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Sam Lake on Video Game Storytelling

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Games 314

loladeutsch writes "What makes for a great story in a video game? Sometimes, with all the innovative development and cool graphics the actual story a game has to tell can get lost in the shuffle, or at least can seem to be an afterthought. When a game arrives on the shelves that presents one of the more engrossing stories we've seen in awhile, it's worth noting. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne has been recognized by many people with their heads screwed on straight as a benchmark in video-game storytelling. "

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Let me tell you a story (-1, Offtopic)

Bad Move (774329) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011739)

about a first post

Re:Let me tell you a story (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011819)

Why the fuck do Slashdot have articles about gaming? This is supposed to be a site for geeks not a site for overgrown children who think they're 1337.

Need a few millions of extra cash? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012119)

Well, take a look here [aljazeera.net] .

Re:Need a few millions of extra cash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012216)

dead arabs r cool

Context (5, Insightful)

mfh (56) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011755)

I see the problem with video game stories as a systemic one, and Sam Lake touches on this when he identifies novels as a singular effort, and video games as a team effort. When you have a bunch of people with different backgrounds working on a project, quite a bit of infighting can occur. Plus there is the aspects of how stories affect the gameplay, and the scaling of the combat in games. The story may call for particular systems to be in place that are impossible, so it is critical for authors to fully understand the game design process to interpret these events into a literary context.

Re:Context (2, Interesting)

Cr3d3nd0 (517274) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011842)

The real solution to this problem wont be seen until the tools to develop graphical games are as easy to use as the tools for IF (interactive fiction) Many of the stories in IF are recognized as truly intriguing worthwile reads because its possible to create IF with just one person. Once the tools are in place for anyone to make a game creative storytelling will be much simpler.

Doom 3 (0)

mfh (56) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011917)

We may see some of these tools shipping with Doom 3. I can only speculate, but I heard tale of some really cool editing tools this time around. Something about making levels in realtime? Can anyone confirm/deny this? (JC?)

I'm heading up a special mod project [sf.net] for Doom 3 that will only see the light if we can get some amazing models talent on board, so even if there is IF styled game design, there still remains the problems of customization.

Re:Doom 3 (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012239)

Uh, your project page has no useful description. What's it about? "Doom for Columbine" doesn't immediately strike me as an appropriate name.

Re:Context (1)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011976)

I guess by your reasoning that special effect movies are impossible as well.

No. (1)

mfh (56) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012100)

> I guess by your reasoning that special effect movies are impossible as well.

I didn't say that, really. Movies that have CG in them differ strongly from video games because they are not realtime; you can render anything with a few dozen systems working through the weekend, but if you want a client to render your scenes, they had better be well-thunk. When you have mouse and video lag to worry about (ie: real-time framerates), it makes the story harder to tell if you don't understand these issues, fully. Authors who do understand these things tend to create video games with fantastic stories that convince us of the reality of the situation, without detracting from the gameplay at all.

Re:Context (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012081)

Sam Lake touches on this

Kind of like how your dad touches your pee pee?

halflife, final fantasy, doom... (3, Funny)

imthatguy (772683) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011761)

ok maybe not that last one...but it had a big fscking gun!

The Curse of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit the (4, Insightful)

frankthechicken (607647) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011966)

, Grim Fandango, damn am I spotting a trend here?

Should it be so suprising that pure action games generally have relatively weak story lines(with the exception of a few), whereas the more thought provoking ones(in terms of gameplay) tend to have a better plot?

No correlation to movies is there?

Gameplay at the moment tends to be driven by arcade desires, I sort of feel we are still in the transition from the stand up arcade machine instant gratification level of gaming to a more time consuming home leisure pursuit.

Hence I feel the storylines will slowly get better as developers learn more about what is possible for a succesful game for the home, giving alternatives to the wham, bam , thank you kind lady style of today, in favour of a slower pace, yet ultimately more rewarding experience. Which of course are far greater suited for plot and story telling.

