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Stories in Games Matter, Right? 151

1up has a piece looking at what exactly David Jaffe meant when he said he was 'no longer doing story'. They examine how this ties into the Lester Bangs discussion, and hear from some other designers on where they think story falls within the realm of game design. From the article: "Warren Spector: Games are all about the player experience -- about DOING things, not about watching things or hearing about things. And that means that a narrative game has to put the player experience first and the narrative second. However, left to their own devices, most players aren't very GOOD at crafting compelling experiences -- just as most readers aren't good writers, and most moviegoers aren't great directors. And that's where story comes in."
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Stories in Games Matter, Right?

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  • FP? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dosius ( 230542 ) <> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:13PM (#15784870) Journal
    Depends on the game really. For 1:1 fighters and FPSes, and platformers, yeah. I like a story. But games like Tetris, nah.

    • Hey, even Arkanoid had a story... why not Tetris?
      • Adding power-ups and maybe even a boss would be a good start.

        • There was a shareware Tetris clone for DOS, that unfortunately shares its name with the online Tetris clone Netris. I call it Nyetris or Notris instead. It had the same pieces as Tetris, plus bombs (small and large), guns, compactors and inverters.

          I wish there were an SDL version. xD

    • Yep, it depends completely on the game. Any discussion about what games need that treats games as a homogenous group is doomed to benefit no one. All a game "needs" is to accomplish its goal, just like any work of art. Some games try to offer a fast-paced and exciting gameplay experience (like Wolfenstein 3d, which even cut features to accomplish that goal). Others try to offer a good story, like interactive fiction. It's stupid to say that Wolfenstein needs a better story, just like it's stupid to insist t
  • by mashuren ( 886791 ) <> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:17PM (#15784897) Homepage
    Good gameplay can save a game with a terrible story. But a good story can't save a game with terrible gameplay.
    • Like what mash said, you need good gameplay. Without it, you have nothing. I would much rather play a 2 hour game with great gameplay and no story, than a 5 hour game with piss-poor gameplay and an amazing story. Half the time I end up skipping the story anyways. I want to play, not watch a damn movie or read a book.
      • Sometimes the story is engrossing, but in general I play a game to play a game. Infact Multiplayer options play heavily into my purchase decisions, as they get more use. One I finish a game where the story is the driving force it sits on the shelf, and only the ones with REALLY tight gameplay get pulled back out.
        • Exactly, like most people I can only watch a movie once or a few times at most (with some exceptions) a movie that has some game choice elements could be entertaining (though I've never seen it done well), but it would still suffer the same fate as other movie, you can only watch it so many times. Gameplay is a completly different beast, you don't get bored of good gameplay, this is why simple games like tetris is still popular, but any specific implementation of it, especially the ones with storylines, qui
        • which is why we need games that are multiplayer AND have a story. I mean, just a year or so ago there was this survival horror game (I can't believe I forgot the name) that took place in a school and you could play co-op with another person. To be honest the game didn't play very well (I'm not a Survival Horror static camera kind of gamer) but following the story together kept us playing.
      • I'm the opposite. I like games with amazing stories, regardless of gameplay. The game will at least have music, pictures, and some level of interactivity (however light), but can tell a story whose length rivals a book (which never could be done with a movie).

        Is my preference better than yours? No. But that's why we get multiple types of games: different people want different things. The game industry shouldn't be (and I don't really think it is) trying to move to gameplay in place of story. They shou
    • by Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:57PM (#15785246) Homepage Journal
      But a good story can't save a game with terrible gameplay.

      Counterexample: Interactive Fiction (Infocom) games. Of course I don't think their gameplay is "terrible", but it is certainly lackluster for most people when compared with graphical games.
      • The lack of good gameplay (relative to text adventures) is precisely what turned me off to modern interactive fiction. I liked the Infocom games, on the whole, but while the story is much better in modern IF, the player doesn't contribute much. You mostly walk from one page of the book to the next.

        It's nice when a game has a good *backstory*, but the story inb a game is only interesting if you the player help create it (or at least the game does a good job of giving that illusion).
        • That is true for some modern games. Not so for others.

