (#25046721)
    It seems to me that as the quality of graphics have gone up the gameplay and story behind the scenes has suffered as many companies focus on graphics rather than gameplay. There are exceptions but a lot of games are just disappointing. They may look great but controls and bad plots take their toll on a lot of titles.
    • it's true, socraties did say that plot was the most important element of a story, then comes characters which the audience becomes emotionaly invested in, without good representation of these elements it becomes forgetable.
    • by BPPG (1181851) <bppg1986@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @07:25PM (#25047737)

      I agree, and it's also a bit frustrating when fancy graphics actually kind of get in the way of playing the game. Hi-res console games tend to look very poor on older and/or smaller televisions. I guess the assumption is that if you can afford a modern console, you could also afford a big-screen.

      The Prettiness factor tends to wear off quickly, anyways. And just because it's very Pretty doesn't mean it's easy to look at, or understand what's happening.

    • by ksd1337 (1029386)
      I don't know why this was modded troll. I agree. It's the reason I play a Genesis emulator and Doom. I think the gaming CEOs got some mod points today.
    • I disagree. Maybe I just cherry-pick quality games, but the games I play either will have quality story, or not will not be meant to have a story at all (e.g. Civ). There is trash out there, but I have never had trouble finding games where gameplay and story were good, while also having good graphics.
    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      Not really, the stories got more attention, at times more than the gameplay. Hey, stories are a good reason for adding pretty cutscenes for the player to watch and to drag the game out for dozens of hours without introducing any new gameplay elements! Who needs to keep the player interested with challenging and varied gameplay when you can hook him on the story (that's not much above a hollywood action flick but people don't expect more anyway, they WANT the movie experience, right?)?

      And of course the marke

      • Looks like the market prefers games with less story/graphics focus and more gameplay...

        That's not a correct conclusion from your data, imo. Considering how many of those games are either classic games (no one really did story in the NES/SNES days), or games in genres without story at all (Gran Turismo), we can't really draw conclusions about how the market feels about story. We'd need to look at comparisons between two games in the same genre, one with an excellent story, but mediocre gameplay, and one with excellent gameplay, but a mediocre story. Then we would know something.

        Not to mention

        • by KDR_11k (778916)

          Means something for the bottom line.

          I don't think we have to compare within a genre, if the genres with less story are more successful than those with that's already data. That classic games sold more than modern games is another piece of data (what changed to make the sales of the top sellers lower instead of higher over the years?).

          • That classic games sold more than modern games is another piece of data...

            A meaningless (probably) piece of data. The classic games have sold more because they've been out longer. Hardly could be said to be surprising.

            • by KDR_11k (778916)

              Only if newer versions count as sales for them, most are on obsolete consoles and no longer sold in their original form.

  • FPS Storytelling? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:19PM (#25046737) Homepage Journal

    There are a few FPS games that do a decent job of storytelling. Half Life comes to mind, but even that doesn't have much of a storyline. id did some nice things with datapads in Doom 3 and such to try and tell a story, but id games, and the FPS genre in general is certainly not famous for story.

    • by jaymz2k4 (790806)
      When i was playing doom 3 the last thing on my mind was reading pages of 'text' on a virtual PDA or checking my 'email' mid game. Having said that I have sometimes found myself reading books in Oblivion, but not enough. It is a nice touch though but I did wonder 'wow, someone has had to sit and write all this stuff down for probably only 0.01% of people to even _open_ it let alone _read_ it'
      • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:56PM (#25047255) Journal

        If you have to read text in a game to find the storyline, the game is doing it wrong. You should participate actively in creating the storyline, not read about it! Or is someone confusing storyline with backstory?

        • Well, if you're supposed to 'participate actively in creating the storyline', as you inside, then there's absolutely no problem with today's FPS's. If it's all in your head, why spend the time creating a story for the game?

          Personally, I prefer a well-wrought story, that allows the ability to affect the story, around the edges. Branching level progression, for example, that depends on player decisions during the game.

          http://marathon.bungie.org/story/ [bungie.org] , for example, Bungie's previous FPS trilogy before Halo,

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lgw (121541)

            How did you get from "actively participating in creating the storyline" to "all in your head"?

