• 70 results
  • 1
  • 2
#1 Edited by James_Hayward (460 posts) -

I searched and saw that this has been discussed briefly before (see this 3-yr old thread) but I played through Dishonored recently, and before that I played Bioshock Infinite and I really felt that in both of those (relatively new) games the presence of audio logs is still just as jarring...

Don't get me wrong, I do see how audio recordings have a contextual time and place in both narrative and (especially) character development but in both Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite (and to a lesser extent the Dead Space series) audio logs feel forced and out of place. Their existence has no reasonable contextual justification, their placement within the world is often that of a hidden collectible, correspondingly left in places that have no relation to the characters whose audio has been recorded for the log, in short they don't make any sense in the context of the game.

When they're like that, they are clunky. They break the immersion rather than adding to it. They are bad.

Developing characters and conveying narrative are tough things to do but I really feel as if games can and should do better than audio logs. There are much better ways to deliver story, meaning and characterization in a contextually appropriate way.

I mean, System Shock 2 did them better than most back in 1999. That was 15 years ago. 15.

So why do developers keep going down the audio log route?

#2 Posted by Fattony12000 (7594 posts) -

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

#3 Posted by WalkerTR77 (1390 posts) -

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

Beat me to the words "cheap" and "easy". I'm sure the fact that they are a known quantity helps. I wish more games had adopted the codec style of Metal Gear Solid instead. That way you could dip into long story/characterisations whenever you wanted without having to go find them.

Online
#4 Posted by Stealthmaster86 (678 posts) -

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

Pretty much this. Ground Zeroes is the only game that actually has something to say about the full story of the game. As controversial as some of the tapes, it does provide context to the end of the game and sets up The Phantom Pain.

#5 Edited by EXTomar (4921 posts) -

Because using this is better to talk over the game to convey information than interrupting the player, forcing them to sit on their hands and be inactive listening watching a CGI cutscene play out.

#6 Posted by Shadow (4988 posts) -

They're better than finding random bits of text around the environment that explains stuff. I like listening to stuff in games better than reading and I don't really see how a conveniently-placed bit of audio is any less believable than an unlocked computer containing a single Word document with top secret info

#7 Posted by warpr (90 posts) -

Audio logs allow game to tell you bits of narrative without interrupting the gameplay. If instead you need to read a diary, that's pretty boring and most players will probably not bother (TL;DR). If the information is conveyed to you through a cutscene, that takes you out of the game and you either wait patiently for the game to tell its story or you just skip the cutscene to get on with the gameplay. The most annoying are the semi cutscenes where an NPC is talking to you and you have to walk along with them (Assassin's Creed does this a lot), with a normal cutscene at least you can get up and grab a drink from the fridge while you listen to the conversation.

With audio logs (or an NPC talking to you through an earpiece), the player can keep moving -- control is never taken from the player.

I love audio logs!

#8 Edited by Rafaelfc (1417 posts) -

@fattony12000 said:

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

This.

Also they are collectibles that help artificially lengthen the duration of a 6 hours campaign. And having multi-tiered (find 1/10 find 5/10 find 10/10) audiolog related achievements beats having to come up with creative fun achievements for the game.

#9 Posted by Brodehouse (10106 posts) -

So you can continue moving while hearing a story. As opposed to text logs. However what always happens is you continue moving and then the next scripted event happens and someone is screaming at you while the audio log continues to play. Or worse, you have to go back and start the log over to hear all of it.

#10 Posted by eskimo (481 posts) -

I mean, System Shock 2 did them better than most back in 1999. That was 15 years ago. 15.

I reckon the audio logs in system shock 1 were even more impressive, and that came out 20 years ago in 1994.

They're fine when used appropriately, although in this day and age when there are so many other ways to tell your story, they do feel a bit lazy in most cases.

#12 Edited by James_Hayward (460 posts) -

@walkertr77 said:

@fattony12000 said:

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

Beat me to the words "cheap" and "easy". I'm sure the fact that they are a known quantity helps. I wish more games had adopted the codec style of Metal Gear Solid instead. That way you could dip into long story/characterisations whenever you wanted without having to go find them.

