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Storytelling In Games and the Use of Narration 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the first-game-to-use-morgan-freeman-will-make-a-mint dept.
MarkN writes "The use of story in video games has come a long way, from being shoehorned into a manual written for a completed game to being told through expensive half-hour cut scenes that put gameplay on hold. To me, the interesting thing about story in games is how it relates the player to the game; in communicating their goals, motivating them to continue, and representing their role as a character in the world. This article talks about some of the storytelling techniques games have employed, and in particular the different styles of narration that have been used to directly communicate information about a story, and how that affects the player's relation to their character and the degree of freedom they're given to shape the story themselves."
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Storytelling In Games and the Use of Narration

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  • Welcome back. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kagura (843695)
    Welcome back to Slashdot. ;)
  • I still remember the first games with "cut scenes" - Ultima II the grand finale, Karateka and Questron on Commodore 64. Questron was the most elaborate one - the celebration parade at the end of the game was epic, almost StarWars like. I remember to this day how it blew my mind.

    P.S. Welcome back Slashdot
    Not sure what this was about but it didnt sound healthy:
    Error 503 Service Unavailable

    Service Unavailable
    Guru Meditation:

    XID: 275099066
    Varnish
    • I miss my Amiga ;_;
    • by Flentil (765056)
      I agree about Questron. At the time it was the most satisfying game ending I'd ever seen, and still ranks up there with some of the best. But as a general rule I don't like cutscenes mixed into my games, and the latest fad of gamestopping quicktime events is truly obnoxious.
  • by psicop (229507) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:21AM (#27872513)
  • Yes, I RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hezekiah957 (1219288) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:21AM (#27872515)

    Many games spread out their chunks of story like breadcrumbs for the player to follow, in between somewhat repetitive sessions of gameplay; the continuation of the story serves almost as a reward for getting through more of the game.

    When I read this, all I could think was "Assassin's Creed". Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and are eagerly the release of its sequel, but it was ridiculously repetitive.

    • I had a nearly opposite reaction to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Why would I want to watch a two minute cutscene when I could be riping apart more stormtroopers? Althought by the end the game was pretty old, even the worst gameplay was by far better than the cutscenes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by montyzooooma (853414)
        Some games require story, RPGs in particular. Most other games I just want to PLAY THE GAME. If I want a story I'll read a book or watch a movie. 99% of in game story-telling is a waste of my time, and so uninspired it's an insult not a reward. Unskippable cut-scenes are a crime which should have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.
        • Re:Yes, I RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mcvos (645701) on Friday May 08, 2009 @06:44AM (#27874369)

          Cut scenes don't belong in RPGs either. They should tell the story through the game rather than tacking it on for passive consumption.

          Games are not a passive medium. You need to get players involved in the story, rather than making them a passive audience to a crappy movie.

          Cut scenes need to die.

          • You mean like the classic Pirates game? There's not much story there, but the outcomes such as whether you court a beautiful daughter and retire as a governor, or end-up single and penniless, are determined by how much success you see in your treasure-hunting and ship-to-ship battles.

          • I totally disagree. Warcraft II had great cut scenes (that you could skip), that lead to total immersion in the Warcraft world. Without those, there would have never been a World of Warcraft. I wish WoW would have cut scenes interspersed through the game, if not just for nostalgia. I feel much more disconnected from the WoW environment than I ever did in Blizzards other games, because you only learn about the world what you discover on quests. Given most buildings and quests are kind of repetitive in Wo
            • by mcvos (645701)

              Warcraft II is not an RPG. And WoW is arguably not much of an RPG either. Certainly not one that's about story. I guess Warcraft II doesn't really offer any way to deliver story other than through cutscenes (and in most strategy games you're not supposed to get too involved in the story anyway), but for any game calling itself an RPG, resorting to cutscenes is a cheap cop out.

              • Not an RPG? You're nuts. It's based upon statistics with the outcome of battles determined by those stats (virtual die-rolling). Sounds like the classic RPG to me.

                • by mcvos (645701)

                  Not an RPG? You're nuts. It's based upon statistics with the outcome of battles determined by those stats (virtual die-rolling). Sounds like the classic RPG to me.

                  You need to look up what the letters "RPG" actually stand for. Hint: the 'R' is not "roll".

          • Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean a lot of us also don't like it. In fact, I really like it at times.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You hit the nail on the head. For games like Final Fantasy, Parasite Eve, or Eternal Darkness (gamecube), the story is the reason you play. It's like an interactive movie. But for games like shooters, the story is often so lame and pathetic you just want to get back to the game.

          And oftentimes the game itself is lame too. I miss the 80s and early 90s when games had to be good to hold your attention - graphics were too poor to serve as a substitute, so the play was the thing that mattered the most.

          Basica

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Keill (920526)

          RPG's require story?

          Yes and no. What they REALLY require, like many other games, are setting and background. Anything beyond that is simply an opinion, depending on the individual game.

          The problem I have with a lot of games these days, is that some developers seem to forget that the story the player WRITES, is actually more important than the story the game has to TELL.

          Just because a lot of RPG's focus on telling a story, does NOT mean that they have to do so.

          What makes an RPG what it is, is NOT the story b

  • by Anenome (1250374) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:28AM (#27872551)

    Games need to be 'told' like a story, and follow similar rules of development, plot structure, and the like. One problem developers face is that while changing a few lines in a written story are easy, changing a scene in a game can be quite an undertaking. So, the narrative of a game needs to be fairly mature before you start building scenes from it.

    Game can 'jump the shark'.

    Probably the most famous jump-the-shark moment in gaming (for me at least) was when we rented a copy of Daikatana to laugh at ._. for the N64. The opening has the main character jumping up and balancing on an out held sword. *shakes head* Romero, wtf were you thinking? It's cheesy every time they do it in anime too.

    One of the biggest strengths of games is the ability for choices to mean something, and for alternate endings to bloom. Chrono Trigger is a big one for me, to go back and play it through all over again, the story is rich and wonderful, and experience a few different endings here and there.

    • When ever I think of alternate endings I always remember playing Star Ocean 2: Till The End Of Time for the PSX... I'm not sure how many times I played that just to find different endings or new little quirks about the game. I was told that there were something like 80 different endings for the game.
    • by BenoitRen (998927)

      Chrono Trigger doesn't have meaningful choices, though. Its alternate endings are gotten by beating the final boss earlier than you should. Most endings don't make sense.

      Despite that, still a great game.

    • by papabob (1211684)

      Games need to be 'told' like a story

      Like, lets say, Left 4 Dead? Yeah, great story: "Here is your gun, there are zombies, guess what". And it is one of funnier games I've played recently. We should abandon the idea of games being a form of art, and retake them as a funny way to spend time.

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:59AM (#27874083) Journal

        Like, lets say, Left 4 Dead? Yeah, great story: "Here is your gun, there are zombies, guess what". And it is one of funnier games I've played recently. We should abandon the idea of games being a form of art, and retake them as a funny way to spend time.

        Each time I read something like that... I can't help getting the picture of someone with his head so far up his rear end that he assumes that he's not just a representative sample of 1 for the whole gamer population, and indeed world, but verily _the_ prototype from which all others were moulded. And if, god forbid, they happen to like something else, they must be deluded in some way.

        Guess what? We all play games "as a funny way to spend time." You're not revealing some great wisdom to anyone, you just reveal your own disconnect from the real world. The idea that someone actually tries to play games as some form of art _as_ _opposed_ to actually having fun, and to the exclusion of actually having fun, is a delusion that exists only in the imagination of fanboys. Again: we _all_ play games "as a funny way to spend time."

        We just find different things fun. Some like to read a book, some like to watch a movie, and some like their stories in a more interactive form. And then some others seem to genuinely like mindlessly mowing down gazillions of NPCs just for score/level/whatever. (And who am I to say there's anything wrong with it?) Different things for different people. That's all.

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Zoey: "Hey, I wonder what's over here."
        Francis: "Damnit, I was beginning to like Louis."
        Bill: "Dammit Zoey, get out of my way!"
        Francis: "What's this then?"
        Zoey: "Oh god, Francis!"
        Bill: "Quiet, witch!"
        Louis: "Stay with me you guys!"
        Louis: "What's that?"

        *gurgling noises as Louis is killed by the Witch*

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mathx314 (1365325)

        Actually, Left 4 Dead does have a story of sorts. It's never explicitly spelled out to the player or told in glamorous cutscenes. But sometime, sit down and play through the game looking around.

        In the safe rooms, you'll find graffiti messages from people looking for loved ones or giving advice to the travelers behind them. There's posters from some organization called CEDA that give advice on what to do if you've been infected.