            In most FPSs you actively participate in creating a pretty dull story. "I shot zombie #1 with my pistol .... I blew up zombies #154-157 with my rocket launcher". Not much there. OTOH, look at Half-Life 2. The story wasn't very deep, but you participated in a lot more of it. The important events in the story most happened where you could see them as you played. "Show, don't tell" and all that.

        • by grumbel (592662)

          Depends, if the only story in a game is text, ala Metroid Prime, then it sucks pretty badly, since you have no connection between the game an the story. On the other side if the text is there to provide additional backstory, like say Resident Evil 1, it works quite nicely to enrich the gaming world, since it gives you insight into events that already happened. The important part is simply that those text pieces have to fit the setting and have to be an addition to the main story, not a replacement.

      • by BPPG (1181851)

        This sort of thing made me laugh when playing the new Grand Theft Auto. At various points in the game, your character has access to a television, car radio, and computers with Internet access. There is so much additional content to read and hear, very few players will see it all.

      • I read the books in Oblivion...
    • by bckrispi (725257)
      Did you forget about Deus Ex?
    • by rhyder128k (1051042) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:45PM (#25047083) Homepage

      John Carmack: "Woah guys!"

      Employee: "JC, what's up man?"

      JC: "Oh baby, I just had a dream and it's INSPIRED me to take Id in a totally new direction story wise!"

      E: "Story? You mean a new way of utilising pixel shaders for better lighting?"

      JC: "No, an actual story, IN the game."

      [silence]

      E: "To be honest, we've already got a guy to write the bit on the back of the box."

      JC: "Come on guys, the game could have a story to it this time rather than the best looking renderer in a shooting game. We could finally put all that red key/blue key shit behind us."

      [silence]

      JC: "Erm... I've though of a new way of drawing shadows. It means that everyone's going to have to upgrade their rig or play on minimal settings."

      E: "Whoohoo, top notch man! The Carmackster does it again. Working here rocks!"

    • you did forget about bioshock and system shock 1 and 2
      • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @07:02PM (#25047361) Journal

        Sadly, the interesting story in Bioshock was almost all backstory. Even the Clever Twist midgame was all done in backstory. While playing I kept thinking "why is the game set after all the interesting stuff is done happening?" Good storytelling would have been playing through the fall of the civilization, and influencing how or whther it fell apart, not coming along *after* all the action and learning about it through sound clips.

        Bioshosk stands about because it had any storytelling *at all*, not because it was good at it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by WNight (23683)

          System Shock 2 was that way. One of the bits that stands out was finding survivors and then watching on the other side of an absolutely unbreakable door as they get slaughtered, seconds before you could have really interacted with them.

          Neat game, but way too forced. It's only in comparison to the other FPS games of the era that it looked like a masterpiece.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lgw (121541)

            I should mention Deus Ex, as it was very sharp in the way they allowed your actions to have consequences without blowing the budget. You could save your brother, or not, and influnce that actions of various characters, and choose whether to kill certain bad guys before the character was sure they were bad guys. It was all limited, but the impressive thing was how well they worked it into the storyline.

            Your actions would have definite consequences in terms of dialog and "color", affect what items you had av

        • Heck, I agree. I've installed it a few weeks ago, played a bit, then started wondering what was everyone was talking about. Bioshock do have a wonderful art direction, the levels are very consistent, life-like and incredible consistent, detailed and atmosferic.

          But, put that aside, and it doesn't stand much different from the basic promise of any classic FPS: experiment goes awry (here the experiment has a sociological basis, but then what?) and produces lots of mutants/zombies/aliens that of course want to

        • by stiller (451878)

          It basically comes down to: Writing a storyline costs money. Writing two storylines costs twice the money. Every choice offered to the player requires a subtly different plot. Infinite choices cost infinite money.

          • by lgw (121541)

            Hiring someone to write plot is *way* cheaper than art assets. It's a small fraction of the creative content that you pay to create. Often developers foolishly assume that you can't have a branching storyline without a bundle of addition expensive art assets, and in fact all you need is some cheap (but clever) plotting.

