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Where are all the good storylines?

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Hmm... This is a common complaint, almost as common as the complaint about being locked up in the game's plot and not able to do what I want to.

I don't think I've ever played a game that had a story good enough to stand on its own. Converting most games into books would make for a wicked boring book (Eight chapters on killing imps before you even figure out what the quest is?)

But really, most movies have semi-crappy stories to tell, and even a lot of modern novels lack awesome plot. I'd say make games out of super-terrific pre-existing stories, like "Ivanhoe" or Have "Spacesuit, Will Travel", but those sort of games tend to blow once their made.

I've lately come to the conclusion that games are a weak medium by which to tell a story. Even RPGs are too caught up in graphics and "freedom" to be a good vehicle for plot anymore. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just saying it wouldn't be popular. It's the zeitgeist, man. Gamers don't want that now any more than moviegoers or casual readers do.

Can anyone name a really great story-intensive gamefrom the last year or so?

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Personally, I feel the whole "intense story" thingy is just not fair. Since everyone knows for every player that wants a tight story, there are just as many who want total freedom. Those two don't really play well together, in my opinion.

I also feel that its hard to come by an innovative story, since everything just kind of boils down to being relatively the same. So, what is there left to look for? I say that as long as the execution and presentation is fresh, I'd buy a semi-non-original story. Everyone like a new take on an old tale. So, the key to a good story driven game is two folds. A relatively good story and good execution/presentation, which usually boils down to good writing. Really, a good writer can take something old and stale and make it fun again. Add in solid game play and you have a good game.

So, where are all the good storylines? Well, they're all still there, just in a different form. Typically, you'd be lucky to get one innovative story every year. Personally, I'm not too picky about freedom as long as the gameplay and story are engaging enough.

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Original post by Ramirez115
ive began to notice that lately, so many games are lacking a seriously good storyline, like the final fantasy series used to have, skies of arcadia. games like that.


You haven't really qualified "lately" or "good storyline", so it's hard to judge whether I agree with you or not. Depending on your notion of recent, I'd suggest FFX (not X-2, that made me sad), the entire Legacy of Kain series (I think Defiance was released late last year), or Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

If you want good stories from action games you could try...uhh...HL2? EA has all kinds of great characters, though.

Also, it seems as though you're singling games out from other entertainment industries. I'd say they're all on par with each other as far as originality. A few gems manage to shine through a sea of gray, lifeless plots assembled by corporate automata.

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A lot of good plots just wouldn't be fun to play, and vice versa. There are exceptions (MGS series comes to mind right away), but even those are often attacked for having too much story and too long cutscenes. Simply put, no truly good story is constaant fighting, and that's what most action games are. RPGs, such as the ones you mentioned, can definitley take stories further, but Western-style RPGs are focusing more on giving the player freedom (which means less room for an innovate, set, story) and Square-Enix seems to have lost their touch, IMO. There are still great stories in some Japanese-style RPGs, though - Shin Megumi Tensei, the Shadow Hearts series, Magna Carta, Tales of Symphonia... Repetitive and cliche, maybe. But still much better than a lot of what's being made.

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I feel the same way about how games lack a good story these days. My theory is that as graphics have improved, game designers began focusing more effort on making the games look good, and as a result the story/plot began receiving less and less attention. Personally I prefer games with a great story way more than a game with great graphics.


And like others have already pointed out, you have an issue with how much open-ended freedom your player wants. Some people want to be able to do anything they want in a RPG, while others (like myself) don't really care that much as long as they can become engrossed in an epic tale. I think it's really hard to strike a middle ground with these two groups. The best method I can think of as an attempt to satisfy both parties is to have the main quests of the game be linear, while having a butt load of optional sidequests. The sidequests would effect the dialogue and events that take place in the main quests, and also completing sidequests may prevent access to completing others. So you could choose between "rescue girl from dragon" or "search for king's stolen treasure", but not both. And depending on what one you choose, the NPCs treat the player differently.

That's easy enough to say, but a hell of a lot of work to do that though. And I'm sure there would still be a lot of people not satisfied with the freedom in the game, as some extremists seem to believe that you should be able to absolutely anything in a game with no restrictions at all.




Having said all that, the game I've been working on for the last 18 months focuses very much on developing the story. I guess you could say we're using an "old school" design, where we focus more on story and gameplay and less on graphics (we're aiming for a 2D SNES RPG graphic style). In fact, the whole concept of the game itself stemmed from a short story I wrote a couple summers ago out of boredom, and after sharing it online people really enjoyed it and things kinda snowballed from there.