Somebody in the other thread used the phrase 'show don't tell' and I figure that's got to be a better way to go. For instance, games like Human Revolution and The Last of Us were able to flesh out an awful lot of backstory and atmosphere from thoughtful environmental design and details, but they *were* big budget so I guess that was an option that some game developers wouldn't have. I don't feel that Irrational, EA or Arkane had this problem though. In fact the environmental detail and art design in the games I mention was spectacularly good for the most part. Perhaps the problem that Infinite, Dishonored, and Dead Space had (from my perspective at least) was that the gameplay, the game world, the story, and the characters weren't brought together to quite the same high level as, say, The Last of Us, and that the use of audio logs in those games correspondingly feels like glue that the developers use to try and link all the disparate components.

Which would make sense, but in my opinion is also inadequate and counter-productive when the audio logs themselves are actually breaking the immersion.

#13 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (5902 posts) -

Because it's an easy way to provide further exposition on extrasensory things not conveyed solely through the main narrative.

#14 Edited by deerokus (567 posts) -

Cheap, easy shorthand which players understand. It worked well within limitations of older hardware and games, but feels old-fashioned and overdone now, can break immersion, and should stop. I found it hard to suspend disbelief in Gone Home because the existence of the audio log-like narrative sections didn't really make much sense.

#15 Posted by joshwent (2327 posts) -

There are much better ways to deliver story, meaning and characterization in a contextually appropriate way.

Awesome!

There are much better ways to relate detailed stories about what happened in a game's past without stopping the action or resorting to a cutscene? Please do tell...

#16 Posted by WalkerTR77 (1390 posts) -

@james_hayward: I think the problem is that Bioshock popularised audiologs, however in that game they work perfectly well in context. They are remnants left behind in a dead city that explains it's downfall whereas in most games having loads of recordings doesn't work because we are still in the thick of the action; in media res.

Online
#17 Edited by James_Hayward (460 posts) -
@joshwent said:

@james_hayward said:

There are much better ways to deliver story, meaning and characterization in a contextually appropriate way.

Awesome!

There are much better ways to relate detailed stories about what happened in a game's past without stopping the action or resorting to a cutscene? Please do tell...

Well for instance in Human Revolution, when we walk into Adam's apartment we see the mess and the the sparse furnishings (lives alone), we see the broken mirror (unhappy with his appearance/self), the half-finished cereal bowls, alchohol bottles and cigarettes (not taking great care of himself), the security system, the weapons and the hidden compartment with ammo (he isn't at complete ease in his own space). When we go to his office we see Criminal Justice diplomas on the wall (prioritises protecting others). The way other characters talk to him, and the things they say, all echo the events of his past. We don't have to go looking for an audio log in a vent shaft somewhere. The back story is conveyed as a part of the main story in, what feels like, a much more organic way.

In the Last of Us, Joel's motivations and backstory are the prologue. We play it. We don't need audio logs to fill us in on the context. The way the other characters react and talk to Joel throughout the game fill us in on all the rest of who Joel was and how that relates to his motivations. The conversations with these NPCs often occur outside of cut scene and never as an audiolog.

So I guess what I'm saying is that there definitely are better ways to approach the problem, but they aren't cheap or easy. Or at least, they aren't as cheap or easy as an audio log.

#18 Edited by ThatOneDudeNick (711 posts) -

I've never been a fan of it. Poor story telling. I should be able to get the whole story and understand the background of the characters by playing the game. I like discovering them sometimes. Bioshock 1 and 2 felt right, but it seemed out of place in Infinite. I know it's cheap and easy, but it's also lazy and uninteresting. I think they are afraid of stopping the action for too long, they don't trust the audience to take in "too much" story. Wouldn't want to stop killing people for more than 30 seconds at a time! I say that with sarcasm, but I think a lot of people actually feel that way.

It's a weird thing. I know there's a practical purpose for audio logs, but it can't be the best solution. I have no better solution to offer, besides trusting the audience enough to slow down the action. Games have much more time to tell a story than a movie, and they fail constantly at doing so in any interesting way.

