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DarkZero
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"GDC Panel On Video Game Narrative" , posted Tue 15 Mar 21:23post reply

GameSpot has a story up about a panel on stories in video games at the Game Developer's Conference. On the one hand, I'm posting this for the interesting discussion it may generate, but for the most part, I'm posting it to see if I'm nuts or not.

Honestly, if you told me that this story was about a GDC panel from five, or maybe even seven or eight, years ago, I would've believed you. I can understand the feeling that including a story in a game feels like it's almost an impossibility for an American developer, given that most American games in recent years are very well-crafted racing games, WWII games, and... not a whole lot else, KOTOR and Splinter Cell notwithstanding. Haven't these people playing Ico, FFVII, Cave Story, Metal Gear Solid, or, say, an RPG made in the last five years? Granted, none of these stories are Shakespeare, but neither is anything that's ever aired on American television. Is Metal Gear Solid 3 as good as 24? Is Ico or Cave Story as good as, or better than, the average Disney film made in the last twenty years? Does FFVII have a stronger message and better characters than the average American TV show or movie? I'd say so.

Saying that creating a story in a video game is like creating a musical in a silent film seems more than off base to me. It seems nuts. Or maybe I'm nuts. What do you guys think?






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Iggy
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"Re(1):GDC Panel On Video Game Narrative" , posted Tue 15 Mar 21:42post reply

I think I can understand. In a story-driven game, the "game" part becomes some sort of trial, and you are rewarded, once you complete the trial, by another chunk of story, and so on. At best, you can have a choice at one point, but that's pretty much about it. It can save the game (if the game is not that interesting but the story is, you continue to play for it).
On the other hand, when you have a big concept and all, story is a handicap. The Sims can't have a story. I'm not really sure Peter Molineux games (whatever you think of them or of the Sims) have a story. They are a sandbox, or a doll house; you can do whatever you want in them, in the limits designed by the creators. You're supposed to create your own story, or... something else, I don't know.

The problem is that while I can understand why they don't like stories in games (the game parts and story part often don't match very well), they have nothing to propose against it. Electroplancton doesn't have a story, and it may justify what they are saying... but they are never, ever going to make anything remotely close to it. We all know what the future games produced in the US will look like.

It's true that videogames have to create a new relationship to storytelling, even if it includes to totally erase the story part for certain game creators. Only all the innovation is concentrated in Japan. Innovation in a Peter Molineux game is limited to make even more absurd announcement and create an even less entertaining game than the other he'd created. Storytelling, art and everything are nice, but if they take off entertainment from videogame, they won't go anywhere.





So really what's the difference between a metrosexual and a homosexual?
Metrosexuals are better dressed. Homosexuals are so last season.
What role will the homosexual play in the future?
Gooseberry.

DarkZero
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"Re(2):GDC Panel On Video Game Narrative" , posted Tue 15 Mar 21:56post reply

quote:
I think I can understand. In a story-driven game, the "game" part becomes some sort of trial, and you are rewarded, once you complete the trial, by another chunk of story, and so on. At best, you can have a choice at one point, but that's pretty much about it. It can save the game (if the game is not that interesting but the story is, you continue to play for it).



Sorry to reply so quickly (I just happened to refresh real quick), but I'm not sure I understand you. Do you mean the game being a "trial" in the sense that in a story-based game, the next cutscene is your reward for being successful at the game, sort of like the way a new car is your reward for being successful in Gran Turismo? Or do you mean "trial" in the sense of "a pain in the ass that I must complete to get to the next story sequence", almost like a peep show where you have to keep putting more money in (which sucks) to see the rest of the "show" (which is sexy and good)?

Because even though it seems like you're talking about the former, I hear a lot of complaints about the latter, which don't always make sense to me. A game can feel sort of like a peep show, where you're constantly harassed by the pathetic game aspect while you're trying to watch Metal Gear Solid 2: The Movie, but I really didn't feel that way when I was playing Ico, Cave Story, or Half-Life. In those games, it felt like the minimalist approach to the story let the game fill in the narrative in places where movies or TV shows would be filling in the story with mostly pointless exposition and small talk between characters. For instance, in Half-Life, seeing and experiencing the grotesque alien experiments in the Lambda Complex seemed to fill in the scene where characters in Half-Life: The Movie would be saying, "Oh my God, they were experimenting on aliens! What were they thinking?!"





