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The Decline of Fiction In Video Games 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night dept.
Speaking to Eurogamer, art maestro (and visual design director of upcoming stealth/action game Dishonored) Victor Antonov put into words what many gamers have been feeling about the gaming industry of late: "It's been a poor, poor five years for fiction in the video game industry. There have been too many sequels, and too many established IPs that have been ruling the market. And a lot of them are war games. And they're great projects and great entertainment, but there's a lack of variety today. So, when you step out of this established genre, people cannot grasp it, or the press tries to find a match. ... We were always waiting for the next generation of great worlds or great graphics. Well, great graphics came; the worlds that came with these graphics are not up to the level of the graphics. ... Games should sort of split up and specialize and assume that there's such a thing as genre, and they shouldn't try to please everybody at the same time and try to make easy, diluted projects. Let's go for intensity and quality."
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The Decline of Fiction In Video Games

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  • Indie games! (Score:5, Informative)

    by wikthemighty (524325) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:32PM (#40691531)
    The last few years have been a boom for indie developers, especially on the PC: Humble Indie Bundle [slashdot.org] Indie Gala [slashdot.org] Indie Royale [slashdot.org] BeMine [slashdot.org] ...not to mention the Indie packs in the Steam Summer Sale!
    • Fixed URLs... (Score:5, Informative)

      by wikthemighty (524325) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:35PM (#40691571)
      Humble Indie Bundle [humblebundle.com]
      Indie Gala [indiegala.com]
      Indie Royale [indieroyale.com]
      Be Mine [groupees.com]
      • Re:Fixed URLs... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm ... UTom minus punct> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:44PM (#40692711) Journal

        While the indie games are pretty damned good one thing that bums the hell out of me is how badly they've taken a crap on the FPS genre. Remember when you'd get all these different takes on the FPS, like Redneck Rampage and Blood or No One Lives Forever? Or even Far Cry I with AI that would flank and lush jungles with nasty creatures in it?

        Now it seems like everything is Call Of Modern Honor: Gears Of Killzone. hell even the ones I liked are getting crapped on by the Call Of Modern Honor effect, remember Fear? Fear I&2 were nice, dark and gritty with smart bad guys and great weapons, so what happened? Fear 3 is a 2 gun, wall kissing, lousy guns with no damned bullets co-op mess, that's what.

        Sadly this is one genre where it is doubtful the indies will save us. there are a hell of a lot of guys like me that would be happy with Far Cry I or even No One Lives Forever II level graphics if you'd just give us a good story, new weapons, tough bad guys, bring back the fun to FPS. But instead every indie FPS I've ever seen is just another Quake III Arena ripoff, like we really need another MP only CTF and DM game...yawn.

        • Re:Fixed URLs... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Lotana (842533) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:36PM (#40693861)

          Far Cry I with AI that would flank


          I remember the first time the soldiers in front of me were laying down suppressing fire as two more were rapidly making a wide pincer move to get to my flank. I was crying the tears of joy! After all the useless, pointless bots that only knew how to run towards you and died in the hundreds, I finally had a game where developers actually focused on AI. Fear had good AI as well unfortunately you couldn't get the full appreciation of it because all the environments were so closed in that there wasn't much area to show off manuverability. Hell, the reason Half Life 1 was so damn awesome was because of the AI of the grunts.

          And then... The focus on AI died as if it was a brief fad. FPS returned to being fancy graphical demos with gameplay equivalent of Quake 2. Worse: Quick Time Events just became extremely common!

          I just can't comprehend why. Is it because the focus now is on casual gamers and they compain about the extra difficulty of the AI? Surely you can just add dificulty levels that adjusts damage and health of enemies instead of removing all the intelligence altogether!

          • Re:Fixed URLs... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm ... UTom minus punct> on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:07AM (#40695015) Journal

            Man, wasn't that nice, to have bad guys that weren't tarded without having to deal with online cursing little shits? While Fear 1&2 were more buttoned up you should try the expansions for Fear 1, they had some nice levels where they could really get behind your ass if you weren't careful. the rooftop was a good example, where the Arma troops had 4 different ways they could go and would lay down fire while one snuck around to cap you in the back, just damned good.

            Here is a little title by a little company you've probably never heard of but if you like a challenge, and I don't mean that lame "all grunts take more bullets than the terminator while having perfect aim" crap look up a little game called "Nosferatu: The Wrath Of Malachi" or something like that, I always just called it Nosferatu. Its 1901 and you have to go into a castle to rescue your family from a hoard of vampires.

