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Inkscribe

State of the Industry

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Things are definitely looking brighter for all of us writers as storytelling is becoming seen as an important part of a new title's success. I myself have always put a game's story very high on my list of what makes a game good. The real challenge is intertwining a fantastic story with fantastic gameplay (think Bioshock). So my question is, what do all of you think about the state of storytelling in games and are you looking forward to the brighter future that lies ahead?

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I personally, am torn by the situation. On one hand, I love the fact that games are becoming more story driven, as it adds a new depth to games that hasn't been seen before; on the other hand, I fear that by the time I actually get into the Video Game industry, I won't be up to par with what are the to-be standards of game writing.

Back when games were created more for play and less for immersion into a story, the writer didn't have to be a professional creative author to make the story for a game. Now I'm not saying the writer just had to draw slips of paper out of a hat and then be done with it. What I'm saying is that as video games approach the title of 'interactive narrative', the same effort and skill that was put into an older game won't cut it anymore. You will have to be on par with script writers and novelists to be able to get your work into a game.

From that, I think that many aspiring game writers won't be able to make it in the business.

On a brighter side, Mass Effect was a really good game with an amazing story.

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Bioshock and Mass Effect had great stories...for games. And that is going to be a ongoing problem. I seriously doubt any game story will have the cultural impact of say Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair. Don't fool yourself, game sales mean little in the grander scheme because thier stories can barely rise to the level of good old throw away pulp fiction. Its all written to spec, dictated by committe. And its futile to try for a more noble cause, at least under the publisher driven side of the industry.

Face it though, this new found respect for story driven games won't last forever. Never does, never will. All the industry needs is something like Spore to become the next mega hit, and publishers will largely forget about ambitious story driven games.

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I have to disagree with you MSW, in that I think story driven gaming isn't just a fad. Look at what happened with film. When it started, all that film was used for was to document interesting events, or to record slapstick comedy routines. Mainly, it was used for fun. As a way to get a few laughs or to marvel at something in the world you never would have seen otherwise. Then, a man by the name of D. W. Griffith decided to adapt one of his plays into a movie. Long story short, Griffith is credited as one of the enablers of dramatic film.

I feel that the same thing is happening in the gaming industry. People are finally seeing the potential of this media and it's going some where. We live in an interactive world, and story driven gaming is going to thrive off of that.

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Original post by FartherThanLife
I have to disagree with you MSW, in that I think story driven gaming isn't just a fad. Look at what happened with film. When it started, all that film was used for was to document interesting events, or to record slapstick comedy routines. Mainly, it was used for fun. As a way to get a few laughs or to marvel at something in the world you never would have seen otherwise. Then, a man by the name of D. W. Griffith decided to adapt one of his plays into a movie. Long story short, Griffith is credited as one of the enablers of dramatic film.

No-one shows any love towards The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) [sad].

Back on topic, storytelling has been a big part of game development for decades now. It's not as if it's a new phenomenon. Text adventure games (a.k.a. interactive fiction) have been around since as long as I can remember.

Techniques have been developed for integrating storytelling with gameplay, but part of the problem is the rapid pace of technology has at times outpaced what was possible. It's hard to experiment with the best use of a new piece of tech if it becomes outdated after your first experimental game. We've had graphics move from monochrome through increasingly deep palettes up to true colour; software graphics algorithms being replaced with hardware acceleration; games being transferred on diskette and cartridges being replaced with optical media and now digital downloads.

My feeling now is that the jumps in enabling technology aren't going to be as severe. We might get a few new input devices or some new algorithmic techniques, but nothing too far from what we've got now (well, unless we go to virtual reality or holographic displayed [smile]). So now we've got time to play around with the technology we've currently got and figure out new and interesting ways to tell interactive stories.

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Oh, I agree there will always be story driven games to some degree...Just as there will always be games that don't require stories (or even just the bare minimum of exposition to place the setting).

And sure in terms of publisher funding, story driven games are becomeing more in demand...now. But that will not always be.

This is a pretty risk adverse buisness. And it IS a buisness. And when sales do not favor story driven games, publishers follow the money. You can BET on it. Some of the most heavily story driven games are adventure games, which last time I checked are no where near as popular today with publishers as the golden age of Infocom or even Myst.

We arn't the movie industry, we arn't the book industry, we are our own UNIQUE medium that REQUIRES interactivity. Thus there is always going to be a love/hate relationship with stories in games. We can get out of the way, only punctuateing the motivies,drives,background of the narrative. And we can drive the narrative forward, keeping the player in check every step of the way. We can even provide interwoven tangents to the main narrative flow. We can do a whole range of things inbetween. But we CAN'T be movies and we CAN'T be books.

And Please, filmakers the world over had long seen the potential for telling stories before Griffith started in the buisness. That he is so well known for this has long been a point of contention with silent film historians. Yeah he did a lot for the AMERICAN film industry, but many of the things he is credited with pioneering had been done before. Dannish filmaker August Blom comes to mind.

And the game industry has long seen the potential of story driven games. Its NOTHING new, the products of Infocom clearly illustraits such.

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MSW is right about one thing: Publishers WILL follow the money, and if its not in story driven games, then so be it. But I don't think that's gonna happen. I see story driven game becoming more and more popular down the road, and no, story driven games are nothing new, its just that people are beginning to respect them.

