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Critical Hit: The Art of Storytelling

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mpr 28th March 2011, 08:27 Quote
I would argue that potentially LA Noire or whatever it's called is the next step
Javerh 28th March 2011, 08:28 Quote
It's a nice point to make. Choice of control scheme affects gameplay in ways that aren't directly connected with ease of use. One good example I can think of were the old Exile games from Spidweb Software. You moved your characters and attacked with hitting the keyboard keys. In combat this produced amazing kinematic feedback as that critical hit felt like it was literally coming from your fingertips. When Spidweb moved on to use mouse-driven control system, much of the joy of the old system was lost. In a similar fashion I feel that the twist-of-the-stick - reload works brilliantly for Killzone 3 on PS3 Move.

Although these examples aren't really related to storytelling, little things like these can really enhance the experience. Immersion comes from identification with the game character and doing similar physical activities is a good way to do that. A mouse is a passive instrument in that regard.
mute1 28th March 2011, 08:51 Quote
This I can say with almosty 100% certainty: whatever will be lauded as the next big advance in game story-telling will have already been done or at least foreshadowed in a game ten years ago that, no matter how good it was, hardly anyone played and only one or two people still remember.

An exception could be something that relies on new technology but then it will probably be some stupid fad anyway.

Not to say there are no new ideas, it's just that I think it will be a while until there is a good one that is genuinely original.
CardJoe 28th March 2011, 09:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mute1
This I can say with almosty 100% certainty: whatever will be lauded as the next big advance in game story-telling will have already been done or at least foreshadowed in a game ten years ago that, no matter how good it was, hardly anyone played and only one or two people still remember.

The Last Express.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Express
Wira 28th March 2011, 10:15 Quote
^^^^that^^^^

looks really interesting :O
bob_lewis 28th March 2011, 10:18 Quote
It could also be argued that if the story and the telling thereof is good enough, then the player's immediate interaction with it needs not be more complicated than a bunch of dialogue choices. Rarely have I cared more about an NPC than Aerie, and even though that exact style of dialogue choices remain in DA:O, I never cared as much. Same goes for the Mass Effect games. The storytelling might be more accessible, and they're definitely good games, but I can not for the life of me be bothered to care as much as I did for Aerie. Or Morte.

Perhaps it just comes down to accessibility. Our old PC RPG's never were especially easy to get into, but the reward was incomparable to anything today. Games of today needs to be as accessible as possible, for whatever reason, and that has so far only resulted in a boring shallowness. For me the feeling of 'this is not for everyone' makes me appreciate it more for some reason.
perplekks45 28th March 2011, 10:35 Quote
Personally I like the way the story was driven forward in Doom III or Dead Space. Audio files running in the background while still walking through dark corridors enhanced the overall experience for me. I quite liked the fact that most of the story background came from these snippets & I think they worked brilliantly with the cut scenes. I also liked the way cut scenes were integrated seamlessly in Dead Space.

I haven't played Heavy Rain (and very likely won't for quite some time because I don't have a PS3) but it sounds interesting & I would very much love to see better story telling in games. Atmosphere is what makes or breaks games for me, unless I'm playing a manager/simulation game.
pimlicosound 28th March 2011, 11:58 Quote
I think you need to recognise the difference between the story a game tells you and the story you create while playing. Storytelling in games needs to advance on both fronts.

The stories that games tell us tend to be shallow and generic, with dull characters, and bits of story squashed into little scenes that punctuate long periods of senseless action, sort of like a really bad 80s action film starring Dolph Lundgren. I think we've seen advances here in games like Heavy Rain, which tells a story that's unconventional in gaming, and in Mass Effect, which has excellent presentation and integrates the story into the ongoing action.