#19 Edited by GaspoweR (3359 posts) -

Audio logs do seem like a crutch but it beats having to read text like the books in Elder Scrolls (Oblivion, Skyrim, etc.) to be able to fill in more backstory in the world. At the very least, I can listen to the audio log while my character is able to move around and do something else instead of just be stuck there, having to read a lot of text. :)

#20 Edited by oraknabo (1514 posts) -

The audio log thing was originally created by Looking Glass as a way to tell a story in an environment devoid of NPCs. In Ultima Underworld 2 they had done some sections where everyone was dead and journals were left around explaining what had happened. The first System Shock did the same thing with a space station with no remaining crew. Mostly this was done to avoid having to code conversations systems which, at least at the time, the designers didn't think were responsive enough and worked against the player's enjoyment of the game and there was only so much you could do with set dressing to tell the story back in the era of Doom clones.

Ken Levine kept this convention through System Shock 2 and Bioshock because it was already established part of the series, but the more alive and interactive the environments in those games become, the more out of place it feels to be getting story out of audio logs. I don't know if Infinite would have been any better with a Mass Effect dialogue tree that let you get all of the audio log info from NPCs though.

I don't know why other games do it other than thinking that Bioshock sure was successful and anything that worked there might work for other games.

#21 Posted by SomeJerk (3362 posts) -

They were essential in System Shock 2 with the amount of story and clues delivered, but every recent implementation can suck it so hard.

#22 Posted by believer258 (12100 posts) -

@joshwent said:

@james_hayward said:

There are much better ways to deliver story, meaning and characterization in a contextually appropriate way.

Awesome!

There are much better ways to relate detailed stories about what happened in a game's past without stopping the action or resorting to a cutscene? Please do tell...

Well for instance in Human Revolution, when we walk into Adam's apartment we see the mess and the the sparse furnishings (lives alone), we see the broken mirror (unhappy with his appearance/self), the half-finished cereal bowls, alchohol bottles and cigarettes (not taking great care of himself), the security system, the weapons and the hidden compartment with ammo (he isn't at complete ease in his own space). When we go to his office we see Criminal Justice diplomas on the wall (prioritises protecting others). The way other characters talk to him, and the things they say, all echo the events of his past. We don't have to go looking for an audio log in a vent shaft somewhere. The back story is conveyed as a part of the main story in, what feels like, a much more organic way.

In the Last of Us, Joel's motivations and backstory are the prologue. We play it. We don't need audio logs to fill us in on the context. The way the other characters react and talk to Joel throughout the game fill us in on all the rest of who Joel was and how that relates to his motivations. The conversations with these NPCs often occur outside of cut scene and never as an audiolog.

So I guess what I'm saying is that there definitely are better ways to approach the problem, but they aren't cheap or easy. Or at least, they aren't as cheap or easy as an audio log.

Everything I wanted to say is in here. There is a time and place for audio logs, but in most cases environmental storytelling is better and even less interruptive. It's just more difficult to have artists and writers look at a scene and say "how can we subtly convey this, this, and this" when you can get writers to put down a minute's worth of offhand remarks and have some guy record them. Plus, most players don't seem to pay attention to such tiny hints and clues scattered about the world and would instead rather have developers make it obvious.

Doom 3 had a fairly good explanation for audio logs - most of them were recorded before the shit hit the fan, and it seems like the employees on the Mars base were required, or at least encouraged, to log things Picard-style anyway.

#23 Posted by BBAlpert (1562 posts) -

Because what else would your college roommate use as his phone's alarm? Oh the number of times I was awoken by

"The time is 1630. Autopsy subject: A. Watson. Now we're going to make the first incision in- *banging and rattling noises* hold him down, nurse! NURSE! HOLD HIM DOW-AAARRRrrrgh"

#24 Posted by joshwent (2327 posts) -

@james_hayward said:
@joshwent said:

@james_hayward said:

There are much better ways to deliver story, meaning and characterization in a contextually appropriate way.

Awesome!

There are much better ways to relate detailed stories about what happened in a game's past without stopping the action or resorting to a cutscene? Please do tell...

Well for instance in Human Revolution, when we walk into Adam's apartment we see the mess and the the sparse furnishings (lives alone), we see the broken mirror (unhappy with his appearance/self), the half-finished cereal bowls, alchohol bottles and cigarettes (not taking great care of himself), the security system, the weapons and the hidden compartment with ammo (he isn't at complete ease in his own space). When we go to his office we see Criminal Justice diplomas on the wall (prioritises protecting others). The way other characters talk to him, and the things they say, all echo the events of his past. We don't have to go looking for an audio log in a vent shaft somewhere. The back story is conveyed as a part of the main story in, what feels like, a much more organic way.