          There's a big difference between 'Photopia' (which is what you describe) and 'Spider and Web' (which is what you say you want).
    • by Sentry21 ( 8183 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @01:04PM (#15785288) Journal
      I look at Fable as an example contrary to your assertion. Fable had good gameplay (the core was solid, anyway), but there was no reason for me to progress. I didn't care about my characters, I didn't care about the world, I didn't care about my sister or mother, or the town I grew up in. I played through the game in the hopes that there would be something redeeming at the end, and not just 'You killed the bad guy. The end.'

      Fable was a disappointment in that a lot of the gameplay innovations that were promised were never delivered on, but it was such a bland game that there may as well not have been a story. It would have been just as compelling if the 'story' had just been presented as 'Go here and kill this guy', which is not far off from what they provided.

      When I compare that with a game like Jade Empire, where I actually felt bad for doing bad things when I was playing evil, and felt good for doing good deeds. I read every letter of the scrolls I found, because I was truly interested in the world around me and in finding out the history of the world and who the people were that I was always hearing about. The gameplay in JE wasn't that fantastic - in fact, it was astonishingly repetetive - but I enjoyed the game immensely more than I did in Fable, because it was a compelling story that I wanted to unfold, and because I had an emotional investment in the characters and their situation.

      You don't need a good story to have a good game (look at Mario or Tetris), but for certain genres, it is imperative that the developer give the player a reason to progress. If the gameplay makes up for the poor story, then fine, but I'd rather have a good story.
      • Let me rephrase. I don't mind a story, and I have often enjoyed it (Skies of Arcadia, Tales of Symphonia, etc..) But when that story (and to a greater extent, graphics) gets in the way of developping decent gameplay, then I have a problem.
      • Ah, but in both Fable and Jade Empire you had to hold the thumbstick in one direction for long periods of time to get anywhere. That is a gameplay issue and it is boring. With the scrolls Jade Empire made the walk in a bit more interesting for some, but the walk out was sheer boredom. There was no possibility of finding random items of possible interest strewn in your path, just a long walk back the way you came, interrupted by the occasional resetting of lower level monsters you had already beaten. In
      • " If the gameplay makes up for the poor story, then fine, but I'd rather have a good story."

        I have to take issue with this, GAMEPLAY is the primary reason most people play games. In fact, the march towards watching games rather then playing them, being in control and interacting is rather disheartening. Halo's story was far from good or original, it was the gameplay, experience and immersion in that world that did it for most people. The only things I remember from halo are master cheif, some aliens who'
    • From that comment I'm guessing you've never played any Final Fantasy games. Spreadsheets with a plot.
    • ### Good gameplay can save a game with a terrible story. But a good story can't save a game with terrible gameplay.

      Ever played Dreamfall? Actual gameplay in that game is really almost non existant, almost no puzzles, a fight system that is plain awefull and a sneaking system that isn't exactly much fun either by any means. Even for an adventure game its really very low in terms of gameplay. If it wouldn't be for the story and art there really would be exactly nothing worth to play Dreamfall. The story howev
      • I can think of one example where story trumped gameplay, for me anyhow.

        The whole Legacy of Kain series was all story with very little compelling gameplay, but I played through it anyways because I wanted to see what happened. I know it is not everyone's cup of tea, but I really loved it.
        • I thought the gameplay in Soul Reaver was great, with the enemies that couldn't be killed just by whacking them enough times, the puzzle-based boss fights, etc. True, there were a few too many block puzzles, but even they managed to do innovative things with the standard block puzzle design. Unfortunately, the gameplay went on a fairly steady downward slide through SR2 and Defiance.
    • Gameplay isn't everything. There are these things called 'movies', which are basically no gameplay and all story - or sometimes, all special effects and no story. They still manage to entertain.

      Hell, there are more to games than just gameplay ans story, too. I've played games just because I liked the music and art, like Jet Grind Radio, or character designs like Zelda Wind Waker and Pikmin.