Re:halflife, final fantasy, doom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012129)

It's ok, you don't have to substitute "fscking" for "fucking." Most people mentally fill in "fucking" anyway so you may as well just say it. Not like you're really shielding us from anything. You stupid fucking bleeding shit-packed cunt.

agreed (3, Interesting)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011763)

games like Tomb Raider held my attention much longer than some basic arcade style game. In fact, that's what made consoles diff from the arcades back in the day, a multi-level story, not some 2d game that offers no change upon repeated plays.

super mario? thanks, but our princess is in another castle! ARRRGGG!


Re:agreed (1)

Raunch (191457) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011895)

> games like Tomb Raider held my attention much longer than some basic arcade style game.
> ...
> not some 2d game that offers no change upon repeated plays.
(emphasis mine)


Couldn't possibly been becuase of the bump maps now could it have?
(shamelessly stolen from PA) [penny-arcade.com]

Re:agreed (1)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012014)

nice! I hadn't even thought of that, but I'll bet that did have something to do with it...



Re:agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012159)

If you want to touch some real boobies just give your mom $2.

Re:agreed (1)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012177)

It sounds like you've met my mom! ;)


An observation... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011771)

It seems to me that it isn't always necessary for a game to have a well-written story to be enjoyable, but as technology advances, the possibilities for immersion in the world you see on screen increase also.

Re:An observation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012222)

Why the fuck is this interesting? It's dumb. Could you possibly come up with something anymore obvious and trite? How about "As games get better they'll probably get better as they get better." You fucking idiot pussy drip.

We've come a long way from... (3, Funny)

MalaclypseTheYounger (726934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011773)

In A.D. 2101
War was beginning.

Captain: What happen ?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
spoken in the Flash animation as Someone set up us the bomb
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It's you !!
Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
Cats: All your base are belong to us.
Cats: You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time.
Cats: Ha Ha Ha Ha ....
Operator: Captain !!*
Captain: Take off every 'Zig'!!
Captain: You know what you doing.
Captain: Move 'Zig'.
Captain: For great justice.

WOW! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011901)

I haven't seen an all your base reference in two, three minutes tops! I thought everyone had forgotten about it.

Re:WOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012169)

and somehow he got modded "funny"

I play plenty of games with good stories (4, Insightful)

Lane.exe (672783) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011774)

I call them RPGs. It may be noteworthy when an FPS-type game like Max Payne has a good story line (beyond something like: evil monsters have wiped out pretty much everyone but you. Kill them all!), but storytelling in video games is far from dead.

PS:T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011836)

Yeah, I thought the "benchmark" was Planescape: Torment.

Re:I play plenty of games with good stories (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012130)

RPGs are for dorks. And no, the stories in RPGs suck just as bad as every other game.

TrollGarth for Hellgar has been kidnapped by the Bondarians who are allied with the Garpterrians. The princess Neinama has ordered the entire Crapteria army to invade and secure the precious fracma mines. We must protect our fracma mines!!

Yeah, real good story. Do you beat off much ?

Re:I play plenty of games with good stories (1)

SphericalCrusher (739397) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012160)

Max Payne isn't an FPS. ;)

But yes, when it comes down to wanting the storyline, RPGs are where it's at. Games like Final Fantasy, Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Trigger, and Neverwinter Nights really drag me into it and give me goosebumps.

Integrating the narrative (3, Insightful)

darth_MALL (657218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011778)

Managing to intergrate the narration into the gameplay (as seamlessly as possible) is a huge key to effective storytelling and immersion in games. A few of the good ones would be Half-Life and MOH:AA.

Cool (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011780)

I am an anonymous coward troll who takes joy in wasting moderators' mod points on trash like this.

Story? (4, Funny)

Bobdoer (727516) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011782)

Since when did a good game need one of those? Back in the good old days, all we had were little pixels that roamed the screen, and if they actually did something, we were amazed. Story, heh. Those young'ens today are spoiled, I tell ya.

Re:Story? (1, Funny)

funny-jack (741994) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012004)

Your pixels roamed the screen? Lucky bastard. Ours just sat there. We had to imagine them moving. And they were all one color, too.

Re:Story? (1)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012005)

Back in the day, we didn't need all those shiny graphics that we have today. We had text, a good story, and that's the way we liked it. You can keep your mindless shoot em ups. These young pups don't have any respect for the old ways.