            The cool things about this game is 1.-Forget memorizing jack shit as EVERYTHING is randomized. A room that may have been a ballroom with a servant might be a bedroom with a hellhound the next time, it even randomizes between saves so you might have to reload a time or two if you respawn knee deep in the shit! 2.- How do you think that YOU, a normal human, would do against a real vampire? Welcome to Nosferatu where you are NOT a 6 foot 300 pound linebacker but an ordinary man. with the holy water and the cross or 6 shot you can fight off a minion, it'll be a decent fight but it can be done relatively easy, but you walk into a room and there is some Masters in their coffins? Your ass had better be able to sneak in there, get them lids open, and drive those stakes before they wake up because if not? Its your ass Mr Postman as they are wicked strong and if you drop one awake it'll probably be due to luck and will make you feel like you just won the game because it is HARD to do.

            But I know what you mean, without decent AI so many of the games are just terrible, I mean who cares how it looks if the guys all stand in a straight line to be shot? don't buy Fear 3 BTW, the AI is fucking TERRIBLE, I don't know how many times all I had to do was fire a round or two and they would duck behind cover and just sit there while I walked up and knifed them, fricking knifed them, or worse they'd just go back and forth between two different covers while i just stood there right out in the open, they didn't even shoot. After 1&2 it was enough to make me want to fricking scream, just terrible.

            Oh and did you read what the guy below you posted as a list of "good shooters" for me? Its online, online, online, online aaaaaannnndddd online. If I wanted to deal with "LOL I play this 16 hours a day noob bitch ass mofo" I'd be playing fricking Halo. ONLINE SUCKS ASS and is NOTHING like having a decent AI, its campers or guys that have no fricking lives so they just learn every trick and memorize every map so that you'll spend all your time respawning...wow, what fun. Big difference between having AI that will try to suppress and flank and some guy that has figured out there is a tiny section of wall that will let him scope a large area of the map without being seen so he can just pick off players and rack up his kills. And I can't believe he suggested TF2, for someone that likes a traditional FPS that thing is TERRIBLE! Its the classic case of spending weeks learning a single character because you can NOT just hop in and play that game and expect to get anywhere at all,and more than half the maps are fricking sniper heavens.

        • by Nemyst (1383049) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:35AM (#40694493) Homepage

          Borderlands 2. Far Cry 3. Team Fortress 2. Left 4 Dead. DayZ/ArmA. Crysis.

          There's still plenty of solid FPS, you just need to dig a little further than your local GameStop (which, I'll agree, gives a depressing perspective of the gaming landscape in general).

          If you want indie titles, look at ArmA again, then perhaps Hard Reset, which has a lengthy demo. The genre's not as developed because it takes a lot more resources than 2D/2.5D platformers and puzzle games.

          • Out of that list the only thing i might like is Crysis. I tried the original BL and hated it, Far Cry 2 was so terrible, with the so damned predictable spawning and retarded AI, not to mention broken weapon system that I'd be leery of wasting any money on FC3, I can't spend 16 hours a day learning a single character so TF2 is right out, with L4D its too team based and a shitty player fucks up the whole flow, and finally ArmA is too damned realistic, i like a game where I can go more than a foot without crawling and not get sniped, thanks ever so.

            Too many of the games are trying to make up for piss poor SP and AI with tacked on MP and I for one can't fucking stand MP most of the time, there is a hell of a big difference between AI that will suppress and flank and a shitload of dudes running around like chickens with their heads cut off blasting everything in sight. One requires strategy and thought, the other is bullet spam.

            The last game where I actually gave a shat about MP was MechWarrior 4, where you actually had to work as a team and have a strategy to get very far. my team used the WWII "big blue blanket" approach, with me and another heavy in the center as the slow battleships, the mediums on our sides as destroyer escorts, and the lights front and rear as fast cruisers. With L4D everybody can use every weapon and with TF2 most of the maps I've seen everyone is either a sniper or the pyro.

            So while I appreciate the suggestions until some decent AI single player games come out I'll probably just stick with sandbox games, i just picked up Saints Row 3 (great game BTW, crazy fun like Just Cause II) on the Steam sale so that ought to give me plenty to do for awhile. I heard the new Deus Ex is good, i scored the whole series on the Steam sale for $15 so I'll get around to playing that as well, at least if it sucks like Fear 3 I'll still have the original as well as Invisible War to play.

            • by ifrag (984323) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @07:33AM (#40696279)

              The last game where I actually gave a shat about MP was MechWarrior 4

              If you liked that, then you should probably take a look at Mechwarrior Online (yes, just MP). It's currently in closed beta but founders can all start playing next month I think. The concern I have is I'm not sure how their free-to-play with premium options is going to balance out. Hopefully they lean more towards League of Legends but I'm feeling some WoT influence getting mixed in there.

