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Can plot hurt a game?

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Is it at all possible for plot to hurt a game? Imagine a game like Contra but with a deep, involved story. Would cinematics between levels in Contra hurt the game at all? What about tense dialogue during the mission (like Metal Gear)? Does everyone just 'accept' that it doesn't have a story or do they actually not want a story?

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It usually depends on whether or not the *plot* matches with the gameplay (or the overall atmosphere of the game) and whether or not it can be considered a good plot. This isn't so much a problem with stand-alone games, since at that point its simply a matter of design.

But when you start dealing with Sequels and established Storylines, Plots for those sequels can dramatically effect a games success, since players will be looking for continuity and twists that are consistent with the existing storyline.

[Edited by - Gyrthok on December 1, 2004 11:42:10 PM]

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I'd say that simpler games benefit from not having a plot. Since these games focus on the gameplay (because they're simple), players don't play them to see a story unfold. If you want to sit down for a while and enjoy a good puzzle/platforming/shmup/etc game, you don't want plot points intruding every so often. Now, many games do have plots that don't intrude on the gameplay. Hell, most games from the NES era had plots only in the game manuals. This is fine. If there's a backstory to the game that can't be smoothly inserted into the game itself, then leave it where curious people can find it.

Basically, I'm saying that plot shouldn't interfere with enjoyment of the game. Some games are all about story; in those cases, plot is useful. Some games don't focus on story, but need to provide some motivation to the player; again, plot's not a bad idea. Some games, though, don't really need plots, and when plots are tacked on, the games become wearisome. I think perhaps the best example of this is Super Monkey Ball 2, if you've played it. It's a roll-a-ball-through-an-obstacle-course game which for some ungodly reason has a Story mode. In contrast, the first game of the series just had a game mode where you went through the levels in sequence. That's what Story mode is, but they threw in dialogue between sections of the game. Really bad dialogue, but even if it had been deep and moving it would have interfered with the gameplay.

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I would say that ANY game element poorly implemented, plain boring and\or out of the game's context WILL hurt the game experience.

If the plot, in relationship with the game, is poorly implemented, boring or out of the context then it would hurt the game.

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Personally I do not even want a fixed, pre-written story. If I had to choose between a phenomenally good game with a fixed story and a mediocre game without a fixed story, but with good replayability value, I'd choose the mediocre game.

Of course, this is not to say that the game world and the situation from which the game begins couldn't have a background story. Similarily, I do want a story in the sense that my actions in the game have consequences later on instead of just having separate situations without any clear connections between them. In a sense, the story is written as the player progresses in the game (BTW, it could be neat if the game actually generated a story into a text file as you played).

As for cinematics, they are certainly not necessary even when you want to have a plot. All the time I have to watch cinematics, I'm not playing. And I'm not having fun. If I wanted to go through something completely non-interactive, I would read a book or watch a movie. Cinematics suck big time. Of course, this is just my opinion. The dialogues should also be in-game, not some sort of "epic" cinematical completely separate point of view.

So to summarize: in my opinion, the story should not cause breaks in the gameplay (as in changing to an "epic" point of just for the sake of the story), also it should be used only to suggest, not to dictate.

Gyrthok mentioned the effect a story can have in sequels of games. I would also like to note here that a lousy story can even make the original game feel somehow ruined, so it works both ways, unfortunately.

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a very good plot is the first step to a very good game.
look the market, Final Fantsy saga is nt a saga, every single episode has nothing to do, in terms of plot, with others, but all of them has a straight, unbreakeble plot, they gives emotion to players, and are more like a very good high interactive movie. Morrowind, otherwise, has a poor plot, but a very hight liberty of movements, in Morrowind tou can do anithing you want,take the time you need, forget the story and live as relic hunter, you'll never end the game, but you CAN do it. Final Fntasy 7 and Morrowind are two titles with different ideas of "plot", but both very good rpg games.

If you want to tell a story in your game, it will work if you do it well, if you want that the player decide his own story, it will work, if you do it well.

"The Sims" don't has a story, has the good premised for a great full spectrum game, but is a very boring in long term, and don't do his job (maybe because I prefer to live a REAL life, than a fake one, but this is another story)

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I'd say the primary job of the story is to provide a context for the action in order to give the game some kind of direction.

Ideally, it will also be sufficiently engaging to keep the player interested and encourage him to play the game to the end.

Finally, the difference between a good game story and a *great* game story is that the great one keeps you on your toes and makes you think a bit. Maybe it even has some kind of profound message within it.

A classic mistake in my opinion is to get these priorities in the wrong order. You end up with a story that gets in the way of the game, rather than working through the game, or you get an 'interactive' story that would have been better off just being made into a novel rather than a game.

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Quote:
Original post by Grim
As for cinematics, they are certainly not necessary even when you want to have a plot. All the time I have to watch cinematics, I'm not playing. And I'm not having fun...Cinematics suck big time.


I concur. Cinematics do suck. When plot gets in the way of playing, then there's a problem. One thing I love about Halo and Halo 2, every movie can be skipped. And that's great because Halo is based on constant, well-implemented action. The story is decent, but truthfully I could care less about why the covanent are attacking, I just wanna kill them.

