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You can't do tragedy?


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#1 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 10:24 AM

With the way games are, it seems to me that a story with the player as the center of a great tragedy would be impossible. Let me explain: In a game, you expect to win. Losing is a sign of failure. Yet exploration of failure and loss are what tragedy in narrative is all about. Does this mean that tragedy can never happen to the player, and thus only experienced through remotely through supporting characters? I''m thinking, by the way, of my favorite Russian novel Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. The story is great, but the hero dies at the end. You''re left with the impression that although it''s terrible that he dies, it''s completely right and appropriate. The novel would have been lame if it ended any other way. Hmmmm.... I think if we don''t figure this one out we may find ourselves in a narrative cage, doomed to doing nothing more than Disney-quality endings (everything always turns out for the best... awwwwwwwwww) -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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#2 MuteAngel   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 10:35 AM

I can''t say much about this because I''m not a great writer at all, but I know for sure what''s my favorite game. Planescape : Torment.

I like it because it has a very sad ending, a great plot and story, and also because all the characters have a real personnality, making it harder to loose/leave them.

However, I didn''t feel like I just loose, but rather like I just released someone (actually that''s sort of what the game is about).

Anyway, I found it great because of that tragic feeling, enhanced by the sad lifes of your companions. I wish than Black Isle Studio would release more titles like this one, rather than Baldur''s Gate 2, Icewind Dale and so on.

just my 0.02$

#3 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 10:54 AM

quote:
Original post by MuteAngel

However, I didn''t feel like I just loose, but rather like I just released someone (actually that''s sort of what the game is about).




Yeah, this is sort of what I''m talking about, althought I might be wrong since I haven''t played Torment yet: This sounds like a case of victory within defeat.

I''m rather talking about simply appropriate defeat itself. It''s that that I think we can''t do.



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Just waiting for the mothership...

#4 A. Buza   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 11:03 AM

I for one would like to see more thougt-provoking endings, rather than the standard "You've saved the world! Yay, and so forth!". Sure, for some games games (well, most, even) this is suitable. I wouldn't want Phantasy Star 4 to end any other way that it does (that is, a happy "saved the world + get a girl" ending).

(pause)

Hrm.. actually, that ending does have a sad/melancholy part to it too... so.. anyway, back to what I was saying...

I vaguely remember playing a game where the ending wasn't a standard happy one, and I enjoyed it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that having a "non-standard" ending allows for deeper and more meaningfull games, along with the fact that they make your game stand out. Sure, some people might complain, but hey, its *art*

Anyway, I'd just like to see a game sometime that leaves me saying "...wow.". Using elements of tragedy would probably be a good way to do that.

Hrm.. One more thing, I played a game called "nocturnal illusion" once. It was set in this depressing quasi-dimension thingy.. sort of a place where lost souls go, or something. Anyway, at the end you could choose one companion to accompany you back to the real world. You won the game, but you kind of feel back because you left many others back there for eternity. Kind of sad, but it made the game memorable (well... it was memorable for other, um.. reasons too.. but ...hehe)

Wow... I just keep thinking of more stuff to say...

I guess I'd just like to see a game that uses elements of tragedy (or is a tragedy (well, not one where the execution or gameplay is described as a "tragedy")), or perhaps something where placing the phrase "so it goes..." that was so often used in Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5" seems more appropriate than "The End".

Variety in games is never a bad thing... probably.


Edited by - A. Buza on September 15, 2000 7:56:27 PM

#5 Facehat   Members   -  Reputation: 696

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 11:31 AM

I hate happy endings. It makes me feel like I've wasted my time. I'd much rather have an ending which reveals some thought provoking idea rather than some prepackaged cliched ending.

In other words, I think that unhappy/unstandard endings will actually improve upon the game greatly. It'd be a large step towards having much more meaningful games.

----------------------------------------
"Before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.
Then, when you do criticize them, you will be a mile away and have their shoes." -- Deep Thoughts

Edited by - The Senshi on September 15, 2000 6:33:33 PM

#6 Luxury   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 01:58 PM

i suppose that one way to work around this is to have multiple endings (although i really hate them). one happy ending....one tragedy. it is not a solution...but something used quite often in action/adventure games.

-Luxury

#7 svyyn   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:01 PM

Along with tragedy comes choices, mainly the choice between some virtuous action which will have grave consequences, and some base action which will save the character''s skin. A couple of examples off the top my head are Hamlet''s acceptance of the duel and Socrates'' noble defence in Appology of Socrates. Both of these characters decided that their virtue and ideals were more important than their very lives. The question, of course, is which choice is the greater tragedy, the loss of virtue or the loss of life?

