Advertisement Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Story vs Gameplay...

This topic is 1703 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

I have heard it said before that if gameplay is the meat of the game. Then the story should be the salt, just enough will add flavor but too much can ruin everything and kill you.

I read that in a book. As a gamer myself I understand what he means. Often times a game that holds my attention for weeks on end is a game with great and fun gameplay.

However their are some exceptions. One game that comes to mind right away is the Metal Gear Solid series. I often buy the next game in the series just to continue following the story. There is good gameplay as well, but for me all in all it is the story that captures me.

I guess what I am trying to say story everything? Personally as someone who is setting out to design their first game my preference is to minimize story and focus on gameplay. I want to include just enough story so the gameplay makes sense and that is it. One of the challenges I am facing is that I cannot make cinematic quality cutscense in a game. Rather if I am going to develop a story throughout my game I would have to use a different method to tell a narrative. Which is my biggest reason for wanting to focus more on gameplay than on story.

What are your guys opinion on the matter, and can you think of different ways to tell a story outside of using cutscenes?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think a strong story is strictly necessary, but it can add a lot depending on the game. A good story isn't necessarily a complicated one, either. You could easily have have chunks of expository dialog (spoken or even text) during a mission combined with mission briefings or tasks, if that.


The original Unreal I think only had an opening and closing cutscene ("you crashed on a planet" and "yaaay you escaped the planet"), everything else story wise was delivered within the game itself, as either things you have to do or text fragments you find.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
In System Shock 2 the majority of the story is delivered by radio-communicated messages, and by a series of audio logs you can listen to detailing what happened prior to your arrival in the game. There are a few scripted sequences of events during the game, but I don't recall any important sorry occurring during cut-scenes.

In some of the Halo games you can find terminal devices with written information about the back-story of the setting - you don't need to know any of it to play and beat the game, so it's completely optional, but it provides additional storyline information without resorting to cut-scenes.

In many games cut scenes aren't separate cinematic footage but simply scripted, non-interactive sequences using the normal game engine and objects.

I'm sure there are plenty of other alternatives to potentially expensive cinematics if that's what you're trying to avoid. :)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a couple of examples of why story is not as important as gameplay:

  • Minecraft: No story, just survive, build, have fun
  • The Elderscrolls: Every game just throws you into the shoes of a prisoner, and lets you set your own path.

With these type of sandbox games, the player creates the story through the gameplay


Now, here is a couple of examples of why store is more important than gameplay:

  • Mass Effect series: Basic wall hiding shoot em up in 3rd person, but the story is where it shines. You develop relationships with characters, and care about what happens to them
  • The Walking Dead-Telltale Games: Very little actual game play, but the story is intense and sucks you right in

With these types of games players invest themselves in the story, and the gameplay becomes less important


Thats my analogy, It can go either way, just depends on the type of game you are making,

Hope it helps!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ahh, this topic again,

I wrote this long no paragraph breaks post @ the Official C&C Forums a while back explaining in depth this issue, can't find it atm, but essentially:(I'll keep looking)


For a game to have a dedicated community you need both.

My aproach is to develop both in tandem. you want the players to be engaged, weather that means they are following your narrative & characters or just playing a match over and over.


Good story should complement game play, and good game play show why the story exists.


Stories should introduce the themes and choices the player makes in some sort of huministic fashion. While game play illustrates how those choices and actions effect the game.

Ofcourse games have been made to emphasize one over the other, but my point is that games that respect both and try to do justice to both are superior because they fully engage the player.


For example,

Camouflage is a game play feature, and sometimes that's all it is, but if you pair it with with a story about an Assassin/ spy, soldier/ animal  then the player not only gets the mechanic your fleshing out, but gets to see why such a feature/ mechanic is inportant for the charicter/ faction. Not to mention the style.


This perspective comes from a person that has spent extensive time on the C&C forums in which this very issue is always up for discussion. Sure C&C was the forefather  of the modern RTS gameplay mechanics, however It also included a deep and engaging story for its community.


This is also the line of logic that any artis has, sure you can create a butiful piece of artwork, but does it have a message? is the artist trying to tell you something?


Another way is to think of it  another way, there are certain limits in what can and can't be done in specific engines, however there literally are no limits to the possibilities of stories that can be told.

Over time, technology will change and new methods and mechanics for game play  will be available, and others will become obsolete. A Good story, if incorporated and told right can be timeless.

Edited by GeneralJist

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Many factors determine the overall story requirement of a game. To be frank, there is no way to justify not having a good story. You can argue the length of the story. You can argue the type, whether this part should focus on gameplay or this part should be more story orientated, there are plenty of things to decide within a story, but a story should always be present.


But let's take a step back, before I go on as to why it is a necessity within all games, first let me explain what I mean by 'games'. When I'm saying games, I'm talking about product quality games, games that you wish to present to the public gaming community. It's different if you're creating a first time game like yourself, and simply want to explore how to make games.


Now, back to what I was saying. Why is a good story, not just a story, necessary? That is because gaming isn't about gameplay. See, this has always been something that upset me when people say gameplay is the most important thing in a game. No, I disagree. The experience is the most important thing in the game. The experience is the collaboration of every single part of the game in order to create, hopefully, one profound game.


This isn't achieved by gameplay alone, where would you be without the sound in your game? it would be empty, you'd have to fill it up with your own music that doesn't suit the atmosphere. What about the animation, graphics, do you want to look at blocks for men? Story is the same, each individual part feels up a void that would otherwise exist within your game. Yes, I argue that even rogue-like games need a good story no matter how small it is.


So, you see where I'm coming from. Good music makes a game a whole lot better then bad music, same with the graphics no matter how thick people like to wear their nostalgia glasses. Good gameplay also, which inevitably leads to a good story.

However, generally a game chooses between gameplay and story. That isn't to say they neglect a side, for example the story will still be good but the gameplay will be great. They pick which one to make better, and in doing so make it the highlight of the game.

So that's why there are story driven games and there are gameplay driven games.


tl;dr a good story is always necessary the same as good gameplay is, however most games make the choice of choosing one and making it great.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A game is a game first.


Uno? Game.

Chess? Game.

Stratego? Game. 

Basketball? Game (although it would first be considered a sport)

Hide and seek? Game.


No stories at all. 


However, you can use "video games" to tell a story if you please. 


I find game mechanics to be most important of all when it comes to games. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement

Important Information

By using, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy. is your game development community. Create an account for your GameDev Portfolio and participate in the largest developer community in the games industry.

Sign me up!