Re:Story? (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012047)

Those aren't pixels, they're rocks, and they're being thrown at you for starting another "back in the good old days..." thread.

and back in the good old day, you were lucky if they threw rocks at you. most of the time it was manure, and you were being thrown into it! Ah, Soviet Russia... those were the days.

You mean... (4, Funny)

canfirman (697952) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011785)

...Grand Theft Auto: Vice City doesn't qualify as a good story? Awww....

Max Payne 2? Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011787)

Yeah, that was a great story ... that lasted me an afternoon. I finished the entire game in like 4 hours. It was ridiculous.

Now, a game like Knights of the Old Republic, that was great. 30+ hours (and easily replayable), somewhat open story with interesting characters, and fun game play!

great stories in a game (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011796)

"Deus Ex" (NOT #2)

"System Shock 2" (Discovering Dr. Polito still sends shivers)

any of the "Thief" series.

"Half Life"

Re:great stories in a game (2)

LEgregius (550408) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012115)

And don't forget Star Control II. The story in the manual reads like a brief history of the world and the game plot twists and turns all over the place in multiple parallel paths that, even giving the player wide latitude in how to accomplish certain goals. That is the best game story ever IMHO.

Max Payne 2 the benchmark for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011798)

...minimum game for maximum dollar. I'm done with that franchise, though I was able to thief $25 from an unsuspecting soul on eBay and thus halve the damage to my wallet.

Nice looking game. Story present. Over at T-plus two hours from purchase.

Agreed, story telling is important.. (5, Insightful)

wookyhoo (700289) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011808)

So long as it compliments gameplay. I love playing a game that I feel a part of, but at the same time, I'm not going to continue playing it just because of a cool story.

One has to compliment the other, and I think most of us would prefer the games that are better to *play*, rather than those we feel a part of because of an excellent storyline.

I still play Quake 1 ;)

This couldn't be more right (4, Interesting)

Zorak Man (732141) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011812)

I think that the story is by far the most important thing in a game. I still go back and play games from '99 and before and enjoy them alot. I play the half-life single player at least once a year. Also I just recently played the first Home-world and it was the story that kept me so rivited to it. So what if the graphics aren't top notch, people are not going to pay 50 dollars for their hard earned cash for nothing more then an interactive tech demo. I also just found Multi User Dungeons online, such as nannymud [nannymud.com] , its all text, but the stoies in these gamaes are deeper then morst comercial games right now, and I'm am hooked on those.

Excessive story can kill a game, too. (4, Insightful)

Chiasmus_ (171285) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011821)

The article noted that the script to this installation of "Max Payne" is four times longer than a movie script.

Now, I haven't played the game, but if that means it's an eight-hour movie with a little "Okay, move from point A to point B now" thrown in.. no thanks.

I feel that way about some of the Final Fantasy games. I remember thinking "Wow... 90 minutes in... wonder when I'll, you know, fight a battle."

That stuff was great when I was 14 and on summer vacation. At 25, I want something I can *play* in 2 hours.. not "get all set up to start playing."

Re:Excessive story can kill a game, too. (2, Insightful)

Zorak Man (732141) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011865)

A 2 hour game would be great, if it cost $7.50 like a movie ticket, not $50. I like to get my moneys worth out of a game.

Re:Excessive story can kill a game, too. (3, Insightful)

mr.capaneus (582891) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012194)

I think (I hope) he meant. If he has a 2 hour block of time, he would like to be able to get some playing done in that time, rather than watch a CG, fight one battle and then look for a save point because he needs to go somewhere. If that is what he was saying, I agree whole-heartedly.

This is off on a tangent but I also think ALL games should allow you to save at ANY time. Maybe they should allow you to save and only restore that save game once, but it really sucks when I am playing some game and have to go somewhere only to not be able to find a save point. Final Fantasy is one of the most irritating games in that regard.

Re:Excessive story can kill a game, too. (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012227)

Well, I kind of agree with you, but I really rarely shell out 50Euro for a game. I only did once, and only because it was a sequel of a game that I got cheap and I absolutely wanted the sequel.

I just wait until they are in Platinum or until they are at least 20Euro cheaper. That said, I buy more games than I have time to play ;-) Even though my girlfriend majorly kicked my butt in Soul Calibur II (got it for 30Euro) yesterday. Ouch... I didn't know I sucked that bad at fighting games.

