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Game Writers RANT! (flamers welcome)


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#21 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:22 AM

I forgot to say something .

Games can have a different impact as much as that you can pack multiple stories into one game, just as history could have been a different story. The message the game sends can be directly affected by the actions of the player. Like I said, thought, I don''t think it has been done yet. Or, at least not well.

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#22 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:24 AM

Yeah, so/ How is that not an art? I think it''s even more art because of interativity.

#23 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1766

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:24 AM

Heh. Okay, Landfish, you said you were feeling confrontational.

quote:
Original post by Landfish

Games are art. They say something. They say it to you, for the expressed purpose of making contact.


I know in our postmodern era defining art is all but impossible, but this is wrong. Art is a sharing/communicating of an experience that enriches and changes you on a deep, emotional level. Games are something that you play to learn and perhaps relax. The two are on the opposite ends of a continuum. The more a game becomes art the less it is a game.



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#24 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:34 AM

Pos-modernism is a backlash. It''s right about some things, but it tries to be a little too right to compensate for the 50+ years before hand.

By your logic, many of my favorite movies cannot exist. These movies teach me, they are funny, they get me to relax, but they are also serious, scary, and they are ART.

Just because something is spiritaully enriching or educational, doesn''t mean you didn''t have fun doing it. Viewing art can be fun. Hearing Art can be fun.

A game is fun. There''s no more to it than that.

#25 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:41 AM

Ok, I totally disagree with Waveinator, art and games are not mutually exclusive. Games can also be very emotionally moving. This is not my admission that games are art.

Art is created by someone/people to express his/her/their emotions, thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc. for others to view and to impact others.

The potential that games have is that the player can directly change this impact. It''s like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. It changes everything. Games have this potential. The player becomes the "artist" (for lack of a better term, creator?), and that is not something art can be or do.

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#26 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:44 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish
Games are NOT and interactive medium.

quote:
Yeah, so/ How is that not an art? I think it''s even more art because of interativity.


Games are interactive. Games are art. But still, so what? I can''t see how this matters at all. This just gives people who make shitty games a cheap excuse when they make those games. "Hey, you can''t insult this. It''s my art!"

I agree with you that many games have suboptimal plots and dialogue. Many of the games that this applies to are RPG''s on console systems, meaning most are translated from Japanese. This is something to consider. The dialogue might have been great in Japanese, but things are lost in the translation. Also, there are cultural difference that would make the plots more interesting to one culture over the other.

#27 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 10:24 AM

Anon, if you think games are both, then tell me when was the last time you saw, heard, or experienced interactive art?

Back on subject though, I think that all games could really benefit from a good story. Even FPS could benefit from a story, as a cutscene is a good rest for your mouse hand . Seriously, I think that the movies in Thief did a wonderful job in adding atmosphere, and it would just be taking it one step further by putting a good story there. And then another step to putting the story into the gameplay.

Note: I never got very far in Thief, so it very well could have a good story.

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#28 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1766

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 10:35 AM

Okay, Landfish, this is long but here''s some flamebait you can sink your teeth into:

So what? Writing in games is subpar, true. The writing quality, intellectual content, and storylines all could use some work. But they don''t matter as much as core design, because writing in games is peripheral.

Games are like songs. Songs may have good writing and story, but insofar as they do they''re nothing more than a support for the song. The music and singing is what makes the song, just as it is with design and games. To the degree that your game''s focus is on story and character over actual gameplay, you are not making a game. You are making something else.

As GAME designers, we are NOT making novels! We are NOT making film! We are not making "art!" Honestly, I have freakin'' HAD IT with the inferiority complex that some game designers have when it comes to other media!!!!!!! Just like songs, our work has merit beyond these forms of entertainment, and does not need them as some sort of lynchpin for validity.

Games are about action and activity. The difference between art and games is like the difference between talking and listening. With games, you do, you talk. With art, you receive, you listen. They are different activities that require different skills.

Game are about fun, progress, and winning. This directly limits what is possible in terms of expression. I do things as a player that make for great gameplay but absolutely boring story. The exact reverse is true for stories and films.

Bringing in the kind of dramatic content that you seem to be suggesting would be a very bad idea. As a game, Schiendler''s List or Saving Private Ryan or The Color Purple would be absolutely freakin'' terrible!!!! . Again, this is because there is a vast difference between doing and experiencing.

Please, by all means, endeavor to bring up the quality of writing and content in games, but please don''t forget what you''re making. You''re making a game. This means the focus should be on gameplay.

Now, if you''re making something else, fine, say so. Go join the hypertext fiction crowd, break out the stripped shirt and beret, and be an artiste. But don''t pretend that you''re making games.


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#29 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 10:40 AM

Woah, you''re forgetting something Wavy (can I call you Wavy ). Games have the capacity to tell freat stories, and be very emotionally moving while still being _games_. I thought the single player story in Vampire was a great story, and I think the game is very fun (especially Multiplayer ).

I agree that art and games are two seperate enteties. But they are not complete opposites.