        Outside, you'll find things like single bodies covered with a sheet. Why woul

        • by D Ninja (825055)

          Huh...I never considered all of that.

          L4D is going to have a very new appeal for me the next time I play. Thank you!

          • by orta (786013)
            A lot of this info is obtained by playing through the directors commentary. Definitely worth the 15-30 minutes of listening/playing if you want to understand the game better
      • by woopate (1550379)

        Actually, Left 4 Dead has an embedded Storyline, similar, or actually probably closer in nature to an expansion of the narrative style of Portal.
        There is evidence of a story that has transpired, but you don't need to find it, the story is implied, there are no real absolutes to what happened.

        In Portal, this is accomplished with the empty rooms, the Ratman hidden areas (ajar wall segments you can get behind and see graffiti, pictures, and general crap that some guy who might have lived behind that wall for s

      • by MobyDisk (75490)

        Left 4 dead is a great example.

        Left 4 dead need a back story. We have all seen the typical zombie back story 1000 times. What makes the game is that it is totally immersive. It puts you into the zombie world and you really feel the tension and the fear. When you get stuck, an NPC says something like "let's try up this ladder" or "the boat is here, let's go!" Everybody knows what they are doing in L4D, and where they are going and why. It needs no explanation.

        Compare that with Doom, which gave you a gun

    • One of the biggest strengths of games is the ability for choices to mean something, and for alternate endings to bloom. Chrono Trigger is a big one for me, to go back and play it through all over again, the story is rich and wonderful, and experience a few different endings here and there.

      And that is why making good stories with games is rather difficult.
      We either find a few scenarios for completing the story, however even with a few scenarios it falls down to the following issues.

      The Old Sierra Game/Infoco

  • by gringer (252588) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:34AM (#27872603)

    If you want to have a read of something a bit more meaty, try this thesis (title: VIDEO GAME VALUES:
    PLAY AS HUMAN-COMPUTER INTERACTION):

    http://www.pippinbarr.com/academic/phd.php [pippinbarr.com]

    Not quite the same subject, but it does deal with narrative a tiny bit (e.g. section 5.3.3).

    p.s. this guy managed to score an Xbox and PS2 for "research purposes", which were (and probably still are) enjoyed by many in the graduate lab.

  • by panthroman (1415081) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:39AM (#27872639) Homepage

    TFA makes it sound like nobody thought storylines were important initially; but in the days of Donkey Kong, were non-superficial storylines even possible? With such repetitive gameplay, could good storyline exist?

    Maybe the more creative out there could enlighten me. Can you make a good storyline for Donkey Kong?

    (Oh no! Kong found more barrels! Again!)

    • But this barrel was far more special than the last. It contained over five-hundred billion bananas. (why they are important I don't know)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
        You know, it's funny you bring up Donkey Kong because that game actually had more story than 1000s of its contemporaries. An Italian plumber climbs a construction site to save his girlfriend who was kidnapped by a giant monkey? Much more than the "shoot the ships", "shoot the rocks", or "racecar" which made up most of the other games at the time. Japanese-made games always struck me as having overly complex and convoluted plots, even when they weren't necessary. Even generic, copycat 90s shoot-em-ups ha
        • The reason games pre-1985 rarely came with stories was due to the memory limitations. Most games didn't have more than one repeating screen so the purpose, like darts, was simply to see how many points you could get. Donkey Kong's great "innovation" was that it had 4 different screens. Seriously, the magazines at the time made a big deal about it - and of course other games like Ms. Pacman quickly copied the innovation.

          That doesn't mean games were entirely story-free. In the 1970s Atari developed Superm

    • by TuringTest (533084) on Friday May 08, 2009 @02:23AM (#27872907) Journal

      but in the days of Donkey Kong, were non-superficial storylines even possible? With such repetitive gameplay, could good storyline exist?

      In the early days of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Jumping Jack had a narrative delivered in a non trivial way. You would unfold a poem, line by line after completing each level. This [youtube.com] is how it was delivered through gameplay, and this [everything2.com] is the whole poem. (I'd never seen it complete before today! Thanks for making me remember).

      Is a limmerick a non-superficial story? The only thing I know, it did get you wanting to know which was the next line...

    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:09AM (#27874883)

      TFA makes it sound like nobody thought storylines were important initially; but in the days of Donkey Kong, were non-superficial storylines even possible? With such repetitive gameplay, could good storyline exist?