      JGR and Rez were interesting because they had a 'feel' or 'aura' that I liked, and I mostly played them to immerse myse
      • > Take the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game. Now imagine Disney or McDonalds releasing a clone, where you do all the same things, but all the actions have been changed to 'kid-friendly' versions.... It would suck.

        Well, it *could* suck, but it doesn't necessarily have to. The first thing that popped into my mind when reading the above post was "The Simpsons: Hit And Run" -- which essentially is a 'kid-friendly' version of Grand Theft Auto (if you don't count Homer yelling "Ow, my ass!" or "Dammit, I dr
    • "Good gameplay can save a game with a terrible story. But a good story can't save a game with terrible gameplay."

      What the hell is gameplay, anyways? Everytime there is a slashdot article about what makes a good game or bad. Everyone immediately starts spouting out the obligatory "gameplay is more important than graphics" or "games these days don't have good gameplay like they used too." What does that mean!?!? I'm not disagreeing that gameplay is important, but I'm just stepping back and thinking for a
  • It's really simple. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:18PM (#15784901) Homepage Journal
    You can make a game where there's no story at all and the player gets total freedom. That can get boring if the average player doesn't know how to create an experience or there feels like there's no point to being in the game. You can make a game where there's a strict story and the player has few options. That can get boring because the user doesn't have to think much.

    So every game needs to strike a balance depending on its goals.
    • Tis why I enjoy GTA3. It has a story, but sometimes you just want to go into the game and cause carnage or just drive around or whatever.
    • To a large degree it depends on the kind of game you are going for. Stories are good but they are limiting. The more rich a telling you do, the less there is for the player to fill in. As an ultimate example. story wise, take a book. A book must have a good story to be a good book since the story is all there is to go on. There's no visuals (assuming a text only book here) no interaction, nothing.

      So with games, a lot of it depends on the kind of game you want. I love games with good stories, that's why I ho
    • You can make a game where there's a strict story and the player has few options. That can get boring because the user doesn't have to think much.

      I beg to differ. A good story never gets boring, because a good story has so much depth that it forces the player to think to follow it. There's a reason why novels and movies are still incredibly popular despite being completely non-interactive.

      There's no reason why games should have shallow stories -- except that most game makers can't write for toffee and are
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:19PM (#15784907) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't they hire great known writers to create game-friendly stories, instead of cobbling some kind of nonsensical mishmash together themselves?

    And I don't count movie adaptions, because you already know how the story ends.

    • "Wouldn't they hire great known writers to create game-friendly stories..."

      Call me crazy, but I doubt that too many great known writers would want to write for video games. Maybe game companies could get people who churn out pulp gaming fiction or horror novels to come on board, but that would likely churn out the same derivative crap we get now, although the dialogue might be a little better.
      • But, if an auther/producer established up front that there was going to be a real relationship and not a "do as your told" kind of thing going might just be able to.
      • Call me crazy, but I doubt that too many great known writers would want to write for video games.

        Douglas Adams comes to mind. But his sort of game is kind of anachronistic.

        Perhaps this is catch-22. Maybe the game industry doesn't have any great stories because the it has not attracted any great story tellers. Maybe great storytellers aren't attracted to games becuase there aren't any examples showing that you can tell a great story through a game.

        Maybe game companies could get people who churn out pulp
        • "Douglas Adams comes to mind. But his sort of game is kind of anachronistic."

          Not to mention that his games were custom-written for his fanbase. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing - it made a lot of sense in the 1980s when his books were explosively popular in english-speaking nations - but at the same time, neither of his games really had any appeal to anyone who wasn't already into his work.

          "Supposing some day a great writer, like a Neil Gaiman, wrote a story centric game that (a) demonstrated that th
      • Two examples spring to mind: Douglas Adams in Spaceship Titanic (IIRC), and Clive Barker's Undying. I have played neither so I do not know whether they were any good.
        • Starship Titanic was awful, and so was the tie-in novel.

          The best writer I am aware of having written outside and inside the media of games is Warren Spector, who did the backplot of Hostile Waters, one of the few games that can actually make me cry. (no, really. Even though the game is a 3rd person RTS/shootemup, a cutscene composed almost entirely of a bunch of national flags burning made me cry, because the dialog was so well executed, by the writer, and by the narrator, the peerless Tom Baker).
    • LucasArts and Infocom hired "writers" do make their stories and still made very much computer games. (Tho Lucas fell from grace with boring only-story games like "The Dig".)
      • Had any of those writers writers written anything I'd have wanted to read?