Iggy
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"Re(3):GDC Panel On Video Game Narrative" , posted Tue 15 Mar 22:28post reply

quote:
Sorry to reply so quickly (I just happened to refresh real quick), but I'm not sure I understand you. Do you mean the game being a "trial" in the sense that in a story-based game, the next cutscene is your reward for being successful at the game, sort of like the way a new car is your reward for being successful in Gran Turismo? Or do you mean "trial" in the sense of "a pain in the ass that I must complete to get to the next story sequence", almost like a peep show where you have to keep putting more money in (which sucks) to see the rest of the "show" (which is sexy and good)?

Actually, I used "trial" on purpose, because I mean both. Hooray for me !
It depends on the guy who plays, and the game he plays.
It happened to me with Valkyrie Profile for example. The dungeons were more and more boring and hard (not fun-hard), but the full voice sequences really pushed me forward. Same thing partly for Legend of Mana, where the gameplay, without being bad, is less than glorious. in those cases, you feel relieved when you finish a dungeon, because you know there's going to be another chunk of story after that.
Then, there are other games, like Siren for me, where the story after the gameplay is icing on the cake, and other games like FFX where you don't want to finish a dungeon because there's going to be yet another awfully dull FMV sequence to punish you for playing the game.





So really what's the difference between a metrosexual and a homosexual?
Metrosexuals are better dressed. Homosexuals are so last season.
What role will the homosexual play in the future?
Gooseberry.

Ishmael
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"Re(3):GDC Panel On Video Game Narrative" , posted Wed 16 Mar 02:45post reply

quote:

Because even though it seems like you're talking about the former, I hear a lot of complaints about the latter, which don't always make sense to me. A game can feel sort of like a peep show, where you're constantly harassed by the pathetic game aspect while you're trying to watch Metal Gear Solid 2: The Movie, but I really didn't feel that way when I was playing Ico, Cave Story, or Half-Life. In those games, it felt like the minimalist approach to the story let the game fill in the narrative in places where movies or TV shows would be filling in the story with mostly pointless exposition and small talk between characters. For instance, in Half-Life, seeing and experiencing the grotesque alien experiments in the Lambda Complex seemed to fill in the scene where characters in Half-Life: The Movie would be saying, "Oh my God, they were experimenting on aliens! What were they thinking?!"



I believe that's what Michael Mateas was getting at with the following:

When Mateas did finally speak, he prescribed a move toward "procedural content." That is, story generated on the fly rather than pregenerated. However, he identified a problematic lack of concrete design solutions, pointing out "we don't have a language to think about procedural narrative in."

This is all off the cuff, but from what I can tell the problem with narration in games is that games are an entirely different medium than movies, books, or whatever. By their very nature games are interactive and anything that interferes with that can be seen as a negative. Technology and design can advance to the point that cut scenes are as well done as a movie but they are still aping a different form of storytelling instead of using the sort of narrative techniques that only games can provide. Your example of Half-Life 2 is a good example of how games can present a piece of the story in a way that lets the player come across it as part of the game itself instead of jumping out of the game to do a piece that states the same information. Presenting a story in a way that the player feels like they are influencing the decision -or at least not being pulled out of the game to be told a plot point- seems to be a good way to approach the problem. Whether that's something like the Choose Your Own Adventure style presentation of the Way of the Samurai games or having characters mock you if you gain weight in GTA:San Andreas there seems to be many different ways for a game to tell a story that are unique to the medium.

Mateas is correct when he states that there isn't a language out there yet for discussing this sort of thing when it comes to games. Until that point there has to be more experimentation until designers find out what works and what doesn't. It's a shame that some of the programmers describe stories being seen as verboten but if the management thinks that story=cut scenes I can't blame them for not being interested.

Eh, I'm rambling and I'm not sure I'm making any sense.