      Maybe the more creative out there could enlighten me. Can you make a good storyline for Donkey Kong?

      (Oh no! Kong found more barrels! Again!)

      You really have to make a distinction between simplistic arcade games and what we're able to do now. But as I recall, they did do a Donkey Kong Jr. game with a storyline and there's all the Mario incarnations.

      If we compare it to cinema, Donkey Kong would be the early nickelodeons playing silent, extremely short shorts. NES games would be the equivalent of the silent film era and then we move right in to today. Just as story became more and more important in making a good movie, same goes with games. But we also see movies and games where that is completely ignored. With certain movies, it doesn't seem to hurt. Transformers is probably one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and when factoring in the massive budget involved in making such a shitburger, it's even less excusable. It was an insult to thinking men and women everywhere. But thinking people weren't the intended audience. That sucker did business like crazy. There's a sequel coming out promising to be even worse than the first. It'll do well, I'm sure. Still, it would have been better with a script.

    • by Aceticon (140883) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:23AM (#27874987)

      How could you have missed the psychological depth of Manic Miner, a man driven to go ever further surmounting ever harder and ever more dangerous obstacles, the tragic drama of Pac Man, a caricature of a man, forever trapped in a maze pursued by unrelenting foes.

      Did you not saw the deep sociological implications of the hive-like mind of the aliens in Space Invaders having unbounded persistence and yet never faltering and never deviating from their group dance.

      Did your hearty not skip a beat at the drama of the ball in Pong, unable to follow a path other than that which was set by others it's destiny in the hands of two conflicting personalities.

    • It would probably help more if the examples the guy cites weren't all two or more game generations out of date. Seriously, when I read that article, I thought I had stumbled onto something written eight years ago, not in 2009. No mention of the narrative in games like Oblivion, Fable, etc.? WTF?
      • by Hatta (162192)

        What did Oblivion and Fable do that hadn't already been done in titles like Daggerfall or Quest for Glory? I'm not sure they broke any new ground with respect to storytelling. Would you be as surprised if you went to a film studies class and they more time talking about films like Citizen Kane rather than Slumdog Millionaire? My point is, learn from the classics, there's a reason they are classics.

    • The question should be: Does Donkey Kong really need a story? Did it need one? Not that I know.
      Many old-media people use the "missing" story of games as an argument to say that they aren't art. Or not really creative. Etc.
      But in reality, every entertainment there will ever be, will be a subset of what a game can be.

      The point is: You do not have to have everything in it at the same time. Team ball-games certainly do not have a story, do they?
      Some games have story. Some don't. Some are abstract. Some have a v

    • Call me strange, but I really liked the little scenes in Mrs. Mac Man between levels. Pac runs this way, ghosts run that ... just little sprites zipping in straight lines, but there was a sense of pursuit, danger, and wily cleverness to them.

      Plus it was a nice breather after a hectic level.

  • I clicked the link. I pressed F3. I typed "snake" with no result. I typed "solid" with no result. I closed the tab.
  • Planescape:Torment (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mhtsos (586325) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:55AM (#27872733)
    I found the most enjoyable game storytelling technique in Torment. The hero is himself unaware of the story (has amnesia), and the player discovers along with him clues to his own past and the story behind the game setting. I loved how I got a first glimpse of what's going on and then the plot was progressively clarified.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Homburg (213427)

      I've often heard people praise Torment's story, but I'm not convinced. Or, rather, it may have an interesting story, but it's not a good example of game storytelling, because there's little match between the story and the game mechanics. Instead, what happens is you get assigned a standard RPG fetch quest, get given a chunk of story, do another fetch quest, get more story, etc.

      • by mcvos (645701) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:46AM (#27874003)

        That's exactly not what Torment is. It's a mostly dialogue-driven game that delivers the story through its main mechanism: dialogue. That's the problem with story in many other games: the story is kept outside the actual game, and that makes the story irrelevant. Torment is all about story.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What Planescape does is separate the storytelling from the plot - or to put it another way, it's not the destination, it's the ride. Although the major plot events happen anyway, different choices change how events unfold, and what parts of the hero's backstory are related. Almost everyone you meet is woven into the hero's history in some way, or offers you a different insight into the hero's condition. Even if the plot's the same every time, the story that is told is different.
    • by mcvos (645701) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:44AM (#27873993)

      Torment does right what so many other games do wrong when it comes to story. Cutscenes (or its precursor, story in a seperate manual) don't do it for me, because it seperates story from gameplay. I want story to be the game.

