Linear games - what do you want to see improved on in linear, cinematic stories?

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Many of the games I enjoy single player wise are linear stories,  but not all. Some have branching dialogue trees or different paths, like Life is Strange, any Elder Scrolls game, or Telltale games. Some like Halo (my personal favorite), The Last of Us,  any of the Tomb Raider's, Assassins Creed's or a recent obsession Horizon Zero Dawn are linear narratives. Some also have small sides stories and some are straight forward cinematic experiences. For those linear games, what do you want to see improved on as the game industry, and interactive writing, advance? Do you want less exposition dumps and more player exploration to uncover mysteries? Do you want better voice acting? Stronger, more natural dialogue? For me I want all of that. I want quick time events/interactive cutscenes that don't take away the challenge of boss fights. Furthermore, I'd like to see better written villains. Some games are more of a "power trip" than an emotional journey. And that's perfectly fine. But some titles lack a quality antagonist that fits nicely as the opposite of the protagonist. On that note what about a balance of a "power trip" and a serious tone? I bet there are games that already do that; I just haven't heard of them. 

Lastly, what sort of experimentation should game developers and writers do? More risk taking or strengthen known genres?

Edited by Matthew Birdzell

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1 hour ago, Matthew Birdzell said:

For those linear games, what do you want to see improved on as the game industry, and interactive writing, advance?

Asking if people want better anything they will always say yes. If you know how to make a game with better writing and linear elements then I really recommend making it.

Just don't be surprised if what you thought was a better story is disliked by players, sometimes people have a different idea of what is better. I for one would like to see more story based games, so you already have my interest.

1 hour ago, Matthew Birdzell said:

Lastly, what sort of experimentation should game developers and writers do? More risk taking or strengthen known genres?

What ever you can safely afford and a bit more. Different experiments have different costs, emotional stories can often lead to the player feeling depressed when playing a game, up to the point where they just stop.

So if you plan on doing these I recommend testing the game often on test players to see how they are impacted. 

 

This war of mine is a good example of a game where a heavy emotional story limits game play, most people I know didn't play the game more than a few tries. It's a good game but they pushed the emotions of the player past the breaking point.

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9 hours ago, Scouting Ninja said:

Asking if people want better anything they will always say yes. If you know how to make a game with better writing and linear elements then I really recommend making it.

Just don't be surprised if what you thought was a better story is disliked by players, sometimes people have a different idea of what is better. I for one would like to see more story based games, so you already have my interest.

What ever you can safely afford and a bit more. Different experiments have different costs, emotional stories can often lead to the player feeling depressed when playing a game, up to the point where they just stop.

So if you plan on doing these I recommend testing the game often on test players to see how they are impacted. 

 

This war of mine is a good example of a game where a heavy emotional story limits game play, most people I know didn't play the game more than a few tries. It's a good game but they pushed the emotions of the player past the breaking point.

Thats why I asked :). I don't have all the answers. Of course people will say yes. But what do they see that they want pushed? 

I understand not all players like the games I like. I've read many comments over the years since The Last of Us came out that think its overrated. Thats okay. I disagree. Its a simple game that was executed extremely well with a lot of qualities.

Also yeah...if the story is too emotional then its possible you risk your audience's loss of interest. But you can always avoid that if you know what you're doing. 

I really just think that if you're a smart writer, working with experienced game designers, you can find new ways to avoid known problems with interactive stories. Its just limits that we haven't pushed past yet.

 

Edited by Matthew Birdzell

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40 minutes ago, Matthew Birdzell said:

But what do they see that they want pushed? 

With stories asking the players what they want is only going to get you vague answers.

I like using pizza as a analogy for explaining this. People like pizza as much as they like a good story. If you asked a person what they wanted from there pizza they would replay: cheese, bacon, ham, pepperoni, green peppers, garlic, mushrooms etc. 

As a pizza baker you would have a hard time just balancing the flavours. Then you succeed and start baking the pizza, you remove it from the oven and it all falls to pieces. All this time you focused on what the diners wanted, that you forgot about the pizza base.

This happens all the time with indie games, they think that all they need is to listen to the players when there is much more to design; listening is just the start.

 

With the above said here is what I would like from a game story: More story experienced as the player.

In The last of us, a example of this would be where as the player you often think that things would just be easier if you could leave Ellie behind, then you go and help her anyway because you have to; it's your responsibility.

There is a even better example of what I mean in the game Sleeping Dogs.

Spoiler

 

You start the game as a undercover cop, looking for the killers of his sister. At this point the player is introduced to Winston, the leader of the gang and immediately the player takes a disliking to Winston. Then the game progresses and slowly the player learns more about the gang. Then the wedding scene happens.

At this point the players realizes that somewhere along the story you switched sides, as the player you get some understanding of what the protagonist is experiencing.

 

The way these games allow the player to experience the story and not just watch from the side is the whole reason I play story games.

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1 hour ago, Scouting Ninja said:

With stories asking the players what they want is only going to get you vague answers.

I like using pizza as a analogy for explaining this. People like pizza as much as they like a good story. If you asked a person what they wanted from there pizza they would replay: cheese, bacon, ham, pepperoni, green peppers, garlic, mushrooms etc. 

As a pizza baker you would have a hard time just balancing the flavours. Then you succeed and start baking the pizza, you remove it from the oven and it all falls to pieces. All this time you focused on what the diners wanted, that you forgot about the pizza base.

This happens all the time with indie games, they think that all they need is to listen to the players when there is much more to design; listening is just the start.

 

With the above said here is what I would like from a game story: More story experienced as the player.

In The last of us, a example of this would be where as the player you often think that things would just be easier if you could leave Ellie behind, then you go and help her anyway because you have to; it's your responsibility.

There is a even better example of what I mean in the game Sleeping Dogs.

  Hide contents

 

You start the game as a undercover cop, looking for the killers of his sister. At this point the player is introduced to Winston, the leader of the gang and immediately the player takes a disliking to Winston. Then the game progresses and slowly the player learns more about the gang. Then the wedding scene happens.

At this point the players realizes that somewhere along the story you switched sides, as the player you get some understanding of what the protagonist is experiencing.

 

The way these games allow the player to experience the story and not just watch from the side is the whole reason I play story games.

Ahh I gotcha. I've always thought its about balancing story elements and what players like in games. You bring up a good point - its not always about that. Its about what the designer wants the players to experience. Which might not be what everyone else likes. 

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I'm not a big fan of things being linear, because it can feel like I'm just clicking my way through a movie. Perhaps what I'd like to see are more interesting ideas of how writers and designers can work together to make it feel like I was able to take major choices and alter the course of the game, without needing to implement an expensive branching structure that demands a lot of developer time and resources.

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