In direct contrast are games like rpgs, where plot is pretty much necessary, in some form. I didn't mind the movies in FF7, because its a slow-paced game and the plot was one of its most important parts. So plot depends on the type of game your making, especially its pace. If it doesn't need a huge, engrossing, stop-playing-and-watch-this! plot, don't make one.

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I don't actually mind cinematics much, so long as they're used well.

As a kind of 'reward' for finishing a section it's quite nice to sit back and watch a cinematic and have a short break before you jump into the next section.

They should always be skippable though.

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I whole-heartidly agree that a good plot is always neccessary for a more story telling oriented game like an RPG.

I'm more specifically referring to "mindless shooters". A game like R-Type, Raptor, SmashTV or Contra. In those games, you more or less are told "aliens are trying to kill you so kill them first" and that's the entire premise / story.

Will these games be hurt by having a plot? Or as long as the "chaos factor" is perfectly implemented, everything else on top is just gravy?

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A plot, by itself, cannot hurt a game. A plot in cutscenes, dialogs, quests, etc CAN hurt a game. A fast-paced space shooter won't feel quite so fast when you have a 5 minute movie after every level, or some anime-world-ending-style explosion for 30 seconds when you use the super-bomb, etc.

Make sure you put the story where it belongs, which is a different place for each kind of game. Faster paced games should probably keep the story to the readme and a very few select in-game elements (ie mid-game and end-game cutscenes, or a witty one liner trade with the bad guy in the final showdown)

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A story provides an explanation for why things are happening in the game world. Sometimes no explanation is needed - take sports games, for example. Do you ever wonder why these people are tossing a ball around? No, so there's no reason to go into a big long story about how Character X made it to the big league. He plays baseball, and that's all we need to know.

If "kill them before they kill you" is enough to get people shooting, than leave it at that. It just depends on your target audience. Seeing as how you called it a "mindless shooter", you're not aiming for people who would wonder why the aliens were trying to kill them.

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I personally love cinematics and linear, pre-written interactive story games (athough it's nice if they have alternate endings. But it really depends on the gameplay genre - an RPG or adventure game is worthless without a good story, but a puzzle or arcade game would just be hampered by a detailed story.

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Quote:
Original post by Extrarius
Make sure you put the story where it belongs, which is a different place for each kind of game. Faster paced games should probably keep the story to the readme and a very few select in-game elements (ie mid-game and end-game cutscenes, or a witty one liner trade with the bad guy in the final showdown)


I generally agree with this, but just wanted to add that a cutscene of a few minutes length can be a REALLY nice break to aching thumbs and trigger fingers after a dozen minutes of frenetic action. Sylpheed did this nicely with their whole refuel / dock scheme which had little tidbits of story structured around formal breaks (to rearm and repair).

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Rpgs do not necessarily have to be story-oriented in the sense that they would necessarily need a linear, pre-written story (provisionally, see below). The actions of the player's character already form a story by themselves and the game world will restrict the player's freedom to make the choices, so in a sense you do have a story at the end of the game anyway. If the game forces me to save the world, cure the plague, and kill the big bad chaotic evil dude — again — before the end of the game, what choices have I made? Not really much, considering that saving worlds, curing plagues and killing big bad chaotic evil dudes are rather epic accomplishments that make all other activities pale in comparison.

Of course, your opinion can be different dependin on whether you consider the rp in rpgs more like playing a role in a play or more like playing a role of a character. The former requires a more or less pre-written story, while the latter requires the concept of the character and the world he lives in. The former is about hearing a story while the latter is about telling a story. Some people want to hear stories, some want to tell them. So I'm not saying rpgs really can't have a story (again, in the sense of being a pre-written manuscript for the players to act through), just that it is not always vital. Now, personally I've heard too many messianic stories of lawful good amnesiacs curing plagues in rpg form already, so I want to start telling my own stories for a change.

I'd still like to emphasize two things about cinematics (and similar game-interrupting non-interactive sequences):

1. They should indeed be skippable, which includes not only the fact that they should not contain vital information, in the sense that those who skip them aren't totally lost. If someone skips the cinematic, at least some sort of summary should be given about the information in the cinematic. Also, skipping should be an option from the game's options menu, so that I don't have to press esc or whatever every time a cinematic starts. This should apply to the beginning animations of the game as well, in my opinion.

2. As some people do not enjoy watching the cinematics, they should not serve as rewards per se, because those who skip the cinematics can be disappointed for getting nothing after some long tough game session (then again just playing the game itself can be quite rewarding, so you don't always need a reward anyway). Just don't relay on the fact that everybody considers an epic cinematic a reward.

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The Metal Gear games need more work. The dialogue and sequences are intense and eye-catching, but there's more movie than game. And then there's RF2, where the gameplay is amazing, but there's only one twist in the game, and it's really not all that suprising. I think the developers of RF2 didn't have much time left after developing the Geo-Mod engine. The plot basically killed the single-player game.

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