Similar choices should confront the player. A quick example: you are the King''s personal assassin, the king''s son wants to kill you. However, you previously pledged yourself to King and Country, so do you as player assassinate the prince, or play the loyal King''s Man and possibly die at the hands of his son (after doing his duty to protect the king himself)? (This example is from the book Royal Assassin, btw) Or at the end of the game your character may end up being poisoned, does he give the antidote to his friend and leader, or take it himself?

Should the use of fatal choices be made into a dramatic construct, martyring players could become the next big pasttime

-Joe

#8 Shinkage   Members   -  Reputation: 595

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:04 PM

Wavinator, once again, I think you''re wrong If you were to do a reall WELL EXECUTED tragedy it is my belief that it would be heralded as a masterpiece by most of the gaming public. But then again, it''s never been done, so how am I to really know?

#9 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:25 PM

Hmmmmmm.... I don''t think I''m making something clear.

We''ve all probably read purely tragic stories. I''m thinking right now of Greek myth and Oedipus being hounded to death by the Furies. Or the movie Arlington Road (where the badguys win in the end) Or maybe even China Town (where again the guilty go unpunished).

What I''m talking about isn''t a bittersweet ending, where the character loses his life but gains a victory for something greater (like in the movie Gladiator). I''m talking about complete and utter defeat, and the associated catharsis that is supposed to come with it.

This is what seems to be in opposition to a game, because a game is ostensibly about winning something (even if you lose something in the process).





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Just waiting for the mothership...

#10 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:26 PM

Tough to do.

Many games today distance the player from any real sense of conflict or consequences. If the player''s goals are to stay alive and finish the game, they won''t really care if they murder half the other game tokens to get there.

How would the player make a good choice? Choose A and bad things happen. Choose B and worse things happen. yuk.

The closest I''ve seen are games that play with some heavy themes (Planescape:Torment and Blade Runner come to mind), bu tI wouldn''t really consider them tragedies.

#11 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:29 PM

quote:
Original post by Shinkage

Wavinator, once again, I think you''re wrong If you were to do a reall WELL EXECUTED tragedy it is my belief that it would be heralded as a masterpiece by most of the gaming public. But then again, it''s never been done, so how am I to really know?


Hmmm... You''re right that it has never been done, but I don''t think the gaming public as it is now would accept it. I could be wrong, but that''s why I''m posting.

The reason, btw, that I don''t think it would be accepted is tied to the original post. Dying isn''t a problem for gamers, as long as something turns out alright in the end. But in the case of some types of tragedy, that''s not the case.

When we read or see a character experiencing this, it''s one thing. But when it is we who experience it, and there''s no way out, and no silver lining... well, that''s the stuff of moving tragedy, and the kind of thing that I suspect a win/lose requirement will not support.

????



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Just waiting for the mothership...

#12 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1825

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Posted 15 September 2000 - 03:35 PM

quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

Many games today distance the player from any real sense of conflict or consequences. If the player''s goals are to stay alive and finish the game, they won''t really care if they murder half the other game tokens to get there.

How would the player make a good choice? Choose A and bad things happen. Choose B and worse things happen. yuk.



Right!!!! This is why I suspect something called a *game* can''t support tragedy. You just illustrated the reasoning in the last paragraph. "How do I make a good choice?" A good which leads to what? Victory? Winning? It''s "yuk" because you''re supposed to win in a game.

Now, if you were exploring something I''ll call an electronic story, with no pressure to win, then it might not be the same thing. You choose A) and get, "Wow, that''s sad." Or you choose B) and get, "Wow, that''s really sad!"

Does anyone see what I''m talking about?


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#13 Ketchaval   Members   -  Reputation: 186

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Posted 16 September 2000 - 01:08 AM

1.First of all would it be possible to take the player a step away from the current situation, ie. have another person introduce the story as a narration, and then have the player play in third person viewpoint. This way there would be another character who would be able to tell the player the ending, they wouldn''t play this narrator though?