But the bigger scope for improvement in lies in the stories that games allow players to tell while they play, whether this is in branching but scripted stories or in freeform, emergent gameplay. I think both can work quite well. Heavy Rain has some significant branching, in individual scenes and across the whole story, although it's still scripted. And my two favourite memories from GTA4 were results of the emergent gameplay opportunities, that allowed me to create my own little story. But we need games reconcile these two paths: games that give the player the chance to have a significant effect on the main story while making it look as though the player designed the choice and the result himself - a world that feels reactive and chaotic, but where choices still matter.

So I think the big leap in storytelling is going to be some advanced combination of quality scripting and presentation, with player agency and a reactive game world. The game needs to cope with chaos, without looking like it anticipated it. Like the real world, in other words.
Darkedge 28th March 2011, 14:03 Quote
Heavy Rain's story despite at times being well told was cliched and full of ridiculous plot holes, the biggest being a victims father keeps items given to him by the kidnapper and hands them over to a random bloke who claims to be a PI instead of giving them to the police. I mean seriously not EVER going to happen. Not to mention the controls at times which pushed the 'story' by removing abilities arbitrarily.
It was a good game but not great and in many ways is totally overrated., I'm glad it has pushed games and more talk like this of good plots and story telling but it was very flawed.
3lusive 28th March 2011, 16:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimlicosound
I think you need to recognise the difference between the story a game tells you and the story you create while playing.

Completely agree with you.

By far the most enjoyable stories are the ones you can create for yourself (to an extent), as opposed to being driven linearly through hollywood-style drivel which is in a lot of games these days. I think it's the freedom to make the story and gameworld your own - choosing which npc's to interact with, which locations to explore, which quests to undertake - which make it compelling and something you actually care about. Character development is also crucial, and I can't take games seriously which use the most extreme voice-over accents for their main characters, like some of the characters in the latest final fantasy. I think I prefer games which dont have voice-scripted characters - but GTA, Fallout and Oblivion do a really good job with this.

Very few linear based games manage to have a really compelling story to back it up, a couple of exceptions spring to mind though. Metal gear solid and the original Silent Hill kept me entertained for hours and hours when they came out years ago, but they were essentially linear games (yes they had some non-linear level design but by and large it was A to B etc). These kept me much more entertained than the spoon-fed Alan Wake I played during xmas - it had 'some' good elements to it but got very samey and uninspiring after the first couple of hours.

I think ultimately it's finding the balance between linear plot scripting and player-driven freedom AND having a serious and compelling plot/character development to back it up (not childish crap that I see too often - ie in some of the latest Zeldas).
runadumb 28th March 2011, 16:52 Quote
"So, if Heavy Rain is the pinnacle of storytelling in videogames at the moment"

Are you actually being serious? Fantastic story? I thought the story was god awful, terrible, a total mess. Granted it's a big step up from Fahrenheit but still, it's bloody awful.
I don't know how to do that black out thing i've seem people use in comments so I don't want to list a bunch of spoilers but the whole time playing heavy rain I was constantly going "that makes no sense". I'm sure I could come up with 40 really terrible points off the top of my head but I don't want to fill this with a list of "spoilers". I will just do a few;
At one point you can kiss Madison. At what point during the frantic hunt for his son does he think "Hmmm I could kiss this chick"?
How can you escape a police helicopter and a bunch of officers by climbing into a taxi?
Why does he only take one challenge with him at a time?
The police officers are clichéd beyond belief and terribly written.
Why does one character have technology above and beyond anything else in the game which is never referenced once by any other character? Did he build it? Why hasn't he sold it and made billions? Is it more common?

Add in the controls that make the original Resident Evil look like devil may cry 4 and you have a piss poor game. A character drowned on my playthrough (till I reloaded) as I didn't have any idea what action resulted in exit or help.

Lots of games have "eh?" moments in the story. I'm just after playing through assassins creed 2 and theres a moment you find someone you are meant to protect. The game goes to a cutscene and you watch as they are murdered. It lasted several minutes. What where you doing that whole time? just watching? Then there's a scene where a character escapes. Escapes 7 or so assassins. How? They just say "don't worry about him he's gone" But there's 7 of us. We are assassins, lets just go get him...
I can overlook these things as the gameplay is there to back it up. Not that Assassins creed 2 was great but it was pretty good and story and character wise was much better than Heavy rain.

