How do you keep track of a game's story?

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sunie

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I've found it's getting harder to keep track of a game's overall story. Certainly not all of them but, since Dark Souls it's getting more and more popular to tell a story in a fragmented, out of sequence fashion. Alternatively, games like Nier Automata are so dense, it's hard to wade through it all and come out on top with a firm grasp of what's going on.

Part of it is a matter of concentration. I've noticed I'm doing other things while gaming and that's on me. I've been shutting off other monitors and muting chat apps and the like to get less distracted. It helps.

The other day I was playing King's Field 2 and since the map in it is very poor, I decided to draw my own and add story beats to my scribblings. I've noticed that my grasp on the game increased exponentially, because I was interacting with the world by chronicling it. Since then I've been looking for apps/methods to do this for more games, in the hopes of understanding a game better. I haven't had much luck yet. I've been trying to do it in Excel/Google Sheets but it gets messy quick. I wonder if there's an app that helps me draw connections so I can look like that Always Sunny conspiracy meme :P at least I'll know how it's all connected,man!

Anyway, anyone else having this issue with game stories getting more dense and such? How do you deal with it? Any suggestions on apps I could use to help me make sense of it all?

Thank you!

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Broshmosh

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#2  Edited By Broshmosh

I find I only get something out of a game's story when there's enough of it and the world around it to immerse myself in. For me, a good story is told in more than cutscenes, and balancing the scale that has, say, Metal Gear Solid 4 (majoritively cutscene exposition) on one side and Dark Souls (majoritively abstract descriptions with a lot of player inference) on the other can't be easy on a big project. That said, both of those games allow you to experience a world where you can see, first hand, what the effects described in their story elements have wrought on your surroundings.

That is to say, you will get more out of a game's story when you slow down and take in what's really happening around your character. I can tell you most of the plot of Digimon Story: Digital Cyber Slueth up until chapter 18, not because it was fleshed out or even particularly good stacked against its own franchise, but because the trappings changed as I progressed and uncovered the (admittedly meagre) twists it had in store. Those changes are intrinsically linked to my understanding and memory of the story beats, which makes it easier to recall at a later date. Strange, considering I spent most of my time in-game comparing spreadsheets of Digimon evolution paths.

Turning off distractions is a great way to help that immersion along, but only you can decide how deep you go. I still don't have it in me to complete every substory in every Yakuza game.

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sunie

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Personally I feel like, if I don't go deep and at least start taking notes, I'll be lost story wise. I love Dark Souls for the experience it gave me, but none of that includes the story. I have no idea what's going on, lol. Which, as I understand, is actually kind of a shame!

Sidequests in Yakuza are hard to complete due to the sheer volume, but at least I can appreciate they are all self contained short stories that are memorable thanks to their brevity.

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#4  Edited By brian_

I'll be honest with you. I love Souls games. I have no idea what the hell is going on in the story of those games most of the time. I get the basics, but I don't read the item descriptions to piece together the lore. I will go out of my way to do every side quest in a Yakuza game though. I think at the end of the day, I just want a story told to me. I don't want to have to piece it together myself.

I don't usually have issues retaining a game's story while I'm playing it. It's after I've finished the game and moved on to something else that I've usually forgotten everything about what I've seen. For instance, I can't tell you anything that happened in Yakuza 5. I think that's the one where Haruka becomes an idol. Other than that, I've got nothing. I know I liked that game. I couldn't tell you why though.

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sunie

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#5  Edited By sunie

Ah! It's the same for me @brian_. I dunno about you, but I kinda feel like that's a bummer, don't you? Story is a big part of most games and to just forget it like that, isn't that a waste?

Only stories I do seem to retain are the ones from games I played in the past, and the ones where story is the main thing going for them (like Telltale adventure games).

Right now with Endwalker coming up, I'm replaying the FFXIV story line and to make sure I actually retain the story this time, I'm keeping something akin to an adventurer's journal and write about what I just encountered in the story. It's a fun exercise and it also helps me remember.

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#6  Edited By brian_

@sunie: It's certainly a weird feeling, trying to remember something, something you liked, and being unable to do so. I think that's why I started keeping a least of all the games I've played. It doesn't always help me remember story beats from a game, but it does help jog my memory sometimes.

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I do that too, or at least a list of the games that I've finished. both on backloggd.com and in an excel sheet with some additional notes.

