Writer of Tomb Raider addresses narrative dissonance

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#101 Edited by GERALTITUDE (3226 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

@starvinggamer said:

@geraltitude: Tomb Raider went like 2 hours without guns.

But action is what sells, and Sleepy Dawgs gets away with it (it didn't sell, but not because of poor gameplay) because it has lots of bone-breaking action, which would be even more inconsistent with the narrative of Tomb Raider than having her bust caps in hundreds of guys is. It's not the guns that are the issue. It's the taking on hundreds of opponents over a short period of time, as mandated by the genre, that's the issue.

Yeah the Sleeping Dogs comparison doesn't work. If the increase of skill so quickly is the issue then why would it be any better for her to learn how to fight with her fists over guns? If the issue is the violence Sleeping Dogs was violent as hell with or without guns. Remember the Giantbomb Quicklook? Here, for reference, are some highlights;

The comparison to Sleepy Dawgs is not about violence. It's about lethal/non-lethal option, no matter how thin. SD *does* have bone-breaking action, but nearly all the violent kills are optional geometry in the level. I spent as much time as I could just punching peeps (that's what was fun for me) and KOing them, and I lamented the places I was forced to shoot guys.

About Tomb Raider: I'm not talking about violence. And @StarvingGamer: 1 hour, 2 hour, 3 hours, 4 hours whatever. It *sucks* that we live in a world where removing guns from a game creates an incredible design difficulty, and jeopardizes the whole existence of a game. No matter how long it goes - are you really cool with that roadblock? 100% agree that sometimes taking out 1500 dudes in 15 hours is mandated by the genre, but this just brings us back to problem no 1: Tomb Raider was never this genre until now. I can accept the realities of the big-budget games world but could they meet us half way from the old Tom Raider and the new one next time?

My thought is that I would like to live in a gaming world where designers can chose not to put a gun in the players hand (either in hour 1 or hour 10) and still, you know... make a game (again, not saying TB2 has to necessarily have zero shooting of any kind in it - but it doesn't have to be the focus). Here's to hoping Tomb Raider 2 eases off the action throttle a little.

@JasonR86 That's not the point I was bringing up - the quick increase in skill - but you made me realize something. It would have been more realistic for there to be more emphasis on unarmed, especially if they tied it to steatlh. Then we could knock guys out with heavy objects or the butts of weapons or put them in choke holds, etc. Having a 100% passive run-through in something like TB seems natural to me. Plus it's way easier to imagine an archaeologist knocking guys out with a dusty book than dual wielding pistols and diving through the air. :P

Ok, maybe that's a misrepresentation but, like I said to the starver, I'm looking for compromise.

#102 Posted by TangoUp (307 posts) -

The dissonance was when Lara reacts the way she does in the game after her first human kill. If you look at the circumstances, her reaction was a little too over the top. Anyway, have game reviewers developed a hive mind of some sort? They have all been talking about how she goes from scared girl to a hard ass but a lot of it seems like pointing out negatives for the sake of it. I've just reached the part where you need to climb a radio tower but, so far, the plot is fairly intriguing and I have not been 'put off' by Lara becoming a killing machine.

The game is good and the environment is spectacular.

#103 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

@english said:

@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?).

Well, yeah.

We're talking about a quality issue, not a company-that-needs-to-make-money issue.

#104 Edited by WindFall259 (364 posts) -

Most of the time, story writing in games is an afterthought until the mechanics and tech have been laid down. That's just how it is.

I feel that Tomb Raider was made with two different visions: one focused on the game and the other focused on the story. The conflict between them is clear with the whole "first kill" ordeal, but I don't think the story was a complete failure.

#105 Posted by ripelivejam (3783 posts) -

i kinda really want to play this still. it sounds like brad and patrick are letting this issue hold them back a little too much from praising what is genuinely a really good game. i think there's been a ton of games with gritty settings that have almost the same exact kind of disconnect. they even brought up sleepy dawgz which from what i've played so far is basically the poster child of this exact issue; really harrowing and dramatic moments undercut by subversive silliness and jankiness. i mean i'm glad they discussed it to this amount of detail and it seems like they both genuinely really like the game; i just think they're both blowing it a bit out of proportion.

#106 Posted by JasonR86 (9657 posts) -

@ripelivejam:

Yeah, they're getting lost in this issue and ignoring the gameplay (besides the fact that they reference when they say 'dissonance' over and over again). I don't get where they are coming from but I don't want to necessarily say that their experience wrong (even if I think they are really wrong but you know). I just don't get how they spent so much time talking about the game without talking about how the game plays besides dumbing it down to 'it's Uncharted' (which is also nuts but, you know, opinions).

I'm hoping that when the other dudes play the game they talk about the 'game' parts.