Even better (4, Insightful)

bravehamster (44836) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011822)

Max Payne 2's storyline was pretty good, but it got downright pretentious at moments, trying for an emotional depth that the characters just didn't deserve. And you can forget about subtlety.

No, the best storyline I've ever seen in a game is the Marathon series from Bungie. They've been out for over 9 years, and people are still discovering [bungie.org] new depths to the story after all this time.

Re:Even better (3, Interesting)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012248)

Huh. At first glance, the game reminds me of a little-known Activision title called Portal.

The concept was that you had just arrived on Earth to find everyone had disappeared. A single AI, designed for story-telling, remained online, but its memory had been damaged and it needed prodding to help reconstruct its understanding of events. The memery of the AI was divided into different sections, and by exploring around the sections, you would trigger blocked memories to be revealed.

There was no shooting, no zapping, no movement, actually. Just hopping from section to section, uncovering clues and having the AI synthesize them into story nuggets. Pretty cool actually. It was like finding an encycleopedia torn to shreds and reconstructing it into a categorical history of the Earth.

I've often wondered if there were any functional C64 ROMS out there of this game - it was unique, moody, creepy at times, and intellegent.

"A Mind Forever Voyaging" is another great example of fragmented storytelling -- look for it from Infocom.

Sam Lake on Video Game Storytelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011837)

Somebody should tell him that PCP works like, way better d00d!

It is hard! (1)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011855)

For quite some time now I, along with some friends of mine, have been considering starting a gaming company. The gaming industry now nets even more money that the movie industry, so this is obviously a potentionally lucrative nische in SW development.

However, coming up with a gaming concept; a storyline for the game, is anything but trivial. Finding some concept that hasnt been done to death already seems almost impossible. Anyone have any ideas?

Actually, if you do, please email them to big.nothing@bigger.com (and don't tell anyone that YOU had the idea first or that you told it to me!).

More than just story... (1)

j0hnfr0g (652153) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011867)

Remember: it's more than just the story.

Even some of the earliest action-oriented video games had elaborate stories behind them, but that usually didn't mean much when playing.

MP2 the benchmark? (2, Informative)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011869)

Huh? What about Deus Ex or System Shock 2? You want story, look to the FPS/RPG mixes... thats where its at!

Total immersion (1)

llamaguy (773335) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011880)

I reckon the thing that makes a good plot is the feeling that, while your efforts make a difference, you're part of something much, much bigger. If you look at nearly all the games out there, while you DO save the world, it's only because of a lucky set of chances on your part (or so the storytellers make out).

Japanese Games traditionally have good stories (4, Interesting)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011881)

Well, it depends on the genre, but Japanese games usually have much more involving stories (in terms of identifiable plot-points & a sense of evolution/progression) than American ones. Then again, one could argue that many such storylines are too linear and don't give the player enough choices. But more and more Japanese games are providing multiple endings & etc... Overall it looks like a good trend for the industry to follow.

Re:Japanese Games traditionally have good stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012154)

Ugh. I find Japanese RPGs and their overblown anime cliches to be a complete bore.

I'm beating off to this story (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011889)

Seriously, Max Payne makes me go spurtin' all over the place!

I got a better one. (5, Funny)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011900)

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne has been recognized by many people with their heads screwed on straight as a benchmark in video-game storytelling.

Actually, for me, the benchmark in video-game storytelling is Leisure Suit Larry, from Sierra On Line. That d00d is my hero.

Re:I got a better one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011982)

>Actually, for me, the benchmark in video-game storytelling is Leisure Suit Larry, from Sierra On Line. That d00d is my hero.

Tell me about it. I'm still waiting for the sequel, in full glorious 3D, with first-view perspective. ^_^

Max Payne 2 -- Good Story??? (1)

John Starks (763249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011902)

I think not. Penny Arcade, as usual, puts it best [penny-arcade.com] .

Stories in games not getting better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011923)

The bar is getting lower. Doesn't anyone remember Zork?

Re:Stories in games not getting better. (1)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012243)

I remember Zork being little more than a treasure hunt. Maybe you mean one of the later Infocom games.


