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Indigo Prophecy Creator - No More 'Porn Narrative' 105

simoniker writes "There's a new postmortem for Quantic Dream's console title Indigo Prophecy, as described by creator David Cage, online, and one of the most interesting sections in the 8,000 word postmortem is how the game has tried to reshape storytelling for games away from the basic: "One of the key points in Indigo Prophecy was the idea of getting interactivity and narration to work together. Most games oppose these two concepts or rather, they develop them in turn: a cut scene to advance the narration, then an action scene, then another cut scene for the narration. The structure of this narrative process is very close to that of porn movies.""
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Indigo Prophecy Creator - No More 'Porn Narrative'

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  • Valve (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) * on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @09:45PM (#15573480) Journal
    If you played Half-Life 2 and Episode 1, you know how Valve gets around this. Episode 1's commentary was, quite frankly, one of the most interesting things I've seen in a game in a long time (I didn't play Lost Coast, when they introduced the commentary feature.)

    Many ocmmentary points specifically address what's in this article - how to keep the player moving and interested (combat, exploration, puzzles, rewards) while at the same time directing their attention with specific things placed here and there without removing from them the ability to control the character. It's fantastically done, and when it's pulled off right - well, then you get HL2 and 35 Game of the Year awards.
    • Re:Valve (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZephyrXero ( 750822 ) <zephyrxero@yahoCHEETAHo.com minus cat> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @09:58PM (#15573530) Homepage Journal
      It's sad that there are such a rare few number of games that do a good combination of narrative and interaction... If only more developers and designers thought like this maybe we wouldn't have people like Roger Ebert saying that games aren't an artform :/
      • Re:Valve (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheCarp ( 96830 ) *
        It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a friend about Final Fantasy (the series, not just the original game).

        It has been alot of what the author of this game doesn't want. Alot of free time just walking around getting into random encounters with no real point. Why did you walk around till you had killed 100 ogres before going after garland? Talk about slow polot advancement.

        Then you get into the more recent ones and... I like the more narration and story and overall better writting.... but.. th
        • I'll have to check out Way of the Samurai. I agree the FF games are a perfect example of what's wrong with the way most games mix gameplay with plot development.

          Some more recent games have done pretty well, I just finished playing through the new Tomb Raider, and while it does have cut scenes to advance the plot it does a good job advancing it through the gameplay as well. You have a headset where you can communicate with your team, as you uncover new artifacts and make discoveries you talk it through wi
          • That swhat I liked a bout samurai (not fixing typoos, im drunk)

            The time moved, not really linearly, but as you moved from area to area. So you came into a fairly small area, and sure you COULD indefinitly sit there and just fight people as they came by, but many places didn't have lots of random passerbys most of the time, and they generally weren't worth your time.

            So each area has plenty of action usually, but theres no real reason to just hang out in one place.

            bu tat its heart, it was a sword fighting gam
      • It's sad that there are such a rare few number of games that do a good combination of narrative and interaction.

        The porn method began as a way to keep the player interested during embarrassingly long data loads. Used to throw up a long blurb of text, then began loading the next level while the player read the text. Put a few big words in there and you can keep em busy until the stage loaded. Someone thought it was a main feature rather than an embarrassment and declared that the text should scroll, then
    • by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:04PM (#15573549)
      ... you get FFXII, where you have about 30 minutes of cut-scenes (in engine and otherwise) and then two hours of completely irrelevant to anything "travel to this location we'll mark on your map to get your next cutscene". Granted, its not the highlight of the FF series (FFVI, for example, keeps a *strong* narrative even with the player frequently losing control of the action -- well, OK, you sort of need to propel the story yourself after you get to the World of Ruin), but it was absolutely jarring when I'd get thrown out of the story and told to walk through a desert full of barely-disguised Tusken Raiders.
      • ...is "The Spirits Within". I like that they finally dropped the pretense and eliminated gameplay entirely (not a significant change from the FF games I've played) and made a "game" that was just pretty cut scenes. ;-)

        Granted, the plot wasn't significantly more cohesive than that of any of the other FF games, but the graphics were nothing short of stunning! Mmmmm... Aki Ross...
  • This game sounds like a bunch of marketing people read a few Joseph Campbell books and wet their collective pants. TFA is like a teenage girl's journal recounting every boring detail of their life. Sure, I'm very into game design (I do it), but this is all me, me, me! Gag me with an analog controller.