Back on my own topic of software that'll help me track stories, maybe I should look into mind map software, or something used for D&D campaigns/worldbuilding...

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I struggle with the same thing. Recently, before every play session, I usually try and run a recap in my head of what has happened, what I'm supposed to be doing and who the major characters are. It's helped alot in some basic story beat games (Ratchet & Clank, A Plague Tale: Innocence). But I definitely got all the major endings in Nicer Automata and couldn't really tell you a damn thing that happened. So, I really appreciate games that have quick recaps for each chapter in the menus.

I think my reading comprehension just isn't that great though. If it's not voice acted, I find myself thinking about other things while reading the dialogue boxes and all of a sudden I realize I didn't pay attention to any of it. But I am neurodivergent, so that could just be that.

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brian_

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@noboners said:

If it's not voice acted, I find myself thinking about other things while reading the dialogue boxes and all of a sudden I realize I didn't pay attention to any of it.

I have the opposite problem. A lot of the time, when stuff is voice acted, I find myself not paying attention to the text on screen, and then I'll also zone out conversations on top of that, come back a minute or two later and realize I have no idea what anyone just said. Which is weird, because I don't think my reading comprehension is that great either. I haven't read a book in over a decade, and generally don't enjoy it, outside of some text-heavy video games.

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sunie

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#10  Edited By sunie

I hear you on the bit about no voice acting for sure. This is why nowadays I read stuff out loud or write the most important story bits down, at least when I feel like the story is important enough to follow.

zoning out is also an issue for sure! Seems like I can't win lol. This is why I want to interact with the story by plotting it out/make a write-up or something of the sort so that I force myself to pay attention to it.

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I retain details very well, overall. It's usually not a problem for me so long as I don't take a long break and try to divert attention to something else at the same time.

I feel like the only story I can think of where I took some minor notes was 13 sentinels which is a game that felt entirely designed with that in mind.

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I envy you, lmao :D I really wanna play 13 Sentinels (I have it right here at arms length) but it's kinda daunting.

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@sunie: There is also an in-game feature that keeps track of the timeline and what events happen when, I just didn't wanna reference it all the time.

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that's nice to know, at least that'll make it easier to reference back to!

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Personally I'm not a big fan of overly-opaque stories where you have to deep-dive into lore, read item descriptions, listen to all the codecs, etc., to appreciate it. There might be something good there, but I feel the devs have to earn my interest in it first. You can't expect me to put a ton of effort into digging out details of your story unless there are very strong characters and plot beats that draw me into it. Games like Hollow Knight are offenders here - I loved the game but didn't have the slightest idea what was going on in the story.

The only way that sort of storytelling works for me is if it's closely tied to the gameplay. The Outer Wilds is a great example of doing this right.

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#16  Edited By Onemanarmyy

I play only one or two story games at a time and make sure i finish or walk away from a story game before i pick up a new one. But at the same time i don't feel the need to squeeze all the story out of everything. I finished Hollow Knight and i had some questions , so i did some reading for 30 min, nodded and walked away from the game. This means i wouldn't be the best person to do a powerpoint presentation on the story in that game, but i did get enough out of it that i had a good time.

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By the time you're about 50% through 13 Sentinels, I actually found going back and checking the codex to be a game within itself because it is super exhaustive...though it happened more than once that in reading a new entry about one character, I had a revelation about another character heavily alluded to in a way that made some later surprises a little less surprising.

I do find stories mostly pretty easy to follow in media, though. I'm always shocked when people talk about action movies and say they can't follow what's going on for example. My mom taught honors Shakespeare along with journalism and English when I was younger, so I was reading fairly complex writing at pretty young ages and developed a pretty narrative-oriented mind. I haven't touched Disco Elysium in almost two months and I could still summarize everything that happened up to the point I left the tent outside the church housing three punks if I wanted to.

I should really get back to Disco...

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Try the software called Scrivener. It's used by writers and is probably the closest thing that I've found to the Always Sunny conspiracy board.

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@wollywoo said:

Personally I'm not a big fan of overly-opaque stories where you have to deep-dive into lore, read item descriptions, listen to all the codecs, etc., to appreciate it. There might be something good there, but I feel the devs have to earn my interest in it first. [...] Games like Hollow Knight are offenders here - I loved the game but didn't have the slightest idea what was going on in the story.