Characters (1)

genner (694963) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011926)

Good character is essential. Characters should fuel the plot. To many game companies have this backward starting with a concept and then dumping stock characters into that concept. Good game stories are often the result of hireing a character desginer who has a background as a author, instead of using another IT guy.

Lost in Gameplay (2, Insightful)

Jack Zombie (637548) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011929)

(...) Sometimes, with all the innovative development and cool graphics the actual story a game has to tell can get lost in the shuffle.

With Max Payne, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Only game where the story justified the gameplay was Half-Life, and I really can't think of any other videog that reaches its level.

The Archetypical Video Game Epic (5, Funny)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011931)

I think the greatest video story ever told was that of the lonely hungry yellow orb with eyeballs. Always running from his past, devouring the needed fuel to keep him going and learning life as he traveled the mazes of unpredictability. Chased by the undead that could never understand his ideology nor motives only to cause this lost soul to consume a secret drug like substance that multiplied his anger and made him insanely aggressive for short uncontrollable periods of time. It is a story of a journey that will never subside and never end.

Oh, and he liked to eat fruit.

What makes a good video game? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011937)

Simple - BLOOD and PUSSY. What else could you possibly need?

Storyline != Good Gameplay (4, Insightful)

WinnipegDragon (655456) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011941)

This is one of those schisms that I have no idea how to deal with in gaming. First of all, the more storyline there is, generally the more linear the gameplay is. Max Payne had an interesting story, but little freedom.

On the other hand you have games like Morrowind. Great sense of freedom and that contributed to the quality of it's gameplay. As a side-effect, the storyline was easily mangled, and you could break the main quests by doing things out of order, going to where you shouldn't be too early, etc...

Until we reach a point where the hardware is powerful enough that programmers can create an adaptive enough AI, Storyline will just be a euphemism for 'railroading'.

Problem (2, Insightful)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011949)

The basic problem is that video games are a poor format for story telling. Good stories require fine control of plot, pacing, character, setting and theme. The more control is given to the player, the less control the writer has over the elements of good story telling.

That said, there are a number of ways a good writer could dramatically improve the quality of numerous video games, and help improve various genres. Most publishers now take great delight in emphasizing the total lack of literature in their products.

If video games are to truly become meaningful, then they must convey meaning.

Re:Problem (2, Interesting)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012146)

I disagree. I don't think that a movie watcher can really connect with the character on the screen. When playing a game, it's entirely different, as you assume the role of that character.

Think of Silent Hill for a good example. The story is subliminal, and very twisted. You really get inside the heads of the main characters, and of course you feel genuine fear at times, as save points are few and far between, and there's a giant piece of unknown territory between you and that save point.

If you ask me, video games are the perfect means with which to tell a story, as you can draw the player in like no other format. You have the text based "mind reading" ability of a book, but you have the gritty reality of a movie. It's the best of both worlds.

I want you to do something for me. Go play Eternal Darkness, and then go play Silent Hill 1, 2, or 3.

Mystery and magic (1)

Paul Townend (185536) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011954)

This debate will always be subjective and multi-faceted, and no one will ever agree completely on what gives a game that special "something"....

Personally, I think the best kind of story for a computer game is definitely a sense of mystery; of the unknown. Games like Gabriel Knight do it wonderfully; your knowledge of who you are and what you're up against slowly but surely expands the more you play.Torment was also an exceptional computer game; you played it to find out who you were and what your relationship with those around you was.

A sense of magic is another good facet; games like Little Big Adventure, Syberia, and ever The Secret of Monkey Island all had that "something" to them that many games just can't capture, although I couldn't tell you precisely what that something is.....

But anyway. I've only played the original Max Payne, not the sequel, but I couldn't get over the shallow, pretentious sixth-form poetry that seemed to litter it; it was trying too hard.....

Storytelling in Video Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011960)

I understand the need for a good story in games, but games offer entertainment in many different ways -- storytelling is just one of them. You can't tell me that Solitaire has a compelling story, yet people play it.

A good story should/could drive a game, as people will overlook bad gameplay to an extent, if they're entertained by the story. OTOH, games with 10min gameplay in between 20min "cutscenes" start to get tedious after a while.

Gameplay will still be key for a game. Storytelling comes as a close second. While we're at it, why not discuss the need for emphasis on storytelling/content in movies instead of visual effects?

Obligatory PA reference (1)

Raunch (191457) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011965)

Not that I am one to disagree, because I've never played the sequel, but MP2 has long been a butt of joke after joke [penny-arcade.com] because of the dialouge. All this despite the fact that everyone agrees that the game itself is very good. But it sounds as though you are talking about the story more than the game, and thusly the dialouge more than the play.

The Problem Lies in Marketing (1)

xeon4life (668430) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011968)

To get any kind of backing from todays gaming market, many companies are reverting to tried and tsted methods to create video games. That's why many of us are seeing an influx of FPS and other cliche game genres. Story telling games also reqire a lot more positions to be filled in a development team. Storytellers, etc. are extra positions to be filled. Also, the man hours spent alpha and beta testing can seriously hurt the deployment of a story based game. It seems most are happy with their FPS's, but I, for one, would like a very involved game soon. That, or enough money to buy 10 or so FPS's, because they become boring fast, IMHO. I remember the days I played the FF series... 80 hours a game... -Xeon

Imagination? (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011990)

Well theres a few points to be made.. Tons of people say that when a book was released as a movie the book was so much better.. why? Because it was how they imagined it, not what hollywood could afford. It is similar when you compare a game such as Doom to Max Payne. Sure Doom didn't have the best story set up but it was there, and then you had your imagination to guide you through "what happened next". Max Payne on the other hand, tells you exactly what happens next, and that can't change from one person to another. It is linear by all means of the word.
I would prefer for a little open ended storyline. I find that I enjoymovies like Memento and Donny Darko better than most simply because it doesn't really tell you everything, it leaves you to discover with your imagination what exactly happened. Of course these movies also bug the hell out of you for weeks because there are multiple scenarios.. but that is beside the point

It depends on the type of game (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011991)

I used to think story didn't matter much at all in games. I liked twitch games (arcade, FPS, action, etc). For these kinds of games, story isn't all that welcome unless it's integrated into your experience, say in the way Half Life did it. (That was a milestone in interactive story telling right there, without ever taking away interaction to do it).

Over time, we've seen genres of games which, if it weren't for the pretty graphics, there'd be no real reason to play them. Thankfully, it's a genre that has matured and can be enjoyable. I'm referring to games like Silent Hill 2 and 3, where the actual interaction on its own is pretty clumsy, but the story is very interesting (well, in SH2 it was... in SH3 it was too convoluted and hokey).

I personally don't like the original Max Payne way of story telling too much. I don't like being narrated to. I want to be part of the experience.

Remember when Slashdot was about Linux ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9011994)

I do.

Strangely enough, I think it was before they went public.

Now slashdot is about getting mp3s for free, video games, and microsoft is bad!.

It took the dot.com revolutionaries about ten seconds to sell out and turn into coporate plastic people.


Metal Gear Solid... (4, Interesting)

DiZASTiX (461280) | more than 10 years ago | (#9011997)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the story to Metal Gear Solid is amazing. I dont know how they thought it up but it just blows you away. I know I was completley suprised when I finished the game for the first time. I would have to say the best plot/story in a game has to be MGS. The original, for the playstation, didn't have great graphics but who cares, the game was awesome and so wasn't the story. They eventually did a remake on Gamecube and others called Twin Snakes, same game, redone. Better graphics and still a great story. Anways, MGS originally was released 1998 and I havn't seen a game with that good of a story since then.

Re:Metal Gear Solid... (1)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012055)

Eternal Darkness was released since then, and I think that it was clearly the superior in terms of storytelling. Metal Gear Solid was like a traditional spy story, while Eternal Darkness was a psychological thriller that operated on so many levels it wasn't even funny. Silent Hill 2 also deserves some respect.

But don't get me wrong. Metal Gear Solid is definitely in my top 5 of all time.

Planescape: Torment (5, Interesting)

asdren (35537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012006)

I likd Max Payne 2, it was a fun game and I do like the graphic novel approach but the dark noir dialogue is really pretty cheesy. Good thing they don't take themselves too seriously.

