Writer of Tomb Raider addresses narrative dissonance

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#1 Edited by StarvingGamer (8380 posts) -

Taken from part 1 of the PAR interview with author, Rhianna Pratchett:

That’s the other thing people remarked on in our review, and Uncharted struggles with this immensely. The line between having a vulnerable character coming to grips with the situation, and her taking on platoons of characters is very short. Is there a way to handle that dissonance in what almost becomes an action game?

I think it’s hard. There’s always a balancing act. I think the narrative team would have liked to see that as a slower ramp up. That time between the first kill and lots of kills, I think we would have liked to see that slower paced. But, this isn’t always about narrative.

It’s not a narrative-led game or a game play-led game. Crystal Dynamics always talks about it being a journey-led game. We found through play testing that as soon as you gave players a gun, they wanted to use it. It was very difficult to let Lara have a gun and then go for fifteen minutes without letting her use it properly.

The first hour you go without a gun, the bow is very cool, and many players just stuck to the bow and got a lot of enjoyment out of that. But going for that length of time without weapons, in the cave section there are no weapons at all, and solving puzzles, and getting to know the environment, and then you get a bow. I think that was quite impressive, we got a long way without a gun, and then you let loose with the gun. We found once the player got a gun the players wanted to use it.

I’m not going to pretend that we solved the problems. We took a few steps in the right direction. We showed what happened with the character before hand, and that’s all important to the character. She has been through a lot by the time she gets a gun, she has been through quite a few challenges against the environment and other humans. She’s building up to this kind of point anyway.

It’s so hard to do, and somewhat out of my jurisdiction to a degree. I think we’ll look at it more closely in the future. Baby steps.

It's a simple thing, but it's heartening to know that writers are cognisant of the issue and are pushing to move things forward and evolve the medium. What do you guys think? Is this a step in the right direction?

#2 Edited by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

@starvinggamer:

I bet they spent a ton of time mulling over this issue, writers and designers alike. I'm happy they wanted to focus on the gameplay over everything else because, when everything is said and done, the gameplay in a game is everything. And, really, after an hour of playing the dissonance isn't that dramatic. I think Patrick and Brad are exaggerating a bit. I also think they bought too much into the marketing. As someone who didn't spend a lot of time learning about the game prior to its release I find the narrative just fine. As good as any other game that tries to take itself seriously.

#3 Posted by StarvingGamer (8380 posts) -

@jasonr86: I agree. Maybe it's because I've been playing games for such a long time but I have no problems separating the narrative tone from the tempo of the gameplay. I've bought completely into the character arc they've set her on, at least four hours in, and am enjoying the mechanics on their own terms.

I'm still looking forward to the day when someone figures out a way to create this sort of character arc with gameplay that still manages to be fun, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the extremely well-done game I have in front of me.

#4 Edited by Brundage (382 posts) -

<p>I'm calling BS. It think it came down to the game developers being to afraid, for whatever number of reasons, to take a risk. It's not like games haven't done exploration/platforming/survival games well before. This obsession over having to have violence in games in order to sell tons of units is starting to get sick. Look at what they did with the death animations and the addition of multiplayer. It's all just what the publisher or developers think will make them more money. It's sad to see but at the same time it's way more depressing to watch people letting this slide as some minor issue.</p>

#5 Posted by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

@brundage said:

I'm calling BS. It think it came down to the game developers being to afraid, for whatever number , to take a risk. It's not like games haven't done exploration/platforming/survival games well before. This obsession over having to have violence in games in order to sell tons of units is starting to get sick. Look at what they did with the death animations and the addition of multiplayer. It's all just what the publisher or developers think will make them more money. It's sad to see but at the same time it's way more depressing to watch people letting this slide as some minor issue.

The issue being addressed is the issue of the narrative not matching the gameplay. You're adding a lot of stuff to this that the writer isn't talking about and wasn't asked to address.

#6 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5748 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Well in the context of an action game where you kill 250+ guys it's completely impossible, though admirable to try I suppose. If they wanted to make it into a game where you kill say, 40 guys over the course of 15 hours and each fight takes at least a minute, then you can maybe make this narrative work; but it would most likely be rejected by most players unless they made it ridiculously difficult and made a hype machine about that difficulty before it came out. It goes without saying that mainstream games can no longer be difficult on the normal setting.

#7 Posted by probablytuna (3732 posts) -

It's the same thing with Far Cry 3. You play as a guy who barely knows how to fight and yet when he is given a weapon he can mow down people with little effort. That's why I chose not to invest in any skills and pretty much played it that way (I spent a point on stealth takedown after a few hours) until halfway through the game where I feel like he's at the stage where he's got quite a bit of experience.