In the Last of Us, Joel's motivations and backstory are the prologue. We play it. We don't need audio logs to fill us in on the context. The way the other characters react and talk to Joel throughout the game fill us in on all the rest of who Joel was and how that relates to his motivations. The conversations with these NPCs often occur outside of cut scene and never as an audiolog.

So I guess what I'm saying is that there definitely are better ways to approach the problem, but they aren't cheap or easy. Or at least, they aren't as cheap or easy as an audio log.

Everything I wanted to say is in here. There is a time and place for audio logs, but in most cases environmental storytelling is better and even less interruptive. It's just more difficult to have artists and writers look at a scene and say "how can we subtly convey this, this, and this" when you can get writers to put down a minute's worth of offhand remarks and have some guy record them. Plus, most players don't seem to pay attention to such tiny hints and clues scattered about the world and would instead rather have developers make it obvious.

Doom 3 had a fairly good explanation for audio logs - most of them were recorded before the shit hit the fan, and it seems like the employees on the Mars base were required, or at least encouraged, to log things Picard-style anyway.

Okay, but those two examples of environmental storytelling don't really hold up as alternatives to audio logs, as they're both regarding background for the main playable character. It's easy to develop the history and story of the person who you see for the entire game. Audio logs, when done well, reveal things about specific story/side character details that you can't get from the environment.

Consider the Lutece house in Bioshock Infinite. We see all of their lab stuff, their weird gear, and that something has gone wrong. But we'd never be able to tell exactly what that was, or why it's personally important to them, than by hearing it (or seeing it in a cutscene or any other thing). But by just being in that environment, we don't get the whole story.

Audio logs are overused, and sure, usually used poorly because, as other's have said, it's really inexpensive to just record some dialog. But, as you said in the OP, sometimes they're effective and really enhance the narrative in a unique way. So what this really comes down to is that, "___ is good when it's good, and bad when it's bad." Which is the same case for all of the other overused things (Indie, Pixel Art, Platformer) that people complain about constantly. Bad writing and lazy design are bad, it's not specific to audio logs.

#25 Posted by Melvargh (504 posts) -

At least Gears' "slow down and listen to your earpiece" isn't in every single game.

I agree about audio logs; it's getting sort of silly, but I understand why developers use them. At the same time, telling a story through environmental cues like@james_hayward described can be *much* more effective.

Audio logs are an easy way out. Doesn't mean I don't understand why they're used, but it also doesn't mean that it's the best way to handle things.

#26 Posted by mikeeegeee (1575 posts) -
#27 Posted by ViciousAnchovy (787 posts) -

So you can continue moving while hearing a story. As opposed to text logs. However what always happens is you continue moving and then the next scripted event happens and someone is screaming at you while the audio log continues to play. Or worse, you have to go back and start the log over to hear all of it.

This is my main problem with audio logs. If games were better about keeping the audio of the action down and keeping scripted events away from the audio logs, I could see myself actually moving around while listening. Unfortunately, what you described has been par for the course in most games I've played. But I already have difficulty processing multiple sounds, so for someone like me, audio logs aren't really ideal. Still, when audio logs and conversations that happen on the fly are done at the right moments, they do add a lot.

#28 Posted by Blomakrans (149 posts) -

I'm currently playing through Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls and I really like killing stuff while listening to random audiologs about the beasts and their habitat.

#29 Posted by Slag (4734 posts) -

They are way overused, although they do have their uses.

but yeah it's probably due to how easy and costs effective they are to create.

#30 Posted by Aetheldod (3682 posts) -

I dont mind audio logs whatsoever , I prefer them to the rather anoying slow down while talking shit from gears of war. But then again I also dont mind cutscenes nor diaries or anything they dont pull me out of the game or anything. I like knowing about the world im in , whether it is fictional or based in reality. Or maybe I just have high tolerance.