I get what they were trying to do and at points it worked but I would argue the Darkness hit better levels of character involvement while wrapping it up in a much better game all round.

I would list a million reason why Mass Effect 2 also pisses on the corpse of Heavy Rain but WALL OF TEXT ;P
Bauul 28th March 2011, 18:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3lusive
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimlicosound
I think you need to recognise the difference between the story a game tells you and the story you create while playing.

Completely agree with you.

Good point, but it is incredibly hard to do this well. Ironically, coming up with your own story is easy in the absence of one delivered to you - you can use your imagination more.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a linear story as long as it's a good story. No-one finished watching the Godfather and complained it wasn't interactive enough. I agree however that proper interactive stories, stories that lend themselves to the medium (as opposed to any other medium) are woefully lacking.

Certainly all AAA titles anyway. You do occasionally get games that take it all the way: e.g. the it's-so-good-I-could-write-essays-on-its-brilliance little gem Braid. That was an epic tail of love turned to obsession all through simple 2D platformer (although if it was anything other than a 2D platformer it wouldn't have worked, as the format ensured pre-perceptions of the nature of the game that were vital to the delivery of the story...)
frontline 28th March 2011, 18:28 Quote
Burn Cycle beats all! If only Philips had remembered to include some hardware in the CDi to let it play games well.... :(

Great soundtrack too by Simon Boswell.

Ah, bring back 'FMV' games, it's what the optical drive was made for (well, that and p0rn) :)

I did enjoy games like 'Flashback' on the Megadrive though.
thehippoz 28th March 2011, 19:09 Quote
they hyped up heavy rain a lot recently.. I want to play it too but no console
3lusive 28th March 2011, 20:54 Quote
The point I was trying to make is that, with Alan Wake at least, you feel as though the developers are trying to ram down your throat a heavily glorified but mediocre plot; they hyped it up and the self indulgence was so thick throughout it that you cant take it seriously, and definitely cant look past the fact its a shallow survival scroller that gets boring after 2 hours (glad I only paid a tenner for it on a play.com deal).

Its like they think they can tick a few boxes - couple of dramatic events, mysterious lighting effects, wife goes missing, haunted woods - and voila you've got an engrossing story that people will enjoy and look passed the heavily one-dimensional gameplay. I just hope those kind of games arnt a sign of things to come
Waynio 28th March 2011, 22:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpr
I would argue that potentially LA Noire or whatever it's called is the next step

Agreed it will be weird but awesome seeing real facial animation in a game ;).

I really enjoyed heavy rain fantastic game that had me absolutely glued to it from start to finish so to the article how cool would it be if in all games that have cut scenes that behaved like heavy rain & the cut scenes changed the way the game progressed, this is the way awesome story telling should go in games I think, straight runs are boring & it would be ultra cool for cut scenes to work this way but if game devs ever did go this way they had better get it correct like in heavy rain or do not bother :D.

I haven't bothered with multiplayer gaming for over a year now as I just got tired of ragers & cheaters so I totally appreciate a high quality single player game these days but I'm looking forward to battlefield 3 & dead island & portal 2 for a single player & multiplayer game.
Skiddywinks 28th March 2011, 22:51 Quote
Story telling is great and all when it is done well, but I don't think it is integral to a good game. The key ingredient should always be gameplay. Like hell I am going to play through a game with a good story if it isn't fun.

For this reason, games that focus too much on telling a story, at the expense of gameplay, I have absolutely no interest in. Heavy Rain looks impressive graphically, but it doesn't look fun at all. It looks like the developers have worked so hard on making it immersive that it often isn't fun, and for me that is the real immersion hook. If I'm not having fun, there is usually a good reason, and whatever that reason is usually pulls me out of it.