      Perhaps what I'm looking for is not storytelling, which implies a passive audience, but storyexperiencing. I want to be part of it, and only a few games (including Torment and Star Control 2) got that right. With most other games, the story is just too much removed from the gameplay that I just don't care.

    • by wjousts (1529427)
      For me, the best part of the story in Torment is that it avoided the cliched "you save the world" plot and instead the story was mostly agnostic to the fate of the world and concentrated on the fate of your character. Even at the end of the game, it was about restoring your mortality for no other reason than that was what you wanted.
  • "Homeworld" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ralphbecket (225429) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:57AM (#27872745)

    That is all.

    • by 16Chapel (998683)
      Yup - fantastic storyling, didn't hurt that the voice acting was done properly and the sound & visual design gave such good atmosphere. Fallout had the same - really quite spooky.
  • Video Games and Storytelling [youtube.com], this is a really neat YouTube video talking about storytelling in video games, told in a format similar to Zero-Punctuation.
  • Portal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Myria (562655) on Friday May 08, 2009 @02:01AM (#27872775)

    Portal had what I felt was an interesting way of telling the story. The "narrator" was mostly there to explain the rather quirky gameplay. Only in the later levels did she become part of the story.

    Much of Portal's story is in objects you find in optional areas of the game world - secret rooms you find behind walls. You only see the objects in the 3D world and have to read them yourself to understand their storywise meaning; nothing with them is directly narrated.

    In the end, your knowledge of the story is entirely inferred from vague clues and events you find throughout the game.

    • I really enjoyed portal. And HL2. System Shock2 was very similar. For just telling a tale, try Cave Story.
    • by AndrewNeo (979708)
      If you look deep into it, Portal is amazing for the fact that so little story is 'told', yet there are so many questions raised about what's really going on and who Chell is/may be.
  • Storytelling in games is one thing, GOOD storytelling games is still another one. Now, considering what we now get in movies, game stories get closer and closer to movie stories, but sadly not because the game stories get better.

    There's also still the problem of replay value. Cutscenes are expensive to make. And you watch it ONCE. Maybe a few times if it's good and/or funny. But then, you skip.

    • Well, generally speaking, for linear games with cut-scenes, not only do you only watch the cut scenes once, you usually only play the game to the end once as well.
    • Here's a short indy game that has unique storytelling and gameplay, using interactive poetry: Today I Die [ludomancy.com].

  • Marathon (Score:3, Informative)

    by Macman408 (1308925) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:01AM (#27873119)
    When I hear "story" and "video game" in the same sentence, I always think of Marathon. It didn't have anything fancy like cut scenes, or three dimensions... But it had an evolving plot. Beyond the "you're human, they're alien, go kill them before they kill you" that most FPSs use. It's certainly not the best, but for a game released in 1994, it was pretty unusual.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CraftyJack (1031736)
      Marathon's storytelling was also very unobtrusive. You could get through the game with only a little bit of the story, or you could hunt for terminals and try to piece together the background.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Most relevantly, it was entirely in-game, so it never broke the illusion. No jumping out to cut scenes or any of that shit, just read the terminals. Amazingly it had text you'd want to read. Unlike, say, anything that would have been in Halo. I wish I knew why running and gunning in SWBFII is entertaining for hours (days!) while doing it in Halo just bores me. Maybe it's the tuck and roll button.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Chapter screens in Bungie Marathon releases can be seen
      http://marathon.bungie.org/temp/cmullins.html [bungie.org]
  • We all know that (Score:3, Informative)

    by B1oodAnge1 (1485419) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:24AM (#27873217)

    the best ever Game Story started like this:

    You're a marine, one of Earth's toughest, hardened in combat and trained for action. Three years ago, you assaulted a superior officer for ordering his soldiers to fire upon civilians. He and his body cast were shipped to Pearl Harbor, while you were transferred to Mars, home of the Union Aerospace Corporation.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      What about the game story of "Go rescue the princess who has been captured by King Koopa?" That one was pretty good too.