    The game actually sounds interesting though, and that's what it all comes down to. I'm sure there will be a lot of comments slamming the self praise of TFA, but hey, shameless self promotion is the name of
  • by Aurin Wildfire ( 231048 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:02PM (#15573543)
    "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important."
    - John Carmack
  • Based on the title, I actually thought this article was going to have something to do with the sex scenes in the European version of Indigo Prophecy.
    • Me too. I've played two games by Quantic Dream (the other one was Nomad Soul). They both contained sex scenes. It's not really necessary in either game, but to be fair it was dealt with maturely in both titles.

      I expected this story to be about David Cage dropping the idea of putting sex into his stories, perhaps due to the Take Two's recent problems.
  • Get ready!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:15PM (#15573586)
    Red. Blue. Blue. Green. Yellow. Yellow. *BZZZZT*

    I helped a friend play Indigo Prophecy twice. The idea was cute, but it's actually just as linear as all the other games out there. The only difference is that you get to affect the "mood" of the main characters, and you get to ever-so-slightly modify the subplot. Add to that all the gratuitious "follow the flashing lights" two-handed button mashing sessions, and it rates as one of the worst games I've ever had the misfortune of playing. In short, the basic idea is fairly novel, but the game itself was poorly conceived and implemented.
    • Re:Get ready!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Negatyfus ( 602326 )
      Get this right, man. You mean to say that you didn't enjoy the game, but it was never poorly conceived or implemented. I personally hope companies will be making this type of game for a long, long time and people like you will not dominate demand.
  • by Orange Goblin ( 945041 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:27PM (#15573628)
    I played Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) over 2 days, roughly half and half of the game each day. The first day the story was excellent, the second day, complete and utter cliched dross. It's like they got to the half way mark and just gave up.
    • by Jazzer_Techie ( 800432 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:55PM (#15573713)
      In the article he flat out admits this flaw.
      I made the mistake of not devoting enough time to the last hour of the game. I was convinced (and rightly so) that the first hour of the game would be decisive for hooking the player, but I naively thought that one hour from the end the player's opinion would be made. I therefore devoted most of my time to the rest of the game in order to make it as perfect as possible.
      This was obviously a mistake. I was forgetting that what leaves a lasting impression on the player is often the end, and that a bad ending can change his perception of the whole game.

      I had the opportunity to see one of the developers talk about this game at the MIT "Innovation in Video Games: A French-American Dialogue" conference, and was quite impressed with the vision that the developers have for this game and for gaming in general. The main point that they wanted to make that was games (especially FPS) seem to spend most of the time appealing to what are very reflexive emotions (fear, anger, greed, etc.); while there's nothing wrong with this, they pointed out gamers can be involved just was well by more subtle emotions. A big draw of MMORPGS is the social interactions, and these developers wanted to try and bring a wider range of emotions to other gaming forms. They mentioned trying to incorporate things such as love, sympathy, and sadness, with the goal of creating a more immersive gaming environment. With so many games being rather weak in the plot department, it refreshes me to see people focusing more on story and emotional immersion.
      • Except it's not just the ending that's poorly done. The whole game is poorly written -- it's just that you don't realize it until the end when, instead of resolving any of the various questions raised, they just start pulling cyborgs out of their ass and saying "Oh, that happened cause a cyborg did it" or "Oh, that happened because the mysterious ancients controlling everything did it."
        • Apparently the original design was for an episodic series of games, which was cut back to a single game. In addition, they apparently cut out a LOT of the plot very late on, as they felt the game was too slow. I'd love to get hold of, say, the ORIGINAL script for the game.
  • Personally (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:22PM (#15573787) Homepage
    I quite enjoyed Indigo Prophecy. I thought it was a refreshing departure from the normal tedium of button-mashing action. Instead, there is button-mashing, but in the form of moving the analog-sticks to different thoughts and ideas, and in certain situations, to a Simon-like fast-reaction sequence. I found it kept me focused on everything that went on, and the fact that the game is nearly all story (it *does* say "Play Movie" at the start) made it, well, interactive. There isn't much freedom, and it is quite linear in its general storyline, but it doesn't stop the first playthrough from being great.