        If not then there's no reason that they'd write a game I'd have to play for a story.

        There are a universe of competent writers who can put together a soundly crafted story. They'd have a well chosen setting, well defined characters, a clear problem, a coherent plot. The sentences and paragraphs would be properly constructed. Their stories would have all the sound craft elements that a University BA in creative writing would teach.
    • by joystickgenie ( 913297 ) <> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @01:42PM (#15785526) Homepage
      This is an idea that is brought up in the industry quite a bit. There is a view that people in the game industry can't be good writers and can't fit a story together and that if we hire pro writers the problem will go away.

      There is a problem with that though people who write book scripts and screenplays have no idea how to write for a game. In books and screenplays the writer has complete control, the writer has complete control of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the story, character in the story, and setting of the story. The writer has complete control over all of these things.

      All of those factors can be taken away from the designer through games. Game designers do not have that luxury where and when, those aspects are completely up to the player because they have direct control over the characters actions. The what, and how is only partially in the designers control, you may know they have to do a certain action but you don't know what item or skill they are going to use to do it. The who and why can even be taken out of the designers hands at times, in the care of games where the player gets to make a custom character you can't make and references back to who the character is or why he wants anything.

      Games are a unique medium where you have to try and tell a story without forcing a the player down it. Every time you define a who what where when why or how in a game the player feels like they are in less control over it. There is a balance you have to keep in games between what is defined and what is not. You have to give the player control over things at times and at other times you have to take it way. This is a balancing challenge that takes a lot of practice and understanding of the medium to work out. Just hiring a professional writer will not solve the problem telling stories in games correctly in fact it may make it harder to overcome. Games need designers who can write compelling stories. Designers have to be able to think like a programmer see like an artist and write like a professional writer while keeping in mind that they will not be in control over the final product. This is very hard to come by hence why stories in games is such a challenge.
    • "Great known writers" don't know how to write a good game. A good story makes use of the interactivity of the medium, and I'm not talking about being able to run and shoot.

      An excellent, fairly recent example of this interactivity is Shadow of the Colossus, where at key points in the game you're given control over the character during a situation where you have absolutely no chance of prevailing. It dials up the dramatic tension by several notches and allows the player to experience the story rather than ha
    • Great known writers are unnecessary. Games with a solid premise (i.e. Half-Life) can have their story fleshed out into the HL excellence by nonprofessional writers. When you start with a stupid idea, however, no amount of literary genius will save you.
  • I liked the story of FFVIII more than the gameplay. But perhaps that is just me...
    • by payndz ( 589033 )
      I've never played FFVIII, but I thought FFVII was an involving story spoiled by endless random monster attacks and boss battles...

      I never actually finished it, because I got stuck on one particular boss battle, and just couldn't face drudging back from the save point and sitting through the same dialogue over and over again only to be killed because I hadn't built up the character's spells or stats or whatever the 'right' way.

      If a game's selling itself on its story, why can't it have a 'just pretend I
  • Go to the Forge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:25PM (#15784964)
    The Forge is a website dedicated to trying to create indy, table-top RPG games. It was created by the author of the indy RPG Sorceror who wrote an essay that defined three broad different player agendas for playing a game: Simulationism, Narrativsim, and Gamism.

    Roughly defined:
    Simulationism is about experiencing or exploring a setting, situation, character, etc.
    Narrativism is about story.
    Gamism is about defeating challenges.

    Most good games contain elements of all three, but the best focus on one or two areas to deeply satisfy a kind of gamer.

    All this guy is doing is what many game snobs have done time and time again before -- stating that one of these three play style is The One True Style and demanding that everyone else create games that satisfy his gaming goals. I personally enjoy the very kinds of games that he is bashing the most and find the open-ended exploration RPG to be boring and pointless. That doesn't mean that I think they shouldn't be made, though -- unlike him.