              Anyway, so far MWO closed beta has 6v6 with what I assume is matchmaking tonnage balancing (I hope). Victory is either elimination or base capture, no respawns. I'd expect more game types opening up over time. Mechlab is fairly functional at the moment, allows a fair amount of gear swapping, although some parts of the Mechs are restricted as far as weapon selection goes.

    • by alen (225700) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:47PM (#40691687)

      A lot of them don't have any killing or violence so they don't count

      Real games you have to kill

    • You appear to mean "indie" as in companies made up of alumni of major software houses, as opposed to "indie" as in small companies that are truly independent of the video game establishment. There's a difference [slashdot.org].
      • by Onuma (947856) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:19PM (#40691981)
        I think "indie" merely refers to the practice of a single company both producing and publishing their game. Whether they're alumni of Blizz/Activision/EA/Ubisoft or they've never worked on any gaming projects before, the only difference may be the amount of capital invested in the project.

        That's my $.02, but YMMV.
        • I think "indie" merely refers to the practice of a single company both producing and publishing their game.

          If "indie" means the publisher owns the developer, then Nintendo is indie.

          Whether they're alumni of Blizz/Activision/EA/Ubisoft or they've never worked on any gaming projects before, the only difference may be the amount of capital invested in the project.

          That and establishment alumni have a lot easier time selling games in certain genres because establishment alumni have a lot easier time getting onto the consoles with which these genres are traditionally associated.

          • by Onuma (947856) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:29PM (#40692571)
            Partially correct. Nintendo is also a huge corporation with over a hundred years of business. They develop and produce their own hardware and software, as well as license out to 3rd parties for massive amounts of money. At one point, there may have been considered "indie", but not any longer.

            Regardless of their levels of experience, it takes money to make money. Veteran industry people usually have a nice nest egg to utilize, whereas someone just breaking into the industry may not have that luxury.
  • by miknix (1047580) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:32PM (#40691533) Homepage

    now where is my THEME HOSPITAL 2?

  • BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:34PM (#40691565) Homepage Journal

    there have been many great stories. And there is no reason a sequel can't also be a great story.
    Skyrim, Uncharted, Max Payne, Portal, Portal 2, Half-life EP 2, Dragon Age. ON and on.

    • Re:BS (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:41PM (#40691635)

      Stories in video games suck, at least when the game tries to make me care about them. When I'm playing a video game, I don't need to know why the bad guys are the bad guys, I just need to know where they are.

      • Re:BS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:53PM (#40691773)
        Some people are chess players, yet others play checkers.
      • Re:BS (Score:5, Funny)

        by MrHanky (141717) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:12PM (#40691927) Homepage Journal

        Translated into English: Look at me! Look at me! I've got an opinion!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:26PM (#40692039)

        Of course just like people watch porn...for the story.

      • Re:BS (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Agent ME (1411269) <agentme49@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:05PM (#40693665)

        I've played the game "Shoot the cyberdemon until it dies!" plenty of times. I'm more than just a bit tired of those games honestly. A game that makes me care about its characters gets a lot of my attention.

      • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:36PM (#40693863)

        Stories in video games suck, at least when the game tries to make me care about them. When I'm playing a video game, I don't need to know why the bad guys are the bad guys

        A large number of games, such as Heavy Rain [wikipedia.org] would disagree. A good story can significantly enhance gaming experience.

        • Re:BS (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:28AM (#40694105) Homepage Journal

          Heavy Rain is a fantastic example. But then again, I also thoroughly enjoyed FEAR2 for the semi-hidden documents along the way that explained the back-story of what was going on. There was actually a lot of thought put into it. I say FEAR2 because the first and third were a lot less well flushed out I found.

          In fact, if I'm going to play a good game that tells a good story and is fun and looks and sounds great, in general its a PS3 game like Heavy Rain, R&C, Uncharted ... I'll throw a bone to Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, and God of War too.

      • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:25AM (#40694093) Homepage Journal

        I'm the exact opposite. I get rapidly bored of shooting random enemies for no reason. If I wanted to do that, I'd be playing space invaders. I play video games primarily for the entertainment of the progression -- a good story, like in Uncharted or even the silly but well developed plots of Ratchet and Clank games make a huge difference from something mediocre. I picked console games specifically because I haven't seen real innovation in the story telling video game on PCs in a long time. Not since Wing Commander and Privateer (I'll except some RPGs, but by and large, those are pretty campy).

      • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @07:30AM (#40696251)
        You should check out Dear Esther on the Steam sale. It's completely the opposite of what you want from a game :)

        You have 5 controls; Forward, Backward, Strafe Left, Strafe Right, and Zoom. You walk around an island, and a narrator tells you a story. It's not "fun" but it's certainly very enjoyable, like reading a good book.

