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AgentC

Things to abolish from current game writing?

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Hi, sorry for such negative topic but I'd be interested in what you perceive as elements in current game writing that are either overused, or otherwise so repulsive to you that you wouldn't want to see them again :) I hope you don't take "current" too rigidly, for example games released less than 1 year ago. What I rather mean is game writing in its current state: writing that generally tries to aim for emotion-inducing, professional-quality characters, settings, stories etc. and the abolishable elements this approach produces. So it's not obvious past cliches like "save the princess" or "demons from hell teleport in & kill everyone" I'm going after, that'd be too easy... Ok, my nomination is: "protagonist (player character) is not what he/she appears to be but has been created/engineered with specific purpose in mind and this will be slowly revealed or made apparent". I know many sweet games, even Cave Story, have used this, but I thought this particular department is getting a bit crowded. It's awfully convenient and tempting for gameplay mechanics, though (like the super-reflexes in F.E.A.R). And to not be entirely negative, here's my not very well-thought out quickfix #1: if you really need this kind of protagonist, what if you get the revelation over with as soon as possible so you can move on to bigger, better & more unexpected things? [Edited by - AgentC on March 5, 2007 7:16:43 PM]

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hmmm. J'ya ever notice that every RPG has the ancient So-and-So race that knew everything and left only ruins behind. Of course they also built a secret, forbidden, too-terrible-to-ever-use doomsday weapon that some modern-day evil wizard will find and start messin' with.

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There is the FPS abstract cliché of "something bad happens and now you are alone and you must fight", offering a justification for the First Person (only one unit to control) and the Shooter parts of the definition.
Limiting the examples to games I've played:
DooM, Half-Life: monsters have invaded your base and everyone else is dead or converted or cowering, forcing you to save the world alone in a conveniently weapon-rich environment.
Unreal: the lone survivor of a starship accident, you must find a way to escape and, besides, your tender heart (you are a convict) makes you help the good guys in the war that happens to be in progress.

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The close friend who turns traitor is my #1. Boooring.

Overall I think that the writing for games is oftentimes to dry. I remember fondly playing "Soulreaver". When Raziel approached the first boss (forgot the name) who was as big as a house he actually threatened the guy with violence. That cracked me up even though it was probably not even meant to be funny. Just established Raziel as a very straightforward and confident character.

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cut scenes. This is the equivalent of freezing the action in a movie, taking out a couple of the characters, and dialogging to the audience their characterization instead of integrating it into the movie like it ought to be. In the same way, game writing ought to reside within the gameplay itself rather than in little snippets that basically say to the gamer "you are too retarded to pick up on these plot elements, so let me lay them out for you". Gamers are just as aware of plot elements as movie goers and book readers, so its time games put story in the game, not outside of it.

Also I can't stand npc's who don't react to action. This is half writing half programming, but it annoys me to no end when I can kill the brother of npc 1, and he sits there running through the same lines as when I met him. The characters in games need to start showing emotional complexity and the effects of social interaction. Game characters are not independent entities with no connections. This above all else reveals to the player that they are in a game. Characters are tied together and should act as such, even when they aren't part of the main plot sequence.

One very hackneyed game plot is humpty dumpty A who can't remember anything because of event B and finds himself in prison C where he must make an escape D and then save the king E. *cough* oblivion *cough*. While the individual parts vary in face value, they nevertheless penetrate a chilling number of games. It would be nice to play the average joe thrown into a bizarre situation for once, instead of these super human upright characters that come straight out of the cookie cutter. Greek tragedy frequently focuses on the flaws of its characters rather than their godliness, and this was thousands of years ago, go figure. Maybe we should take a hint and start having not so heroic characters to play.

Just my thoughts...

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Alright, so here is my big list.

Cheap Scares: Quick, jump out and go BOO! things that people think make something scary. It doesn't.

Love Stories in Every Game: If Halo 3 has Master Chief falling in love, I will give up all hope in the humanity of games. Seriously, a love story is NOT necessary. And if its sappy and overdramatic, its even worse.

People who write "LOL" or "OMFG" or any other thing like that into a story/game: You deserve to be shot, and the only reason we don't do that is because its illegal. Pity. I don't need you telling me something is funny or amazing. If it is, I'll make that determination myself.