    In other words, let's just leave this guy to his own elitist irrelevance, move on, and create games that satisfy different players.
    • Do you have a link for this Forge web site?

    • Most good games contain elements of all three, but the best focus on one or two areas to deeply satisfy a kind of gamer.

      I'd say it's the other way around. Consider the GTA franchise. It had strong elements of simulation, challenges, and an excellent story. And it sold by the millions, which is not all that common.

      RPGs, also an immensely popular genre with many bestselling titles, also tend to have elements of all three.

      The great games that succeed without all three are actual simulation games where the g
    • I find the best games combine these.

      Allow me to cite the Halo games. The story was as good as any FF game, the gameplay was as good as any shooter -- id/Doom fun and military tactical all in one. And especially if you've read the books, the Chief is an experience.
  • by Astarica ( 986098 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:25PM (#15784967)
    You heard anybody recognized in a game for writing the story? Sure, the designers get recognized, but even if they wrote the story, they do more than just that.

    Games have the disadvantage in that a poorly designed system constantly undoes any sense of immersion. If I wrote: "The heroes fought against the supreme evil, and it was a hard battle but they won", you can at least believe that this thing I wrote about is supposed to be hard. If you act it out in a movie, even with pretty bad acting it's not hard to make a reasonable pass that this is supposed to be a hard battle. But how can you possibly take something seriously if you demolish the supreme evil in 3 hits? It's a lost art to balance game remotely as difficult as what your story claims to be. In theory, the final battle in any game is supposed to be the climatic one, and the most difficult one which is why victory has meaning. But there are plenty of games where the last battle isn't remotely the hardest one, not even counting super extra hard gimmick bosses.

    • Well, if you're referring to a hypothetical RPG, the answer is "you chose a story path that did not result in a hard final battle."

      The way I would interpret your example is that if you wanted to, you could've rushed ahead and faced an extremely difficult final boss, but you took your time to play liesurely and get all the best spells and equipment. Some people like the former, some the latter. That's not poorly designed, it's choose-your-own-adventure.
      • Even without factoring massive overkill 'you-win' stuff, there are plenty of games where the last battle is not the hardest although they clearly should be according to the story and it's not limited to RPGs. For example in Super Mario World, Bowser is not necessarily any harder than castle 7 (I actually have a harder time on castle 7 than Bowser's Castle). In FFX it's arguable whether Sin is even harder than some of the random encounters along the way (King Behemoth, for example). How are you supposed t
        • I could never beat Goro in the original Mortal Kombat without taking advantage of a bug (wait until I was winning, then do endless chain-punches which made him wait without doing anything and win by decision). Shang Tsung was no cakewalk, but certainly easier.
    • "When's the last time you heard anybody recognized in a game for writing the story?"

      Clive Barker's Undying []. Hideo Kojima is also well respected for the Metal Gear series which he created and writes.
      It's rare but it's not unheard of.
  • Stories can make all the difference. They put everything else in context. Without a good story, you're following a script... Get this artifact, get this weapon, kill this many bad guys, etc. It's about repetitive movements. With a story there, the author has the ability to provide inventive ways to accomplish a goal, not simply "leveling up" forever. Of course, that requires an inventive game author. As another commenter noted, it's in the balance of the two.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:28PM (#15784999) Journal articles matter in porno mags.
  • Look at a game like Myst. The whole point is to reveal more and more of the story. Same thing with most interactive fiction.

    And I've always wondered about the background story for games like Pong, Joust, Dig Dug (what I wouldn't give to know the backstory of THAT game!), Kangaroo, Asteroids, Tempest (TEMPEST!!!!).

    The stories need to be revealed!!!
  • Not always... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:34PM (#15785048)
    I hated the story in FFX, but it was an excellent game besides the story or the characters of Wakka, Yuna, or Tidus. I found FFX fun inspite of the story not because of it. I'd almost say the same thing about KH2. I love playing KH2 and the actual game playing excellent, but the story isn't something that I really cared about.