        I find CoD, Battlefield X, Medal of Honour etc to be repetitive and boring. It's all about watching the numbers grow; More damage, more accuracy, higher RoF, more armour, more recoil compensation, more sprint, more ammo in the clip, faster mag changes... You're playing Accounting with motion blur and blood sprays. Yawn.
    • by C0R1D4N (970153) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:51PM (#40691743)
      Sensational story is sensational. Just to add to the list Batman Arkham Asylum/City, Star Wars TOR (first truly story based MMO), Fallout 3/NV. Those are all established IPs sure, but they are still pretty damn strong. For new IPs you have Mass Effect (2007), Left 4 Dead (2008), Dragon Age (2009), Heavy Rain (2010), LA Noire (2011), Spec Ops The Line (2012) Ok, a LOT of games were sequels or part of established IPs, but good IPs aren't really something you can force out. When you try to, it generally doesn't end well.
      • by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:23PM (#40692519)
        Exactly. If he was talking about the early 2000s, where everything was a lame first-person shooter, then he might have a point. But the Lego series, Portal series and games like the Arkham series are changing all that.
    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:54PM (#40691781) Journal

      I haven't played any of these, but my kids/wife have. I've watched bits here and there.

      Skyrim, Fable and Dragon Age and one you didn't mention, Kingdoms of Amulor (sp) are all similar and formulaic.

      I would prefer (if I played the games) Mass Effect series because it is a space shooter game, with RPG bits tossed in. And at least the RPG bits carry over from one game to the next.

      • Re:BS (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Smauler (915644) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @07:38AM (#40696297)

        What? "They should stop making games like X, they should make games like Y, but I wouldn't play it anyway."

        The games you mention are not similar, apart from the fact they're all RPGs. Just because you looked over someone's shoulder and they look similar, does not make them similar (though since they are split between first and third person, they don't even look the same). I know I personally would probably hate 2 of those games, but enjoy the other 2, because of their substantially different gameplay.

  • by kubusja (581677) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:39PM (#40691617)
    I loved Witcher and Witcher 2. The fiction/story in the first one was great. World with shadows of gray.
  • by xavdeman (946931) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:39PM (#40691619)
    hasn't played enough games outside of the best-sellers. There's lot's of games with well written stories and intriguing worlds that were all new IPs. From the top of my head:
    -Alan Wake
    -The Secret World (just released!)
    And that's just the big, well-known titles. I'm sure if you start reading a quality gaming blog like Rock Paper Shotgun you'll be up-to-date on some great indie titles as well in no time at all, sir. (also take a look at things like the Humble Indie Bundle, sometimes these bundles contain really well written adventure games (and they always contain games with Linux support)

    We've also seen the resurrection of franchises like Fallout, and Deus Ex, while not having extremely well written dialogue (with the possible exception of Fallout: New Vegas, which was made by Obsidian instead of Bethesda), they are still worth playing for the world and the story the players themselves can write through their actions.
    • by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:16PM (#40691965) Homepage Journal
      Is Portal especially a new IP? I thought Portal's story [members.shaw.ca] was set in the Half-Life universe, as a gaiden game [tvtropes.org] of sorts.
    • by Eponymous Hero (2090636) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:02PM (#40692377)
      some other games, inside and outside of the best sellers, that had stories somewhere between decent/pretty good and awesome/tell your mom:
      -Batman: Arkham Asylum/City
      -Mass Effect
      -Dead Space
      -I Am Alive
      -Red Dead Redemption
      -Assassin's Creed
      -and many more

      a lot of people will disagree with me, but i also enjoyed the stories in the Hitman series, Splinter Cell series (Double Agent and Conviction were good, almost great, imo) and Max Payne series. even God of War and Darksiders had enough story to make the hack-and-slash more interesting. Gears of War wasn't bad either once you look past all the macho tropes. **spoiler** it had a cliche "you created your enemies and never knew it" ending **spoiler** but it was enough to keep me from asking why bother playing it. it was meant to be over the top. Resident Evil is a good example of enjoyable, over-the-top storytelling.

      there's a common misconception that story = character development. but with the interactive medium, there's value in leaving a void in the protagonist for the player to fill with themselves. in a written story, the story isn't about an alternate you having a crazy exhilarating experience. in a gaming story, it's perfectly ok for the story to be about a series of events with you providing the character aspect by playing it.

      there are basically 4 types of story subjects: a concept, a character, a place, and an event. any one of these 4 can be the main subject of the story. it doesn't always have to be a character. most video game stories are concept or event stories. Dead Space is a concept story. it doesn't matter who's doing the plasma cutting, the big draw is what the fuck is up with the marker, and what's this shit about humans created it? Darksiders is about the environment. the purpose is to explore this strange version of reality while your character tries to make it right. the story is over when the place changes or the character leaves it. Fallout was about events. in Fallout 3 there's all kinds of sub-plots like the character's father and exploring the wasteland after coming out of a vault. but since the outcomes of the game change based on your choices and actions, the most important thing about the ending is what set of events did your choices manifest? the story ends when you've exhausted your ability to affect new events.