#31 Posted by Random45 (1264 posts) -

I'm starting to hate audio logs. When you find one, you just have to sit still and wait for them to say what they have to say, because if you move you might accidentally trigger an event or enemies might pop up and you have to kill them. I much prefer just text documents, because I can read a thousand times faster than these people can talk. It especially sucks when some logs can take upward of a minute to get their damn point across.

#32 Edited by Chaser324 (6716 posts) -
Moderator
#33 Posted by SmithCommaJohn (144 posts) -

Providing exposition in a natural and realistic way is really, really hard.

#34 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3511 posts) -

@fattony12000 said:

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

@slag said:

but yeah it's probably due to how easy and costs effective they are to create.

They're not cheap or easy.

#35 Edited by Steadying (1416 posts) -

I'd take audio logs over text logs any day of the week. I'm definitely sick of both of them, though, and it's quite honestly kind of comical how many games use them nowadays. Oddly enough, I love codec calls in MG.

I dunno, I think if they're interesting enough and the voice actor isn't annoying they're okay. The ones in Infamous Second Son were terrible in almost every way.

#36 Posted by Captain_Felafel (1596 posts) -

It solves two problems that games face in regards to storytelling. They let you tell stories that don't warrant the high cost of cutscenes, but they also don't take away control from the player. I'm just as tired of them as anyone else, but I completely understand why they're so prevalent.

#37 Posted by Slag (4734 posts) -

@fattony12000 said:

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

@slag said:

but yeah it's probably due to how easy and costs effective they are to create.

They're not cheap or easy.

are they cheaper and easier to create than a cutscene? Or a scripted event?

That's more or less what I meant. That they are comparatively cheaper and easier than other prominent story telling mechanics, not they themselves are cheap and easy. Nothing about making games actually seems easy to me.

Honestly I don't know if they actually are easier than those alternatives, it just seems reasonable to assume that they would be given the relative lack of animation involved compared to some other prevalent tools.

#38 Edited by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@extomar said:

Because using this is better to talk over the game to convey information than interrupting the player, forcing them to sit on their hands and be inactive listening watching a CGI cutscene play out.

Exactly. It's better that you interrupt the player and force them to sit on their hands and be inactive listening to an audio log that interrupts the flow of gameplay instead.

#39 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4867 posts) -

@brodehouse said:

So you can continue moving while hearing a story. As opposed to text logs. However what always happens is you continue moving and then the next scripted event happens and someone is screaming at you while the audio log continues to play. Or worse, you have to go back and start the log over to hear all of it.

That shit is annoying.

I disagree with the OP that audio logs are inherently bad. The audio logs for Bioshock provided a lot of context and atmosphere. It told a story about a city in a way that cutscenes couldn't. A series of vignettes about random people's lives that, when given the wider lens of Rapture, provided a context for the city. The audio logs told the story of how the city lived, how it ended, and why it all went sideways. It was compelling stuff.

Not every game is going to measure up to that example, but when done well, like any other mechanic or design idea, it can be very effective.

#40 Posted by Brodehouse (10106 posts) -

@oldirtybearon: @viciousanchovy: Yep. I basically sit still and listen to audio logs (if I listen at all) because I don't want to miss the audio log when the next scripted event happens, or miss the dialogue at the scripted event because the audio log is going. So it's like a text log that I have to wait for someone to perform instead of just reading.

#41 Posted by Astrophyle (159 posts) -

@brodehouse said:

Yep. I basically sit still and listen to audio logs (if I listen at all) because I don't want to miss the audio log when the next scripted event happens, or miss the dialogue at the scripted event because the audio log is going. So it's like a text log that I have to wait for someone to perform instead of just reading.

This is about every 5-10 minutes in Diablo III. They do it to keep the action going while adding story content (and they have so much that they overflow the game with it). I hear someone talking, but it ends up being background noise while I'm trying to avoid the arcane sentries from 5 blues and a gold enemy. I don't mind audio logs. Bioshock and Dead Space did them well. Diablo III suffers from boring status quo writing, so none of their logs are memorable. There might be good performances in there, but I couldn't care less about the overall story, so my subconscious has started to ignore them, but I pick them up for the XP. Too bad, because they have hours of voice audio spent in these.