  • by davet2001 (1550151) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:33AM (#27873275)
    Although it was not mentioned in the original article, some games have been very successful by *not* telling the story, and leaving the player-protagonist to work it out. In Half Life 2, the player wakes up on a train, arriving at 'City 17'. There is very little information about what this is or why he is there. All you know in the first stages is that the environment is very hostile, and there are very few people who help you. You explore a town that has clearly been retrofitted with advanced security beyond it's original architecture, but no-one explains why or by whom. Civilians you meet are mostly in despair or injured, and there are clear signs of recent conflict (ruined homes, destroyed buildings). Most of the time, you can see a huge structure towering in the distance, which seems like a focal point but whether and how you'll get there is a mystery. The result is that you feel (or at least I felt) lost, confused, and quite alone at the start of the game, and intrigued to find out more. This builds up a bond with the character you are playing, and makes the arrival of friendlies (Barney, etc) much more significant. Providing the full setting of the story can detract from the realism, as it provides a perspective on the situation that a real person in the equivalent real-life situation would not have. I can only speculate about the armed forces having never served, but I suspect that in a real life battle, a front line soldier will probably not be aware of the full context of the setting, or it's strategic importance. They just carry out their duties such as a patrol, and all of a sudden one day, there's an explosion and someone starts shooting at them. They then have to figure out what's going on, survive a battle, and most likely only later think about why it all happened. I think there exists a balance between telling the story and not. Give too much information, and the story can become boring. Give too little information, and the player does not feel intrigued to play, and interest can only be sustained with gameplay. When done well, game designers will strike this balance well, and provide a good compromise between narrative, confusion, chaos, and action, all of which can be compelling.
    • Mod UP!!! The genius of "City 17" is that it is a familiar theme throughout literary history, so the player almost knew what to expect. And just because there was no narration or cut scenes, the level building was done in such a way that you had to hit all the "story development stops, like meeting up with Barney. In short, HL2 is very much a story telling game.
    • by Rival (14861)

      Well said. Mod parent up.

      After playing Half-Life, I suspected Half-Life 2 to be more of the same storyline. Instead, I was treated to a very confusing and surreal world, with no guidance or explanation. It was a joy and a comfort to find old friends; even familiar enemies were a relief. It was nerve-wracking to be dropped off in an invaded, oppressed world with some crazy plot in progress, with no information about it other than survive and keep moving forward. Not being told the story was a major succ

    • by grumbel (592662)

      All well and true, but for me that worked only for the first 15 minutes of Half Life 2. After that the game quickly falls apart. Not knowing things and feeling confused is all right and good as a start, because thats just where your character might be, but it just doesn't work when your job is to safe the world, as that is a thing that should require knowledge and talent which you should gain in the course of the game. But what Half Life 2 does is basically world saving by lucky coincidence, without any pro

  • Oblig... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Argumentator (1524195) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:53AM (#27873383)

    Famous quote attributed to John Carmack: "The plot in a video game is just like the plot in a porn movie -- merely an excuse to get to the action."

    • Re:Oblig... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah AT Gmail DOT com> on Friday May 08, 2009 @12:46PM (#27878059)

      Yeah, and he makes his games accordingly, but some people enjoy games with more depth.

      I always thought of games as being divided into two categories:
      The skill based ones which most online games fall into, where you get your reward by beating an opponent, proving that you are more capable.
      And there's the story-based ones when, like a good movie or a book, and sometimes the gameplay is just something you do to get farther along in the story.
      Some games use singleplayer as one aspect and multiplayer as the other, some have a good balance of both aspects, but a lot are either in one category or the other.

      I enjoy both on occasion and I think that quote is a pretty narrow way to think of it.
      I enjoyed the original doom games and they were pretty good for the time, I also enjoyed Quake 3 Arena as a skill game, but I think id has been making pretty boring games since then with terrible storylines.

      • Well I enjoyed Doom 3 and quake 4 single player. I always find the idea of deep story in a Movie or video game a bit of a oxymoron. You just can't fit enough into them in terms of dialog or extra information to really get deep. This is less true in games but interaction takes away some of that narrative. But like a short story it can still be good.

        If I want a complex involved story I read a book. If i want atmosphere or action I play games or watch movies. If I want interaction I usually play online or w
    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Heh.

      John Carmack was a genius at making video game engines. He pushed the frontiers or technology and visualization. I am a real fan, having played his games back to the days of Commander Keen. But he is clearly not a game designer.

