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Games Entertainment

How Not To Do Storytelling 10

Via GameSetWatch, a story on the site The New Gamer looking into the poor storytelling choices made by Gun. From the article: "I'm sure you get the general picture. From varmit-hunting with Ned to being ambushed by Indians the absolute moment you exit the town boundaries, Gun is a halting, stop/start experience. There's no build-up, no tension, no excitement, just scenes where you're shooting and scenes where you're on the cusp of being shot at. Sure, you can take your own downtime by running aimlessly around the sparsely populated town or saddle on up to a Wanted poster for an unfulfilling side mission but that's devoid of drama and unsatisfying. Instead of the majesty of the epic Western, we get the cheap shoot 'em up."
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How Not To Do Storytelling

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  • Gun's story (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wilson_6500 ( 896824 ) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:29PM (#14418179)
    Some games don't even feel like they're trying for a story. Quake, for instance, gave you some text at the beginning and some text at the end. There was no pretense of plot or of a development of a plot other than "You killed them; Earth wins."

    Gun, though, felt like it really, really wanted to have a plot: the fastest plot in the West. You meet an important character, one who has traits and characteristics--not a throwaway--and two scenes later they're dead. I can understand if they wanted to go for the "death is ugly" Wild West theme; maybe by, say, having a character you've traveled with for half the game suddenly die without any drama: they're just shot dead, no chance for farewells or dramatic scenes. You _want_ that kind of suddenness, at times, because things can happen that way--people just die in real life, they don't always get to cough out a final message. Still, the game as it was felt too, too rushed. I was out of Dodge in the span of two missions, and out of Empire just as quickly. Considering that there're only two real towns in the entire game, that's some awfully fast progression.
    • You meet an important character, one who has traits and characteristics--not a throwaway--and two scenes later they're dead.

      Perhaps somebody is imitating Larry McMurty, who for the last couple of decades seems to have made a speciality of epic stories set in the West. (The real West, not the pulp/Hollywood west, so you can't call his books "westerns".) I was a fan for a long time. Then I was in volume 4 of his latest epic, The Berrybender Narratives and I realized he had spent a couple thousand pages bui

      • Man, maybe you're right. I forget who said it, but Frank Herbert did the same thing: build up characters just for the sake of knocking them down.

        Still, it's not so much heart-wrenching or moving as it is just irritating when it happens over the course of ten minutes instead of a thousand pages. If Gun's doing the same thing, it's doing it even more poorly than what you describe.
        • Still, it's not so much heart-wrenching or moving as it is just irritating when it happens over the course of ten minutes..
          Or 10 pages. Lots of bad writers do that. I think it's because the only thing they remember from Creative Writing 101 is "Make your characters believable!"
  • by MiceHead ( 723398 ) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:52PM (#14418266) Homepage
    The narratives I find to be the most interesting are those that emerge from gameplay: the stories you tell your gaming buddies about the unscripted events that occur while you're playing. This would be in contrast to a game's developer-created storyline, such as the plot surrounding Deus Ex (which can certainly surprise and delight, but in different ways), or the Gun storyline, (which seems to be geared more towards providing atmosphere).

    There may not actually exist stories written into games such as Elite, but you can get a narrative out of them. Similarly, a Tribes match might go something like this:
    We were down 4 points on Broadsides, and were pretty much sunk. But then came The Plan. Five guys in heavy armor bombarded the holy hell out of the enemy base to Shock and Awe. Meanwhile, I flew over, crashed a shuttle into their star player, and entered their base, topside. After the collision, I didn't have any health left. I had to sneeeak past the indoor turrets while the mortars were raining down outside. Man, I was just waiting for someone to come up and check on the generators. But nobody did. I grabbed the flag, flew back to our base with a pixel of health left, and captured. We won the game with 12 seconds left. They were Very Angry.
    I would like to see more situations where these plots (in the strict sense of the term) [wikipedia.org] arise naturally out of the play. To answer the article's title, one way to "do storytelling" is to not (explicitly) do it at all! Give players the tools to interact with the gameworld, and let them tell their own story.
    • That was a great show of how stories come alive through the playing experience in a game. If there aren't enough elements in a game to have a grounded storyline (or the story in place is just poor), then it is incumbent on the player to create his/ her own story through the playing experiences. There have been countless times where I have had to look beyond the story that the developers have put in place and enjoyed the game with a semi-independent adventure of my own. Doing this has actually helped me to
  • DM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by queenb**ch ( 446380 ) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:46AM (#14420297) Homepage Journal
    All of these games are inherently dependent on storytelling, which is a function tradionally filled by the DM. Since AI's are not to the point yet that they could tell you a story, your best bet for this is from another human.

    That said, I've seen some pretty inventive storytelling from some of the RPG games, but only if you stay on or at least near the main quest line. If you deviate from it too much the dialog options, quests, etc. just peter out.

    2 cents,

    Queen B

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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