      some games work really well partly because the story is so cheesy, cliche and predictable, like Driver: San Francisco. some games are nothing but story, whether literally (e.g.,The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain) or figuratively (e.g., Final Fantasy or Fallout 3/New Vegas). in those kinds of games you either can't go off on your own outside the story, or you don't really want to. there was an appeal to riding horses aimlessly around the old west shooting sheriffs and wolves in RDD. i never really felt like taking on super mutants or deathclaws for the fun of it in Fallout. if i have spare time in a game like Fallout, i want to see alternate outcomes to the massive story they provide. for some games, a deep story can just get in the way of having fun. for other games, it's the only way to have it. i don't think there's a dearth of storytelling in games, but people like david jaffe don't help when they try to speak for the whole game developer community.

      "Why the fuck would you choose the medium that has historically, continually, been the worst medium to express philosophy and story and narrative? Why wouldn't you write a book? Why wouldn't you make a movie? Why wouldn't you go on a blog? Why wouldn't you run for fucking office? Instead, to me, it's the equivalent of being one of the world's best chefs and instead of working at a four or five-star restaurant, you choose to ply your trade at McDonald's. It doesn't make any sense." -- david jaffe

      if you have to ask, you'll never know...
    • by Nemyst (1383049) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:37AM (#40694503) Homepage

      You've forgotten perhaps one of the best-written games in a long time: The Witcher 2. One of the best RPGs of the last five years for sure.

      You play the game for the story. Saying story doesn't matter is ridiculously shortsighted.

  • by heptapod (243146) <heptapod@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:45PM (#40691673) Journal

    One of the bad aspects of modern gaming is games becoming interactive DVDs. Press X, beat the bad guy and earn the privilege of watching a half-hour cutscene that tells you to press O to defeat the next boss to watch the next cutscene.

    Create games that are engrossing with gameplay and don't require much of an investment on the behalf of the player.

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:55PM (#40691789)

      You can blame that model on JRPGs -- freedom of choice is taken away because like to pretend their narrative is supposed to the focused -- but they forgot the first rule -- you are making a fucking game, NOT a movie.

      As Chris Hecker recently said
        "It annoys me when people focus on the linear content in games, rather than the gameplay. We are always going to be shitty movies if we keep emphasizing that direction."

      http://kotaku.com/5923134/weve-got--jonathan-blow-the-witness-braid-and-chris-hecker-spy-party-here-to-answer-your-best-questions [kotaku.com]

      • by Iniamyen (2440798) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:41PM (#40692167)
        While I agree with you on the point that games are headed in that direction (focusing more on linear content), I would argue you shouldn't "blame JRPGs." The older games (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, etc...) had GREAT gameplay as well as a good (albeit linear) storyline. They are not mutually exclusive.

        If there is linear content, I'd personally prefer that both it AND the gameplay be good =)
      • by loufoque (1400831) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:00PM (#40692349)

        Actually, the japanese make games that are essentially visual novels, and those games are very good if you accept them for what they are.

      • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:44AM (#40694555)

        I disagree to some extent. For one, I can't stand the alternative which is for the story to not take place at all or make me hunt for it.

        I like games but after maybe an hour of a single player game I'm just bored of the gameplay mechanic and want to know how the story is going to end. The only reason I've ever finished a single player campaign is for the narrative. If there is no narrative I care about--give me multi-player so that I can at least play against proper opponents and the satisfaction of defeating human beings.

        It's not competitive in my opinion if I beat a computer. It's like playing a board game against a 6 year old. You might win--you might lose but you don't feel a sense of pride or satisfaction if you do win. Every victory has an asterisk.

        On the other hand I'll wade through the boredom of a game to see the "END". If the game has no end then I won't have much of a motivation to keep going. I don't feel the slightest bit of interest in WOW for that reason. There's no "Winning". There's no catharsis or victory--it's an endless grind which you only abandon but never overcome.

        I want to know what secret it is that my parents died to protect or what have you.

        Even games like Mass Effect which I was extremely engaged in had such a non-linear story line that I eventually got bored doing stupid pointless side-quests until I lost interest. "What you want me to perform a census of every creature in the galaxy? Well as a completionist I feel compelled to help you with your stupid inane task."

        A story with too many branching and peripheral paths inevitably ends up having a bunch of filler crap--with no way to tell what is what. On the other hand a game where you are compelled to move to the next point is often better edited and refined.

        Imagine what a movie would be like if you watched all 30 takes of every scene. It would be boring and stupid.