    I'd like to see Square make a game that wasn't a super environmentalist the world will end because the life blood of the planet is running out because of our single evil corporation/empire. I've been kinda of sick of that plot thread for awhile. I'd actually like to see the reverse that the evil Mana/heart of the world is flourishing creating monsters and its your group's task to stop/kill off the evil heart of the world so that humans can continue to live peacefully in a hightech civilization.
    • Then you should listen to (Nothing But) Flowers by Talking Heads.
    • I found FFX fun inspite of the story not because of it.

      I'm the reverse. I really only played it for the story. The gameplay wasn't bad, but it wasn't special. Even FFVIII, though I hated the gamepley, I went through most of it because I wanted to see the story.

      I'd actually like to see the reverse that the evil Mana/heart of the world is flourishing creating monsters and its your group's task to stop/kill off the evil heart of the world so that humans can continue to live peacefully in a hightech civi

      • If you kill the earth, humans die too. That's kinda the point.

        Um, I like fiction with the Gaia living earth concept every now and then. I don't believe that our Earth is an intellient sentient entity. What I want isn't to kill off the entire freaking ecosystem. I want to kill of the sentient spirital Gaia element that creates monsters. Call creating monsters, the planet's method of antibodies. Oh, I've got an idea. An FF game where the humans are the 3-4 generation of colonists from space and the Gaia plane
        • I don't believe the earth is an intelligent entity in real life either, but I think we're thinking of Gaia in two different ways. I see it as a personification of the ecosystem, you think of it as a supernatural thing that just lives in the earth. Your idea of alien planet rejecting humans does sound pretty interesting.
      • FFX didn't have mana/heart of the world. It just had Sin, which was killing people, not the planet.

        Sin you can take both ways. Sin is Nature, and most of the creatures in the game world are Fiends, which as I understand it can come from animals dying as much as people. After Sin dies, we get FFX-2, which is a modern world. But Sin is also a human creation, and has an effect much like nukes -- and we also have the ban of Machina, and all of the cities are small.

        So FFX manages to have both a "humans are

  • by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <EnsilZah AT Gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:39PM (#15785097)
    There are two kinds of games i like to play, Story based and Skill based.
    Story based ones are like a good book or a movie, games like Fallout, Homeworld, The Dig, Half Life 2 to a lesser extent.
    I don't really mind that the gameplay is pretty linear.
    Skill based ones are games like HL2DM or Warcraft 3 on battlenet.
    The fun i get out of those is that i learn how to beat other people.

    Now if you look at a game like Oblivion, which i think was rather boring, you have a huge world with lots of side quests, lots of eyecandy, but when you get down to every element it's rather simple and uninspired.

    I think that game makers shouldn't try too hard to make games seem nonlinear because they eventually will be anyway, only crappier.
    • I think that game makers shouldn't try too hard to make games seem nonlinear because they eventually will be anyway, only crappier.

      This is exactly why Max Payne was linear. They even had it up on their FAQ page -- they'd much rather do one story and get it done right than do many stories and have them all suck.

      I wonder if this was a reaction to GTA -- the game did have a kind of a GTA feel to it, being a third-person shooter...

  • I skip through all cutscenes because IMO they get in the way of gameplay. I really couldn't care less who the bad guy is, why I have to defeat him/her, and the bullshit backstory. Just show me where to shoot. Consider classic video games from the late '70s and early '80s: Asteroids, Space Invaders, Defender, Pac Man, Battlezone, etc etc etc. Did these games have anything more than a single-sentence concept narrative? Contrast this with Dragon's Lair: All narrative, all the time - and boring as hell. What I
    • I think the main problem in these games is that they communicate the story almost entirely through narrative. Narrative has its place, but there's no reason we can't have truly interactive stories at this point. An FPS like Half-Life 2 does a pretty good job of this; there are story-oriented portions of the game, but most of the time you're in full control of your character during them.
      • One thing makes story sequences where the user is control worse than many cut scenes. When I'm bored with the story I can't do anything to cut to the chase. But it's interactive, so whopee, I can go and look at the wallpaper while some NPC's have a conversation.
    • All narrative, all the time - and boring as hell. What I want from a videogame is constant over-stimulation... which the classics did well, and which current game narratives interfere with.