The way things work in my group is I actually continue to write this story as if I was writing a fiction novel, and as I write I pretend that the game itself never existed. Then the game takes the story and uses that as the basis for the plot/characters and builds around it. Are there any known professional or indie games that have used this design model
before? I've never heard of it myself, but I think its working out well. [smile] At least, I think its better than trying to make a game based off of a movie, as the majority of movie games I've seen/played were complete crap.

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Meh, it's not as though 'back in the day' had a flurry of fantastic storylines. Even the Final Fantasy Series is formulaic. Same as today, it's one every year or two with rises and falls as RPGs and FPSs tend to flow and ebb.

I'm playing Magna Carta now which has an interesting environment, if fairly unoriginal characters/plot.
Guild Wars had a very interesting opening.
Kotor had a fantastic story, though I'm maybe old in thinking of it as modern.

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Yeah, when exactly was this heyday of storylines in videogames?

The Final Fantasy series got it spot on for a couple incantations, but I think most of the power in the greatest of video game storylines came from honest, actual involvement in the lives of the characters.

Why is the story in Final Fantasy 7 so good? Try to identify the specific elements that make it so good. Find enough individual elements that you think are grabbing to an audience, put them together, and you have (at least for you) a terrific storyline. For me, I found Cloud's quest for identity to be applicable to my own life when I was a teenager, even today, at the ripe old age of 24, identity is an illusive thing. Cloud also had a severe mental problem, which is a subject that I've always found fascinating. His quest for revenge after Sephiroth killed Aeris was satisfying - I wanted to get my hands on Sephiroth myself after that. These were all plot devices that molded the story into something that I found to be incredibly involving - it's probably my favorite story of any game I've ever played.

Not that I'm suggesting you just steal from Final Fantasy. I think designers in general (especially storywriters) need to expand their horizons.

What is your favorite Shakespeare play, for example? Hamlet? Macbeth? All's Well That Ends Well? (actually, it's probably not, that's one of Shakespeares weaker effort.)

But Shakespeare is such a cliche in literature! John Ford was writing at the same time, but why don't we remember him? (not the director John Ford, by the way) He wrote a play called 'Tis Pity She's a Whore about an incestual relationship between a sister and brother, but doesn't condemn it. The brother ends up killing the sister's suitor and tearing his heart out. Is this good literature? Read it and judge for yourself!

Also, the reason Shakespeare is considered such a good writer is because he really was - his plays capture elements of humanity and the grand themes of morality so well that they're still moving 400 years after the fact. We can empathize with Hamlet, the prince of Denmark whose father was killed by his uncle so the uncle could claim the throne, because the emotions that Hamlet feels - betrayal, revenge, pride - are emotions we can relate to. True, these stories are hidden behind "thee's" and "thou's" but that in no way diminishes their power.

Storywriting - even for videogames - is more literary than technical. If you want to write better stories, you need to read as much as possible. Not that I'm critiquing you in general - this is the general you. that is to say, in 1600s english 'you' was the plural second person, whereas the singular second person was 'thou.' Did thou know that?

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Quote:
Original post by Ramirez115
ive began to notice that lately, so many games are lacking a seriously good storyline, like the final fantasy series used to have, skies of arcadia. games like that.


ye i realized that too :(

last two games i bought was warcraft3 (2-3 years ago) , and beyond good an evil.
beyond good and evil is a very nice game ... interessting ideas, very nice story line, nice gimmiks, and motivations, ...

but first time it took 18h to play through ... 3rd time 8h :X

anyways...

there arent much game i appreachate tho ...
dungeon keeper was a very nice game ^^

@ topic:
today its not only the story that lacks ... i dont see any innovation and ideas anywhere ...

every year 10ths of worldwar games come out ... 1st person shooters .. blablabla
blacknwhite 2 was bad as well ... sport games etc ...

it seems like no developer wants to take the risk to make something new ... "good names sell and sell ... so why make something new?" ...



btw crazy machines was cool^^ .. played the demo

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Quote:
Original post by marinettimania
Why is the story in Final Fantasy 7 so good?