    I guess it's the linearity that makes it more like a movie than a game, and therefore making it a rental. Now, if they managed to make an Indigo Prophecy style game with an entire city for you to walk around in, with multiple storylines to engage in that end in multiple ways and branch out in... Aw, why even bother asking for something like that? It won't happen unless Blu-Ray really takes off and they pack 33GB of data onto a PS3 disc; And spend three years developing it. The combination of all those things really doesn't add up to a plausible game idea. But what a game it would be.
  • I love the fact... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['x.c' in gap]> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:47PM (#15573865) Homepage

    ...that someone bitching about the narrative flow of a game had such stupid-ass things as 'button pumping endurance'.

    Look, I understand the dichotomy between cutscreen and action, but plenty of adventure games manage to tell a pretty engrossing story with the player remaining in control 99% of the time. Look at the Broken Sword 1 and 2. (3 got a little consolely, but the problem wasn't the cutscreens.) Or The Longest Journey, where the only real cutscreens are speech and the few times the character herself is not in control. (And TLJ 2 did their little thing of controlling three characters, too, at one point at the end walking them all into the same cutscene. One character got there, you switched to the second, you walked them to where the first was, you had part of a cutscreen, you flipped to the third, you walked them in where the conversation continued from that point. That actually sounds kinda dumb when I said it, but it wasn't.)

    Indigo Prophecy, on the other hand, was so annoying I ended up stopping it five minutes in.

    And, incidently, their little 'bending the story' idea via emotions isn't that original. Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive had that, too. Solely based on whether or not you acted like an ass, a normal guy, or a saint determined on how much and which of the three people at the end trusted you, which had a rather large effect on the final ending sequence. There were three 'paths' with eight(1) total endings, and six unique ones. (I.e, of the six, some you can reach via two different 'paths', and in some of them the most you could do in the final scene was save the world, but not yourself. (You could go back to a little before the last scene and make some choices that at least let live, but you couldn't switch paths at that point...if you'd been a jerk the whole game you'd never get the girl and probably get shot in the leg, just not killed.)

    And it wasn't just the ending. Your dialog would come out more snarky, at once point someone would delay you a few seconds instead of trusting you as you're trying to save someone else and get her killed, people would fail to pass on an important clue and you'd have to do some extra work, etc. OTOH, if you acted like an ass, you had a lot more money. (You owed basically everyone in the game money, so part of the way to 'play nice' was to pay them back with the big fat advance you got on the case.)

    1) Incidentally, you'll see all the reviews, and the original game material, say 'Seven endings'. It's known there are only six unique videos for ending, so the best guess is that Access Software meant seven endings total, and didn't realize you could reach one of the 'medium' endings by staying on the worst past until after some stuff happened (The girl I was talking about got killed, for one.), and then go back and do some of the good stuff you should have done earlier.

    • ### ...that someone bitching about the narrative flow of a game had such stupid-ass things as 'button pumping endurance'.