      You haven't played all the classics then: how about Monkey Island, Myst, and the old Sierra games?
  • In today's world, games are often times not just games. They are multimedia cash vehicles. So if you have hope of someday creating a franchise with movies, comicbooks, action figures, DVD's, etc. then you really have to have some sort of story to hang your hat on.

    One of the reasons, in my opinion, that video game movies have done relatively poorly at the box office is because the characters and plots of the games are underdeveloped causing an almost unrecognizable movie script.

    The movie goer isn't happy b
  • Does story matter? Sometimes.

    That's it. It's all personal taste. Persoanlly, I like games both with and without stories.

    People need to stop trying to find a Universal Law Of Everything for terminally subjective issues.

  • Stories DO Matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TooMuchEspressoGuy ( 763203 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:52PM (#15785207)
    Think about it... how many games do you know of that have been made in the past few years that don't have a story? There's a handful of puzzlers, true, but the number of those pale in comparison to the myriad FPS's, RPGs, strategy games, etc. being released every year.

    And what do they all have in commin? They have a story.

    Everything these days - down to the deep-engrossing plot of Farenheit/Indigo Prophecy to the spiritual journey of Prey - has a story. Sports games have a story; see the "career mode" that most have. Open-ended games like GTA3 and Oblivion have a story, though it's skippable. Heck, even the "gameplay-based" games released for major consoles these days have one; they may be forgettable - who really remembers the premise for Katamari Damacy? - but they're at least there to give the character, and by extension the player, some motivation. They keep us playing, to an extent, because we have a reason for playing beyond beating our high score or getting the next uber weapon.

    And while some may consider them an artificial or contrived way of doing so, they aren't any more than the plot to your favorite concept album is a contrived way of keeping you listening. Sure, "Operation: Mindcrime" is good music, but would people love it as much if the music wasn't framed around a story of the dangers of fanatical devotion to an ideology? Just so, would Half-Life, Warcraft 3, or Diablo II be the same if you removed the story behind them? Sure, they'd still be fun, but there would just be something missing.

    So, yes, stories are important in modern games. (Note that I added the qualifier "modern" to pre-empt the usual reply of, "but games from 1982 didn't need stories!" Yeah, and they also didn't need more than four bits per scanline.)

    • would ... Diablo II be the same if you removed the story behind them?

      Wait, D2 had a story? ;)

      I think most dedicated D2 players would agree that all the dialogue and movies just cause a few seconds to be wasted on useless skipping of things.
    • I think it's worth noting that even the small puzzle games are going this route. Check out the games on and you'll see most of the new games are the same old puzzles, but with a story attached. Often the story is quite sad and uninspired, and nearly totally unrelated to the task at hand... But there IS a story.
  • I've played video games most of my life and I can't recall one complex story. I don't think that's because I have a bad memory or that games don't have them, I think it's because complex storylines are doomed to be forgotten (in games). When you're watching a television series or inside a standalone movie the twists and turns of the plot are everything, but in a game where you're the one making the decisions, not so much.

    This doesn't always have to be so. In certain gendres the storyline is more important.
  • I don't care what anyone says, the Marathon Trilogy is still one of the best games I've ever played. The intriguing plot is one of the main reasons why. It also had great gameplay.

  • Games are all about the player experience -- about DOING things, not about watching things or hearing about things.

    Sounds like he's never played any of the Final Fantasies. A battle is 5 seconds of pressing buttons, and 5 minutes of watching FMV.
    • Indeed - a lot of JRPGs seem to suffer from far too much story. Tales of Symphonia would have been far better if they'd stripped out a third or a half of the plot. There's only so many times I can care about "OMG you betrayed your friends" and "OMG you're losing your humanity".
  • More important than the overall story is the main character. When you play a game you take control of the character and if that character has no purpose, no meaning and no motivation, what do you have? Do you have a plane that simply shoots down other fighters with mega weapons or are you a rogue fighter on a philosophical task (with mega weapons)? Are you driven to play because you want to see what this character can do, or what the plane can do?

