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Sam Lake on Video Game Storytelling 314

loladeutsch writes "What makes for a great story in a video game? Sometimes, with all the innovative development and cool graphics the actual story a game has to tell can get lost in the shuffle, or at least can seem to be an afterthought. When a game arrives on the shelves that presents one of the more engrossing stories we've seen in awhile, it's worth noting. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne has been recognized by many people with their heads screwed on straight as a benchmark in video-game storytelling. "
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Sam Lake on Video Game Storytelling

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  • MP2 the benchmark? (Score:3, Informative)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:26PM (#9011869) Homepage Journal
    Huh? What about Deus Ex or System Shock 2? You want story, look to the FPS/RPG mixes... thats where its at!
  • Sojourn Development (Score:3, Informative)

    by ejito ( 700826 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:51PM (#9012254)
    Sojourn Development's [] take on storytelling:
    On the surface the intent is simple: to create rich, compelling worlds.

    In a world without adequate depth, story will suffer. When story suffers, gameplay suffers. The goal at Sojourn Development is to elevate the art and craft of gaming to a truly immersive level, to leverage the capabilities of technology to deepen the players' experience with the story, to give them the tools to write their own, to let them forge their own world within the ones we bring to life.

    The trajectories of artistic expression and entertainment are drawing close to one another. The development of online worlds offers exciting possibilities: art, entertainment, and community have the opportunity to meld into a form far more engaging than those we can imagine at this point. Sojourn Development views its efforts as a step or two along this path.
    Their current project is glympse []:
    Sojourn Development is currently developing a first-person, massively-multiplayer online role playing game under the working title "Glympse" (formerly known as "Chivalry"). All of the company's efforts and resources are going into this massive undertaking.

    Tens of thousands of players will adventure simultaneously in the world of Glympse, writing their own stories through their actions in the game, weaving them into the fabric of a much larger tale. They will discover the stories of those who come before them, and leave their own for those who come behind. They will gather together for strength in massive numbers, they will decide to go it alone ... they will move through the world of Glympse according to their own designs.
  • by Myself ( 57572 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:00PM (#9013051) Journal
    Star Control 2 [] tops my list. The first game was just a shootemup with a little empire-building (think SRE in 3D), but the second one was a moving story played out with a wide cast of characters, intermingled with plenty of action and a vast puzzle.

    The storyline starts out simply enough: As one of the descendents of a lost human expedition, marooned on a distant planet for generations, your return home is a shock for both sides. Earth along with dozens of other planets has been enslaved by an advancing alien empire bent on galactic domination. They're clever, powerful, and allied with all the right (or wrong) folks.

    Thrown into the mix is a third player, the subjugated workers of the master alien race, who spun off and are now committed to simple extermination. Their story is compelling, a tragic tale of conquest, psychic enslavement, triumph, and resolution: Races other than their own cannot be trusted, and must be 'cleansed'.

    In the twenty thousand years of our Mission we have heard more pleas for mercy than you can possibly imagine. Civilizations which saw their doom before them called upon their geniuses to calm us, to no avail. ... You are not our enemy. We have NO enemy beyond the Kzer-Za, our partners in the eternal conflict. You are simply... a spore, a seed. Today you are nothing... insignificant. But if allowed to bloom and grow someday... someday, you might represent a threat to our freedom and security. So we cleanse.

    Some of the other races are positively fascinating, particularly the pyrophilic fungus with the capability to consciously modify its genetic makeup.

    I have chosen my offsprings' memories carefully from my set of remembrances, the sweet and warm times of my existence and those of my parents' parents' parents, the bits of a million lifetimes coalesced into a birth gift of complete awareness.

    As the story progresses, you learn of the interdimensional meddlings of a mysterious race that has apparently had occasional contact with humans for thousands of years. They are aloof but benevolent, referring to themselves as being from "above", and warn you about dealing with the other interdimensionals from "below". But guess whose participation is necessary to win the game!

    There are even occasional encounters with space probes, misprogrammed so that they identify every object as a potential source of raw material for replication. This includes you and your ship, so prepare to be broken down into your component elements. Combat is fast-paced and easy to learn, but every ship has its strengths and weaknesses.

    The music in the game plays a part in making it so enjoyable, too. While most games of the time were using cheesy FM synthesized music with occasional wave effects, Star Control 2's soundtrack is 4-channel MOD files, written by a variety of composers from around the world. This bloated the game onto a massive 4 floppies, but anyone who's played it will tell you the few minutes spent copying the files to the hard drive was well worth the effort. Each race has its own music that comes up during a conversation, and the pieces are incredibly well chosen. Trusty allies sound noble, despicable foes sound menacing. The weird fungus music is eerie but pleasant to listen to, and downright funky in parts.

    There are moments of hilarity, sex, confusion, negotiation, sympathy, and plenty of downright evil. All in all, Star Control 2 has far and away the most engaging and moving storyline of any game I've played. I think that might be because it was designed by two incredibly dedicated guys who wouldn't settle for anything less than excellence. When management wanted to release the game as a shootemup with a bit of storyline, Fred and Paul took an unauthorized jaunt to Alaska and returned with a nearly finished version of the game we now know and love.

    The best part is that while the name "star control" is s

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