#8 Posted by English (159 posts) -

I was pleasantly surprised the game took as long as it did to get to cutting down tons of enemies. It's a AAA title, any game getting funding to be as big and polished as tomb raider is going to have to appeal to the average FPS player- I'm pretty happy with what we got keeping that in mind. Sure, I'd love to see a more survival/exploration focused game, but this really couldn't be that if they hoped to have a large financial success. We have to remember this is a large, very well known franchise. The last few games before this just weren't so hot because of the somewhat antiquated design.

#9 Edited by Brundage (382 posts) -

<p>@english</p><p>That exactly what I mean though, the ideology behind a triple A game having to have tons of guns is where must of my frustration lies. I just wish the industry was more willing to take risks. How cool does a game focused on pure survival on some crazy island sound. In regards to gameplay and narrative, imagine how much more meaningful battle between ai would be if it was a rare occurrence and the developer really focused on making it complex and fun/ it would also make a lot more sense in the context between the gp and story</p>

#10 Posted by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

@brundage said:

<p>@english</p><p>That exactly what I mean though, the ideology behind a triple A game having to have tons of guns is where must of my frustration lies. I just wish the industry was more willing to take risks. How cool does a game focused on pure survival on some crazy island sound. In regards to gameplay and narrative, imagine how much more meaningful battle between ai would be if it was a rare occurrence and the developer really focused on making it complex and fun/ it would also make a lot more sense in the context between the gp and story</p>

It sounds like you're having issues with the game for being something it was never going to be in the first place. That's the thing I don't get with people who talk about this game. People were caught up in the marketing and their own expectations for this game and are allowing those things, which are separate from the game itself, to determine how they are experiencing the game. At some point people need to drop what they thought they wanted from the game or expected or wish the game could have been and simply look at the game for what it truly is and that's all. The game can't be anything other then what it is. And people will either like that game or dislike it. But don't damn it for being something it was never going to be in the first place.

I'm really early in this game. But from what I've seen I can totally buy that Lara is able to be competent in shooting, climbing, and killing. They've done enough for me to buy that this person is capable of doing what I'm having her do. If that isn't what other people are experiencing then that's completely fine. But just don't hold the product up on this pedestal with such huge expectations that the game never had the intentions of meeting. Judge the game for what it is and not what it isn't.

#11 Posted by English (159 posts) -

@brundage said:

<p>@english</p><p>That exactly what I mean though, the ideology behind a triple A game having to have tons of guns is where must of my frustration lies. I just wish the industry was more willing to take risks. How cool does a game focused on pure survival on some crazy island sound. In regards to gameplay and narrative, imagine how much more meaningful battle between ai would be if it was a rare occurrence and the developer really focused on making it complex and fun/ it would also make a lot more sense in the context between the gp and story</p>

They are willing to take risks, just not with big budget titles from a franchise like Tomb Raider (and can you really blame them?). I mean I totally agree that it would be cool to see the game go in that direction, but don't really expect it. I have been reading 'the final hours of tomb raider' and apparently they chose not to include any sections where Lara uses a turret gun - which is a breath of fresh air after every FPS has to have multiple turret sequences. Anyway, I guess the reason I was pleasantly surprised by the game was that I am so used to being utterly bored of scripted FPS campaigns, and I still really enjoyed this.

#12 Edited by Oldirtybearon (4851 posts) -

I didn't experience any narrative dissonance with Tomb Raider, and I think that's because the violence Lara Croft commits is entirely justified. She's stuck on an island full of savages who want to hunt, kill, and probably eat her. She's in a life or death situation she didn't ask for and she tries on several occasions to get her harassers to walk away. It doesn't work of course because the combat encounters are hella fun.

Contrast that with Uncharted where the reason Nathan Drake commits violence is because he's a greedy prick who wants treasure. That's it. The fact that Naughty Dog tried to sell me on Drake being a "nice guy" when all evidence pointed to the contrary is where I feel a lot of this "dissonance" is coming from in Tomb Raider. The problem is that Tomb Raider solved that issue by justifying Lara's behaviour entirely.

My two cents, anyhow.

(game was effin' good too)

#13 Edited by rebgav (1429 posts) -

It's a simple thing, but it's heartening to know that writers are cognisant of the issue and are pushing to move things forward and evolve the medium. What do you guys think? Is this a step in the right direction?

I would prefer that game designers design the games and that the writers write a story which fits the gameplay.

I would also prefer that writers try a little harder with characterization and actually create a consistent logical character who, for example, doesn't literally go from "I hate tombs!" to "This is incredible!" in the space of forty seconds.

#14 Posted by Nictel (2429 posts) -

I think its really hard to get right. I'm using the bow as much as I can.