#107 Posted by ripelivejam (3783 posts) -

@jasonr86: yeah i'd really like to see more insight into the gameplay and maybe a little more positive feedback about it (as much as i appreciate everything they do have to say about the game). i get the feeling that they expected something completely different, and the idealistic game they DO have in mind does sound really compelling. i just think eidos took the tomb raider formula and just tweaked it a little, rather than doing a complete reimagining. i for one probably would have more liked to see the game they were expecting, where every encounter with a hostile npc was a harrowing and tense experience, and the game was grounded more in reality and consequence for in-game actions and such, but i think this game just isn't it. they should judge it on its own merits maybe, as a good tweaking of the classic tomb raider formula. that said i know they enjoy it when it comes down to it, they're just getting a little hung up on some of the minutiae.

also keep in mind this is all coming from someone who has played zero tomb raider, so i'm probably just as guilty in my own way. :D

#108 Posted by Slag (4236 posts) -

I personally would love playing a Tomb Raider with minimal or no gun play. As has been pointed out you basically only kill animals in TR1. The appeal to me of the series is the puzzles, platforming, exploration and sites etc.

but it what it is when it comes to market realities.

#109 Posted by Jost1 (2077 posts) -

The narrative dissonance in this game is far less jarring than in Uncharted.

#110 Posted by mbdoeden (171 posts) -

@jost1 said:

The narrative dissonance in this game is far less jarring than in Uncharted.

I absolutely agree.

Nathan Drakes portrayal in cutscenes vs. gameplay is the story of a delusional mass murderer.

By the time you get to the temple to save Sam the first time with Lara her mass murdering seemed to come in line with her character.

#111 Edited by Jost1 (2077 posts) -

@mbdoeden said:

@jost1 said:

The narrative dissonance in this game is far less jarring than in Uncharted.

I absolutely agree.

Nathan Drakes portrayal in cutscenes vs. gameplay is the story of a delusional mass murderer.

By the time you get to the temple to save Sam the first time with Lara her mass murdering seemed to come in line with her character.

Totally. It all seemed to fit as well as you could expect. Obviously it's still a BIT strange but yeah, Nathan Drake is a crazy genocidal maniac whereas Lara is a person pushed to their very limit.

#112 Posted by StarvingGamer (8134 posts) -

@jost1 said:

@mbdoeden said:

@jost1 said:

The narrative dissonance in this game is far less jarring than in Uncharted.

I absolutely agree.

Nathan Drakes portrayal in cutscenes vs. gameplay is the story of a delusional mass murderer.

By the time you get to the temple to save Sam the first time with Lara her mass murdering seemed to come in line with her character.

Totally. It all seemed to fit as well as you could expect. Obviously it's still a BIT strange but yeah, Nathan Drake is a crazy genocidal maniac whereas Lara is a person pushed to their very limit.

I think the difference is that Drake is a caricature. His very demeanor tells the audience not to take him seriously. There's no dissonance because he has no depth to be dissonant against.

#113 Posted by paulwade1984 (477 posts) -

This narrative dissonance could be quite easily solved if games were to use real world conflict tactics as a basis for their gameplay. However would this be fun for the player?

Lets imagine a modern day military shooter. You are a rookie on your first patrol through Sangin Afghanistan. The game has built your character through cutscenes and tutorials of training for this conflict zone and now here you are in the middle of hell. your character is scared and apprehensive but onwards you walk with your buddies to your left and right, in front and behind.

Suddenly out of nowhere a burst of gunfire erupts and removes the leg of your best mate. He's screaming and bleeding to death. You instantly lose another 2 guys to carry the wounded man back to the sergeant in the back. The rest of the forward section lays down a suppressive fire in the direction your boss thinks the shots came from. For the next four hours you fire one shot every six seconds at the tree line 1 mile in the distance. Eventually an American F16 drops a 1000lb bomb on the woodline and your boss orders ceasefire. Achievement pops. Well done. You never even saw an enemy. Have no idea if you dropped a bomb on the enemy. Have no idea if the bomb killed anyone or anything. Time to continue the patrol.

This gentlemen. Is the reality of modern military warfare.

Lets imagine this in a built up environment that modern warfare likes to place you in.... You move up on the building. A Hail of gunfire erupts from all of the windows. Fruitlessly you push on and lose over half your squad. A breaching charge is placed on the doorway and your rookie lance corporal chucks a grenade in. THe shrapnel from the grenade rips through the buildings wall and takes out two more members of your squad. Inside the house every single inch of space is barricaded with sandbags with only tiny crawlspaces for the enemy to move around. They fire through these crawlspaces and down through mousetraps in the ceilings. Booby trapped IED's are everywhere. Your entire squad is wiped out and you are scared and alone. You die.

I quite like that I actually get to shoot stuff in Uncharted and tomb raider.

#114 Posted by Jost1 (2077 posts) -

@jost1 said:

@mbdoeden said:

@jost1 said:

The narrative dissonance in this game is far less jarring than in Uncharted.

I absolutely agree.