#42 Edited by militantfreudian (128 posts) -

From a writer's perspective, I doubt that it's easier to write audio logs that are actually interesting and consequential. I think they worked especially well in Bioshock, due to their personal nature. They flesh out the characters more than cutscenes do in most video games. That said, I agree with TC regarding the placement of audio logs; half the time, it doesn't make sense.

#43 Edited by Fattony12000 (7594 posts) -
@geraltitude said:

@fattony12000 said:

Because they are relatively cheap and quick and easy to put into a modern video game.

They're not cheap or easy.

Relatively, that is.

You've written your story, characters, dialogue and got the narrative locked down. You've already recorded your voice talent so you don't need any more studio time there. *Just* some coordination between the writing, audio and (part of) the design departments.

For example, you are not doing any of this stuff:

  1. High level game design
  2. Encounter design
  3. Level design (aside from MAYBE deciding where to place the audio logs inside the game)
  4. Weapons/equipment/tools design and balancing
  5. Systems and mechanics design
  6. Art design
  7. Character design
  8. Engine development
  9. Tools development
  10. Pipeline development
  11. Animation
  12. Motion capture
  13. Cinematics
  14. Multiplayer design and implementation
  15. Networking
  16. UI/UX design (at least, to any large degree)
  17. Visual asset generation (aside from MAYBE getting a little animated icon/talking head thing created for when you're listening to the audio log)

The above is mainly talking about some of the sorts of stuff you'd go through on a medium to big budget FPS kinda thing.

#44 Edited by James_Hayward (460 posts) -

@militantfreudian said:

From a writer's perspective, I doubt that it's easier to write audio logs that are actually interesting and consequential. I think they worked especially well in Bioshock, due to their personal nature. They flesh out the characters more than cutscenes do in most video games. That said, I agree with TC regarding the placement of audio logs; half the time, it doesn't make sense.

I know it is fairly widely acknowledged that they worked well in Bioshock and I feel that walking through Rapture told us an amazing story... an intense journey made more so because we walked through those areas 'alone'. So the audio logs filled a narrative/character development void in Bioshock that was there because almost all NPCs that could have otherwise provided more of that context via dialogue, were either mad or hostile (or both).

With a lot of these NPCs sectioned away from you (until you fight them as boss battles), there are really limited options for using dialogue. So to an extent Bioshock had to use audio logs, and it did them quite well. But they were still jarring in so far as they didn't really make sense (even in the context of an impossible underwater city) as to why they were there, who was recording conversation snippets and leaving them in nooks and crannies. That isn't to say that I didn't appreciate what they conveyed, but they aren't beyond criticism and I would still much rather have an audio recording have some kind of context that makes sense... for instance, if an interrogation was recorded... or a phone was tapped... or something like that.

I know I'm nit-picking a more than a little bit but I really do feel as if games can do better... and that the improbable audio logs and diary note collectibles have become a really tired and overused mechanic.

#45 Posted by Superfriend (1579 posts) -

Not a game mechanic. Jumping is one. Shooting is one. Some arbitrary part of story somebody tacked on is not.

And should therefore be discarded.

#46 Edited by EXTomar (4921 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@extomar said:

Because using this is better to talk over the game to convey information than interrupting the player, forcing them to sit on their hands and be inactive listening watching a CGI cutscene play out.

Exactly. It's better that you interrupt the player and force them to sit on their hands and be inactive listening to an audio log that interrupts the flow of gameplay instead.

This does make me wonder why anyone tries to put any story into any game because it is all interruptions by the definition of the OP. :)

On a more serious note, the real issue isn't that "developers use audio logs" or but if the story actually supports it or if the story is worth anything to bother. A lot of stories in games are simple and don't need to use mechanisms like this to tell their story. In other cases, the story is so heavy and clunky it interferes with the game. The ideal situation is where the player experiences story elements at their own pace instead of being forced onto them at "checkpoints".

Gone Home is a game that experience half through the environment and half through the "audio log" of the character's internal voice. Would there be a better way to do that? For something like The Witcher, I can't imagine how else to do it but a lot of specific cutscenes.

If I had a complaint about Bioshock it that the way you access the catalog of audio logs was clunky instead of the audio log mechanism itself.