#15 Edited by LiquidPrince (16020 posts) -

You know, I don't really see this as narrative dissonance at all. The moment in which she first gets her gun is right after she kills the dude who almost raped her. Then when she starts walking away after a minor melt down, she hears gun shots and other people being killed. I think in a situation like that your instinct to survive would override your guilt and sorrow. You don't have time to think about what you just did. You want to live. She wants to live. Also they address it later with some dialogue where Roth says "that must have been hard" with regards to her first kill, to which she replies "it's scary how easy it actually was." To me that meant that if it is a kill or be killed situation, your instinct to survive would probably override your want to not kill.

#16 Edited by mordukai (7157 posts) -

Personally I don't think developers will find a solution for that any time soon. The Last of Us seems like the one that might get it right for once.

@liquidprince: I don't think it's a problem with the killing per say but more on the quick turn around these type of games make. Characters go from 0-60 is a span of a few seconds then the developers expect us to believe she is just a vulnerable person caught in something too big for her. I think it's the developers giving in too soon and not giving the character, and the players, enough time to come to grips with his or hers actions.

#17 Posted by LiquidPrince (16020 posts) -

@mordukai said:

Personally I don't think developers will find a solution for that any time soon. The Last of Us seems like the one that might get it right for once.

@liquidprince: I don't think it's a problem with the killing per say but more on the quick turn around these type of games make. Characters go from 0-60 is a span of a few seconds then the developers expect us to believe she is just a vulnerable person caught in something too big for her. I think it's the developers giving in too soon and not giving the character, and the players, enough time to come to grips with his or hers actions.

But that's exactly my point. If you are in a kill or be killed situation, it has to be 0-60 in a few seconds. Otherwise, realistically this "fragile" girl would just get gunned down.

#18 Posted by golguin (3972 posts) -

I don't know about all of you, but if my life was in danger from crazy cult dudes I'd like to think I'd kill them all to survive. What would be the point of the game if after 3 kills you decide you've taken too many lives and jump off a cliff?

All this talk of narrative dissonance feels very fabricated when every other game out there can be accused of the same thing.

#19 Posted by Brodehouse (10081 posts) -

The next fantasy RPG you play is going to have to gin up a reason for you to select the sword icon on hundreds of cultists, bandits, aggressive wildlife and opposing kingdoms.

The next modern military shooter you play is going to have to gin up a reason for you to place a reticule on and shoot hundreds of terrorists, criminals and opposing nations.

The next open world sandbox game you play is going to have to gin up a reason for you to hop in (perhaps steal) hundreds of different cars, climb hundreds of towers and fight hundreds of poorly scripted dudes.

The next platformer you play is going to have to gin up a reason for you to solve every problem that you face by jumping from one thing to another.

What really bothered me about a lot of reviews lately, especially coming out of Brad or Patrick, is that their main problem with a lot of games appears to be that they have gameplay. "There's too much shooting" in this third person shooter. "There's too much combat" in this game in which combat is the main gameplay loop. I liked the Walking Dead too, you guys, but I don't think it makes sense to talk shit about a driving game because there's too many races.

#20 Edited by Matt_F606 (316 posts) -

I like the pacing so far. I've played about three hours.

At some point I want these games to be games, I know not everyone will agree with that, but for me it works. I think they did a great balancing job.

#21 Edited by Dylabaloo (1549 posts) -

What's the point of fleshing Lara out as a vulnerable person that they clearly want the player to emphasise with if they're only taking half steps. As Brad stated in the latest podcast, if anything it brings it clearer to light that she is an unkillable being, with no real/affecting danger thus damaging tension and emotional investment. Perhaps they put in the over the top death animations to compensate for this, attempting to affect us in any way, but ultimately it's a rash shock tactic.

It really is an interesting issue in game design but It is more egregious here than in an Uncharted because Nathan Drake is essentially a cartoon character. (Or movie action hero if you like) While in this game they hinder the "Journey" they wanted to create by not taking a risk. It's simply about expectations they create, if they talk-up this a personal survivor turned predator tale then I expect this element to be handled with tact.

@brodehouse said:

but I don't think it makes sense to talk shit about a driving game because there's too many races.

I think it's more akin to a mechanically sound driving game where they talk about how it's got an important story element that they've been cooking up, you finally play the game and realise that the main character, the driver, is blind. This plays a huge part in the story but is in no way justified in the gameplay. The story and gameplay have to compliment each other or else i'm just playing a game with a cutscene movie strapped on. (The lastest Driver game would be a good example of how to pull this off.)

Also people are always complaining that Call Of Duty is just a gallery shooter at this point, the base mechanic being shoot that guy in the ice mountain, shoot that guy in the jungle and shoot that guy in the city. Which is fine in that over the top universe but becomes stale, now as mentioned in the latest podcast Medal of Honour: Warfighter tried to have a meaningful narrative combined with this gameplay style and is tonally a complete mess.

