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Peter Jackson on the Future of Storytelling 42

Via VoodooExtreme, an article on Team Xbox covering a panel at X06 on the future of storytelling in games. Along with Mr. Jackson, industry veterans Peter Molyneux and Greg Zeschuck weigh in on this issue. The meat of the article is a video of the presentation, which is regrettably in .wmv format. The Escapist has some highlights of the conversation up in their news section. "'I've got to the stage now where I just end up catching something on DVD and I'm more excited about games coming out in the next 2-3 months than films,' said Peter Jackson, director of Lord of The Rings and founder of Wingnut Interactive, an offshoot of his movie studio. 'That created an awareness in me of the shift in entertainment options out there, and if I'm feeling that others are too.'"
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Peter Jackson on the Future of Storytelling

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  • Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EMeta ( 860558 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @04:43PM (#16236525)
    Even though I'm not much of a gamer anymore, I totally see what Jackson is saying here. I could maybe invest 9 hours of my life into a typical 90 minute movie (though there are only a handful of these), while I imagine FF VI alone has lasted me 90 hours in its replaying over the years. One of these things is just not like the other.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I generally agree that with good games, created by people who know how to write for games, are as good (or better than) any other medium for producing a good story. The problem as I see it is that most games are witten by absolutely terrible writers who look for "the hook" rather than focus on creating a decent story.

      One of my friends "thought" that he could be a videogame writer and nearly every story he wrote was focused on how his characters could be the "Uber-Leetest" characters ever; his incohearant st
  • by Amalas ( 949415 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @04:48PM (#16236621)
    This is exactly why one of my friends is double majoring in CompSci and English: to write good stories.

    Any good writing class should teach you about developing characters, rising action, falling action, keeping readers interested, etc. That's the sort of stuff that needs to be applied to gaming, not graphics.
    • by Travoltus ( 110240 )
      Is it hard to get into the game industry as a writer, or do you have to be a programmer and a writer?

      I know mod makers can get in really easy, but we have such an abysmal dearth of well written games that it suggests that good writers (and there are a lot out there) simply can't submit an idea and get a developer audience to chew on it.

      Once the writers start getting as much respect as the coders, and actual story lines start weighing in more heavily, we'll see a major shift in the way games are made.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ectal ( 949842 )
        I don't think there's really much of a job market for writing for games by itself. The closest would be to come in as a game designer, but from what I've heard, most designers start off in software dev, level design, or maybe production then move to game design once they establish a reputation. One possible foot in the door track that's been mentioned is to climb up from QA, but that assumes an endurance for low wages and an ability to wow everyone (as they're trying to ignore you) at every turn.

        I'm sure th
      • As a writer and gamer, I'd love to write for games. But I've been told that game companies figure they don't need writers, and that they can just have the designers or other non-specialists do the word stuff. The closest thing I've seen to an opportunity for writers is the contest BioWare held months ago, asking for people to create interactive stories through the Neverwinter Nights editor. There the rules said not to worry about programming or graphics, just storytelling, but entering still required learni
        • Well, there was some discussion about storytelling [] on a few game developers' blogs. I came out in defense of storytelling, because I think it can be a powerful force. In defense of the people I refer to in the linked blog entry above, they aren't 100% against story; I think they're mostly reacting to the poor state of storytelling in games.

          I have degrees in Computer Science and Spanish (with a focus on literature and linguistics). I enjoy writing as a hobby, and have done a bit of writing in my own game [].
          • Wow. Good stuff. The limitations of the game engine definitely limit the depth and breadth of the story itself. It's impossible to do a major Chronicles of Narnia battle in a day and age (thankfully long past) where you have the average computing power of the Commodore VIC-20 (though I'm not thankful the VIC-20 is long past).

            I have blueprints for full scale personality matrices that I'd love to patent, but the computing power simply is not there; this is all too evident when too many sims are present at one
            • I've done some hobbyist work on AI, and would be interested in seeing anything you've posted on this topic.
  • by rodentia ( 102779 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @04:49PM (#16236635)
    That created an awareness in me of the shift in entertainment options out there, and if I'm feeling that others are too.

    I'm feeling, Peter, that you're feeling influential enough to generate feelings among the hoi-polloi, the better to feel your wingnut investment a bit heavier on the hip.

    Just a feeling.

    • by bunions ( 970377 )
      Oh please. The fact that he stands to make money off it doesn't make it any less true. The video game industry apparently generates more revenue than hollywood, and has for some time. PJ (we're close, so I can call him PJ) is really just stating the obvious.
  • In other words words.

    I'm not saying books are better than games or movies, but I do feel you live with them differently. Movies and games are an outward journey into somebody else's imagination, and books are an inward journey into your own.

    Quoth TFA:

    I've got to the stage now where I just end up catching something on DVD and I'm more excited about games coming out in the next 2-3 months than film

    I can truthfully say that although I enjoy films, and I do play an occaional game, I have not been excited about

    • Most good game stories actually have plenty of words. They're not frequently called 'visual novels' for nothing.
    • Movies and games are an outward journey into somebody else's imagination, and books are an inward journey into your own.

      How do you come to that conclusion? Books are every bit as predefined as movies, your only term of interaction consists of page-turning, every word is prewritten by somebody elses imagination. Games, while often also heavily limited, at least offer you to interact with the world that is presented and not just consume it in a passive way.

      Now I am not saying that books are bad, they hav

  • So, in the future, games will consist almost entirely of gratuitous superrr sloow-mooo to create completely artificial drama and any character development will consist of said characters sitting on a rock and talking into the camera?