A great story certainly adds to a games enjoyment, but there are more important things to get right first, and those are usually the things that get messed up for the sake of story. Very few games manage to get everything right.
Waynio 28th March 2011, 23:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
Heavy Rain looks impressive graphically, but it doesn't look fun at all. It looks like the developers have worked so hard on making it immersive that it often isn't fun, and for me that is the real immersion hook. If I'm not having fun, there is usually a good reason, and whatever that reason is usually pulls me out of it.

A great story certainly adds to a games enjoyment, but there are more important things to get right first, and those are usually the things that get messed up for the sake of story. Very few games manage to get everything right.

Sounds like you haven't had chance to sit down & play heavy rain, I doubt anyone could grip how good the game is just from seeing screens or footage of the game, something that needs to be played really.
I enjoyed every second of the game/movie it had some slow parts but even those parts were interesting but also exciting parts too, thing is if it was just a movie I doubt I'd have got pulled in but it was so highly interactive it drags you in :), also the game is a keeper for me as there are so many potential turning points in the game, I remember people going on about it well before it's release & I didn't think anything of it but then I played the demo just to see if it was worth getting & even then wasn't completely sure withg it being £40 but went & ordered it & very glad I did as it is a true masterpiece in gaming ;).

I really hope to see more games do something as good as what heavy rain achieved, quantic dream definitely took a gamble on doing something so unique but I & many others are very glad they did .
Skiddywinks 29th March 2011, 00:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waynio
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiddywinks
Heavy Rain looks impressive graphically, but it doesn't look fun at all. It looks like the developers have worked so hard on making it immersive that it often isn't fun, and for me that is the real immersion hook. If I'm not having fun, there is usually a good reason, and whatever that reason is usually pulls me out of it.

A great story certainly adds to a games enjoyment, but there are more important things to get right first, and those are usually the things that get messed up for the sake of story. Very few games manage to get everything right.

Sounds like you haven't had chance to sit down & play heavy rain, I doubt anyone could grip how good the game is just from seeing screens or footage of the game, something that needs to be played really.
I enjoyed every second of the game/movie it had some slow parts but even those parts were interesting but also exciting parts too, thing is if it was just a movie I doubt I'd have got pulled in but it was so highly interactive it drags you in :), also the game is a keeper for me as there are so many potential turning points in the game, I remember people going on about it well before it's release & I didn't think anything of it but then I played the demo just to see if it was worth getting & even then wasn't completely sure withg it being £40 but went & ordered it & very glad I did as it is a true masterpiece in gaming ;).

I really hope to see more games do something as good as what heavy rain achieved, quantic dream definitely took a gamble on doing something so unique but I & many others are very glad they did .

I freely admit to having never tried the game, hence why everything I wrote was from the "impressions" perspective. Unfortunately, we do not own a PS3 so I can not give the demo a go. But from the sounds of it, it really doesn't appeal to me. I will definitely give it a shot if I get the oppurtunity, just because I can't stand people that complain about games they have never tried, but what I think a game should be and what the developers think a game should be seem to be at odds.

And while I do appreciate branching stories, different endings etc, again, it comes down to the gameplay; if it isn't fun, then it is all for nothing anyway. ME had both, for example, in which case it was awesome. If I didn't enjoy the gameplay, the branching would have been for nought. I just don't see the gameplay in HR being he kind of gameplay I like.

Having said all of this, I can appreciate that someone who had a similar ideology as the developer would find the game amazing. Much like MGS. I can't understand someone who wants to watch a game more than play it. But for some people it ticks all the right boxes, and I respect that. I also can't stand racing games (at least anything other than an arcade racer), but I can appreciate that Forza is ****ing awesome if that is what you are in to. Therefore, I don't rag on HR or talk **** about it, because I know that it is a game that was designed for a specific kind of fan. There is a big difference between a **** game and a game you don't like.
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