Expectations set by developers need to met in both the narrative and gameplay, while the story should have an effect on the gameplay in order to create a cohesive emotional involvement. Now there can be suspension of disbelief, just like in movies, but in order this relationship with the player you must follow your rules set at the start, consistently.
@brodehouse said:

Brad or Patrick, is that their main problem with a lot of games appears to be that they have gameplay. "There's too much shooting" in this third person shooter. "There's too much combat" in this game in which combat is the main gameplay loop.

In fairness to Brad the game is called Tomb Raider and he complained that there was an almost insulting lack of tomb raiding which is entirely justified considering the title.

#22 Posted by Ramone (2975 posts) -

Why not approach the game differently instead of saying we did what all 3rd person shooters do and surprisingly people expected it to play like a 3rd person shooter? Give the player very limited ammo, don't introduce a gun early (or at all), design the enemy encounters differently and keep in mind Lara's state of mind and inexperience when handling weapons and killing dudes. There are ways to address the issue of narrative dissonance, which also differentiate a game, while still having entertaining gameplay.

#23 Edited by mordukai (7157 posts) -

@mordukai said:

Personally I don't think developers will find a solution for that any time soon. The Last of Us seems like the one that might get it right for once.

@liquidprince: I don't think it's a problem with the killing per say but more on the quick turn around these type of games make. Characters go from 0-60 is a span of a few seconds then the developers expect us to believe she is just a vulnerable person caught in something too big for her. I think it's the developers giving in too soon and not giving the character, and the players, enough time to come to grips with his or hers actions.

But that's exactly my point. If you are in a kill or be killed situation, it has to be 0-60 in a few seconds. Otherwise, realistically this "fragile" girl would just get gunned down.

You miss my point. It's not that she is killing but the way characters turn into "Rambos" in mere seconds. One scene she'll be a fragile girl trying to survive and the next she'll be gunning down baddies like it's second nature. The developers don't take enough time to build it up.

#24 Edited by AssInAss (2669 posts) -

"It's just Sam Fisher and bad guys and maps, right?"

Writers need to be a bigger part of a game's production and brought in earlier, if this issue is going to be addressed. Maybe not have 800 enemies in your game so it feels like a shooting gallery? Brothers in Arms games, WW 2 games, only had 5-6 enemies maximum at a time to deal with compared to Call of Duty 2 or other WW 2 shooters. Just pace your combat encounters.

It's a bit early to be influenced by Spec Ops The Line, but it would've gone a long way if Tomb Raider had adaptive dialogue and animations in lock-step with the story progression, so the character transformation is obvious in gameplay much like it is with Captain Martin Walker.

#25 Posted by Tomorrowman (157 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Thanks for posting this. It's good to know that they went over the same things behind the scenes that all the reviewers are picking up on. I personally haven't had a problem with the narrative yet.....the first time you bring up the sights with the gun your aim is all over the place. After that I just kind of felt she went into the 'zone' and adrenaline kicked in.

#26 Edited by psylah (2181 posts) -

Don't get all butthurt because Tomb Raider isn't Cart Life with Lara Croft.

Because at the end of the day, THE GAME HAS TO SELL.

TO PEOPLE WHO PLAY GAMES.

AND ENJOY THEM.

Not to people who want to buy the game, put it on a shelf and swirl their brandy while discussing it with their game-hipster friends. Goddamn, how many years do you have to work in this industry before you realize that it is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and the effects of that will be reflected directly on the production of titles such as this.

It's like their flanel-wrapped brains are pickled in PBR.

#27 Posted by Jams (2962 posts) -

@psylah said:

Don't get all butthurt because Tomb Raider isn't Cart Life with Lara Croft.

Because at the end of the day, THE GAME HAS TO SELL.

TO PEOPLE WHO PLAY GAMES.

AND ENJOY THEM.

Not to people who want to buy the game, put it on a shelf and swirl their brandy while discussing it with their game-hipster friends. Goddamn, how many years do you have to work in this industry before you realize that it is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and the effects of that will be reflected directly on the production of titles such as this.

It's like their flanel-wrapped brains are pickled in PBR.

The saddest part is that you're right. The fact that AAA developers can't get over that hurdle saddens me to no end. It makes me lose any hope for any chance at a AAA Budget game/Minecraft/Receiver fusion of mechanics. It's too bad that that kind of game has to stick with indie developers.

#28 Posted by RVonE (4664 posts) -

I WOULD LIKE THIS 'WRITER' TO EXPLAIN THE NARRATIVE DISSONANCE I'M EXPERIENCING BETWEEN LARA'S GROWTH AS A PERSON AND HER HAIR BLOWING IN ALL DIRECTIONS AT THE SAME TIME!