      The 'button pumping endurance' was their because your character went through some endurance requiring thingy at that very moment, it wasn't just there as a filler, it was there so that the player had to go through the very same throuble as his hero, no sitting back and watching a cutscene, Indigo Prophecy has from what I remember *NO* pure cutscenes, its all gameplay, not gameplay where y
      • Oh, there's a reason I pick TLJ instead of TLJ2 when citing cutscenes. TLJ did it fairly well. TJL2, OTOH, was hell. Possibly the most innovative adventure game storywise in a long time, two very real-feeling universe, but there were whole scenes where the plot was essentially 'run between these five different people and talk to them repeatedly'. And they were like three screens apart. (Hey, it is The Longest Journey, and, yes, I'm pretty certain they mean distance covered, not time, in which case the first

        • As for the 'keeping the player immersed'...anyone who thinks the way to do that is to keep me having to do things is barking up the wrong tree. I was completely immersed in TLJ and TLJ2

          Remember the "fight" against the snapjaw or the "fight" against the gribbler? TLJ as a whole was great, but those scenes very far far away from being immersive. Use 'spear with snapjaw' isn't exactly engaging, Quick-Time-Events do a much better job of making those events feel real and meaning full while still keeping the game

          • Remember the "fight" against the snapjaw or the "fight" against the gribbler?

            Actually, TLJ is a blur now, but, yeah, you're right, there were fight cuts now that I think of it, and they were lame. Which is why I actually liked the fights in TLJ2. Other people bitched, but I was okay with it.(1) Yeah, they were also lame, but they weren't hard or anything, and it kept you from having to sit and watch.

            I'd actually be kinda happier if there wasn't any fighting in the game. But twenty seconds of button wack

        • I could be wrong about this, but I think Maniac Mansion [crockford.com] has alternate endings but no dead ends. Dead ends are a big problem in IF.

          The best example is Infocom's Sorceror. There are a few complicated Time Travel puzzles in that game, one occuring almost at the very start of the game. If you don't solve it, the game lets you blithely go on, and get very far, never realizing that if you don't have the item from the first time travel puzzle, you'll never, ever beat the game! It won't tell you, "You lose!"

  • Oh, great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lobo42 ( 723131 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:48AM (#15574041) Journal
    Like David Cage is one to talk. Indigo Prophecy had one of the worst stories in a video game ever, and that's saying something. If he's going to ask the industry to get away from the 'porn narrative,' then I'd like to ask him to get away from the 'Pseudo-Magical Matrix Ripoff That Makes No Bloody Sense narrative.'
  • by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:49AM (#15574236)
    Indigo Prophecy has the most ghastly writing I've ever seen in a Video Game. David Cage managed to out-do the Wachowski brothers (and I'm talking Matrix 2 & 3 here), largely by copying them blatantly, superimposing a secret mayan council on the works (Yes, really, Native American Indians in Mexico run the WHOLE world - the entire contemporary geopolitical situation is all them; RIIIIGHHT), and then shoehorning in the most forced "OMGZ, I've been hunting you as a serial killer suspect for the last couple of weeks, and even though we've only ever spoken TWICE I now want to jump your cold, dead, zombie bones so we can have a zombie love-child convenient to the hackneyed plot!" And then theres the fantastic scene where we get incarnation of 1980's military research turned into the mind of the matrix that looks like a rip-off earth elemental from World of Warcraft (for no apparent reason I can tell, why would it look like that? Psionic powers making the rocks go round? Why does it have those?) who reveals the astonishing, "No really, protaganist, I AM YOUR FATHER! It's been me all along!"

    Now admittedly Indigo Prophecy isn't all bad, the engine is work of pure genius. It's what adventure game developers have been trying to create since Adventures went 3D with Grim Fandango and its ilk. It's great, even the action sequences are VERY well implemented. As a result of this I wanted to like the game. It's like the SCUMM engine for 3D, except instead of being used to support a good title its trapped under I don't what, some kind of horrid dark twisted parody of a plot. I wanted to like the game so much because of the engine, which makes it a joy to play, except for the constant assault on your willful suspension of disbelief that is the plot. At the start I was thoroughly loving it, "This Game Rocks! Its the Adventure I've been waiting for!" And then it all starts to go downhill, as ok, secret mayan clan council runs the world, "Hmm, ok I can accept that; this engine fucking rocks! It's all indiana jones prophecy style shit, I can dig that." Then it just keeps getting worse, as we have the matrix waking up, taking control from the mayans and killing all the humans and, "OH MY GOD! WTF is that (living!!)cop doing with that shambling travesty of undeath(Not kidding, he's a zombie!) that is the main character?"