Nathan Drakes portrayal in cutscenes vs. gameplay is the story of a delusional mass murderer.

By the time you get to the temple to save Sam the first time with Lara her mass murdering seemed to come in line with her character.

Totally. It all seemed to fit as well as you could expect. Obviously it's still a BIT strange but yeah, Nathan Drake is a crazy genocidal maniac whereas Lara is a person pushed to their very limit.

I think the difference is that Drake is a caricature. His very demeanor tells the audience not to take him seriously. There's no dissonance because he has no depth to be dissonant against.

I completely disagree. I find it quite egregious in Uncharted. It bothers me that Drake gleefully murders thousands of people. I don't like it. In Tomb Raider, Lara does what she has to do to survive. And yeah it's very video gamey but Uncharted makes me a lot more uncomfortable.

#115 Posted by thebipsnbeeps (546 posts) -

The dissonance is weird, but I don't think it hampers the game. I mean, jeez guys, do you know what kind of shit she goes through in this entire game? I'm surprised that she doesn't break down from serious PTSD afterward, but apparently she becomes an eccentric adventurer. I say it's because she's a Croft and genetically inherited every trait that made her dad an Indiana Jones-Superman hybrid. One of the first things that harms her is a dang bear trap! She shakes it off in a few seconds; I am pretty sure I wouldn't want to walk for at least days, but probably weeks. And she goes through plenty of worse situations afterwards. Like, she's a walking callus. I know we want to go with "games shouldn't have to rely on violence" or that "she's not being true to what she portrays herself as at all," but it's a game that literally throws one thrill after another at some point, and you can tell that after a few minutes of sitting down and playing it.

#116 Posted by WinterSnowblind (7615 posts) -

I didn't find any of it that strange. She's initially pretty shaking up by the fact she's just put a bullet through someones brain, but it's a matter of survival. When you're in those situations, keeping yourself alive always comes first. She even mentions shortly after that she was concerned over just how easy killing people was.

My bigger problem with the game was the lack of survival mechanics. They made a big deal early on about how she'd have to find ways to survive on the island, but aside from the earlier tutorial that forces you to hunt for food and a later part where you need to find a medkit, there's nothing like that. Hunting becomes an entirely optional and pointless mechanic, with killed animals bizarrely dropping scrap metal. It's pretty clear that the hunting/survival stuff was removed, in favour of making a more straight forward action game. I found that to be much more jarring to the experience.

#117 Edited by Teclo (139 posts) -

I was just going to say that I actually think this is part of a larger issue, not with gameplay/storyline dissonance, but just with origin stories in general. In any origin story, you have this cumbersome shift from them being a totally clueless newb to being more-or-less fully-formed - as the audience typically knows them (e.g. going from silly, normal Peter Parker to cocky, web-slinging Spider-man). The best way is to normally just skip out all the difficult middle stuff. Indiana Jones had an origin story at the start of Last Crusade, but it was just a snapshot, and from then to the current time in the storyline, it's still all left out. Same with Batman. You typically see Bruce as a young boy, then him post-training, with the Batcave there and all that. When you go from Peter Parker being shy, clumsy and awkward to him confidently swinging through New York 400 feet in the air on a thin strand of whatever-the-fuck, it's weird.

In the first Raimi movie they had that humorous scene where he figures out how to shoot the webbing out, then they cut to him going "Woohoo!" and swinging around. They do a sleight of hand, really. There's no convincing way to show a normal person learning to be okay swinging through the air at 50 miles an hour, so high you'd become pavement pizza topping if you fell. Not without dedicating the entire film to it, anyway. To me, that's the "problem" Tomb Raider has, not necessarily a dissonance between gameplay and story. Start "in media res", in the thick of it, basically, and you're not asking the audience to dwell on the change. It's already happened. Batman is already fighting the Joker, James Bond is already a seasoned spy, shooting women and fucking bad guys or something like that, and Lara Croft is already fighting velociraptors and backflipping 20 feet through the air.

@wintersnowblind: Well it's down to how they specifically phrased it. If they said "Lara will need to find ways to survive" then that ties into the narrative, if they said "the player..." then that does indeed tie into the gameplay. I'm not sure how they phrased it, but just saying there is that difference. Also, the animals drop "bones" as the skill mentions, which is what you're meant to use for crafting. To be fair, that really is a gameplay-oriented thing. There's no way you could have enough droppables to cover modifying a bow, modifying a semi-automatic pistol, modifying a shotgun etc etc without it being maddeningly tedious and frustrating to collect the appropriate ones from appropriate places.

#118 Posted by AlecOfTheWest (278 posts) -

I thought it was kinda funny how she didn't give a flying fuck about the guy in the beginning of the game (whose intentions were a little unclear, but still) who she inadvertantly killed. Throughout that whole breakdown she had after killing a rapist, I was just thinking "I don't see why you're reacting like this, you've done it to someone who deserved it far less than this dude".

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