Who was it, Roger Ebert I believe? He said that video games can never be art, and that they are inferior to passive medium. Without going off on a tangent about how utterly ridiculous that is, I would like to say that video games have the potential to tell a story even better than passive medium. Some people may think that is ridiculous, but in an interactive medium you get to decide the story, not just watch it, and if done right, it can pull you into a story in a way that movies can only dream of. Take THAT Roger Ebert!

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What really stinks is that a lot of gamers don't realize the story they are playing. I mean, how many gamers know the moral/story of the Halo series? I bet highschool jocks aren't discussing how cool and inspiring the Halo story was...

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Original post by Inkscribe
MSW is right about one thing: Publishers WILL follow the money, and if its not in story driven games, then so be it. But I don't think that's gonna happen. I see story driven game becoming more and more popular down the road, and no, story driven games are nothing new, its just that people are beginning to respect them.

Who was it, Roger Ebert I believe? He said that video games can never be art, and that they are inferior to passive medium. Without going off on a tangent about how utterly ridiculous that is, I would like to say that video games have the potential to tell a story even better than passive medium. Some people may think that is ridiculous, but in an interactive medium you get to decide the story, not just watch it, and if done right, it can pull you into a story in a way that movies can only dream of. Take THAT Roger Ebert!



This man/women is on to something...BIG. In your second paragraph about Roger Ebert blah blah passive medium blah blah, where you struck something major in my head that is possible with today's technology. What if you combined a "Movie script" with a "Game story" somehow, someway that would include both types of interaction within a storyline/game "Passive" and "Instant" Cause and effect / Compare and Contrast sorta feel when you play the game.

So basically you would have a choice of which way to go in the storyline (say theres a total of 5 choices) each start and outcome is different from point A to B to C and so on. If someone can implentment these ideas into one, that would be one killer game.

Another thing also people are getting smarter, by actually looking and analyzing the storylines. The next 2 decades that pass us...who knows what that'll bring into the gaming industry. But I'll tell you one thing as a fellow writer, people are starting to realize even in "rough times" how important stories are to us, thus seeing that they embrace them into thier very lives.

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Let's not forget that not all games need an in-depth story. A lot of games these days try very hard to have a complex storyline and they overdo it, and it just kind of gets in the way. Or they just try to have some story, any story, because every game has to have a story, for gosh sakes! (Think Doom 3, would have been better if you just started off fighting aliens instead of the 2 hour intro where you walk around and read other people's journal entries on your PDA in order to learn that "something strange is going on" [You already know this! It's Doom 3! Duh!])

I am reminded of the classic NES game "Bad Dudes" (like Double Dragon, but better gameplay) The entire story for this game consisted of a single splash screen:

"The President has been kidnapped by ninjas! Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?"

That was all it needed, and it was a great game.

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You are absolutely right when you say that not all games need a story, but the majority of them do. What we really need is all the resources that the movie industry has for developing stories, etc. Our industry is currently in its infancy and about to become a toddler, so as times progress so will the stories in our games.

Back to the not all games need a story thing: A lot of the time games that we don't see as having a story actually do have one, its just that the story is determined by the actions of a player in the game. So no, not all games need an epic tale, but it at least helps to give the player motivation for what they are doing.

As far as Doom is concerned, as well as other FPS games, I think they all need stories. Doom had a horrible story, and that was why I got tired of blasting monsters that were jumping at me from the shadows. If they had pieced together a better narrative then maybe I would have actually finished the game or actually care if they have a sequel.

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Original post by Inkscribe
Our industry is currently in its infancy and about to become a toddler,


Our industry is way beyond toddler, easily into young adulthood. Yeah, we still got some teenage insecurities to deal with, but as an industry we've had our college partying days. Puked till it hurts. And are just starting to awaken with the built up wisdom within. We are in a buisness now, and takeing it seriously too.


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Read up on INFOCOM before commiting to that conjecture. They set the story driven game bar really high. And all the interactive fiction that has followed built upon the INFOCOM legacy. If you really want to explore stories in games, thats the place to be.

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IMHO, a game's story can be compared to book/movie story, when story is the main and most important component of the game. No, better think this: game is just a *means of* storytelling.
This applies mostly to adventures and RPGs, because in other genres gameplay is obviously the main reason to play the game.
'Art-house' projects are very commercially risky, I think.

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People seem to forget that the whole reason story driven games exist is because people are looking to gaming for something more substantial and meaningful.
I'm not saying a game is going to come out of nowhere and suddenly become the symbol of the occult based solely on it's story's content.
But there's a definite desire to be recognized for something other than looking pretty in the industry now and soon enough, it will be a common practice to hire a writer as part of the dev. team.

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(Observation: My signature is especially relevant in this particular thread...)

Quote:
What I'm saying is that as video games approach the title of 'interactive narrative', the same effort and skill that was put into an older game won't cut it anymore. You will have to be on par with script writers and novelists to be able to get your work into a game.

From that, I think that many aspiring game writers won't be able to make it in the business.

You say that like it's a bad thing. The "effort and skill that was put into an older game" was pretty pathetic: The president has been kidnapped by ninjas! The stories were written by the development team, not a professional writer, and the lack of skill showed.

Aspiring doctors won't be able to make it in the medical business if they keep killing their patients. Aspiring lawyers won't be able to pass certification if they can't properly argue a case. Aspiring programmers won't be able to find a job if they can't even write Pong. So why should we cut aspiring writers any slack?

[Edited by - JBourrie on August 2, 2008 1:50:30 PM]

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