It wasn't. [razz][grin][wink]

I'm actually quite curious which Final Fantasy games the OP was referring to. Here's my opinion: they didn't get good until FFIV through FFVI. FFVII and FFVIII were steps down. FFIX and FFX redeemed the series a bit, but didn't reach the level of FFVI. FFT is probably the best of the bunch story-wise. FFMQ was as bad as FFI. If we're counting the GB games, then FFLII and FFA were also decent. FFLIII was ok, but FFLI was pretty bad. I haven't played anything after FFX nor have I played FFTA. Also, for the record, I grew up playing FFI, so this isn't a "people just like the first one they played" thing.

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Original post by Way Walker
Here's my opinion: they didn't get good until FFIV through FFVI. FFVII and FFVIII were steps down. FFIX and FFX redeemed the series a bit, but didn't reach the level of FFVI. FFT is probably the best of the bunch story-wise. FFMQ was as bad as FFI. If we're counting the GB games, then FFLII and FFA were also decent. FFLIII was ok, but FFLI was pretty bad. I haven't played anything after FFX nor have I played FFTA. Also, for the record, I grew up playing FFI, so this isn't a "people just like the first one they played" thing.


Okay, we just have a difference of tastes. I actually agree that FFVI has a better story than FFVII, I just figured FFVII has a larger audience, and it was good enough to make my point anyway.

I was actually disappointed with FFIX, I liked how they were experimenting with FFVII and FFVIII, trying new things, different interpretations of fantasy, etc. I love the wizard with the pointy hat, but he's a character who's been around for about 15 years. I like it when they try new things.

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All the good stories are wherever all the money to pay the writers is. Which is to say, not in the game industry. :/

Personally I think there have been several adventure games with good stories, such as Obsidian and Sanitarium. And there were some PS1 RPG with good stories, such as Vagrant Story and the FF games - 7 was my favorite, although I think they all had some strengths and some flaws. But I have yet to see one PS2 game with a story that looked worth buying the game for.

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Original post by sunandshadow
All the good stories are wherever all the money to pay the writers is. Which is to say, not in the game industry. :/

They're not in the movie industry, or the television industry. And there's only a handful in the book industry.

Where are they all hiding?

You might think me daring, but I suspect the reason games have rubbish stories is that the target audience has the attention span of a--oh look, a shiny thing!

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I don't know, I sorta lump video game stories into the same catergory as fairy tales, simplistic plots that tell a very simple, easy to understand moral/theme that maybe aren't artistic like say, Death of a Salesman, or a Shakesperian play, but they still tell important lessons. Then again, I'm mostly thinking of games marketed toward the young, and not the "look how mature we are because we have tons of blood, nudity, and cussing".

Quick little edit: A lot of my uh, theory is based on console games, not a huge avid PC gamer, so take this with a grain of salt.

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I sort of agree with the sentiment that it's because of market forces; nearly every story-based game I've played has not had what I'd call a "good" story (and yes, I include FF6 in this). They often have an adequate story, maybe some interesting characters here and there, but nothing that I really consider memorable.

The only exceptions that I can think of are Grim Fandango and Planescape: Torment. From what I remember, many reviews said that Planescape: Torment was "too wordy", and despite gaining "Game of the Year" awards from heaps of places Grim Fandango didn't sell very well (same with Planescape: Torment).

I guess games with good storylines are probably going to have to aim for a niche market, similar to that with books and films; "blockbuster" and "excellent plot" rarely seem to go together, I'm afraid.

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My favorite game stories are the ones that aren't intruding into the game, except as a series of objectives, but is there if you care to look for it.

The Marathon series had some of the coolest and most interesting stories in games, but you could play the whole thing and never really bother with it. On the other hand, you could read all the little terminals and pay attention to the course of the adventure and really get into it.

That's why Halo was such a big letdown for me; even with the books and so forth, it never approached the radical amazingness of the Marathon universe, and that made me sad.

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I agree about your Marathon and Halo comment. When I played Halo, I did look at it as being the same universe (which it is supposed to be). To this day, I don't trust Cortana. Marathon had established many rules for AI rapancy (insanity). One was exposing an AI to a planetary wide network, which Cortana was in Halo. But its stuff like that that does pull you into a game. Having a lot of backstory and establishment of the universe.

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Yeah, they had some half-baked explanation why Cortana only went halfway rampant in Halo's control room. Pretty weak, I thought.

My strong reaction to the discrepancies, though, is a testament to the power of the original games. Even though the story was presented with green text on a black screen, it sucked me in far more than the cinematic shenanigans of F.E.A.R. or the dragging cutscenes of Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit for you EU types).

I don't expect to get an XBox360, but if you get to frog-blast a vent core in Halo 3, I might consider it.

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