#47 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3511 posts) -

@fattony12000: @slag: I'll accept that they're cheaper and easier than some other things, but really I don't feel like Audiologs being cheap and easy are why they are used so often in games, that's really what I felt was being missed.

Plus, both writing and recording short bits of dialogue like this can be as difficult as a cutscene conversation (how to jam info into a small space but not have it be contrived yet still interesting). And placement in the level is actually super hard, hence all the comments in this thread that mention how lame it is when you pick up an audiolog only to walk into a wall gunfire and have the sound drowned out.

Sorry for italics overuse, it's weirdly addicting to emphasize stuff.

The original question of the thread was Why do devs keep using Audiologs?

I think this is really fascinating actually, so forgive me for being bummed at the cheap n easy remarks. I know y'all are good peeps anyways :D.

Game developers just want so bad to share their world with you. Often times in the development of a game a veritable tome will be written describing the world, its history, small stories of the characters, and much more. In the end, a critical slice of this will inform the main narrative, and some of it will color the dialog, but the rest will be left to collect dust. This is one reason we see audiologs. The other, and more common reason we see audiologs comes from a really interesting catch 22.

BioShock and System Shock, these are probably the two most famous audiolog games. Not to be pedantic - but what do these games share in common that they do not with The Last Of Us, which has been brought up as an example of "no audiolog"?

Bingo! Cutscenes. The games that lean on audiologs most tend to not have or have very little cutscenes. They are of the Half-Life school of thought that says all (or nearly all) narrative should happen while the player is in control. The audiolog solves a good number of problems that come up with this style of game, namely, If the player is always in control: You cannot expect them to see or hear any given event. It's up to them to pay attention.

An event could be a main character or side character talking, someone dying, a monster appearing, anything. In the case of monsters and explosions, these things tend to catch our attention. People talking? Not so much.

BioShock is a great example because no body on this forum or any other can suggest a way to present the information in those audiologs in a way that isn't text, a cutscene or a character physically present, talking, saying the same thing. You cannot environmentally say all the things that we can say in words. It's just not possible. So if the design rule of your game is to not have cutscenes, and if you want to say something too specific to say environmentally, and you don't want to stop the player for them to read text or do an NPC dialog tree... well, then what?

#48 Edited by militantfreudian (128 posts) -

@james_hayward said:

But they were still jarring in so far as they didn't really make sense (even in the context of an impossible underwater city) as to why they were there, who was recording conversation snippets and leaving them in nooks and crannies. That isn't to say that I didn't appreciate what they conveyed, but they aren't beyond criticism and I would still much rather have an audio recording have some kind of context that makes sense... for instance, if an interrogation was recorded... or a phone was tapped... or something like that.

I know I'm nit-picking a more than a little bit but I really do feel as if games can do better... and that the improbable audio logs and diary note collectibles have become a really tired and overused mechanic.

As far as I'm concerned, no one approach to storytelling is absolutely perfect. I don't think audio diaries are beyond criticism, and likewise, I don't think cutscenes are objectively bad. Each approach has its respective advantages and limitations. I happen to think that the implementation of audio logs in, at least System Shock 2, Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite, was especially effective. In any case, it all comes down to the execution.

I personally didn't find them so jarring that they would test my suspension-of-disbelief. I suppose you can say they might be "video game-y" -- not that that's necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion. If I remember correctly, the majority of the audio logs in those games were confessional, recorded by the character themselves. They functioned as either diaries or some sort of a voicemail to other characters. So, I don't really see how they didn't make sense. Yes, sometimes their placement is definitely weird, but in many cases, their existence is very plausible. Even though I said earlier that half the time their placement is nonsensical, there are definitely a lot of diaries that have reason to exist in that particular place. Come to think of it, I think there were certain logs that can be placed anywhere (for example, excerpts from Ryan's speeches or Comstock's sermons).

#49 Edited by thatdutchguy (1273 posts) -

Because it's less boring than reading a fucking book while you're playing a video game.

#50 Edited by ZolRoyce (769 posts) -

I wouldn't mind if video logs started to become a thing games used, although that would require more work then audio/word logs so it probably wouldn't happen often, but who the hell writes journals anymore? And who the hell makes audio journals either? Everyone has video or something capable of taking video around them most of the time, so that would be a bit more believable.