#29 Posted by oraknabo (1505 posts) -

My favorite games are ones where I never really have to kill people, I can do a full playthrough of a Thief game where I never use my sword for anything but cutting tapestries. In Metal Gear games, you usually only have to fight the bosses. I can spend hours in STALKER just exploring old buildings, looking for artifacts and clearing mutants out of an area and avoiding combat. Sure, there are combat and assassination missions in STALKER, but you aren't forced to take any of them and most of the combat situations the game forces on you can be avoided too. Amnesia and Penumbra are about avoiding and running away from threats. You can't take most missions if you want to do this, but even in GTA games, you can amuse yourself for hours without killing people.

Even in the original Tomb Raiders you spent 90% of your time climbing and swimming around and solving puzzles. Sure you fought some animals here and there, but how many people do you even kill in the first game, less than 40? 20? And that's traveling around the world, not on one small island.

I know they're still in the minority, but I think plenty of games have proven that you can do more than just push people through mass killing scenarios. Make the world interesting enough to explore and give them interesting activities and puzzles that don't involve guns and this can work.

#30 Posted by Pezen (1635 posts) -

Reading that explanation of "when you give a player a gun, they want to use the gun" is all well and good until you say Sleeping Dogs. The best part about that game, and sure it still had violence, was that it manage to make guns an interesting but ultimately limited feature. And whenever I didn't have a gun, I didn't miss it. They could have approached weapons in a similar fashion here. Sure, give Lara a gun once in a while but limit bullets or otherwise avoid making guns a center stage pillar. Work around weapon combat and emphasize something else.

I have yet to actually play the game, and honestly I never really thought too deeply about Uncharted's violence vs story at all as I can compartmentalize "gameplay" and "story" and not really give a shit if they don't necessarily meld as long as the story is interesting and the gameplay is fun.

#31 Posted by StarvingGamer (8380 posts) -
@rebgav said:

@starvinggamer said:

It's a simple thing, but it's heartening to know that writers are cognisant of the issue and are pushing to move things forward and evolve the medium. What do you guys think? Is this a step in the right direction?

I would prefer that game designers design the games and that the writers write a story which fits the gameplay.

I would also prefer that writers try a little harder with characterization and actually create a consistent logical character who, for example, doesn't literally go from "I hate tombs!" to "This is incredible!" in the space of forty seconds.

I would ask you, what sort of story could completely fit the gameplay of shooting hundreds of people? And be compelling?

@pezen said:

Reading that explanation of "when you give a player a gun, they want to use the gun" is all well and good until you say Sleeping Dogs. The best part about that game, and sure it still had violence, was that it manage to make guns an interesting but ultimately limited feature. And whenever I didn't have a gun, I didn't miss it. They could have approached weapons in a similar fashion here. Sure, give Lara a gun once in a while but limit bullets or otherwise avoid making guns a center stage pillar. Work around weapon combat and emphasize something else.

I have yet to actually play the game, and honestly I never really thought too deeply about Uncharted's violence vs story at all as I can compartmentalize "gameplay" and "story" and not really give a shit if they don't necessarily meld as long as the story is interesting and the gameplay is fun.

Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider are trying to be the same thing, big budget mass-market action games. Sleeping Dogs gets away with not giving you guns very often because most of the time you're brutally beating on people with your fists and feet. Their alternative to horrendous gun violence is horrendous MMA violence. Tomb Raider doesn't have the same options. You can suspend your disbelief long enough to buy that Lara with a gun might stand a chance at taking down 6-10 guys. Having her kung-fu her way around the island would make absolutely no sense, and focusing on something other than violence would make it not the game they are trying to sell.

#32 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4606 posts) -

I don't think many people realize how little control writers have over what happens in a game. In all likelihood, she was told that the developers wanted a story that 'humanized' her and gave her an origin story, but a writer isn't going to be able to say 'ok guys, but for this to work you'll have to hold off on implementing any of the gameplay you're expecting to base this game around for the first hour or so'.

Personally, I think this all could have been solved by a "Three Months Later" titlecard after the initial intro sequence.

#33 Posted by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

Personally, I think this all could have been solved by a "Three Months Later" titlecard after the initial intro sequence.

You're absolutely right. I wonder how many people would bitch though because 'I wasn't there when she changed!'. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm really tired of fans. I think Ryan's comparison of Brad to a kid in Disneyland not knowing what he wants but wanting it all fits perfectly for video game fans.

#34 Edited by AjayRaz (12441 posts) -

It's the same thing with Far Cry 3. You play as a guy who barely knows how to fight and yet when he is given a weapon he can mow down people with little effort. That's why I chose not to invest in any skills and pretty much played it that way (I spent a point on stealth takedown after a few hours) until halfway through the game where I feel like he's at the stage where he's got quite a bit of experience.

this sounds like a crazy way to play the game. did it make a big impact on how it played?