        There should be just enough freedom so that you feel free and have room to get immersed and a part of the world--but then have a very clear and concise story path. Games should take a lesson from Dungeons and Dragons--you have a story and your DM will keep you moving forward. He's not going to be like "hello party, would you like to deliver this letter to my cousin in stonebrook?" No, they're hopefully smart enough to constantly filter out all the meaningless shit and no matter what choice you make--eventually end up where you need to go.

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:57PM (#40691805)
      Pretty much. That seems to be the problem with this generation, at least for me. Either a game requires very little input of the player (Final Fantasy XIII anyone?) or it is such a vast world and requires lots of time to fully enjoy it (like Skyrim, and Minecraft to a lesser extent).

      All I really want is a fun game that is:

      A) challenging

      B) doesn't require much investment

      C) Is rewarding

      D) has enough content to justify its price

      Today it seems like the focus is either on the (really) hardcore gamer or casual non-gamers.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:05PM (#40691879) Journal

      The real shame is the decline of the adventure genre, which derived from interactive fiction, which was all about story. The best adventure games told stories through their gameplay, with puzzles making sense within the plot, and advancing the plot through the solving of puzzles. If you want to see how to tell a story though a game, go back and look at games like Secret of Monkey Island, Loom, Quest for Glory, or Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.

    • by Onuma (947856) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:21PM (#40691999)
      I see you've played MGS4!

      Fantastic game, but holy SHIT it wasted a lot of time with cutscenes...
    • by Nemyst (1383049) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:44AM (#40694551) Homepage

      They exist, you just need to look a little further.

      If you want harder, more challenging, more interactive games, you have many choices: spectacle fighter Bayonetta comes to mind, or precise platformer Super Meat Boy, or ridiculously tough action game Dark Souls, or even SpaceChem if puzzles are your thing. There's the extremely unforgiving strategy game AI War: Fleet Command. There's indie turn-based tactics game Frozen Synapse. There's hard as nails tower defence game Revenge of the Titans. There's unforgiving tactics game Atom Zombie Smasher. There's Dungeons of Dredmor, with its typical roguelike difficulty. There's "embodiment of a steep learning curve" EVE Online.

      If all you're looking at is the top 5 console games, then yes, chances are people who play those games are not necessarily looking for a tough and complex experience. That doesn't mean there exists no game catering to that.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:49PM (#40691715)
    Where was the rise of fiction in video games? We look at the previous generation with rose-tinted glasses by ignoring all the crap games and just looking at the gems.

    Every generation complains about the same thing: too many sequels, not enough original properties. I mean, 5 years later we will be looking back and looking at this generation with longing.
  • by senorpoco (1396603) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:49PM (#40691723)
    Games today have abandoned story and character development for fancy graphics. Gone are the rich and nuanced tapestries of MarioKart and Gradius. The complex character development of super punchout and the beautifully crafted narrative of Earthworm Jim.
    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:20PM (#40691987)

      While I *do* get the joke, (no whooshes please, it's lame.) This is a false comparison.

      You are compairing "superfiscial plot with sparkly graphics: then" with "superfiscial plot and sparkly graphics:now".

      You should compare "text mode story adventure game" against "pac man", and "massively open ended plot games, like daggerfall (mid 90s, has different, but related endings)" against "doom and duke nukem".

      As the article points out, there aren't many of the "story focused" games out there. He pines for "text adventure" narrative depth, but with "wow, the boobies jiggle when she walks!" Hyper-realistic art assets of the gutless shooters and flat fantasy titles.

      He is lamenting that you don't see both together.

    • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:26PM (#40692043)

      Games today have abandoned story and character development for fancy graphics. Gone are the rich and nuanced tapestries of MarioKart and Gradius. The complex character development of super punchout and the beautifully crafted narrative of Earthworm Jim.

      I strongly disagree. Games like Angry Birds with it's Romeo and Juliet story, without the Juliet, explore very deep themes like how to I angle this shot to take out the pig in the back. The birds and pigs are obviously the Capulets and Montague fighting a feud that can only end in tragedy, and a lot of bruised pigs.

  • This is cyclical.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeNut (85398) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @06:55PM (#40691791) Homepage

    Happens to every platform of gaming. Arcade Games, Consoles, PC's, etc...

    In the early days of Arcade Games, every game was unique (Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Robotron). As games stood out as top money makers, they started emulating them. Why risk a new idea, when an existing one is close to a sure thing? The longer the platform is around the less unique the games will become. Go into any modern Arcade (that is still open), and you're going to find that 90% of the games fall into Drivers, Fighters, Shooters. With maybe a couple games outside of that.

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:12PM (#40691925) Homepage Journal

      Go into any modern Arcade (that is still open), and you're going to find that 90% of the games fall into Drivers, Fighters, Shooters.

