Sacrificing Gameplay to the Altar of Storytelling

Home Forums Off Topic Sacrificing Gameplay to the Altar of Storytelling

This topic contains 8 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Shinra Kuroki Shinra Kuroki 6 months, 3 weeks ago.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #7467
    KahunaDrake
    KahunaDrake
    Participant

    A little introspective inspired by this article: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/telltale-we-need-to-redefine-video-game-genres/0171402

    While I own a couple of TellTale titles and enjoy the experiences they offer, this line of reasoning concerns me that should adhere to genre conventions of television and film. Compared to those two mediums, video games are relatively young and still going through growing pains as technology changes. Studios and developers are finding new ways for players to interact with the virtual characters and worlds they offer. Film and television have remain relatively stagnant over the years. While the mediums through which you can access shows and movies have changed (and improved in some instances), you are still gazing upon a screen as a passive observer to the events that unfold before you.

    There is no sense of control or agency on the behalf of the consumer.

    This is the antithesis to what the video game experience is about.

    Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a push for games to become more “cinematic” with developers and companies seeing the potential in video games to tell more complex stories. As a gamer and writer, I agreed but with the mindset that gameplay would not be sacrificed. Now in our age of “walking simulators” and “progressive narratives”, I feel that something is amiss in what is considered a “game”.

    Stauffer in the article wishes to categorize video games based on story contents, not mechanics.

    Aren’t video games, by nature, defined by the gameplay features (hack-n-slash, MMORPG, survival horror) they offer consumers?

    Story genres, whether it be movies or books, are becoming somewhat of an outdated concept as new ones are formed from the DNA of others. What about games that have little to no story behind them?

    One of the issues discussed by this podcast and others is the failure of games that rely too much on story as their selling point. This is evident in “progressive narrative” games that play more like unfinished art projects because the developers did not take into account the importance of mechanics to keep players interested. Kingdom Hearts and Devil May Cry entertain me because of their gameplay styles and keep me coming back for more. Heavy Rain and Until Dawn make me somewhat weary due to constant quick-time events and focus on “decision-making”.

    A golden rule I seem to keep running into on my game development journey is “thou shall not undervalue mechanics for a narrative”. With the controversies and broken promises we’ve seen from developers who don’t adhere for to this rule, it would seem Carmack’s words ring true. This is why the porn industry changed in the early 1990’s: people wanted to get off, storyline be damned!

    I am a firm believer that story can coexist with gameplay with out being so obtrusive (the Silent Hill, Okami, and Dark Souls series prove that) but developers should think first before sacrificing their mechanics to the golden calf of narrative.

    Rabid ecstasy, 1997

    #7469

    Luke V
    Participant

    Well it also concerns me the idea of games adhering to television and Movies genre classifications because these genres are pretty vague, example; Horror has the subdivisions of Slasher, Ghost, Psychic, Sci-Fi, and my favorite psychological and just like unpopular youtubers creators will try to slap as many of those tags on their product to sell it to as many people as possible, and I have always liked how games are categorized by mechanics less bull.
    But I like your point about how when mechanics take a backseat to story you find yourself sitting in front of something that isn’t really a game anymore. I have always thought of the story in games as the best way to express the mechanics which is why in MMO’s their are always huge worlds and dozens of megacities to explore because there needs to be. Or how in shoot and loot games the heroes have to be outnumbered a thousand to one in order to support the drop rates. If you try to cram a realistic story into that kind of game engine, it will often mess with the mechanics which made the game fun.

    #7470
    Mr.K
    Mr.K
    Participant

    Wasn’t this topic covered on LaughingMan’s disapproval over the new GOW game due to the new installemnt trying to be more story-driven?

    "The world is merciless and it's also very beautiful."

    #7471
    V-Tundra
    V-Tundra
    Participant

    I think that the main problem is the foundation that “Reality is boring”. While trying to make video-games adhere more to real life in an attempt to immerse the players into the atmosphere of the game is one of the top priorities, it comes into conflict with the fun factor. Let’s take Call of Duty for example. If we would take any CoD game and apply it to reality, the game would end in less than 5 minutes, because there’s no way a human being can live after getting those many shots and there’s no way one single soldier can take down over 9000 soldiers. So, to compensate for that, let’s try and tilt the scale so that we can get a bit more fun in blasting heads and jumping out of explosions in a blaze of glory. This is where our 2 main concerns come from: A game that’s more of a game but has no story to keep the player going through, or having a game with an incredible story, but not much gameplay to keep the player’s attention.

    It would also depend on the type of genre and story the game wants to use. My best (and personal favorite) example for this is the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Aside from the ancient astronaut jargon and secret illuminati orders controlling the world, this franchise has created very great games that balance story and gameplay perfectly. The best example is Black Flag: it takes an interesting period of human history, mixes it up with sci-fi and it is then incorporated into an amazing open world with various activities and things to interact with. Then we have Unity, where gameplay became a more important factor; leaving the story and historical accuracy to be dull, predictable, boring and unsatisfying. And then we have Syndicate, which took more of a shift on story being more important and it left gameplay feeling a bit more tasteless and not so memorable.

    My personal opinion is that the story should be based on the game, not the other way around. It worked really well for the first Call of Duty games, it worked very well with Halo (for the most part, lately it’s being sucky) and it worked perfectly well with Silent Hill. (The goal of the game is to creep through these dark areas with monsters crawling around, so let’s make a story about someone who enters into a dark world with monsters crawling around. Add in a bit of creative storytelling and you have a masterpiece). Not that building a game based on the story isn’t wrong, but once the story is set, there are more limitations to try and expand onto what would happen within the possibilites of said story. If you’re building a game based on let’s say a fantasy story, then we can already exclude FPS, Vehicle-driving and other “genre” mechanics.