No Plot Storytelling: Stories that go absolutely nowhere, but act like they have a purpose. See: LOST

Best friend turns enemy: Yeah, and I bet he slept with your girlfriend too. Come on, be reasonable. Sora, kill Rikku. I don't care if you two were friends or if you think there is some good left. He went evil, kill him. Simple.

Stories that are afraid to get their hands dirty: This is the exact reason why Sin City and other movies like it do so well. Let a person or two die, and not just going out easily. Make someone get angry and seek revenge. Get your hands dirty, spill the blood of the innocent if need be, and don't make it "love and lollipops". Which brings me to...

Characters that always do everything right: No one person in this world does everything right. Make a character get jealous, or greedy, or violent...make them go OUT of their norm. Hell, some of the best stories come from things like that. Noone is perfect, so don't allow your characters to be.

Keep the story line known: Ever read something or played a game and then all of a sudden stopped and went "...what the hell...wait, what? What is going on?" and realize there is a huge jump or break in a story and you're completely lost?

I'll post more if I think of them. Note: I went WAY out of character on these because they piss me off alot...

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If have to disagree with the LOL thing at one point: it was great in Mario & Luigi 2 (Partners in Time). Two Koopa's suddenly started talking in half-leetspeak. It 'cracked me up', and my grandma looked at my in pure wonder.

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Oh, see...thats fine if its done in a way to poke fun or do it in a joking manner, and not meaning it to be serious...but games where it is doing narrative and that comes up is just...blech.

"He go in da hose n his kat eats him *LOL*"

^^^^^NO! NO MEANS NO!^^^^^

You ever see something like that, do a WHOIS on their site, track them down, and beat them with an English dictionary and a grammar book.

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Quote:
Original post by AgentC
Ah, I remembered another: multiple-choice conversations with too obvious "good" or "bad/impolite" choices. I remember at least Unreal II (for what little it had) and Oblivion having those.
Jade Empire featured this as well. That said, I was okay with it in Jade Empire except for my main complaint about the whole game:

Why do the 'evil' or 'dark' paths seem to be about being an asshole to people? Generally, the closed fist, dark side, evil paths should be about gaining power without regards to the means. Not just being a jerk. And for crying out loud, if you do have jerkish dialogue options, the person you're talking to probably shouldn't still ask for you to save their infant child from the clutches of a rogue sea dragon. Or whatever.

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Gotta agree with the obvious good and evil choices. Fable did this too...yeah, beat your wife, kill people, kick chickens...that makes you bad. Why can't you just be evil because you're greedy, selfish, uncaring...etc. There is no prerequisite to being evil.

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One I feel is used up, is bosses that never dies. When playing the FF serie I cant remeber how many times I beaten the same boss over and over, and what is the reason for it? They are needed in the story! I mean, who f* hard is it to find some new bosses to put in?

And when I'm into it, characters that never dies for that mather. No mather witch game I think of, I cant remeber how many times I have restored people from death.

Put it simple, let bosses and characters die. Make a game over instead when one of your characters dont make it, or just make it so the story continue without that character.

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Guest Anonymous Poster

- Using 'next-gen' graphics to make up for poor writing

- Using the letters M, M and O in place of a story

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Original post by Yotan
And when I'm into it, characters that never dies for that mather. No mather witch game I think of, I cant remeber how many times I have restored people from death.

Put it simple, let bosses and characters die. Make a game over instead when one of your characters dont make it, or just make it so the story continue without that character.


Oh yes, it's the consistency regarding health & dying that is often violated. It's not always solely a writing issue, but also that of toying with the game ruleset in unexpected and disappointing ways. Depending on the rules of the game, you may have limited success in creating believable drama out of people getting hurt & dying, so you just have to find alternative ways, or keep the important people out of harm's way long enough so that the same rules may apply the whole time.

Warning: spoiler for R6:Vegas

.
.
.

After establishing firmly that you can revive your mates with an adrenaline shot (or whatever) even if a grenade just went off right next to them, having one of them die scriptedly because of an injury that seems quite minor in comparision is sort of "Meh, we got to have one of these moments, even if it really isn't effective"

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My thoughts:

* I feel too that life & death is all messed. Just look at Mortal Kombat. Two mortals defeats a god (raiden), Johny Cage revived, Liu Kang reappeared as a living dead, Shinnok is always threatening our world, the Dragon King revived (although, this is an exception since the very start the legend stated that he would return) Noob Saibot seems to be old sub zero after death, Kung Lao revived, and there are many many others...
I didn't play MK since MK 4, but I know the following stories. And find them boring. Why? becuase it was MORTAL kombat, a tournament where humans were able to protect earth's invasion. But now everyone invades everything, the battle between the same good and evil ones is endless (since death is not a problem) so it's basically all the same.