      There's lots of quotes from John Carmack that are just like the ones above - he likes simple action games.

  • You want games based on the story? Take a look at Infocom. Founded in '79 and had nothing but story based games. I got my first computer (an Apple ][+) in '82 as a kid and spent much of my time on it playing Infocom games.
    And of course Softporn Adventures (which later became Leisure Suit Larry)...

    Hell, even Final Fantasy has more of a story than a lot of games these days. People became less interested in the story and plot of games and more interested in the flashy graphics. It doesn't take a lot of bra
  • by cbrichar (819941)
    For me, the perfect example of narration as a means of effective and immersive storytelling has to go back to the old Tex Murphy games - Under a Killing Moon, Pandora Directive & Overseer. The storylines were spectacular to begin with, but the ever-present narrator set the mood perfectly. (Another reason for their success could probably be attributed to the excellent quality of the sound production in all of their games.)

    ...and, purely as a rabid fan of the work the 'Tex' creators, I can't resist a ch
  • Planescape: Torment (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    for me, this was the best ever "game as narrative", with baldur's gate 2 following a close second. I loved Torment's focus on choices unlocking memories and changing your stats as well as those of others, and it's titanic themes of tragedy and identity.

    I have been looking for a game like it ever since. BG2 was close. I guess the work involved in making these types of games makes them unprofitable. It's a pity but i can't see how to change that. The backstory for nameless was immense, and the romances in BG2

  • Why do we stay up way too late reading a gripping book? Because the author is dropping little tidbits we really want to know. We keep reading because we just know the answer is no the next page.

    The worst games I've played dole out the storyline like it cost a million bucks and most of it is filler or, a real sin in RPG's, stupid goblin nose quests. They could have just as easily had the quest tied into a major part of the plot but they didn't.

    The best games tie that story in there tight and everything keeps

    • by demonbug (309515)

      You can really relate this to action movies. Lucas said and then forgot "A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing."

      I'd love to sit Lucas down to watch the opening of Revenge of the Sith and just play that quote over and over. Such an utter waste of tens of millions of dollars for special effects that left me bored to tears -- because it completely lacks any kind of story.

  • This is one of my pet peeves with story telling in games, the reliance of scattered notes, diaries, e-mails, or whatever in order to advance the story. It's cliched and unnatural. For example, in the world of Rapture in Bioshock, apparently people had a habit of recording short (1-2 minute) audio "diaries" and then left them lying around. Who would do that?

    Would you kindly come up with a better way to fill in the back story?

    • In System Shock 3, you'll just figure out people's Twitter usernames, and use their updates to fill in the back story.

      That would be kind of awesome; as you find more usernames, their comments get integrated into the timeline...

  • Half-Life 2 was revealing the story gradually through naturally occurring dialogues and events throughout the gameplay. It's one of best storytellings (no external narrative at all, actually, all naturally interwoven into the gameplay) I've ever encountered in a game. Portal gets a close second.

    I'm playing Bioshock now and honestly, the recorded diaries feel forced for a storytelling device.

  • I've seen quite a few games over the last couple of years that have really impressed me through the way they tell their story. In particular:

    Lost Odyssey - not the fairly standard Japanese RPG fare that makes up most of the game, but rather the text narrative used for the dreams. Very minimalist - just animated text on an almost static abstract background with a few ambient sounds, but they covered an impressive range of scenarios and even genres. A few were genuinely well-written, even by the standards of

    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      Lost Odyssey - not the fairly standard Japanese RPG fare that makes up most of the game, but rather the text narrative used for the dreams. Very minimalist - just animated text on an almost static abstract background with a few ambient sounds, but they covered an impressive range of scenarios and even genres. A few were genuinely well-written, even by the standards of non-video-game writing.

      That's because an award-winning short story author, Kiyoshi Shigematsu, was hired to pen the stories for that game (known as "A Thousand Years of Dreams"). Honestly, those story flashbacks were probably the best part of the game for me. The rest of the game was not bad, but ultimately somewhat forgettable.

      I have to say, I was caught completely by surprise, emotionally speaking, by the first one, Hanna's Departure. It is, in my opinion, an absolutely brilliant presentation of text, music, sound effects, a

  • No love for the epic narration from the Myth series? At a minimum, those games had the best use of narration in tutorial scenes ever, and the maps and narrations gave Myth games a Lord of the Rings feel, years before the movies.

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