2. Players Do seem to dislike games where you die at the end.

3. Tragedies aren''t all bad, I mean Hamlet may die, the Evil King dies too, Polonius has died, Ophelia has died, Ophelia''s brother dies (I think?), but in killing the King, Hamlet has killed the evil guy, but unfortunately brought about a lot of destruction.. after this (I think) the "good" righteous guy gets to take over the throne ? I think it might be accepted if this sort of ending were to occur in games, as long as there was a narrator to show how the events turn out afterwards. In one film where the main character died, (a film noir) the character who dies not the first character that we see, there is sometimes the equivalent of a scene where another character goes to look for them. This detaches us from the character a bit? It might be worth studying this in films/ plays, to see which techniques have been used. Maybe even the camera could be used to "search" for the player, although most players would view this as a pointless introduction and not "get" the concept.

In my opinion, it would work better with 3rd person games like Final Fantasy or Planescape, than 1st person games.

Another problem would be "Saving", maybe "Final Fantasy style Save Points" would be needed as in a GAME where the player thinks that their character is about to die, as they would immediately reload to 5 seconds earlier and try to play better (if they die in a combat section). I am not for limiting "saves", so maybe a Zelda style save on Exit would be good for this. In Zelda you cannot reload during a game, (and the game design doesn''t need you to either), but you get infinite continues from the last place you saved.

So a more narrative based save system like Zelda''s MIGHT work better in doing tragedies. Think about Half-Life, where you lose some health and reload, or waste too much ammo and reload, or are continuosly killed and have to reload.

#14 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 16 September 2000 - 05:22 AM

It HAS been done. Panzer Dragoon Saga on the Sega Saturn had just such an ending (i realy love that game!).

It''s a matter of fulfilling a contract with the player. The player expects fully that the game can be defeated, and so will attept to do that. But success and survival are often two very different things. It can be done. Hell, I think it''s pretty much ALWAYS a whole lot better. Most of my friends agree, and I even thought this before I was involved in creating games.

There''s just something about a story where the main character dies. It lends a sense of realism and closure, and signifigance to the events.

#15 Luxury   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 16 September 2000 - 10:09 AM

how about the ending to silent hill (another great game). in the opening sequence you crash your car. you go though the entire game, and once you beat it *SPOILER* you discover that you were dead all along....dying in the car crash. of course that was just one of the endings (the better one IMO)

-Luxury

#16 Shinkage   Members   -  Reputation: 595

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Posted 16 September 2000 - 01:36 PM

My gosh, I agree with Landfish. *makes note of it* Well then. In a game where the only choice is between a bad and worse decision, then I think it would be up to whichever one better suited the player''s ironic sensibilities.

The purpose of playing a game is not to WIN, so much as to ACCOMPLISH something. Hence any game that can''t be won, but can simply be scored higher and higher at. As long as the player is responsible for some sort of resolution, I don''t think it would matter whether it was a comedy or tragedy. At least not on the level that is being discussed here.

#17 Nebula   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 16 September 2000 - 01:53 PM

Thanks luxury I rented Silent Hill one time and got to the very last boss but then my memory card or something screwed up and I never beat it. I really didn''t feel like playing over from the beginning again so i never bothered. At least i know the ending now

"One must choose, in life, between making money and spending it. There''s no time to do both."

#18 Ironblayde   Members   -  Reputation: 130

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Posted 16 September 2000 - 08:01 PM

quote:
Original post by Landfish

There''s just something about a story where the main character dies. It lends a sense of realism and closure, and signifigance to the events.


Closure... exactly the word I was thinking of. I don''t think it''s so much that players dislike games in which their character(s) die at the end, it''s just that sometimes when this sort of ending is done, things are left unresolved. Dying isn''t going to hurt your ending -- dying for nothing will.

As long as everything draws to a logical and well-told conclusion, tragic endings can be a real asset to a game.

-Ironblayde
 Aeon Software

#19 Ketchaval   Members   -  Reputation: 186

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Posted 17 September 2000 - 01:01 AM

Ironblayde,
Quote "Dying isn''t going to hurt your ending -- dying for nothing will."


I think you hit the nail on the head there, and pinpointed EXACTLY what is wrong with some of these endings.

#20 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 17 September 2000 - 03:35 AM

When you construct a story from a literary standpoint, certain things must be done by the conclusion to create a fulfilling experience for the character.

These things have a lot to do with tresolving loose ends, and little to do with the implied post-story events of the character. Hence, if the story makes sense for the character to die for a purpose, if it fits the mood and doesn''t leave too much unresolved, do it!

When a game ends, it will be my last experience sharing a life with that character. Sometimes it''s good to feel like there''s not going to be more story without you.




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