Oh for sure, the devs do need to earn it, and Hollow Knight is an offender. I'm playing Ender Lilies right now and it's the same thing. For me though, the devs earn it by presenting me with a wonderful atmosphere to suck me into the world. It's telling me the lore surrounding the worldbuilding should be worth a damn (provided they don't drop the ball, right?). I used to do what @onemanarmyy did and look everything up afterward, but that also gives me a feeling of disconnect that bums me out somewhat. Like "wow I wish I pieced that together myself".

@nodima I'm not much of a reader myself but movies are easy to follow for me as well. I hope by making a game of interacting with video game stories, I retain them like I do movies. Used to be that when I saw any codec entry in a game I just stared blankly and noped out of it. Not anymore! :D I REALLY wanna get into Disco Elysium eventually, but like 13 sentinels that game seemed so incredibly daunting to me.

@armaan8014 oh my god yes, thank you! I've scrolled through the site and it looks very comprehensive but manageable. I'm gonna give this a shot.


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@sunie said:

I've found it's getting harder to keep track of a game's overall story. Certainly not all of them but, since Dark Souls it's getting more and more popular to tell a story in a fragmented, out of sequence fashion. Alternatively, games like Nier Automata are so dense, it's hard to wade through it all and come out on top with a firm grasp of what's going on.

Part of it is a matter of concentration. I've noticed I'm doing other things while gaming and that's on me. I've been shutting off other monitors and muting chat apps and the like to get less distracted. It helps.

The other day I was playing King's Field 2 and since the map in it is very poor, I decided to draw my own and add story beats to my scribblings. I've noticed that my grasp on the game increased exponentially, because I was interacting with the world by chronicling it. Since then I've been looking for apps/methods to do this for more games, in the hopes of understanding a game better. I haven't had much luck yet. I've been trying to do it in Excel/Google Sheets but it gets messy quick. I wonder if there's an app that helps me draw connections so I can look like that Always Sunny conspiracy meme :P at least I'll know how it's all connected,man!

Anyway, anyone else having this issue with game stories getting more dense and such? How do you deal with it? Any suggestions on apps I could use to help me make sense of it all?

Thank you!

Just skip the story, and play the gameplay, then when doing things like walking or traveling or grinding turn volume off, open pc window and leave up a just the story youtube video of the entire game, you'll beat games quicker this way 2 x in fact, so a 20-hour game becomes like 10, hell most games cinematics take up a large portion of the game time. Anyway, you'll get the story and save time, plus you can look at lore videos and deep dives to get simpler story in half the time. Paying attention is a boomers venue, us gen x z have too much tictok to watch and drill down our attention spans. XD.

Stories are hard to pay attention to for the first few hours. People like to say insert movie here is boring but we also have to realize how much your suppose to engage a work of art in order to enjoy it. That's why certain people grow mad at stories early on taking them out of the experience cause it's hard to enjoy something anymore and you stop paying attention. Once you allow the characters and plot to hook you, youll have a better time. a great example is older RPGs, skies of arcadia. I had a blast with this game but realize the beginning is slow unless your willing to go with it. A group of sky pirates living on floating islands who come upon a rock and princess on a mission to save the world from an empire. Other people will roll their eyes and say unoriginal. Its about execution thou, and if you give yourself in you'll notice the fun of exploring with a tight nit possy, several twist on the formula, characters, arcs, mystery, lore, legends, adventure, etc. My friend wasn't able to find out where to go and gave up at the beginning. It would be harder to give up if he engaged himself in the story more but he passively clicked buttons, didn't care to know why he was fighting, missed out on an epic 40-hour adventure.

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@brian_ said:

I'll be honest with you. I love Souls games. I have no idea what the hell is going on in the story of those games most of the time. I get the basics, but I don't read the item descriptions to piece together the lore. I will go out of my way to do every side quest in a Yakuza game though. I think at the end of the day, I just want a story told to me. I don't want to have to piece it together myself.

I don't usually have issues retaining a game's story while I'm playing it. It's after I've finished the game and moved on to something else that I've usually forgotten everything about what I've seen. For instance, I can't tell you anything that happened in Yakuza 5. I think that's the one where Haruka becomes an idol. Other than that, I've got nothing. I know I liked that game. I couldn't tell you why though.

I don't think dark souls works as a linear story thou, I hate seeing people use that non-linear part of dark souls as a flaw, not exactly you since your stating it more as a personal preference. Dark souls is more like a bible of stories, a cluster of a world you're just going through but existed and will exist far after your gone. So many things are going on or have gone on in dark souls before the hero does his thing. Its supposed to be obtuse and mythological. Spews of volcanos during a war-making the cooled volcanic sludge your crawling on to fight some giant who got there cause he was forced by a king from another location (example) all of it is about this gigantic world that you're seeing the edge of, its a nice change of pass, though you can still watch lore videos that make the story linear and the story is actually really good. Seeing the world at the end of DLC dark souls 3 all ash was eye-opening and made me wish for more. The culmination of the reality you tried to stop, shown so bluntly, everything dies, etc.

I just really enjoy a good story regardless of how it's told, and if i can't understand it, ill find a way to, i don't think we should shy away from things that challenge our relaxed way of taking in media. Too often in our culture right now, we are accustomed to easy peezy and losing out on the joy of finally understanding a good yarn. Its what makes finishing a long book so worth it over just SparkNotes it. Journey, not the destination and whatnot. ranting looney so ill quit.

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sunie

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Just skip the story, and play the gameplay, then when doing things like walking or traveling or grinding turn volume off, open pc window and leave up a just the story youtube video of the entire game, you'll beat games quicker this way 2 x in fact, so a 20-hour game becomes like 10, hell most games cinematics take up a large portion of the game time. Anyway, you'll get the story and save time, plus you can look at lore videos and deep dives to get simpler story in half the time. Paying attention is a boomers venue, us gen x z have too much tictok to watch and drill down our attention spans. XD.

You're suggesting exactly the thing that I have been doing and want to get away from XD I want to slow down and get rid of distractions, immerse myself a bit more and not get an explanation from a third party.

The only time I wanna turn off audio and have something running on a second monitor is when I'm crafting/gathering in an MMO, or any other totally menial task.

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@sunie: Ah I got ya. Yeah, I got into a roll of zooming through games and my backlog by just skipping cinematics and watching the story on youtube on downtimes. It made the game I was playing a lot more noticeably repetitive. The cinematics breaks up the monotony and give reason to your gameplay. My friends growing up always hated anything that they didn't get to mash and play so all cinematics were skipped. Low and behold the only games they buy now are COD or sports titles. Getting immersed in a game is good and hard. The best option that got me out of the playing a podcast while playing mode is to just turn a game on, no lights, a lot out 1 hour or 2 timer or not and say just the game, no matter the amount of progress, or boredom, just play that game. Play that game, again and again, don't jump onto other games, the only time you jump on to other games is if it's like a short multiplayer match, but stick to playing the solo game to complete it or till you realize the game isn't for you and you had your fill. Stay focused and if you notice your not paying attention pause and look through a codex or something. have fun most of all, so if the story isn't getting ya, fill in the blanks with your own. it's all role-playing right.

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If you told a cognitive scientist or educational researcher that you remember things better when you write them down by add notes to a map that repsosnets physical places within a game story they would say......Yes, that often a good strategy for many people to remember facts and story beats.

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I'm glad I'm making the cognitive scientists and educational researchers proud!

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When I play a game I play the game. I don't have ADD or anything so following the plot doesn't pose a challenge. I don't use chat apps and I have all notifications turned off at all times which probably helps. I also like to read books so concentrating on one thing for 4-6 hours without breaks is familiar territory. I went trough a period where I didn't read and I did use instant messaging applications, and I can definitely say in my case it made me a lot more scatterbrained. But it's something you can unlearn.

Sometimes I might deem the plot not worth following and turn off the audio to listen to a podcast, but in those cases I'm not even trying to follow the plot. Usually these games have very little plot to begin with.

If it's an artsy indie game where the message is implied rather than stated outright I just play the game and whatever I come away with I'm satisfied with. I don't usually read any wiki articles or youtube videos explaining the hidden meanings. If the game was done well I should've picked up on it. If I didn't then that's fine.

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I have this habit of starting from the very first game and playing from then on, Breath of Fire series is a great example. I went in with BOF4 to dive in a pool of nostalgia and planned on playing 3 right after but I got deep into 4 whereas I wanted to know the whole story so now my gamer soul won't let me play 3 I'm now playing it BOF on SNES (4 prequel to SNES Series and then BOF3). It's a dope game but yeah that's what helps me with the story