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#30 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 10:50 AM

quote:
Original post by pacman
Anon, if you think games are both, then tell me when was the last time you saw, heard, or experienced interactive art?



From dictionary.com, 3rd listing under Art:
High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.

I think if a human makes something, and anyone (including the producer) can find aesthetic value, then this definition makes it art. (And there''s a crapload of other definitions of art up there. I think anybody can define art however they want a be somewhat correct.

Besides, just because somebody hasn''t yet created something like "interactive art" doesn''t mean it can''t exist, right?

But my point wasn''t really to say that games are an art form, merely that it doesn''t matter to me if they are, or if they are not.

#31 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 10:53 AM

Pac, there was a whole movement in Interactive art a few years back. Not a gallery goer, much?

Wav, You''re not a musician, are you? There''s this old style of music people used to like, called orchestral music? You see, it didn''t used to have lyrics, and there were no top 50 charts.

But this is way off topic. You say the focus is on GAMEPLAY. This is where I disagree. Gameplay is an important part of the experience, but it isn''t the experience itself. It would be just as foolish to say the writing is the experience.

the experience of playing a game is in part everything the game is. Writing, Gameplay, art, music, etc. You can''t subtract quality from any of these things and expect the result to be any good. But this is true of any artistic medium. So games are an artistic medium!

BTW, the beret wearing, stripe-shirted Artistes never produce anything I would call ART. Thet''re not real people, and art can only be made by real people.


It IS important to not lose sight of what you are making. It is a GAME. But you''re a damn fool if you think things stop there.

#32 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1766

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 11:01 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

Pos-modernism is a backlash. It''s right about some things, but it tries to be a little too right to compensate for the 50+ years before hand.



Postodernism tries to break the stranglehold of judgement wrt what art is and is not. Once upon a time, the (mostly European) upper crust / intelligencia dictated what was and wasn''t art. Now we''ve had a kind of democratic backlash that puts velvet Elvis paintings right next to the Little Boy Blue.

quote:

By your logic, many of my favorite movies cannot exist. These movies teach me, they are funny, they get me to relax, but they are also serious, scary, and they are ART.



Heh, here''s postmodernism in the way again. Not sure what art is to you, but art moves me and enlightens me on a deep level. Entertainment does not.

When I watch a documentary on the African slave trade, or the annihilation of Jews in Europe, I am not entertained. I am deeply moved, disturbed, and connected to humanity in a way I can''t describe. But when I watch the Matrix or the Terminator, there''s no place for these emotions. In fact, they get in the way.

Perhaps it is different for you.

quote:

Just because something is spiritaully enriching or educational, doesn''t mean you didn''t have fun doing it. Viewing art can be fun. Hearing Art can be fun.



There''s a difference here that needs highlighted: Things can be fun, but this doesn''t automatically make them a game. Sex is fun. Swimming is fun. Driving fast is fun. This doesn''t automatically make these activities a game.


quote:

A game is fun. There''s no more to it than that.


I''m afraid that''s far too simplistic. True, fun is the core, but our debate is more of an issue of how you go about getting to that core.

Art can get you to fun. But the path it takes-- particularly when it comes to meaning, emotion, and authorship of the reciever''s experience-- is in strong conflict with that of a game. The paths may in some places cross and intertwine, but they''re mostly parallel.



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#33 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 11:07 AM

Damn!! I wish I had time to post now, but I guess I''ll have to respond to you all tomorrow. I''m extreamly eager to see what everyone says. I can say that no, I''m not involved in artsy art, it doesn''t intrest me. Orchestral music does though.

Bye Bye.



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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

#34 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1766

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 11:08 AM

quote:
Original post by pacman

Woah, you're forgetting something Wavy (can I call you Wavy ). Games have the capacity to tell freat stories, and be very emotionally moving while still being _games_. I thought the single player story in Vampire was a great story, and I think the game is very fun (especially Multiplayer ).

I agree that art and games are two seperate enteties. But they are not complete opposites.




You're right AND I'm being overzealous.

I just get tired of the bashing game designers receive when they focus on gameplay but don't muster up to par with Feodor Doestevsky or Charles Dickens. Tetris is just fine the way it is. So is Half Life. So is System Shock.

What ticks me off is when design takes a back seat to artistic expression. If you want to be an artiste, go make friggin' movies! Go write a novel! Please, oh please oh please, DO NOT drag us down the path that lead to the great FMV plague of the early 90s.


PS: Yeah, sure, you can call me Wavy... it's my old nickname!



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Edited by - Wavinator on September 6, 2000 6:21:41 PM

#35 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1766

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 11:19 AM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

You say the focus is on GAMEPLAY. This is where I disagree. Gameplay is an important part of the experience, but it isn't the experience itself. It would be just as foolish to say the writing is the experience.



Okay, here's where I'm afraid I'm gonna have to be a damn fool and part company with you.

N O T H I N G is more important than the gameplay. Story, character, dialog, writing, music, plot, graphics... these are all subordinate to gameplay. You have only to fire up MAME and play old arcade hits to see what I'm talking about. Or go play Elite. Or go play Civilization. Or go play Starflight. Or Star Control. Or Empire. Or Escape Velocity. Or M.U.L.E. Or Pirates! Or Doom.

These are examples of games where the gameplay was law, and I believe they hold up even in today's 3D accelerated, voice over-acted, professionally written / directed / produced world.



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Edited by - Wavinator on September 6, 2000 6:22:12 PM

#36 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 12:25 PM

This thread has apparently gone off into the games as art discussion. In an effort to get back on topic, which was the quality of writing in games, I offer some thoughts:

1) Games without writing. Some game (genres) do not have or need writing. Adding a script to Tetris would be wholly irrelevant, IMO. Other puzzle games like 7th Guest, where a series of puzzles are tied together with a story, offer the player 2 experiences (the story and the puzzles) that could be seen as seprate.

2) Linear writing elements. Traditional story writing is insufficient for games. Many of the writing elements (foreshadowing, for example) only apply to games that are linear in nature. In a game that contains an interactive world, whose contents vary depending on the player''s actions, foreshadowing has no place. Likewise, if my strategy troops barely squeak through a scenario, calling it a crushing defeat for my enemy in a prescripted cutscene is rather silly.

3) Writing to convey information. Individual descriptions of people, items, and places can be improved, but will be ignored if they are not integrated into gameplay. In Ice Wind Dale, most (all?) of the magic items had a sotry along with them. A brief history of the item. None of it was relevant or even used in the rest of the game. It was a nice bit hanging on the edges if you went looking for it, but useless given how the rest of the game was laid out. The writing here conveyed no information of rlevance to either the characters I played or the story as a whole.

4) Symbolism, bigger picture relevance. This is closer to the writing as art bit, but let''s say we have chosen to make a game ina genre that lends itself to the possiblity of a strong story, one where we want the player to think and experience rather than point-n-click. I''d like to hear suggestions on how we accomplish this without alienating the player as a participant.

It''s hard to demonstrate a universal truth about human nature if the player doesn''t behave how you expect. And artificially restricting the player''s actions reduces a game to a story (might as well write a book).
''Iago suggests that your wife is cheating on you.''
''I go talk with her.''
''No no. You;re supposed to throttle her.''
''I don''t want to throttle her.''
''Even if I throw in some great lines like put out the light then put out the light?''
''I still don''t want to throttle her.''

You can do a little better with some larger than life symbols (see also the religion threads), but it gets tricky, again because the nature of the game is such that you don''t know how it will end.

Maybe have some hidden numbers in the game characters that will indicate how they are aligned with more abstract symbology to vary their interaction with the player. Thus if the player acts more violently, this violent demeanor is evident to other elements of the game, without changing any of the icons on the screen, but instead changing some dialogue options. Likewise, if a player is passionate about NPC x, then the story molds itself around the passion.

I''m not sure that this would work, since most normal folks have a rather average personality - no one set of traits would tend to stand out very strongly. But if you did want to do it, you need a new kind of AI that manipulates the environment altogether, with some very versatile writers to cover all of the option you make available.

Well, that''s a little more than $0.02

#37 ImmaGNUman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 12:48 PM

Hmm, flamer welcome? You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck. Anyway, some games have awesome writers. Lets see:

Secret of Mana(I have seen almost no games better on the same level, when the Mana tree told me I was her son I knew the game was awesome)
Commander and Conquer(after the original the writing was sort of the same, but the original had a nice backround story about kidnapping Hitler before WW2)

That being said, if I wanted a story I''d read a book. A short and simple story expanded in the process of the game gradually is much better than reading a 50 page novel in the manual before understand the game.

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A wise man once said "A person with half a clue is more dangerous than a person with or without one."

#38 benjamin bunny   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 838

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 01:34 PM

I agree, in essence, with what landfish is saying. I''m a programmer - I can''t write (plot) for shit. If I had an unlimited amount of money and time to make a game, I''d hire a team of talented writers and designers to thrash out a brilliant vision for a game, and a huge team of programmers to get the game as close to the writers'' vision as possible. In short, I''d design the engine around the plot.

However, as I don''t have a vast amount of money and time, I''m pretty much forced to design the plot around the engine (and its limitations). The game has to be commercially successful (ie: I have to eat): in order to make it sell in the present market, it must: 1)look nice 2)play well 3)be original 4)have a good plot (in that order). With limited resources, 3) and 4) just go out the window.

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#39 benjamin bunny   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 838

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 01:43 PM

quote:
Original post by Landfish
But I have a question: Was Schindler''s List a good movie? Was it FUN?



Yes. No. I defy you to find anyone who would want to play the computer game though (and no, you don''t count). Games have to be fun - that doesn''t necessarily mean they can''t be involving and well written.

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#40 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 03:37 PM

A lot of people (losers in my opinion) consider the greatest moment in RPG history to be when Aeris died in FFVII. This was not a happy thing to them, yet they loved it. I guess I can kinda see what they''re on about, but FF games suck...




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