    Personally, I'd be far more interested in hearing about the future of storytelling from someone who actually knows how to tell a story.
  • I grew up watching westerns, as did many of the kids I grew up around, and I can remember countless hours playing cowboys and indians with our cap-loaded six shooters. It was just fun to be a part of the story, as much as you could in your pretend games.

    Games could bring together both of those experiences, the depth of a meaningful story and the experience of becoming part of that story by playing the role of the main character. In my opinion, the best single player games were those that built upon tha
  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @05:26PM (#16237237)
    I remember when interactive fiction was the best thing ever. You could tell the computer what you wanted to do and it would do it. Now instead of going to a film that I basically watch for 2 hours and forget I now have the option of playing a game with similar graphics, more interactive story, and a feeling of accomplishment, rather then being force fed a story with nothing to do but watch.

    We have big screen TVs, we have voice chat over game consoles, we have the world at our fingertips for the internet The world has moved on, movies and theatres are just dying. Except for the teenagers who want to make out, but then enjoy the extra privacy they have.

    I go to 1-2 movie a year for a reason (this year it was superman returns) because when I can play xenosaga get over 2 hours of movie, 60 hours of interactive story and action, and actually have characters that grow rather then have a life span of 2 hours, what use is a movie?

    That's not to say every game is better than movies But let's factor in TV as TV does play a part too. Alias, Lost, 24, all captivate my attention and last twice as long as even the director's cut of all three lord of the rings for just 1 season. When they have 6 seasons of these shows all with character development what use is a 10 dollar 2 hour movie when for 40 bucks I can buy 24 hours of entertainment and have a chance to "preview" the whole dvd at home as it's broadcast there first!

    DVR to allow us to watch them when ever we want? Why go to a movie theatre when you get TV on your schedule now.

    Movies were good for a period but it was a step on evolution of entertainment, it's time to expand the movie to a series, or make them more interactive. Because that's where our attention is going.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by amliebsch ( 724858 )

      I remember when interactive fiction was the best thing ever. You could tell the computer what you wanted to do and it would do it.

      Pheh. You kids! Back in my day, "interactive fiction" meant you jumped to the bottom of the page, where it read something like, "To stay to help the gnome, turn to page 21. To run away, turn to page 16."

      And we liked it that way!

      • Remember when you had Zork, the choose your own adventure. Or other choose your own adventure. And you found a way to make it last FOREVER because there was an infinite loop. One was the a time machine adventure where you could keep leaving and returning to the Dinosaur age as much as you wanted and as long as you didn't do something stupid you would never die!

        Actually one of my favorites was a secret agent book where you got items or keys and passwords.

        And there was a couple RPGish choose your adventure
  • If it's adventure games we're talking about, it's about damn time somebody realized that there's an entire segment of gamers that have been left with nothing to do since Lucas Arts switched to Star Wars only.

    If we're talking about interactive movies --- no thanks. I don't have the patience to sit through half the cutscenes on FPS Xbox titles nowadays, so if we're talking about a choose your own adventure style Lord of the Rings title, Tom Bombadil or no Tom Bombadil, forget it.

  • I don't want a Hollywood director to preach about interactivity because that's a spell for disaster. A conventional film director knows zilch about interactivity, except bossing people around apparently. Of course we need more creative types to join the gaming industry, but without companies like the old Sega and Nintendo to take chances and invest in new concepts, we're going to see the same sequels in Kaz Hirai's hilarious presentation over and over again, each time drawn in more polygons and using better
    • Peter Jackson was heavily involved with the making of King Kong []. I'd say he knows at least a little bit about the gaming industry - definitely a more than me. I'm willing to listen.
  • So yet again, we have someone talking about interactive storytelling in games as if he's the one inventing the concept, seemingly unaware that the Japanese figured it all out several years ago. I bet he's never even heard of the milestones like 'Kanon'. If you want a story which couldn't have been done in "conventional" media, you can go and get 'Ever 17' right now, you don't need to sit around waiting for whatever faltering first steps he's going to be taking.
    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      If you want a story which couldn't have been done in "conventional" media, you can go and get 'Ever 17' right now, you don't need to sit around waiting for whatever faltering first steps he's going to be taking.

      Could you explain a bit more about what makes those games/visual novel special in terms of storytelling? Since I, and probally many other slashdotters as well, havn't heard about them, which given that some don't even have an english translation isn't a big suprise.

      • by Moogy0 ( 916753 )
        Visual novels are not strictly games; the gameplay is usually limited to occasional decision-making and clicking through hour after hour of test. The entire content is story-based; if the story wasn't good, there would be no reason to play it. Having completed Ever17 very recently myself, I would urge anyone looking for a "game with a story" to play it. It is pretty much the only commercially localized visual novel that doesn't completely suck. In fact, it is fairly incredible, to be honest. Something
        • by Moogy0 ( 916753 )
          text, not test, oops
        • Note that there's the Blade Engine [] and Ren'Py [] for those who want to make these things.

          I'm struggling to figure out how important the graphics and interactivity are, having played a few of these things and having writing but not artistic skill. The most visually impressive "VN" game I saw ("Ori, Ochi, Onoe," sic) had me clicking hundreds of times to advance the text and making only a few, apparently trivial decisions. How can we set the audience's expectations so that they don't think they're playing an FP
  • I don't think that videogames are a stable enough medium for companies to be willing to risk sizable profit margins on 'originality' yet. Probably the big draw of these movie producers (like Jackson) is that his creativity makes money. Like it or not, money is the primary motivation for these videogame companies; if it takes big name movie producers to try to encourage the big companies to be creative, than I'm all for it.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin