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Friday, May 01, 2015

Mailvox: the Dungeon Crawl interview

DG has a few thoughts:
It struck me that - like “diversity” in some quarters - game reviewers / etc. DO treat “story” as an unalloyed good, without ever asking “what it is at the expense of”? Not only is time spent on retail/etc. time taken away from working on making the best possible game, but time spent on “story” qua story that doesn’t directly drive the game play - pointlessly long cutscenes, etc - is time spent on things other than immersing you in the GAMEPLAY.

Also - I’m going to borrow a gripe from Aurini - but his argument why HD sucks has some relevance. Sure, “quality” of 3d graphics and worlds is great, but every increase in detail, whether modeling or textures, requires a lot more work to get it looking right. 8-bit, or deliberately cartoony/stylized games can still have an environment that immerses you in the game - depending on the mechanics - but doesn’t require anywhere near as much time on artwork.

It comes down to opportunity cost. Time spent on graphics, 3D or otherwise, that makes the game play better and keeps you in the game, is time well spent. Time past that is time that could have gone into scenarios/etc.

After all - is the new Homeworld HD reskin a better GAME? No - just prettier. Possibly more immersive. but at some point you cross the threshold of “good enough” and ship, or keep focused on the game.

This is not a call to spend less time on graphic/game design. Some of the better recent hobbyist boardgames not only have beautiful graphics, but use them to make understanding the game mechanics and tracking game status and play easier. Again - does the time spent on the artwork make the game PLAY better, or does it just get in the way?

Incidentally - loved Doom and Doom2, but liked Marathon 2 even better. Just a little bit of flavor and story through the computer terminals to give you a purpose to what you’re doing, allowing even otherwise repetitive missions to have a different feel, without wasting a lot of your time on it. Some excellent humor in there too. “Introduce them to the ‘magic’ of orbital bombardment” being a favorite line, still.

Labels:

76 Comments:

Anonymous T May 01, 2015 3:35 PM  

Homeworld HD is not more immersive. the original game had a wonderfully minimalist UI that made the game seem a cinematic experience. The new game has a monstrosity of a UI clearly designed for people who have never played the game, while assuming that they will never learn better. It includes worthless buttons that occupy important screen real estate, huge displays for information that is very small and does not need to be continually seen, and so on. Ironically, the most necessary part of the UI, the ship selection display, is so tiny you need a magnifying glass to read it.

As usual, modders will save the day.

Blogger Jim May 01, 2015 3:40 PM  

Another point about stylized graphics: they will age much better than something that tries to be realistic.

Anyway, I remember some podcast talking about how Gone Home was obviously a game, because it was interactive storytelling. But whether something has a story or not has no bearing on whether it's a game. What is the story of a soccer match? What is the story of pong? What is the story of Texas Hold'em? Meanwhile, if you want interactive story telling, you can buy a choose-your-own-adventure and some DVDs/Blu-Rays allow you to pick a camera angle. Neither of these features make them games.

So thank you, Vox. I think it's time people realized that a story is incidental to a game. We are entering a time where people have lost the plot and confuse stories for games. This isn't to say I dislike story in my games--I thought the story for the Tiny Tina DLC for Borderlands 2 put that over the top in terms of content and the product would be all the poorer without it--or even that something like Gone Home shouldn't be made or has no value. But I get annoyed when people market novels as games. That's why I stopped playing Final Fantasy long ago.

Blogger JartStar May 01, 2015 3:46 PM  

A bad story can do a lot more damage to a game than a good story can help it.

Blogger Brad Andrews May 01, 2015 3:48 PM  

I haven't played the revamped Age of Empires II HD, but I didn't think the shift to more 3d-like graphics was necessary. I wanted to see some of the game play improvements ported back, including to a revised AOE I, but that is not likely to happen, unfortunately.

Blogger Brad Andrews May 01, 2015 3:49 PM  

A bad story can do a lot more damage to a game than a good story can help it.

Any examples?

I do agree with Vox that the story was not at all relevant with Doom. A bad story didn't hurt it at all.

I am not sure if that was really the case with Age of Empires, for example, but I would have to admit the cut scenes in AOE often just got in the way rather than really helped.

Blogger JartStar May 01, 2015 3:53 PM  

Fallout New Vegas. It had more features and a better game play than Fallout 3, but the story wasn't as compelling and so the game suffered for it.

Blogger Daniel May 01, 2015 3:56 PM  

Original X-Com and its sequel are far more immersive than many modern games. The cinema is not primarily immersive: it is primarily communal. You don't participate in a movie. They don't have "parlor movies" or "word movies" or "movie theory."(vs. parlor games, word games, game theory.)

Making a game more cinematic has nothing to do with immersion. Nothing.

That isn't to say cinema can't contribute to a type of game...just that while a computer can theoretically simulate the glass bead game, it wouldn't require graphics in order to do so. If a computer is going to simulate Casablanca, it needs graphic images.

I might even go one step further: as immersive as cinematic games can be, they are limited in their immersion in ways that non-cinematic games are not. Blending a non-immersive, non-participatory medium like cinema with an immersive concept like a game can result in hilarious dissonance as often as immersion. I mean, there's no incentive to "break the spell" in X-Com by trying to frag your own ship (nothing happens), but in the Far Cry games, the game is almost asking you to see if you can drop a grenade in your own gas tank to see if your buddy will waste his time saving you and handing you a better sidearm, or to see how many flaming goats it takes to overtake a village (answer: infinity).

Well...asking me. YMMV.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera May 01, 2015 3:56 PM  

Excellent pullquote, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous Androsynth May 01, 2015 3:58 PM  

Gone Home, much like Dear Esther, is an interactive art installation, not a game. Some of these indies think any digital interactivity whatsoever makes something a game, which is clearly untrue. A movie that paused itself every so often until you hit a button would still just be a really annoying movie, not a game.

I thought the story for the Tiny Tina DLC for Borderlands 2 put that over the top in terms of content and the product would be all the poorer without it

That DLC was definitely the high point of Borderland 2's writing. It remains the only part of BL2 where my friends and I enjoyed the writing (for the most part) as opposed to doing our best to ignore it while trying to play.

Writing is most important when it comes to RPGs. Nearly all other game genres are either not served by it at all, or only served by minimal writing (or very minimalist writing, as in the case of Dark Souls).

Anonymous Aeoli Pera May 01, 2015 4:00 PM  

JartStar,

>Fallout New Vegas. It had more features and a better game play than Fallout 3, but the story wasn't as compelling and so the game suffered for it.

Extra Creditz did a video touching on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepAJ-rqJKA

The paper they reference is here.

Anonymous DissidentRight May 01, 2015 4:05 PM  

A bad story can do a lot more damage to a game than a good story can help it.

Any examples?


Bioshock: Infinite. The mechanics were dumber than Bioshock's, but the story made me hate it.

Cinematics detract from any game in which they cannot be easily and unobtrusively skipped.

Anonymous RedJack May 01, 2015 4:08 PM  

I like the new Homeworld skins. But only because it refreshed the old game.

Anonymous RSL May 01, 2015 4:10 PM  

DG: "This is not a call to spend less time on graphic/game design. Some of the better recent hobbyist boardgames not only have beautiful graphics, but use them to make understanding the game mechanics and tracking game status and play easier."

As someone who has been playing boardgames avidly for the past two years, I can attest that this point is spot on. Some examples in which boardgame artwork both clarifies game mechanics and and cultivates immersive boardgame experience include Lords of Waterdeep, Pandemic, and Age of Empires III (the second edition by Tropical Games featuring the artwork of Paul Niemeyer, Jacoby O'Connor, James Provenzale).

Anonymous JN May 01, 2015 4:11 PM  

A bad story can do a lot more damage to a game than a good story can help it.

Any examples?


Mass Effect 3. God-awful cut scenes about some stupid little boy to try to get you emotionally invested.

Anonymous JN May 01, 2015 4:13 PM  

Not cut scene, actual part of the game you "play"

Anonymous Roundtine May 01, 2015 4:18 PM  

One of the best story games I remember as a child was Castlevania II.

The best "cut scenes" are the ones such as TMNT Arcade, where after you beat the boss, Shredder drills up and takes April away. It was "in" the game, and so you feel like you should have power to do something, but can't. Or when the princess is in another castle in Mario.

Anonymous AlteredFate May 01, 2015 4:19 PM  

I appreciate when games, no matter what genre, have a good immersive story. But it's all in how that story is presented. Make the world deep, but let the gamer decide how far they want to dive to learn about it. Don't hold their head under till they drown with fucking cut scenes.

Anonymous Respectabiggle May 01, 2015 4:20 PM  

This reminds me a lot of David Mamet's famous letter to the writers of The Unit:
http://www.slashfilm.com/a-letter-from-david-mamet-to-the-writers-of-the-unit/

“ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT,” and “IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT *WILL* BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE,”

Anonymous Athor Pel May 01, 2015 4:25 PM  

" JartStar May 01, 2015 3:53 PM
Fallout New Vegas. It had more features and a better game play than Fallout 3, but the story wasn't as compelling and so the game suffered for it. "



Why would you call false dilemmas compelling? They're bullshit.

Spoiler:
You've been dealing with radiation the whole game. If you took enough meds no matter how high the ambient radiation levels you would live. Or better yet you chose an ability that lets you ignore radiation completely. Heck, the game is filled with irradiated humans that didn't die even though they took a massive dose of radiation, the ghouls. The game continually tells the player from the beginning that radiation is a problem but not one that cannot be dealt with.

And then at the end the game tells the player someone has to die by being irradiated in order to win the game. No. That's bullshit.

The whole point of the Fallout universe for the player is to survive despite the hazards. That's the hook. It's the player's reason for being in that world.

And that's just the ending. I could go on.


And the core gameplay of both games was identical. It's a pausible shooter with VATS.

Anonymous DavidKathome May 01, 2015 4:45 PM  

When Doom became a major hit and everyone was raving about it, I gave it a try. I find myself the one guy assigned to guard the outside with only a pistol while the rest of the team goes in and gets killed. The following questions started popping into my mind. Why was I chosen to be left outside alone? Shouldn't I have a partner? Did my unit not trust me? Why do I only have a pistol? Were we short on good gear? Did we draw straws and I got the short stick? Am I not cleared to carry anything more lethal? Why would I want to enter the base now when my more numerous and better armed unit just got slaughtered? Shouldn't I be able to communicate the situation to headquarters? I continued to play but soon gave up because I didn't find the game compelling or immersive.

Much later I did play Quake II through until the end because the opening movie gave me interesting answers for why I was fighting alone and unsupported.

Anonymous DavidKathome May 01, 2015 4:57 PM  

I should add that considering Doom's popularity my problem with the game is definitely not an issue for most people.

OpenID thenoisyrogue May 01, 2015 4:59 PM  

I think that story generally is detrimental to games, ( do you want a game or do you want a movie?), but nowhere is this more obvious than in MMOs. EVE online has no story, which means the players drive the content and all the developers have to do is make sure the game world works, (a big enough job in itself without having to bother with story). World of Warcraft however, is heavily story driven. This means that there is a huge number of staff writing and designing each new expansion that the ever-shrinking player base chews through and devours in a matter of weeks. A game should be a framework, a set of rules and clear boundaries that players then expirement in, take chances, and attempt to win. I see no reason to have story added to this mix.

Blogger Mark May 01, 2015 5:05 PM  

In fact the Homeworld re-do applied the Homeworld 2 control scheme to the Homeworld 1 remake. This actually messed up the mechanics of the cloaked escort ship. I was annoyed. However, Homeworld hasn't been playable for years, so I was glad to see it again. When it first came out, I actually went out and purchased my first wheel mouse to play it at the Fry's in Campbell, CA. Good times.

Blogger John Wright May 01, 2015 5:05 PM  

In terms of MMOs, I thought CITY OF HEROES (which I still miss) had the right combination of story and action. The story is minimal, getting missions from a contact, the action is beating the bad guys with way cool superpowers, with occasional side quests or alien invasions. Just enough to give the repetitive beat-downs flavor, not enough to intrude.

I do not care for other superhero MMOs currently on the market, because one cannot design a costume with as many elements, nor write a one paragraph backstory for the character, nor macro one's own battlecry, and so on.

I used to create a new character each time I finished a novel, trying to match the look and powers of my main hero or heroine insofar as possible. Soon I had all the slots for all my servers filled with Gilbert Gosseyn and Amelia Windrose and so on.

Ah, I miss those days.

Blogger rycamor May 01, 2015 5:12 PM  

Vox mentions that past a certain point, realistic graphics doesn't help gameplay "at all." In fact, it has tended to push me away from gaming. That along with the focus on "story". In fact, it was Myst that pushed me away from gaming for years.

My son just got me into playing "Running with Rifles" (top-down 3D tactical combat, simple rendering). It's really no different-looking than something you might have found 15 years ago, except that it is just done really well. And the AI is so good that you can have almost as much fun playing alone as multiplayer.

Blogger Danby May 01, 2015 5:13 PM  

"When Doom became a major hit and everyone was raving about it, I gave it a try. I find myself the one guy assigned to guard the outside with only a pistol while the rest of the team goes in and gets killed. "

Ummm, I played Doom enough to be able to go through the entire game with nothing but the pistol (as a challenge). I was trying to operate a bookstore at the time, and thanks to a lack of customers, I had lots of time on my hands.

This is the first time I heard that bit of the back story. I mean, I'm sure it's there in the opening or something, but I literally never noticed it.

Anonymous zapbrannigan1 May 01, 2015 5:26 PM  

Exhibit A of story ruining gameplay is the Metal Gear series.

Hideo Koijima just can't seem to help himself. Each successive game had more and more cutscenes, and they became progressively longer and longer.

Metal Gear Solid for the PS1 was one of the best games I've ever played. It had long cutscenes, but I could deal. MGS2 for the PS2 was when it started to become truly obtrusive (plus, you had the bait-and-switch between Snake and Raiden). You could hardly play for more than 20 - 30 minutes without having to sit though almost 10 minutes of cutscene.

I remember buying the next game in the series but I only played a few hours before I gave it up. The story was obscure and the cutscenes dominated the gameplay to such an extent that I didn't feel like I was playing a game.

For a truly immersive world that is SUGGESTED, not forced, I've not found a match for the original Thief series.

Blogger Student in Blue May 01, 2015 5:30 PM  

@Aeoli Pera

Just a heads up, but Extra Credits are a bunch of hacks. Several years with pretty much no track record to speak of, yet they talk a big, big game.

I thought they used to talk about some interesting stuff (and they did, years ago), and the video you linked is one of those interesting things, but as a whole they're pretenders.

@Brad Andrews
Any examples?

I think looking at Bastion, then looking at Transistor, is a very telling case of this. And if not that, it's at least a case of "show, don't tell".

Bastion was very atmospheric, with great music, pretty visuals, and a compelling story that wasn't told, but experienced. It wasn't intrusive and didn't butt its head into everywhere but just the offhand comments from the narrator were enough to piece things together.

Transistor, the sequal in spirit, had a story that they wanted you to read and they thought you wanted to read it because it was so deep and compelling. The offhand comments from the narrator became cryptic unless you read the extra journals, To get all the extra pieces you were forced to change up your style of play to get all the "story" bits - so the story quickly became intrusive and annoying.

Blogger JartStar May 01, 2015 5:39 PM  

John Wright,

That maybe was the game's downfall? The character creation was more interesting than the play and I had a couple of dozen characters as well, but only one made it a couple of dozen levels.

Anonymous Seneca May 01, 2015 5:59 PM  

I'll second three examples of games that were hurt a lot by bad story.

Mass Effect 3. The gameplay and mechanics were at least on par with Mass Effect 1 and 2, but the ending killed the game for me. Whenever I think of Mass Effect 3 now, I remember being disappointed with the ending--and not just the stupid boy offering some BS explanation of how the reapers destroy organic life to save it and then offering equally BS options to "save" earth. (Thinking about it, the overt "this is good, this is not" presentation of the three options the game also reversed what had been one of the attractions of the games up to that point: the complete lack of the game making moral judgments about your choices. I destroyed the reapers and all cybernetic life just to spite the writers). By killing off the Citadel off-screen as it were and bringing it to Earth, the game invalidated all of the work that you had put into building up the Citadel defense earlier in the game. Every part of the Mass Effect III ending was an exercise in failure.

Fallout 3 is another example, but the failure in storytelling is even more obvious than Athor Pel tells it. You can be traveling with a ghoul and/or a supermutant who are completely immune to radiation, and there's still no option to say, "hey, you're immune to this, why don't you go save the world then meet me for drinks in Boomtown." Instead, you are forced into a completely unnecessary "heroic" sacrifice. (Dragon Age Origins, on the other hand, pulled off heroic sacrifice right. You could force someone else into it, you could avoid it (though it seemed likely that doing so would set things up for something even worse in the future), or you could make the sacrifice. That was a compelling ending and my memories of that game are still positive).

Borderlands 2: the nonstop cynicism, nihilism, irony, and gratuitous SJW "diversity" of perversion in the setting eventually overwhelmed what was mechanically, a fun shooter. I just don't want to play it.

For an example of the opposite phenomenon, Baldur's Gate II and expansions made second edition AD&D not only playable but fun. I was able to look past the limitations of the ruleset because of the story. On the other hand, the Watcher's Tower expansion which amounted to a story-free dungeon was much less enjoyable than the rest of the game.

Blogger Emmanuel Mateo-Morales May 01, 2015 6:08 PM  

"Fallout New Vegas. It had more features and a better game play than Fallout 3..."

Dude... get off Obsidian's dick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6KxCSWGRu4

Blogger Emmanuel Mateo-Morales May 01, 2015 6:12 PM  

@Seneca

"Mass Effect 3. The gameplay and mechanics were at least on par with Mass Effect 1 and 2..."

Dude... no. Out of ALL of the Mass Effect games, Mass Effect 3 deserves to be called 'Gears of Mass Effect' or 'Mass Effect of War' the most. The RPG elements that made the gameplay of number 1 so awesome are even more stripped down than they were in Mass Effect 2, which is saying something, and the game has completely devolved to the prototypical stop and pop, cover based third person shooter much like the entirety of Gears of War.

Anonymous Zion's Paladin May 01, 2015 6:37 PM  

The gold standard for the story interfering, at best, belongs to the Xenosaga series. It was a remake of an earlier produced game called Xenogears. The "game" had to be at least 70% cutscenes. How do I know this?

I managed to get a hold of a pre-order bonus DVD that had all the cutscenes from the first game spliced together. The run-time was four and a half hours long. For the first game. And that's after they cut stuff out. The second game was no better when I played it. It might even have been worse. Had no desire after that to play the third game.

The sad thing is, Xenogears was a much better game, especially the Gear battles. That's even taking the severely restricted budget that they had going into the second disc.

Blogger Jim May 01, 2015 6:49 PM  

Borderlands 2: the nonstop cynicism, nihilism, irony, and gratuitous SJW "diversity" of perversion in the setting eventually overwhelmed what was mechanically, a fun shooter.

At least all those elements fit together in a cohesive whole. I started getting annoyed at the couples whose sex pairings seemed to be determined by a flip of the coin, but it then struck me as an odd thing to get worked up over in a setting with rampant cannibalism, self-immolation, wanton homicide, and insane medical experimentation. In fact, it would be odd if it was absent from a planet that is supposed to be the most depraved outpost of humanity.

And humanity, which had colonized several galaxies, wasn't in danger of going extinct. So, it was less jarring than the much rarer same-sex instances in Fallout 3, where given the precariousness of human existence and its return to tribalism, that would not be tolerated.

Blogger Jay Lucas May 01, 2015 7:10 PM  

@ Emmanuel Mateo-Morales - re: Fallout 3/NV

I just tried out A Tale of Two Wastelands, an enormous mod that plays F3 through the NV mechanics. So far I'm very impressed. And NV was always better at handing my ass to me. It's an interesting experiment.

@Androsynth - Re: Minimalist storytelling

Show don't tell remains spiffy. You have to invest to draw out the material. I think McLuhan's distinction between hot and cold media applies here. I wouldn't be surprised if that split ran down the middle of games rather than gaming falling on one side or the other.

@JartStar - Re: CoH over-customization

That game always had an interesting "unfinished" feeling to me, something I enjoy in other games, like the original Borderlands. I was in the same boat as you: loved playing with the toys, but never got very far. I wouldn't be surprised if we were the problem: Casuals who kept coming back for a bit, meaning to really get into the game eventually... but never quite ending up there.

@Seneca - Re: Fallout 3 (vanilla) Ending

I think they were trying to do something like Fallout 1, which rounds off beautifully... but as you say, appropriate to its themes. Fallout 3 is a quest about finding yourself (you're not really a vault citizen, you chase your father to uncover your roots, find your calling.) I don't see how the sacrifice (which is more appropriate to a redemption story?) fits in.

Are you familiar with Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast? Dunno why it comes to mind (mixed genre game maybe) but it really pulled off the immersion thing, even if it's not an RPG.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera May 01, 2015 7:11 PM  

Student in Blue,

>Just a heads up, but Extra Credits are a bunch of hacks.

Thanks for the heads-up. I haven't really been following them for the last few years, except for the Extra History stuff.

OpenID rufusdog May 01, 2015 7:13 PM  

I loved The Last Of Us. Amazing game. I really enjoyed Fallout 3. But the ending did suck.

They nailed the story and ending in The Last Of Us.

Blogger Bogey May 01, 2015 7:16 PM  

I do not care for other superhero MMOs currently on the market, because one cannot design a costume with as many elements, nor write a one paragraph backstory for the character, nor macro one's own battlecry, and so on.

A still miss that game as well. I wasn't just into playing the game; the game was an extension of my creativity. There's really nothing else like it out there.

OpenID rufusdog May 01, 2015 7:18 PM  

Give me a good story or good game play. If you wish to be remembered give me both.
Most games today give neither.

Blogger Emmanuel Mateo-Morales May 01, 2015 7:27 PM  

@Jay

Jay... how the hell did that answer my point with rageaholic's video... you fucko?

Anonymous Anonymous May 01, 2015 7:56 PM  

FND:
Since graphics always gets a beatdown between hardcore players i'll try to defend it:

exhibit A: good Graphics+Art direction with mediocre mechanics can be better than good mechanics with bad Graphics+Art direction. Icycalm explain here:
http://culture.vg/reviews/videogame-art/kick-off.html
" you can even see it in something as ultimately mediocre as, say, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, which boob physics aside cannot be reasonably labeled as "sci-fi-themed", and yet is still remembered by gamers with much more fondness than, say, Beach Spikers — which is indeed the (far) better game. The mere inclusion of an idealized setting (which after all is the very purpose of art: idealizing things, glorifying them, etc), of a tropical island instead of some shitty lifeless stadium, of talking- and smiling- and prancing girls instead of identikit expressionless mannequins (even when these last ones have real names and "real-life" stats!), suffices to elevate humdrum and even subpar mechanics to something actually worth experiencing"

uncanny valley graphics doesn't matter if you can't put enough attention to detail and graphical effects, but neither does outdated graphics help if you actually have seem next-gen graphics in action, so why not have both:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSzYliSASKc

Blogger JartStar May 01, 2015 7:57 PM  

The Fallout 3 ending was contrived, but everything leading up to it I enjoyed. The expansion packs fixed the issue.

FNV story didn't make sense after the courier learns his history and deals with Benny. Why even stay in New Vegas or get involved at all?

Interestingly enough I played FNV much more because of the mods.

Anonymous Anonymous May 01, 2015 8:10 PM  

fnd:
The same can be true for story and music. Drakengard is a mediocre beat-em-up, but the scatological story(even mission description) and music samples makes for a memorable experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J_gcsNC3BY&index=34&list=PL6F00DF33EF0D3E4E

Blogger Laramie Hirsch May 01, 2015 8:13 PM  

Graphics are overrated.

One game I absolutely LOVED--and still love--is Empire Earth I for the PC. My favorite thing to do is to set up scenarios with the map editor. My only complaint is that there just simply are not enough characters for a good story-based scenario. You have your set number of pieces, and that's it. You can put new graphic mods over the original polygon pieces, but that's it. Plus, if you were to put a specifically new graphic over a particular piece--say, your hero piece--and you wanted to continue using that set of polygon pieces, they would all look like the hero piece.


A real-time strategy game with several thousand pieces, a good map editor, and the ability to even create your own pieces would be a monster of a game. With enough options for customization, it'd be the last game I'd ever need to buy.

Anonymous Steve May 01, 2015 8:16 PM  

Rufusdog - The Last of Us was sheer brilliance.

Joel and Ellie were absolutely believable and compelling. The minor characters were pitch perfect too.

It had better writing and acting than The Walking Dead. Better than most big budget films.

And that ending... wow. That must've taken enormous brass balls to write. And the animators and actors sold it perfectly.

Some of my favourite moments in that game were when Joel showed just how far he was willing to go to protect Ellie.

Like that scene near the end, where Marlene confronts Joel in the car park, and for a second you think she's going to talk him into leaving Ellie behind... but Joel is a man with darkness and iron in his soul.

He's a bereaved father who has only recently learned that he's still capable of feeling more than pain and loss.

In retrospect, his response was never in doubt.

"You'd just come after her" *BLAM*

Anonymous IncoherentM May 01, 2015 8:31 PM  

The ending of The Last of Us was very emotional. Definitely a good example of graphics, story and gameplay working together.

And Vox, DANG! Lena may never Tweet again after that.

Blogger MidKnight May 01, 2015 8:37 PM  

@RS


Lords of Waterdeep is a good example. A lot of the better newer games spend time getting the theme integrated into the mechanics, making sure there's a consistent style (even with simple artwork) and using the elements of the graphics to delineate borders instead of just laying out lines/etc.

Another one I like is Alien Frontiers - each region on the planet, when colonized, gives special bonuses related to the resources available in the system. The designer incorporated faint lines that pleasantly tie each region to what it affects.

Even the AVID's from Squadron Strike have some fairly subtle, but important design elements in the choice of line weights and colors.

Blogger Jay Lucas May 01, 2015 9:19 PM  

@ Emmanuel Mateo-Morales

Sorry mate, must have gotten your comment confused with someone else's while I was revising. Long week.

Blogger Student in Blue May 01, 2015 9:21 PM  

fnd:
The same can be true for story and music. Drakengard is a mediocre beat-em-up, but the scatological story(even mission description) and music samples makes for a memorable experience:


scatology [skuh-tol-uh-jee] - the study of or preoccupation with excrement or obscenity.

Now, I don't remember Drakengard being like that, so... I have no idea what word you were looking for.

OpenID rufusdog May 01, 2015 9:39 PM  

Steve,
My favorite was when he cut a bloody swath through the building to get to Ellie, killed the murderous doctors, and rescued her.
Just the fact that game writers got the story so incredibly right would seem an act of divine intervention. A AAA game, that real, with an ending that spits on PC, such a rare treat in what passes for entertainment.

Anonymous BigGaySteve May 01, 2015 9:43 PM  

The concept of opportunity cost is entirely lost on leftists. Just like a good story in a movie doesn't require lots of special effects, games playability is more important than the graphics because your mind can fill in the gaps. One thing you can do to add weeks of extra play to a game is a casino that you can save game before entering. One ex spent over a week just playing the casino and reset/save in Dragon Quest8, he seemed powerless to not abuse the mechanic.

Blogger John Wright May 01, 2015 10:16 PM  

@Jarstar

"The character creation was more interesting than the play"

LOL and clearly you know the game. I agree.

They did good work on capes, and the graphics for everything from city scenes to alien dimensions was spot on.

Blogger Daniel May 01, 2015 10:32 PM  

Which Far Cry had that stupid story element where you got malaria symptoms randomly midshot? I think two. Whatever. That wasn't due to graphics or cut scenes but some development team thinking, "you know what? Let's make sure this doesn't get too fun."

Anonymous Aeoli Pera May 01, 2015 11:11 PM  

>The concept of opportunity cost is entirely lost on leftists.

That's it in a nutshell. Perfect summary of the disorder.

Blogger Nate May 01, 2015 11:31 PM  

Destiny is the best example of the cutting edge of game design. If you want lore... its there... if you want to just blast bad guys... you can. If you want classic FPS PVP... its there too.

It is the absolute peak of video gaming.

and the critics hated it.

Anonymous Jimbo111 May 01, 2015 11:55 PM  

Panzer General 1, loved it, still a great game. Simple graphics but functional.

Panzer general 2, 3, "better" graphics but too much clutter and just slowed things down.

Anonymous FP May 02, 2015 12:05 AM  

"My son just got me into playing "Running with Rifles" (top-down 3D tactical combat, simple rendering). It's really no different-looking than something you might have found 15 years ago, except that it is just done really well. And the AI is so good that you can have almost as much fun playing alone as multiplayer."

I'm gonna have to try the demo for that. The videos make it look like company of heroes with better mechanics and less graphics.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 02, 2015 12:32 AM  

My son is playing RWR too. I haven't tried it yet, but he likes it a lot.

i think Daniel used an important phrase: "non-participatory medium". Story is king for a "non-participatory medium" because your brain needs something to be engaged with since it's not engaged with making choices. Games are - it they're any good - very much participatory. And that makes story difficult, since your participation tends to break the story the writers so carefully hacked out.. er, I mean crafted.

Nate saying Destiny had "lore" is important too. Not story, but lore. If there's some background to the world and then you're turned loose in it, that's great. But if there's a story you're supposed to follow, it just gets in the damn way and ends up with Skyrim Disease, where the bad guys patiently wait for you to trigger the next step in their plan.

Nothing ruins the immersion more than being the one and only special snowflake who can save the world yet having everyone and their third cousin ask you to go clear out some mud crabs for them and retrieve their great granddaddy's rusty shield.

Anonymous Gx1080 May 02, 2015 4:14 AM  

@Nate

Wasn't that the game with Peter Dinklage telling you the plot in the most boring way possible?

Blogger Jim May 02, 2015 5:59 AM  

[i]Nate saying Destiny had "lore" is important too. Not story, but lore. If there's some background to the world and then you're turned loose in it, that's great. But if there's a story you're supposed to follow, it just gets in the damn way and ends up with Skyrim Disease, where the bad guys patiently wait for you to trigger the next step in their plan.[/i]

Star Control 2 says you're wrong. If you spend too much time faffing about, exploring the universe, the Kohr-Ah win their war with the Kzer-Za and start moving across the star map, wiping out every race they come across.

Blogger Peter May 02, 2015 8:50 AM  

Hm. Interesting. Any good books on game design that cover this topic or similar topics?

Blogger maniacprovost May 02, 2015 10:01 AM  

The main quest in New Vegas may not have been as compelling as FO3, but 1) it was fine, 2) the whole world, atmosphere, pacing and everything else were better. I would almost say the "plot" was weak, but the other story elements were better.

Blogger Cataline Sergius May 02, 2015 10:58 AM  


Any examples?

X-Com

The Bureau: XCom Declassified

Admittedly it was clunky game to begin with but the odd storyline and last minute switch of the POV character took what was just a regular bad console port and brought it all the way down from to a 1.



Anonymous Jack Amok May 02, 2015 11:32 AM  

Star Control 2 says you're wrong.

Actually it proves my point rather well. SC2 has (had, it came out over 20 years ago) a damn thin plot, just enough to set the story in motion and give the player a goal. Compare it to the plots in Skyrim or Halo (two games I like BTW). SC2 never put plot above gameplay.


Blogger Jim May 02, 2015 11:53 AM  

Compare it to the plots in Skyrim or Halo

They were no thicker. Well, Skyrim's certainly wasn't. And Halo had a single player mode? That can't be right...

Now, imagine if Skyrim had a world timer like SC2: you have a limited time to defeat Alduin or Skyrim is overrun with dragons and cities start to burn. If you pick a side in the war you can use them to help stave off the dragons, buying you more time. Other factions are making their own moves, but there's not enough time to affect them all. The story would be pushed to the forefront at the same time as you make the game more immersive and more fun, and by forcing hard choices you increase replay value.

Blogger Cataline Sergius May 02, 2015 12:20 PM  

All of the problems I thought I had spotted with Fallout 3 were addressed in Fallout New Vegas and it was a worse game for it.

But most of it's real problems stemmed from the inclusion of a much stronger storyline. And of course the deliberate inclusion of SJW politics.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 02, 2015 4:00 PM  

Now, imagine if Skyrim had a world timer like SC2: you have a limited time to defeat Alduin or Skyrim is overrun with dragons and cities start to burn. If you pick a side in the war you can use them to help stave off the dragons, buying you more time...

You seem to be missing the point that Skyrim doesn't do that. Why do you suppose that is?

Blogger Jim May 02, 2015 4:29 PM  

You seem to be missing the point that Skyrim doesn't do that.

Obviously I was under the impression that Skyrim does that. That's why I said imagine, which, as we all know, really means "as a matter of fact." Sharp as a razor, you are.

Why do you suppose that is?

Because they were working on a sand box game, and story was not a concern.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 02, 2015 4:34 PM  

Jim, write the story of SC2 - all the parts of it the player isn't involved in. How many pages is it?

Do the same for Skyrim. Compare and contrast.

Blogger Jim May 02, 2015 4:52 PM  

Jim, write the story of SC2 - all the parts of it the player isn't involved in.

You are confusing story with lore. Story is the narrative stuff you are involved in. Lore is the stuff that happens without you. Or are you really saying that the story of Skyrim does not involve Alduin, the return of dragons, and the civil war (all of the stuff the player is involved in)? That would make the story of Skyrim, what? The events of Oblivion? That's idiotic.

Blogger Michael Maier May 02, 2015 6:13 PM  

??? Oblivion never had a timer on your actions either.

Blogger Jim May 02, 2015 8:43 PM  

??? Oblivion never had a timer on your actions either.

And?

Anonymous Jack Amok May 03, 2015 2:48 AM  

You are confusing story with lore. Story is the narrative stuff you are involved in...

Fine, include the player then. Write story of what happens in SC2. Write the story of what happens in Skyrim. Which one is the short story and which one is the novel? How many plot threads are there in each? How big is the cast of characters?

Blogger Jim May 03, 2015 6:42 AM  

Fine, include the player then. Write story of what happens in SC2. Write the story of what happens in Skyrim. Which one is the short story and which one is the novel? How many plot threads are there in each? How big is the cast of characters?

I would, but I have no idea what that is supposed to demonstrate. Are you saying that the size of the story is the same as its integration? Are you saying that you cannot ignore the story in Skyrim because there is so much of it, but it is easy to bypass it in Star Control 2? If I sit around in Skyrim, the story will pull me in by virtue of its large gravitational field?

You made the claim that Skyrim's story got in the way. I must admit this was a surprise to me when I spent forty hours playing it before ever going to see the Greybeards. Meanwhile, if I did the same in Star Control 2, the story would have continued without me: The Zot-Foq-Pik would be eliminated. The Ilwrath would annihilate the Pkunk. The Von Neuman devices released by the Slylandro would saturate hyperspace. The Kohr-Ah would win and start annihilating worlds, starting with the Druuge.

In Skyrim, the vast majority of the game world is open from the very beginning. There's little you need to follow the story for. I played for forty hours before touching it. In Star Control 2, if I want a Spathi Eluder, I need to follow the story. If I want a Pkunk Fury, I need to follow the story. If I want a Yehat Terminator, I need to follow the story. If I want Chmmr Avatar, I need to follow the story. See a pattern?

If I played Skyrim for the first time, I could play with no sound and with subtitles off, miss all the narrative, and still follow the main quest. I could even do it accidentally. That 40 hour thing was because I actively avoided quest markers. In Star Control 2, I need to actually find other species and talk to them, follow pages of dialog and ask the right questions, figure out how they all relate to each other, and then act on that information in order to progress.

This is the point: the story of Skyrim was incidental to the game, regardless of how big you think the story was. The story in Star Control 2 was central to the game. By your reasoning, Star Control 2 should be a terrible mess where everything waits for you, the special snowflake, to act, while Skyrim should be the one ironically immune to "Skyrim Disease." Yet the very opposite is true.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 03, 2015 12:07 PM  

The designers of Skyrim wanted lots and lots of story. Partly because they wanted to tell a story, partly because they wanted lots of side quests to add gameplay time. They also wanted this big, open world. When you have that much space, that many subplots, if the story moves along without the player, it'll leave way too many players in the dust. So the game, despite having a great deal of lore and story, leaves the world feeling artificial. Skyrim would be a better game without the main storyline. Leave all the side quests in, but make them progress with or with out the player.

Blogger Jim May 03, 2015 3:20 PM  

They didn't have lots and lots of story. They had lots and lots of padding. Why did they have both the Greybeards and the Blades? There was nothing in the story that necessitated both. Except, we have a flimsy excuse to make the Dragonborn maybe possibly choose to kill Paarthurnax. That is literally the only consequential thing that splitting the Dragonborn's allies/mentors accomplishes, and it's not even properly developed because the Blades can't give you a concrete reason to do it. "He's a dragon and all dragons did bad things long, long ago before anyone we know was ever born." Thank you for that Tamriel-shattering revelation, Esbern. I'll get right on that! And don't even get me started on the civil war. I've yet to figure out why I'm supposed to care about it.

As for the side quests, that's all they were: side. The College of Winterhold, the Thieves Guild, the Companions, the Dark Brotherhood? All self-contained little adventures that have no impact on the world. You assassinate the Emperor in the DB line and nothing changes. Who cares if these things progressed without you: there's no consequence one way or the other.

So don't talk to me about Skyrim's story. Just because a lot of words are spilled, it does not mean a lot is said.

As for big open world, hello!

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