    Maybe if this was the plot of Stubbs the Zombie or something, but no, Cage seems to want us to take this work seriously as a work of fiction. And note that, despite all his talk of revolutionizing things, a "new way to make games" and all that, it's a very stock adventure game, quite linear really, with a lot of Resident Evil style action sequences. It doesn't do anything that, for example, "Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis" didn't do in 1992, except be in 3D, which was done at least as far back as "Grim Fandango" in 1998. It's also actually quite linear, and very short, especially in comparison to titles like "The Longest Journey" or "Curse of Monkey Island". It's not like he implemented a complex branching plot system in game (as has been done in many text adventures) The emotion system is just taking the sanity system from the "Call of Cthulhu" and applying so that there are puzzles/action sequences that you don't HAVE to solve to advance, but if you fail too many of them you lose because one of the main characters kills himself/herself. This is interesting, but not earth shattering, and it sure doesn't make up for bad writing.

    • ### It doesn't do anything that, for example, "Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis" didn't do in 1992, except be in 3D, which was done at least as far back as "Grim Fandango" in 1998.

      I beg to differ, the whole gameplay is fundamentally different from Indy4 and pretty much all other adventure games. Indigo Prophecy has no real puzzles, is full of action, endurance section, timed dialog and timed events, in short its for most part realtime based, if you don't act you die, get catched or other stuff happens
      • What you aren't noticing is that they ARE puzzles. And in reality it is more that it's an adventure game played on a timer, because if you don't solve the puzzles in time, then you die; maybe not right then, but over time you condemn yourself to reload/start over.

        Linear YES. You are generally allowed to solve puzzles in a scene in any order, but this is often no different than old school adventures where you could run around and solve the minor puzzles in any order, before tackling the main one. Again

    • and then shoehorning in the most forced "OMGZ, I've been hunting you as a serial killer suspect for the last couple of weeks, and even though we've only ever spoken TWICE I now want to jump your cold, dead, zombie bones so we can have a zombie love-child convenient to the hackneyed plot!"

      I have this theory that everything that happens to Lucas after he falls off that roller coaster and "dies" is a sort of dream of his, where he fantasizes about being reborn and having sex with the woman investigating h

      • The amounts of ex-post-facto rationalisation going on in trekkie and other fanboy circles, is nothing short of amazing. To these people, here is my message of love: stop propping up bad stories, go write/direct/design some of your own.

        And yes, Minority Report really IS a craptastic movie, although sadly it cannibalizes a novel which deserves much, much better. It would seem that the karma of PKD is that his name will forever be associated with kipple - "The Minority Report", "Total Recall" and, -dare I say
        • Well, I don't think he needs to worry about Total Recall:

          It's based on a short story, called "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." I don't think anyone who read the story and saw the movie would see much of a connection between the two. (Hopefully, in the future, they'll stop putting "Total Recall was based on this," on the cover of PKD anthologies with the story in it.)

          Besides which, remember the scene where Schwarzenegger's character pulls that guys arms off and then jokes that he'll see him at the

    • You know, I think I'll have to buy this game now, because the story you relate here sounds so much like my real life that it is eerie.
  • by Eideewt ( 603267 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @06:24AM (#15574767)
    Man, when will these game developers get the idea that *story is not the point*.

    Now I backpedal. I realize that some people enjoyed this game, and some *would* like a larger helping of narrative in their games. But every time I see another article talking about narrative as if a lack of it is the one thing holding games back, a little bit of "twitch" gamer in me feels like it's been kicked in the crotch. There are many of us who don't want a game whose purpose is to funnel us through a story.

