#1 Edited by blackbird415 (778 posts) -

Reading this thread has kind of been frustrated at the shit being flung around.

Basically calling the people that make the games we really enjoy idiots and lazy.

Im not calling out the riboflavin, it was a good point to bring up.

Video games dont tend to have the best stories.

So as an assortment of questions to those who really harp on game writers and writing.

  1. how much video game stories suck how would you write a game story?
  2. What would be different?
  3. Why would it be different?
  4. How would you incorporate the interactive capabilities to enhance the story and vise verse?
  5. How would your ideas for a story work better/ as good as a game that has come out in the past 2 years?
#2 Posted by Dagbiker (6978 posts) -

I have no problems with the stories in games. It is very hard to create a story line where you have choices. And those choices matter. So I ask this

Would you rater play a game where your choices mean nothing, and have some of the best writing in video game history. Or would you rater games give you choice, and end up making mistakes.

#3 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Dagbiker said:

Would you rater play a game where your choices mean nothing, and have some of the best writing in video game history. Or would you rater games give you choice, and end up making mistakes.

So a choice between Fragile Dreams and Oblivion :P?

#4 Posted by Dagbiker (6978 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Dagbiker said:

Would you rater play a game where your choices mean nothing, and have some of the best writing in video game history. Or would you rater games give you choice, and end up making mistakes.

So a choice between Fragile Dreams and Oblivion :P?

If thats what you took from it, Yes.

#5 Posted by Brodehouse (10129 posts) -

I am writing a game. It's about developing cultures in a strange world. And is some kind of RPG or adventure game. Of course it's nothing until I meet someone with programming experience and a lot of ideas of their own.

1. I would write it in a word processor across many files to keep the various information and flags in mental check. Most game stories are decent for genre work, but they're boxed in by the need for gameplay. And that's fine.

2. Different than what? It would be like Obsidian games ideally. Branching paths and different choices that lead to different outcomes, or different feels on similar outcomes.

3. Because an adventure game without branches might as well be a digital novel with a low-stress puzzle game attached to it. And if it's an RPG, because it's important to me.

4. Narrative should have as much push and pull on the player as the gameplay. In terms of the actual style of gameplay, I don't know. I'd suggest ideas to the programmer, but I'm not going to be that guy who tells the guitarist and vocalist exactly what they're going to do (In this metaphor I suppose I'm the bassist).

5. I would take statistical crap out of the narrative. I don't like games where putting points into fist-fighting instead of talking means that you can't make all the choices you would want to make in the dialogue portions. It also means that if you put points in talking you are only going to select the 'win' options unlocked by it, rather than actually experiencing the conversation from a personal standpoint. In a single character RPG, it means that you have 3 portions of a game (combat, adventure and dialogue) and ultimately can only be good in one, or maybe two. Now you've created a game where only one third of it can be enjoyed (you wind up in situations where Vinny puts the lockpicking to 100 because he's afraid he's missing out on something good). Morality/Karma points are ridiculous, and 'friendship' points are only slightly less. I would stop the 'telling the party members what they want to hear' trope. It doesn't make sense, it means you can butter someone up saying that 'I hate X too' and then when it actually comes time to make good on it, you can make them change their minds. You can make someone go against their own core beliefs. Ultimately, you can rewrite your own party's opinions. That's nonsense. And it means that you aren't role playing a character with their own thoughts and opinions, you're systemically playing a creepy sycophantic social climber that no one knows if they're speaking truthfully or not. Characters should notice whether you have core beliefs or you play fast and loose depending on who you're talking to. I would remove arbitrary rewards from completing tasks that wouldn't result in one, and arbitrary blocks to necessary things (it doesn't make sense that Shepard has to pay for anything during a full on galactic war. It doesn't make sense that people would pay Shepard for saving the galaxy.) If you save a character's life it should be because you want to, not because you expect some sort of payment or Good Karma boost because of it.

I could actually go on.

#6 Edited by blackbird415 (778 posts) -

@Dagbiker: defnitly a tough decision, but im going to have to go with choice. It just seems to be where more rapid innovation can take place. Thats a ton of speculation and i'm not sure I fully agree with my own point because some the most influential games for me have been linear experiences.

My main point was that many people were calling developers lazy and idiots when in reality game development takes some of the smartest people to make. Games are fuckin' hard to make and story telling in them is incredibly complicated and is such a new experience.

@Brodehouse:

Thanks for actually giving it a shot :D. It was very entertaining to read and many of the critiques you point out in dialogue systems and feel the god damn same way. Its a weird ass system.

Heres a bit of a strange question, but i've been thinking about this for a little bit. If you were to make a law & order game how would you make the dialogue system in either the investigation or the legal process? I dont know if you actually enjoy law&order, but I think it could make for an interesting video game, but it'd take some serious work on how dialogue systems function.

#7 Posted by Tesla (1944 posts) -

I'm at work and don't have time to delve too deeply, so I'll just spit out some game story theory.

The two most important things are context and pacing. Give context to everything and do your best not to break the fiction. It should be a cardinal sin to pull the player out of the game universe and remind him or her that they are playing a game. The perfect example of what I am talking about is the Dead Space HUD. In just about every game this is just an agreed upon contrivance between developer and player. We know this doesn't belong in the universe, but lets just ignore that. In Dead Space, it is a part of the universe.

Video game story writers have shown us they know how do to big and epic. What they have yet to master, for the most part, is subtlety. Everything has to be a non stop action fest. Take a note from film, and don't be afraid to throw some slow beats into your story. The highs mean nothing if there are no lows to balance things out.

#8 Posted by Dagbiker (6978 posts) -

@blackbird415 said:

@Dagbiker: defnitly a tough decision, but im going to have to go with choice. It just seems to be where more rapid innovation can take place. Thats a ton of speculation and i'm not sure I fully agree with my own point because some the most influential games for me have been linear experiences.

My main point was that many people were calling developers lazy and idiots when in reality game development takes some of the smartest people to make. Games are fuckin' hard to make and story telling in them is incredibly complicated and is such a new experience.

I tottaly agree, And when you give the player meaningful choices, that have an effect on the story, you must write those into the story. so Every time the Story splits you need to write a third more game.

#9 Posted by Phatmac (5727 posts) -

I'd tell them to write a book. Sadly games aren't to the point where you can craft a great story and gain instant success. Unless your an indie darling, people that buy games won't care about a story and would rather enjoy gameplay or multiplayer. Story writing in games sounds like a difficult task, so I'd say to focus on other mediums that respect and appreciate a good story more than other factors.

#10 Posted by Brodehouse (10129 posts) -

@blackbird415: Something like LA Noire, the 'interrogations' have different questions and paths that may or may not result in similar testimony (like LA Noire had 'clues' that you had two or three options towards collecting). Testimony may or may not be true, it's more a matter of collecting it and then trying it against physical evidence and other testimony (collected from other parts of the conversation, from other witnesses or suspects, or from expert opinions) until you can nail down what's true or not. Depending on the tact you take you might get some testimony but not others, or you might get all or very little. The game will not tell you when you've got the 'right' answers, you'll have to form your own opinion (with help from your partners). If you only have half the information, you may or may not get the conviction, it's possible if you got more you might actually exonerate the suspect or find 'the right one'. But the important part is that it doesn't tell you that, there's no "you picked the wrong one now you miss out!"

Every case could culminate in court, you get opening statements, prosecution, bit of cross-examination and closing statement. Right and wrong answers give you small boosts, but you keep all the statistical stuff under the hood. If someone wants to see the seams, they can go on an FAQ. Judge gives you the conviction or not, and you continue on. Whether you got 'the best' conviction or even one at all kind of isn't the point. The point of a procedural is not necessary Winning, it's enjoying the unraveling of the story. The drama and 'gameplay reward' should be in the building of the case, rather than Did You Win Or Not? As brought up in the 'exonerated suspect' thing, sometimes you might get the conviction and feel like it's a win, even if secretly you lost. The game won't tell you, though. At least not immediately. Maybe in the end sequence you get the chief DA up your ass because some falsely convicted guy is suing the state and now it's your ass.

Now I want to write a police procedural game.

#11 Posted by Brodehouse (10129 posts) -

@Tesla: You are entirely right when you talk about pacing. Too many games consist of story-free sequences interspersed with exposition dumps (Call of Duty literally uses load screens for this). Or they start and try to tell you a hundred and fifty things about the world and the story before you've so much as walked forward a step.

Whenever I think about how to do narrative and gameplay pacing properly, I think about Bastion. I don't know if that's Kasavin's first public creative work, but it's almost masterful in its execution and pacing in particular.

#12 Edited by blackbird415 (778 posts) -

@Brodehouse: see what I mean??? It has some great possibilities

Kasavin worked on red alert 3 before but im not sure of any others.