    Though not a direct symptom, I also believe that games putting more emphasis on graphics and how many fps it can hold are a result of companies focusing more on making a movie more than a game. When was the last time you saw a game advertised as “Now includes 7 new game modes and brings 5 new weapons” instead of “It will run at 60fps and at 1080HP”? I WANT TO PLAY, I DON’T WANT TO WATCH A MOVIE. IF I WANTED TO SEE EXPLOSIONS AT 60 FPS AND 1080HP, I’D POP IN TRANSFORMERS IN MY DVD. (Actually no, I wouldn’t.)

    "The universe is one big joke, and the joke is on us"

    #7473
    KahunaDrake
    KahunaDrake
    Participant

    Wasn’t this topic covered on LaughingMan’s disapproval over the new GOW game due to the new installment trying to be more story-driven?

    To some degree, yes. However, he was just referring to one series but I’m talking about a movement going back several years that may effect gaming as a whole. I’ve been wanting to talk about the gaming industry wanting to become more like Hollywood since last year. I’ve kind of approached it during some WildCards chats concerning indie games and the podcast did a video on walking simulators. I just decided to let all my thoughts out here since the mood was right.

    Rabid ecstasy, 1997

    #7474
    KahunaDrake
    KahunaDrake
    Participant

    On a side note, I think it’s interesting when you see posts like these on Reddit.

    Story is usually last on the laundry list when it comes to putting a game together. Usually, the game has concept art and mechanics down and then studios tag on a story behind it. Doesn’t seem to be the case today but that was how it was done traditionally. I think there can be a balance where the narrative is engaging while the gameplay wants you to keep progressing.

    Again, as with porn, they know what “scenes” they want to shoot and just tack on a story behind it to give it another layer. But in the age of gonzo and amateur, it’s not a priority in the industry (unless they want to make a parody of some sorts).

    Rabid ecstasy, 1997

    #7501
    V-Tundra
    V-Tundra
    Participant

    You know, I was sort of remembering about the olden days of videogames and it hit me right in the head; we’ve already been through this phase before. With the release of CD’s as video game formats, along with the extensions of the Sega Genesis (The Sega CD and the 32X). While there were a couple of games that were pretty decent (Sonic CD has a special room in my heart), some of them were built on the whole gimmick of the CD format, trying to pass of more as movies than games.

    I think the AVGN had already covered this phase before, but I just remembered it. There was a time when video games tried to be like films, and it failed. And now it’s happening again, so I guess we can all predict where it will lead…

    "The universe is one big joke, and the joke is on us"

    #7508
    Mr.K
    Mr.K
    Participant

    @V-Tundra In the fucking toilet, that’s for sure.

    "The world is merciless and it's also very beautiful."

    #7581
    Shinra Kuroki
    Shinra Kuroki
    Participant

    When I try to write a D&D campaign, I need to start with the story. It’s important to remember is it’s going to be a story the players are going to effect & is going to be derailed at some point. It’s paramount to write it in chapters, giving you the leeway to write chapter intros to get players back on track with the plot. You can also use them to flesh out characters & subplots your players have forced into your story, making their actions have legit consequence & giving the player a feeling of agency in the game. You should have a plan Z, for when you’re players fail in every way possible. Some DMs & systems call these fronts, which is how the story would progress if the players didn’t exist in the story. It’s great for allowing the story play out in a more organic way. It incentivizes taking prisoners for interrogation, search rolls for hidden objects, decipher rolls, stealth rolls to shadow people of interest. It makes players use non-combat skills, which makes skill bots feel useful rather than having contrived reasons to incorporate their skills. Your players what something open ended, while have a solution in your head is good is good, you should give your players leeway to come up with their own solutions (& follies).

    Enough qualifying, in the end I need to start with a story. It’s how I generate the flesh of the campaign. What is their goal? What do they need to achieve it? Who do they need to help them? Who is getting in their way? What assets does the antagonists have? I don’t want my players to run into a hobgoblin & then only thing I can say is that it’s there because D&D. I feel a lot of things in video games are kind of the same way. Why can’t I break down this flimsy wooden door instead of go on a wild goose chase for the key? Cause video game. Why do the recolored red monsters so much stronger than the blue ones? Cause video game.

    My friends who also DM tend to have a much different approach to writing a campaign than me. One starts with the rule book he wants to use & then goes from there. Another one just rips off creepy pastas & adds a supernatural mystery to it. It’s probably different from DM to DM & discovering a personal method of making decent campaigns takes time & practice. I’m sure the same can be said for video games, but on a much larger scale. Some games don’t even bother with the pretense of a story & that’s ok. I think LPs are going to put pressure for game play focused games though. Why buy a walking sim when the exp of playing it is the same as watching an LP of it? I don’t think the problem is where someone starts, what matters is the finished product &, as with all art, there are multiple ways to get there. Some methods work for some artists & audience, some clearly don’t.

    The only solid rules I have is that a game should have game play, it should reward competence & punish failure, and your priorities should be: show, don’t tell; play, don’t show.

    "Now, I’ve forgiven the world and myself, too. I teach myself to smile again. One day I’ll get there, I know I will. Even if it takes me not nine, but nine hundred lives." -Susan Ashworth from The Cat Lady

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.