    If you're going to develop a character you're already on

  • Back in the early/mid-90s, when FPS were just starting to grow, everyone was all about Doom and Doom II. You know: Run around. find red key. find door. push button. next level. All while shooting anything that moved.

    Then a small company called Bungie Software [](now Bungie Studios, owned by Microsoft) came out with Marathon []. It didn't look all that different (at a glance) to Doom (well, IMHO it looked better, and you actually had to aim your weapons with no reticle). You could still shoot anything that moved, even civilians with no consequences (it wasn't until Marathon 2 that the NPCs started shooting back if you killed too many of them). However, suddenly you were immersed in this incredibly awesome, intricate story []. IMnsHO, it had one of the best balances of gameplay and story and actually made the game really worth playing and replaying(the Doom games were great for stress relief, but not much more).

    I wasn't much of a gamer then, and still am not one (being a Mac user has its drawbacks), but that set the standard for gaming for me. Give me a good story AND good gameplay and I will buy your game. I have and still do follow Bungie, even after Microsoft bought them, becuase they have always focused on excellent gameplay combined with an interesting story, and usually excellent replayability. The Marathon series had both, the Myth [] series had both, Oni [] (though it was finished by...RockStar?) had it, Halo had it, Halo 2 had it (though not quite the replayability of Halo []).

    Anyway, like I said I am not much of a gamer, but, with the exception of the Dead or Alive series, story does matter (DoA is strictly for stress relief). And Bungie has done admirably in these respects.

    • Amen to that.

      Marathon set the standard for me, too, and that is one of the reasons for which I'm not playing much, these days. Yes, I played a few interesing story-driven games after that, Half-Life probably being the best. But none would have me struggling in order to reach a terminal an actually read the rest of the story, which was in my opinion of SF litterature-grade.

      (OK I was a teenager when I was playing Marathon, maybe I just didn't know much about SF litterature at that age; but then again, the Mar
  • Not all games are meant to have stories.

    If a game is to have a story, it should be built around it, not shoehorned in around a tech demo. A game with story solely in mind should use gameplay to help tell it, not the other way around. Obviously, this doesn't always happen, and there are examples of gameplay getting in the way of story and vice versa.

    I don't mind cutscenes in games that help tell the story, because they give me motivation to continue. The Soul Reaver series is one such case that I actually
  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @02:32PM (#15785932)
    There's a game series in which the story came first, with an entire universe created in board games and a sci-fi novel series. The story and timeline in the Mechwarrior games are a vital part of the game IMO.

    In the Mechwarrior4: Mercenaries game, the player actually interacts with the story, in that choosing different mercenary "contracts" affects future contract/mission availability, as well as factional relationships with "employers".

    Overall, I suppose the importance of the story in a game depends on the game, and what a particular player wants from a game. Someone that wants 20 minutes of FPS or arcade-type non-stop action isn't too worried about a backstory. Others that want a more involved experience will place more importance on the backstory.


  • Metroid games would be kinda dull without a story... I really like the "discover story parts" they've put in the last games. That way, they only need to have a simple introduction at the beginning, and you enter deeper into the story by yourself while playing.
    • I think the Metroid method is the right way to do story in games: the story is there to add context to the game, but it doesn't lead the game. You could ignore it completely if you wanted, or you could scan all the logs and follow it in detail.
  • need a good story.

    Case in point: Deus Ex. Still just about my favourite game ever, and it had a great story. It was like being part of a good cyberpunk novel.

    Conversely: Far Cry. The gameplay was good, but the story sucked. It was like taking part in a B movie.

    In the end, the games that I'll remember (and go back to play again) are the ones where I can really get into the game world. And that means good characters, a decent plot, and new and interesting things all the way through.
  • There are many games which don't need a story. Tetris, Checkers, and so on. But there are many games for which a story helps make it memorable.

    Anyone remember "The 7th Guest" or "The 11th Hour"? These were clue based games where each clue you found or each puzzle you solved revealed a little more of the story and helped to refresh the player's desire to continue. And for me, made them unforgettable, clasic games.

    Then there was "Grim Fandango". A major departure from the rest of the gaming industry at t

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