* A good game story will make you think, when you're reaching it's end, on everything you've made so far to reach this very end. Like when you worked a lot in a job to deserve vacations. That happened to me with Grim Fandango & FF VII

* Story problems: See FF VIII; the last boss (from the future) passed her power's to a sorceress from the past, but this sorceress is in our present possesed by the last boss. That's impossible, since the possesed one should be more powerfull than the evil one, because she had "her power" + "last boss' powers" Many things like this (FF VIII has a lot of them) appear when your story involves time travelling, or you forget about past characters.

For example (this is a TV show, not a game, but shows my point) in Smallville, Lex Luthor had to clean his blood each 72hs for the rest of his life because of a poison. It's been 2 seasons since then, and I've never heard of that problem again...

Dark Sylinc

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Quote:
Original post by Avatar God
I was okay with it in Jade Empire except for my main complaint about the whole game:

Why do the 'evil' or 'dark' paths seem to be about being an asshole to people? Generally, the closed fist, dark side, evil paths should be about gaining power without regards to the means. Not just being a jerk. And for crying out loud, if you do have jerkish dialogue options, the person you're talking to probably shouldn't still ask for you to save their infant child from the clutches of a rogue sea dragon. Or whatever.

Ah yes, that's my major peeve with game writing in games that allow you to choose your path. I've yet to see an evil path that I've felt comfortable with due to that very reason - the dialogue choices indicate that you're being a total bastard rather than a Machivellian schemer. Why can't you be evil and polite to people in order to gain their favour?

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Original post by Deleter
cut scenes. This is the equivalent of freezing the action in a movie, taking out a couple of the characters, and dialogging to the audience their characterization instead of integrating it into the movie like it ought to be. In the same way, game writing ought to reside within the gameplay itself rather than in little snippets that basically say to the gamer "you are too retarded to pick up on these plot elements, so let me lay them out for you". Gamers are just as aware of plot elements as movie goers and book readers, so its time games put story in the game, not outside of it.

Also I can't stand npc's who don't react to action. This is half writing half programming, but it annoys me to no end when I can kill the brother of npc 1, and he sits there running through the same lines as when I met him. The characters in games need to start showing emotional complexity and the effects of social interaction. Game characters are not independent entities with no connections. This above all else reveals to the player that they are in a game. Characters are tied together and should act as such, even when they aren't part of the main plot sequence.

One very hackneyed game plot is humpty dumpty A who can't remember anything because of event B and finds himself in prison C where he must make an escape D and then save the king E. *cough* oblivion *cough*. While the individual parts vary in face value, they nevertheless penetrate a chilling number of games. It would be nice to play the average joe thrown into a bizarre situation for once, instead of these super human upright characters that come straight out of the cookie cutter. Greek tragedy frequently focuses on the flaws of its characters rather than their godliness, and this was thousands of years ago, go figure. Maybe we should take a hint and start having not so heroic characters to play.

Just my thoughts...


Except when they are well done...read : Resident Evil IV.

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Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Joe Campbell's The Hero's Journey

That's a good one. :) But which way you mean it, to look at your story afterwards and surgically (or maybe more like butcherously) excise anything even remotely resembling it, or just to not use it as a blueprint in the first place (which is misuse anyway)?

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Quote:
Original post by AgentC
Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
Joe Campbell's The Hero's Journey

That's a good one. :) But which way you mean it, to look at your story afterwards and surgically (or maybe more like butcherously) excise anything even remotely resembling it, or just to not use it as a blueprint in the first place (which is misuse anyway)?


Well, a hero dissection is almost always possible, so the after case can't be banned, unless it was colloquially, as in, banning users from forums for talking about it. I mean the misuse of The Hero's Journey as a blueprint, as you put it, which is the problematic one. There's an uncountable number of other stories that could provide as the inspiration for a story's creation.

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Verbosity. Just because you have a good writer and a good premise doesn't mean you have to deluge me with reams and reams of text (and, as a cinema guy, voiceover or any form of narrative not performed by my actions counts as "text").

Keep it short, sweet and effective. Like this post. [smile]

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