Your poll says: (in my interpretation)
- Yes, 100% important.
- No, I don't care.
- No, I ignore them.
- No, I hate them.
That's rather slanted towards the answer you are probably wanting to hear.
Story does matters to me, but not is not "critical". So I can't vote "Critical", and I can't vote, "I don't care".
World matters alot more to me than story does, but story is important too (because story reinforces the world, and I care immensely about game worlds - not just the level design, but the background lore and more importantly (to me), the atmosphere). However, this entirely depends on the game. Tetris doesn't require a story. Halo does.
Halo without the story would be alot less interesting to me.
So, in answer to your question, "Is story important in games?", the answer is a clear:
- Yes, story is important.
- For some games, it's less important.
- For other games, it's entirely not important.
- For still other games, it's a hinderance.
- For some players, it's less important.
- For other players, it's entirely not important.
- For still other players, it's a hinderance.
Are you making a game (the majority) where story is important or at least partially important? Are you targeting players (the majority) to whom story is important or at least partially important?
Not every player is fanatical about story (I'm not), but most players probably at least expect and enjoy a good story.
But if a developer is just going to slap in a crummy story, just to have "something", that might be worse than nothing, depending on how it turns out and depending on the genre of the game.
Let me flip the question on you: Is music important in games?
A game does not require a story, but yes, stories are a very important part of (most) games.
A game is not just (Music + Gameplay + Art + Story). The story influences the whole, the music influences the whole, the art influences the whole, the gameplay influences the whole. Games are more than the sum of their parts.
That said, some games lean more towards art than gameplay, some lean more towards story than gameplay, some lean more towards gameplay than story, some lean more towards music and art than story.
For FPSes, because FPSes often have a bit of focus on the environment (world), because it's first-person, story helps color the environment.
For RTSes, because they are more decision-focused, stories (to me!) aren't as important in that genre.
If you're having trouble coming up with a story, ask yourself these questions:
- Would your game benefit from having a story?
- What kind of story would most compliment your gameplay?
- What limitations does your budget/gameplay/art put on your story?
- How can you work within those limitations to convey a story?
Story doesn't have to be delivered through cut-scenes. It can be entirely non-verbally delivered through graffiti sprayed on the wall, for example. Or a single-sentence displayed on-screen the beginning of every level.
It can be a simple story without being a poorly done story. Complexity does not equal good writing. Lord of the Rings: There is a evil wizard who is raising up an army to take over the world. He's trying to get the Ring of Power that the weak hero has. The weak hero has to destroy the ring of power by bringing it to the location the evil wizard happens to be sitting ontop of. There's substories occurring at the same time, focusing on different locations (Gonder) and people (the other hobbits, Aragorn, etc...), but the main story is what I mentioned.
The core of most good stories are human-focused. Human to human interaction. Human to environment interaction. Human self-interaction. Human growth. Human exploration. Character development. Redemption, destruction, drama, slaying personal giants, being defeated by giants, being saved by an enemy, being backstabbed by a friend. Need some dramatic situations to get those creative juices flowing?
One key to some types of story-writing is asking and answering questions. You ask the player/reader a question ("Who are these shadowy sub-human horsemen trying to stop Frodo and steal the ring?"), and you answer it ("The ring-wraiths are 9 human kings who were given rings of power by Sauron, that Sauron tricked and now controls, and who are twisted by darkness and willingly enslaved."). Then you ask another question, and later answer it. Layer multiple questions together, so while there are one or two big long-term questions, there is also a continual asking and revealing of smaller short-term questions. Curiosity.
Another key to driving stories forward is continual conflict. Trying to rush to acquire X before the <bad guy>, trying to rush to stop <bad guy> from doing Y, fleeing from <person A>, chasing <person B>, fighting <person C>, and so on. Action, tension, and conflict. Doesn't always have to be physical, but there does need to be the possibility of the good guys losing conflicts here and there, creating more tension for the next conflict.
In a different thread, I mentioned Story Spines, and I think it may help you here as well. Story Spines help a little when you can't think up a story, but they also help when you already have ideas and just need a structured way of viewing them to analyze your existing story from another angle.
Edited by Servant of the Lord, 21 January 2014 - 12:11 AM.