      I see redemption games taking over. But driving, light gun shooting, and dancing are popular because they use input devices that a lot of people don't have, and fighting is popular because of the dynamics of in-person competition that anonymous online multiplayer can't match.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:02PM (#40691853) Journal

    "It's been a poor, poor five years for fiction in the video game industry...."

    Nonsense, Victor. Gaming magazine reviews have raised High Fantasy to an unprecedented new art form, and DRM has been more gruesome and compelling than the best Horror gaming.

  • by Lulfas (1140109) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:03PM (#40691867)
    And yet World of Warcraft remains one of the biggest games in the world.
    • by Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:19AM (#40695063)
      To be fair, WoW still has a very thought-out and detailed universe (absurd and eclectic to some extent, but not too much), with great characters, interesting plots and great "theatrical experiences" in key moments - especially starting from WotLK. Of course it's not some "deep" game like Heavy Rain, but still, if you care to read and listen (and notice all of the small details) you would find it far from mindless grind-factory it is sometimes portrayed as.

      And again, there are a lot of books and various fan-art about Warcraft universe - not as much as DnD or even Warhammer, but still. If WoW had no soul, it wouldn't attract so much artists. Hell, this game even has it's own rock-band (ETC 90L) - not so many titles can say that.
  • by sick_uf_u (515976) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:06PM (#40691883)

    Well, great graphics came; the worlds that came with these graphics are not up to the level of the graphics.

    It doesn't make any sense that game stories should suddenly get more complicated because graphics got better.
    It used to be that games with the best/most original gameplay and story would be the gems that stood out in review and among peers. Now that graphics came into its own as a factor of quality, there are other games that stand out without necessarily having the best gameplay. Which means you might have to look for games you want to play instead of just taking the highest-rated games. But they're there.

    Besides that, it's yet another thing in life that seems to have gotten worse since the better years which by no coincidence always happen to be the same time for everyone -when we were young and had all the time in the world to play every game exhaustively and repetitively to a mastery of every move, path, and secret.
    We're gettin' old. Cure that and you'll cure Video-Games-are-Getting-Worse Syndrome.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:07PM (#40691891)
    Three games that blew me away that are non-fiction and novel are Flower, Limbo and Journey. All three are more imagination, dream and a reflection of life.
  • Is it any wonder? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bearded_yak (457170) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:10PM (#40691911) Homepage

    I'm not surprised by the state of the industry. The decline began a few years ago when a new generation of players chose war/battle/FPS games over First Person Action games (What's FPA? Think Myst, kids. If you don't know what that is, you know where to look).

    In my opinion, war-like gaming appeals to a base survival and agression instinct and can indeed be involving, but eventually becomes numbing and the player is unsatisfied until another game provides a stronger instinctual reaction, which becomes more and more difficult to achieve. As this happens, interest falls off. I've seen it happen to people time and time again.

    Storyline-based gaming based primarily on a world and interactions within that world activates more of the creative portion of the mind, digging out the player's imagination from under the clutter that schooling and obsessive parenting buried it under. The abilities of the imagination are endless and a properly planned First Person Action game uses as much of the player's imagination as it does game mechanics, ensuring that the user is partially responsible for creating their own experience.

    For the most part, I think the folks at Frictional Games [frictionalgames.com] might understand how to use the best of both better than anybody. While their games may not appeal to today's most vehement FPS gamers, once those same people reach an insurmountable numbness with their own genre, those who try the kind of product Frictional puts out could find some comfort, as Frictional builds on a mix of both survival instinct and imagination.

  • by nebular (76369) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @07:33PM (#40692097)

    Right now the cost of game development makes it hard to play to a smaller market. The major distributors and studios are loath to invest in something that won't appeal to the largest market possible. Indie games are starting to get some traction but it's a long way off. The games industry is the same boat the movie industry was in the 50s. The big studios control and squeeze every last dime out of the product, and they don't take chances on anything.

    What we need are a few star developers to step in and push for a larger piece of the pie and then spread that around to indie stuff. Just like the bigwigs in hollywood do right now. Those multi-million dollar pay-cheques the stars get don't all go into their pockets, a lot goes to niche projects

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:08PM (#40692413) Journal

      What we need are a few star developers to step in and push for a larger piece of the pie and then spread that around to indie stuff.

      I don't know if that will work. The major asset the game companies have isn't their 'star' developers (who is a star developer now?), it's their libraries. All of the major game companies have a good set of 3D game libraries that lets lesser programmers create a game, that a non-programmer designs. So if one programmer decides to become John Romero, he will probably end up like John Romero.