            But heck, even if you don't have a branchin storyline at all, make the cool action in your world happen to (or at leats in view of) the player! Don't waste your cool ideas by *narrating* t

        • I disagree. This thread is almost entirely opinion; so I'll qualify my statement as that of an opinionated fan but here goes:
          As you said, Bioshock did have a ton of back story. However, it also had a ton of movement of the plot within the game, often skillfully so (beware spoilers ahead). For example, the "befriending" of Atlas, the revenge of the crazy artist (I wish I remembered more of the names), the redemption of the scientist who helped set off the entire mess, and your choice to change your physio
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lymond01 (314120)

      FEAR [wikipedia.org]...no idea why I'm referencing Wikipedia for this.

      That was a first-person shooter with a great story, was actually scary, and had you reeling at just how screwed up it all was after you finished playing. I recommend.

      • by fuzzlost (871011)
        Mod parent up. FEAR had an amazing story that kept you wanting to play more, if nothing else than to find out what the story was. It was the first FPS I played that scared me, after playing all the Dooms, quake, UT, HL, HL2, it was by far the most interesting/emotionally charged FPS I've played.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Joelfabulous (1045392)

      They took the whole notion of picking up PDA's and examining them from System Shock 2. I highly recommend it, as it was well written and a seminal FPS masterpiece. You can get a higher poly texture update from various fansites on the internet.

      Good luck getting it running though... It's kind of flaky as it came out just before the major transition over to Windows 2000 IIRC. Sometimes it works flawlessly on XP / Win2k, whereas other times it might not even load past the title screen.

      I can't say that any other

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by GaryPatterson (852699)

      Marathon.

      The series had so much depth that people were still discussing points over seven years later.

      The way that a lot of story was delivered was through terminal screens, readable in-game. Not groundbreaking, but some amazing stuff was in there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Saib0t (204692)
      While half-life had good storytelling, the best imho is Deus Ex. That one was excellent.

      In a way, max payne was too, except it told a story too passively, you shot stuff, then a bit story, the more shooting. In Deus Ex, you lived the story.

  • If this game gets Spored by EA as well, it's not going to be pleasant.
  • by BPPG (1181851) <bppg1986@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @07:50PM (#25048085)

    Story games are good, but sometimes you have to appreciate the games that take a minimalist [soldat.pl] approach to story-telling [progressquest.com].

  • Because when I think rich storytelling in games, I think id Software.

    Seriously though - why are they talking about storytelling? The most they could muster is "scientists break through into a lair... FROM HELL! ... and one of the scientists becomes a demon." Shouldn't they be talking about the evolution of the shotgun as a diplomatic medium in their games?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by duckInferno (1275100)
      And while I'm ranting -- ideally a game designer shouldn't even need to shoot down any rumours regarding graphics. A good game doesn't need to rely on super realistic FX... and this goes for "mindless" FPS games, too. Just look at Painkiller for the epitome of a fun game where you shoot things with guns (mind you, any game with a lightning-enchanted ninja star gun is going to come out ahead).
    • by nomadic (141991)
      Seriously though - why are they talking about storytelling? The most they could muster is "scientists break through into a lair... FROM HELL! ... and one of the scientists becomes a demon." Shouldn't they be talking about the evolution of the shotgun as a diplomatic medium in their games?

      Hey, a story written by a junior high school heavy metal fan is still a story.
  • by mon196k (1359327)
    It's Tim Willits, unless the guy recently decided to change his name. Although I didn't read TFA, isn't story supposed to be "just there" like in pr0n? Seriously, the only good games ever came out of id was the ones adhere to that principle. I'm still waiting for a Q3 or Doom with modern day graphics.
  • that "Stories in video games are like stories in porn movies -- just a pretext to get to the action"
  • Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.

    He then went on to make some of the greatest FPS games of all time. I wonder what ever happened to him..

  • I mean, i enjoy a good storyline in a game as much as anyone else, but the thing is, some games don't really need good stories in order to be enjoyable. Specially FPSs, which has been iDs' forte since forever. There are a lot of games with "deep" storylines that are shit to play and boring too.

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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