#35 Posted by 9cupsoftea (654 posts) -

@oraknabo said:

Even in the original Tomb Raiders you spent 90% of your time climbing and swimming around and solving puzzles. Sure you fought some animals here and there, but how many people do you even kill in the first game, less than 40? 20? And that's traveling around the world, not on one small island.

Completely agree. It's a bit silly having a convoluted discussion about how to make a Tomb Raider game that doesn't have you killing tonnes of people, when the original Tomb Raiders did EXACTLY that, and they came out 2000 years ago.

(And on a side note, when they did have combat they made it genuinely exciting, who remembers the T-Rex? Or the first time you see another actual person in a cave?)

#36 Edited by rebgav (1429 posts) -

@rebgav said:

@starvinggamer said:

It's a simple thing, but it's heartening to know that writers are cognisant of the issue and are pushing to move things forward and evolve the medium. What do you guys think? Is this a step in the right direction?

I would prefer that game designers design the games and that the writers write a story which fits the gameplay.

I would also prefer that writers try a little harder with characterization and actually create a consistent logical character who, for example, doesn't literally go from "I hate tombs!" to "This is incredible!" in the space of forty seconds.

I would ask you, what sort of story could completely fit the gameplay of shooting hundreds of people? And be compelling?

If the main draw is shooting hundreds of people in the face then you probably don't need much of a story. Just don't lumber the game with a story which doesn't make any sense when compared to the gameplay. There seem to be plenty of popular shooter franchises so someone, somewhere is managing not to fuck it up.

#37 Posted by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

You know, not to rattle any cages (seriously, I'm not trying to be a brat) but...

If this were a game about a man who goes through the same character arc at the same pace do you all think this would even be an issue for people? I mean I know we bring up Uncharted over and over again but that didn't stop people from fawning over that game and its stories and characters. Nathan Drake is a fucking icon. Lets say this was Nathan's origin instead of Lara's. Would this be a topic that would even be brought up with a) this much seriousness b) this often and/or c) with this much enthusiasm?

#38 Edited by SlashDance (1828 posts) -

@rebgav said:

@starvinggamer said:

It's a simple thing, but it's heartening to know that writers are cognisant of the issue and are pushing to move things forward and evolve the medium. What do you guys think? Is this a step in the right direction?

I would prefer that game designers design the games and that the writers write a story which fits the gameplay.

I would also prefer that writers try a little harder with characterization and actually create a consistent logical character who, for example, doesn't literally go from "I hate tombs!" to "This is incredible!" in the space of forty seconds.

I would ask you, what sort of story could completely fit the gameplay of shooting hundreds of people? And be compelling?

I'm not sure such a thing exists, to be honest. The problem I have with Tomb Raider is the fact that they try at all.

@jasonr86 said:

You know, not to rattle any cages (seriously, I'm not trying to be a brat) but...

If this were a game about a man who goes through the same character arc at the same pace do you all think this would even be an issue for people?

That game was Far Cry 3. I had the exact same problem seeing Jason go from scared shitless to murdering entire camps and skining tigers in like an hour. At least he openly admits that he enjoys it after a while, but the transition was still very weird and unearned, I felt. I was also not the only one, in fact I'm pretty sure they discussed this on the bombcast.

#39 Posted by Dagbiker (6978 posts) -

If they just got rid of the third person shooter aspect of the game, and just made it a platformer, with all the mechanics and story of this Tomb Raider, I would have liked it more. It would probably not have reviewed well, and no one would have bought it. But I would have liked it better.

Do i ever expect them to take, Tomb Raider, one of the very first third person shooter, platformers, and turn it into an adventure game, no, and I was not really expecting them to.

Having said that, there are a lot of examples of empowered woman in this game ( the japanese emperass, Lara Croft, the other crew members ), there are also examples of woman as sexual objects in this game too, they are not mutually exclusive.

#40 Posted by 9cupsoftea (654 posts) -

@jasonr86: I've heard plenty of complaints about how Drake as a character breaks down considering he's a mass murderer. I think Uncharted is actually the first example people go to these days when it comes to gameplay and story dissonance. There was also a similar discussion about Far Cry 3 (which the writers even spoke about) considering how the characters are pampered rich kids who then pull off headshots from the second they pick up guns. So no, I don't think this has anything to do with Lara being a woman.

I think the problem is emphasised with Tomb Raider both because of the narrative dissonance, and the fact the previous games were more about exploration and puzzle-solving.

#41 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

You know, not to rattle any cages (seriously, I'm not trying to be a brat) but...

If this were a game about a man who goes through the same character arc at the same pace do you all think this would even be an issue for people?