  • by EXTomar (78739) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @08:52PM (#40692803)

    Although there is plenty to lament that games are failing in story there are still bright spots. Plenty of smaller games seem to be able to focus on crafting story and environments that the AAA games can't seem to afford to spend time on. In particular, "Journey" is one of the first games in a long long long time where I cared that another character "died" let alone that other character was a player. Just this one game is a demonstration of the power of a well crafted game without blowing a big budget and it gives me hope that developers still strive for story.

    • Defender - Stargate
    • Scramble - Cobra
    • Donkey Kong, DK jr, DK III
    • Pac Man, Ms. Pac, Pac Man Jr, Super Pac

    And on and on. That was 30 years ago! Its kind of funny what happens when something makes a lot of money... a sequel is made. Books, movies, games, tv series. Its just the way it is. And yet, new games and stories still come out.
    But you know what? People WANT sequels, they want more of a good thing. I just spent some money on Defense Grid 2 kickstarter as I want more Defense Grid.
    I like new stories, but I like sequels too. I'm still waiting for Half Life 3

  • by Leo Sasquatch (977162) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:35AM (#40695161)
    Good acting is expensive. Good plotting is complex. Game-makers have limited resources. Most developers seem to want to put more effort/time/money into polishing the shiniez than producing an elegant story. Probably because the reviews will slate them solidly if the game looks a bit ropey, but weak acting, plot etc. gets much less abuse.

    I was put off ever playing Heavy Rain when I learned that there's only one killer. What are you going to do - play it twice and act surprised at the ending? I'm sure it would have been technically possible to set the game up so in each new game the killer was any one of a number of possible suspects, but the amount of plot-tracking that would require means it didn't make it into the finished game.

    Some games do an excellent job of combining story and plot (which aren't the same thing). Half-Life and its sequels all have a very simple plot - escape, but the story of how you go about it is beautifully detailed. Both Witcher games do an amazing job, in that the consequences of your actions aren't always visible until much, much later. Mass Effect 1 had a good try, and all the Geneforge games have huge, rich backstories running through them. But the player should drive the story, not just be subjected to large arbitrary chunks of it for no reason as in MGS4.

    Video games have the same capacity for storytelling as any other entertainment medium, but the producers have to be prepared to pay for it on creation, and the public have to be prepared to pay for it on delivery.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:39AM (#40695187) Journal

    The article is torture to read but the poor sap seems unable to grasp that the word fiction only means something is fictional. It doesn't mean fantasy, it doesn't mean sci-fi (these are in fact sub categories of fiction) and it most certainly does NOT mean good.

    Even harlequin and 10 cents western novel is fiction. So are some of the greatest literary works. Fiction = fiction good or bad. And so, modern computer games have plenty of fiction. "Harry went to work", as long as I am not talking about a real Harry and even then it could be fiction if Harry didn't go to work.

    And a sequel is just as much fiction as the original. Maybe he meant there isn't enough originality? What did he work on? A stealth action game? Yawn, been done to DEATH!


    You are the once-trusted bodyguard of the Empress. Framed for her murder and driven by revenge, you must become an infamous assassin, known only by the disturbing mask that has become your calling card.

    As you navigate a world torn apart by plague and oppressed by a government armed with strange new technologies, the truth behind your betrayal is as murky as the waters surrounding the city.

    The choices you make will determine the fate of the world, but no matter what happens your old life is gone forever.

    I get what he means. No originality whatsoever. It is a blessing the lead isn't suffering from amnesia. Let me guess, at one point you are captured and loose all your weapons?

  • by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @07:15AM (#40696169) Homepage

    The Last Story (which I have on pre-order)....

    Xenoblade in particular was very engaging story-wise, blending Norse Myth, Greek Philosophy and science fiction elements (readers of Jack Chalker in particular will recognize elements).


  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:44AM (#40698539)

    Bottom line is that content "creators" have adopted a business model where cloning shit that has a proven track record of success is preferred over venturing into new territories to build a new franchise or even just create that one-off masterpiece.

    Of course the biggest issue is that society (or mostly teenagers) gobbles up this shit and makes it profitable.

    This is why 9 out of 10 movies are pure derivative garbage
    This is why every game is a sequel to a previous game
    This is why every book is about vampires, werewolves or has dragons.
    This is why every TV show is about crime scene investigation

    There is a general lack of creativity in Hollywood, and by extension, ALL entertainment industries. When you can produce cookie-cuter products that make gobs of money because their is a market of addled minds craving nothing new, why even bother attempting at something that might fail just to have integrity?

    Any writer, director or producer of and entertainment that wants to maintain any sort of creative integrity should never work on a sequel or prequel or take on a project that involves similar IP to other franchises. I don't care who you are in the industry, produce a sequel, prequel, remake, or copying someone else's IP is just lazy and overtly greedy.