    I though Half-Life 2 was a boring, boring game, because I never really got to do what I like to do in a game. I like to have enough flexibility that I can tackle the game however I see fit. HL2 was more like "shoot at some Combine soldiers then figure out which way forward is." Bore me to tears, why don't you? That's where I see story oriented games going.

    A couple of games I do like are the Descent games and the Thief games. They feature what's important to me: engaging gameplay and levels in which I can go wherever I want. Neither tries to move me in the right direction, or worse, allow me only one direction.

    The Descent games are purely about gameplay. The story is practically nonexistent, except at the beginning and end of each game. I like this, because I'm not turning to games to hear a story. I'm turning to them for an enjoyable *activity*. Descent's levels are also often hub-based: locked doors are frequently your entry point, requiring you to explore the level (one of my favorite in-game activities), then find your way back, often more than once for each key and door. Although the goals are monotonous, the exploration in the game is very strong, and the enemies are challenging.

    The Thief games also have very strong non-linear gameplay, but they add an engaging story. As you might not expect from my comments up to this point, Thief's story is one of my favorite parts. The difference between Thief and the games I'm railing against is that the story is presented in a way I really like: cutscenes between levels. And what cutscenes they are! I don't hesitate at all to call them the best I've ever seen. The game is worth buying for them alone. The thing I like about its structure is that I get my gameplay, and then I get to relax and get some story as well. I like the fact that after completing a difficult level I get some time in which the game makes no demands on me (unlike Indigo Prophecy, I gather).

    I can't really develop an affinity for a game that doesn't leave me alone to play it as I choose. I want to get in there and do my thing. Story also really helps me get into the game, but not so much when I don't get the experience that makes me feel I'm part of the game's world and not just along for the ride. It seems like game developers are forgetting about the "in it for the game" gamers like me who really don't want to take part in a movie.

    * Please don't suggest games I might like or tell me that not *all* new games are the kind I hate. I know they aren't all like that, and I have plenty of games I'm playing. If anyone's interested, here's a short list (mostly older games): Descent games (via DXX-Rebirth and Loki's D3 engine), Cube, Warsow, and a bit of Moon Buggy (yes, the one you play in a terminal).
    • Man, when will these game developers get the idea that *story is not the point*.

      They got that idea like 20 years ago and implemented a heck of a lot fun games in the meantime, storyless games have been done to death. That doesn't mean that there shouldn't be more games that focus more on the fun then on the story, but heavily story based games is something that hasn't been done all that much. Sure, there have been plenty of games with some sort of story, but most of them integrated them poorly or not at all

      • I agree, and my first sentence is a little misleading. What really bothers me is the idea that movie style narratives are something that games are *missing*. I'm all for new types of interaction, but sometimes the proponents of these new styles hawk them as the way games should be, with headlines like, "No more 'Porn Narrative'." In reality, the narrative in many games is exactly what gamers want, just like porn scripts are the right thing for what they do. I don't want to hear about how he's "tried to resh
  • Personal fave of mine on the consoles and definitely fits the description of mixing narative with action, esspecially the early iterations.
  • Indigo Prophecy was fun. It was also unique, a rarity among games these days. I applaud David Cage for that much.

    But if he wants us to judge IP on its story, and by reading this I think he does, than let's do just that.

    Take any number of IP's branching storylines and turn it into a book or movie. Guess what: it blows. The characters are one-dimensional and predictable. They're not archetypes - they're stereotypes. The African-American is good at violence and dancing. The women need rescuing by men. It
  • David Cage writes:

    The interface was also the subject of intense reflection all through the project. My first intention was not to turn it into a remote control as often happens in adventure games, nor an exercise in skill but rather a tool for immersing the player physically in the world. [...] After a few minutes' play most players have completely forgotten the existence of the interface because it is simple and intrudes minimally on the screen, allowing them to concentrate solely on the story and the ch

May Euell Gibbons eat your only copy of the manual!

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