That game was Far Cry 3. I had the exact same problem seeing Jason go from scared shitless to murdering entire camps and skining tigers in like an hour. At least he openly admits that he enjoys it after a while, but the transition was still very weird and unearned, I felt. I was also not the only one, in fact I'm pretty sure they discussed this on the bombcast.

Yep, Far Cry 3 had the same problem and people did beat that drum with glee.

#42 Posted by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

@slashdance: @9cupsoftea:

I see your points. It just seems that with Drake and Far Cry 3 it was mostly in jest and it didn't break the experience for people. The Uncharted games and Far Cry 3 were still GOTY contenders despite the issues and, even though people had issues with the dissonance, it wasn't the primary focus of conversation for those games. This dissonance is all the Giantbomb crew seem to see with this game (disregarding the review) which is a shame because the game is really good. They are focusing on the parts that I just don't think are that important when you sit down to play the game. But with Far Cry 3 and Uncharted 2-3 they focused on the gameplay primarily noting the story but not hanging up on it.

#43 Posted by 9cupsoftea (654 posts) -

@jasonr86: I think that's basically because Far Cry 3 and Uncharted are better games than Tomb Raider. If you ignore the story/gameplay problems with both one is still the best cinematic action game this gen, and the other is a superb open-world shooter - if you take the story/gameplay themes out of Tomb Raider it's pretty bland. Functional, but bland, and definitely not even close to as good as the other two.

#44 Edited by JasonR86 (9744 posts) -

@9cupsoftea:

I'm still really early but I couldn't agree less. Tomb Raider isn't as good as Uncharted 2 but I'm having way more fun with it then I had with Uncharted 3. Far Cry 3 is simply a different game that can't compare to Tomb Raider. The point still stands that people are overshadowing the gameplay aspects by focusing on this dissonance aspect instead which I just can't imagine is any worse then the thousands of other games that have that dissonance as well. So it leaves me with the impression that if this game stared a male character this dissonance might be discussed but it wouldn't be the focus.

#45 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

In order to address this dissonance, the developer has to be willing to commit 100% to the idea of vulnerable character and realistic scenario. It doesn't work halfway, as is clear with Uncharted and this particular Tomb Raider. Uncharted gets away with it because the gameplay is so good the story doesn't really matter. Ditto for Far Cry 3.

By commitment I mean developer has to be willing to make the gameplay specifically focused on survival. Enemy encounters must be rare in order for that action to carry the sort of gravitas this design direction calls for. It cannot be a shooty shooty action game and a story of inexperienced survival at the same time. I Am Alive tried to do this with some success. The Last Of Us appears to be making an effort towards this type of thing as well.

#46 Posted by Humanity (9604 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

@9cupsoftea:

I'm still really early but I couldn't agree less. Tomb Raider isn't as good as Uncharted 2 but I'm having way more fun with it then I had with Uncharted 3. Far Cry 3 is simply a different game that can't compare to Tomb Raider. The point still stands that people are overshadowing the gameplay aspects by focusing on this dissonance aspect instead which I just can't imagine is any worse then the thousands of other games that have that dissonance as well. So it leaves me with the impression that if this game stared a male character this dissonance might be discussed but it wouldn't be the focus.

I agree with you, apart from the fact that I'm having more fun with it than Uncharted 2 which was a completely linear bottleneck whereas Tomb Raider lets you go around and explore previously inaccessible locations. The reason people are getting up in arms is that they put a lot of emphasis on character development and how Lara will show remorse and grow through her experiences. In other games featuring a male protagonist we haven't really seen this type of story arch before - off the top of my head most of those characters have been seasoned in their respective trades so it wasn't as shocking to see Nathan Drake handle a gun because he's been doing this for a while so you figure he'd run into these sort of situations before. AT THE SAME TIME the amount of emphasis that people are putting on this is a little much. In my opinion 9/10 times gameplay should take precedence over story. I had no real problem with the very first time you get a gun and the game throws enemies at you that you have to kill. Not to spoil anything but just moments ago, Lara was bound in ropes with her friends, surrounded by armed men and watched someone get gunned down in cold blood right in front of her. Taking that under consideration, as well as another scene just before you get a pistol, it's not a HUGE leap to think that she would shoot these men who are very obviously shooting at her and want her dead. The fact that she kills scores of them by the end of the story and that some of the "execution" animations are quite brutal is due to the fact that it's a video game, so people should get over it. The amount of sighs and negative criticism from the bomb crew regarding this game because of this small thing that doesn't REALLY affect how fun it is to PLAY is really disheartening because it just makes them sound like these grumpy old cynics that can't enjoy something for the fun of it (granted that after 20 minutes of complaining they begrudgingly admitted to liking the game)

#47 Posted by President_Barackbar (3467 posts) -

In order to address this dissonance, the developer has to be willing to commit 100% to the idea of vulnerable character and realistic scenario. It doesn't work halfway, as is clear with Uncharted and this particular Tomb Raider. Uncharted gets away with it because the gameplay is so good the story doesn't really matter. Ditto for Far Cry 3.

By commitment I mean developer has to be willing to make the gameplay specifically focused on survival. Enemy encounters must be rare in order for that action to carry the sort of gravitas this design direction calls for. It cannot be a shooty shooty action game and a story of inexperienced survival at the same time. I Am Alive tried to do this with some success. The Last Of Us appears to be making an effort towards this type of thing as well.

Agreed 100% The problem with Tomb Raider is it wants to have its cake and eat it too.

#48 Posted by Pezen (1635 posts) -

@starvinggamer said:

Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider are trying to be the same thing, big budget mass-market action games. Sleeping Dogs gets away with not giving you guns very often because most of the time you're brutally beating on people with your fists and feet. Their alternative to horrendous gun violence is horrendous MMA violence. Tomb Raider doesn't have the same options. You can suspend your disbelief long enough to buy that Lara with a gun might stand a chance at taking down 6-10 guys. Having her kung-fu her way around the island would make absolutely no sense, and focusing on something other than violence would make it not the game they are trying to sell.

I don't think the martial arts violence is what is ultimately what makes Sleeping Dogs a success in being gun-free. It's that guns in that game are treated, thematically, as very rare and on top of that they make the player think about them less by focusing most of the action on hand-to-hand. No, Lara doesn't need to go Kung-Fu Hustle on the island, but they could have refocused how they treated the combat encounters (and I am saying that completely based off of what I've read, as I have yet to actually get my hands on the game). There could still be "action" as it were, but action doesn't have to necessarily mean killing any human being you encounter. Just because you focus more heavily on something other than human to human violence doesn't necessarily mean you have to remove it. Just make it more about something else, such as the whole survival aspect the initial talks were about. Well, the game they are trying to sell obviously doesn't quite exist either judging by this week's Bombcast and general talk about the game.

#49 Edited by Brodehouse (10081 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

You know, not to rattle any cages (seriously, I'm not trying to be a brat) but...

If this were a game about a man who goes through the same character arc at the same pace do you all think this would even be an issue for people? I mean I know we bring up Uncharted over and over again but that didn't stop people from fawning over that game and its stories and characters. Nathan Drake is a fucking icon. Lets say this was Nathan's origin instead of Lara's. Would this be a topic that would even be brought up with a) this much seriousness b) this often and/or c) with this much enthusiasm?

While I disagree with you in specific, I think people do point out that it's awkward how quickly Drake and Jason Brody are snapping necks like it ain't no thing, I do agree that more attention than normal has been drawn to this game due to that issue. Some of it may have been people getting their expectations way high based on what the devs said they were aiming for, they wanted to build a real character arc, people like Patrick took that to mean drastically different gameplay mechanics than he got... but absolutely part of it is is that in the last couple years everyone watches any story with a woman protagonist with strict scrutiny. It's actually been a real problem for me, I abhor this idea that any female character in a game has to represent femininity as a whole, when we never prescribe that demand for male characters. A beautiful brunette 21 year old 'sets unrealistic physical expectations for women', but an armada of scowling white men with shaved or cropped hair, 'that's what men want to be'.

@pezen said:

I don't think the martial arts violence is what is ultimately what makes Sleeping Dogs a success in being gun-free. It's that guns in that game are treated, thematically, as very rare and on top of that they make the player think about them less by focusing most of the action on hand-to-hand. No, Lara doesn't need to go Kung-Fu Hustle on the island, but they could have refocused how they treated the combat encounters (and I am saying that completely based off of what I've read, as I have yet to actually get my hands on the game). There could still be "action" as it were, but action doesn't have to necessarily mean killing any human being you encounter. Just because you focus more heavily on something other than human to human violence doesn't necessarily mean you have to remove it. Just make it more about something else, such as the whole survival aspect the initial talks were about. Well, the game they are trying to sell obviously doesn't quite exist either judging by this week's Bombcast and general talk about the game.

The whole focus on 'violence' is a misnomer... conflict drives all gameplay, and the easiest conflict to resolve on a gamepad is physical, human struggle. Then there's leaping across shit and timing your jumps, there's driving vehicles at fast speeds, but largely physical combat has the most diversity in controller use (which is what actually defines an 'action' game). They're making an action game with elements of adventure and RPG, they're not making an RPG based primarily around maxing out your hunger and health bars. It doesn't make sense to judge an Uncharted clone on how much of a survival RPG it is any more than it would be to judge that survival RPG by how good the third person shooting is.

#50 Posted by JZ (2125 posts) -

Is it big middle finger? It should be.

Just play the game it's really good.

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