But for an excellent game with a story behind it how about one that begins:

I remember dying. Not how, when or why, but the cold fact alone: dying. I look around, there are dead bodies lying around. But they certainly don't seem to remember much. Come to think of it, the dead are not suppose to remember dying. Death is the ultimate, finale fate. How come, then, that I breath? How come I feel cold, and afraid, and disoriented? And what comes next? Death is supposed to be the end, no one trains you on "what to do" while you're at it. Maybe I should just lay still, maybe...

"Come on chief, get up, hurry!" It's an annoying voice, which startles me. More so, the fact that it comes from a floating, whirling skull doesn't help. "What?" and my own voice seems rasp, and strange to me. "What are you waiting for? get UP! we hafta get outta here!" again, the floating skull urges me to do something the dead are not supposed to do.

I comply, if for nothing else, because it makes as much sense as any other action. The dead, you know, are definitely not supposed to get up. "Boy, they sure tore you up good this time, you look even uglier than before" says the skull. They? this time? Before? Inside of me, ignorance and darkness are no longer fueling fear. There is another sentiment, a not so new one that grows within: rage.

It is right there, right then, in that dark, foul and creepy place, that I make a decision. I will do another thing that the dead are not supposed to: I will fight to remember my life.

Re:Planescape: Torment (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012121)

Dammit I never quite finished that game I cant remember why, I got to some maze near the end and gave in

A good story line includes: (1)

zaunuz (624853) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012039)

1. (some) realism. 2. Originality 3. It has to be interesting 4. Originality 5. There has to be a reason for it to be there 6. Oh, and did i mention originality? Way too many good games are turned to trash by a storyline or an intro that sucks goat balls, like: The evil $boss_name and his men from $evil_faction are about to destroy the universe, and you have to stop him. Go on, $hero_name and kill him. Our fate lies in your hands.

And the originals? (0, Troll)

divine_13 (680820) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012042)

How about the original games? Games like tetris don't have any story, and hell they do not need any. Chess - story? And don't say people do not play tetris anymore.

Not sure about the new games... (1)

thung226 (648591) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012043)

I remember really enjoying Golgo 13, Bionic Commando, and Ninja Gaiden (sp?) growing up.

Remake these games with new graphics, and the cycle continues...

Our efforts in automating dynamic story generation (2, Troll)

Samir Gupta (623651) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012049)

I'm in research and development at a well-known video game company, and among the many areas that we conduct research in to make games better, ranging from graphics to human physiology, the art of storytelling is surprisingly one of them. There have been many strides made in allowing computers to assist the game developer in storyline creation and extension, even on the fly.

Many modern implementations of computer-generated narrative -- video games being no exception -- are built from large, preset blocks of text constructed by the author, with either a set path for the plot to follow, or a significant amount of pure randomization to prompt variance in the experience. These approaches require skillful craftsmanship by the author and explicit identification of numerous story paths to an interactive and immersive experience.

Our work seeks to provide interactive narrative dynamically by using narrative theories to continuously adapt to the user's interactions while preserving dramatic content. We're investigating an architecture provides a dynamic run-time narrative, as opposed to a strict path that the user must follow to interact with the story. The main challenge of building a system like this is to preserve the story designer's dramatic vision while providing interactivity to the user. At one end of the spectrum we allow the users complete freedom to do whatever they please in their environment, without clear goals or limitations. This is much like online communities such as The Realm [Codemasters], where the users' goals consist of survival (or death if it interests them) and wandering the countryside while doing as they like to the environment and the other users. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the archetypical "good story": immersive, extremely detailed and well thought out. The reader is more or less constrained to experience the story exactly as the author intended, without deviation or variance. This is comparable to the epic film or engrossing book. We hope to straddle these two traditionally exclusive forms of narrative and provide an engaging hybrid.

In a nutshell, our system is composed of a story clip database that models the components of narratives and a set of algorithms that prescribe the combination of these components to build a story. The story clips are implemented as brief snippets of action or observation, with as little dependency on one another as possible. Each clip contains explicit pre- and postconditions that define limitations on when it can be added to the story and how the story is changed. A set of state vectors, called the story snapshot, is defined at runtime to permit fast verification of preconditions and simple accounting of postconditions. The algorithms that combine the clips form a narrative engine, which coordinates the concatenation of clips into a story that adheres to Branigan's model. In this system, we pay particular attention to the temporal relationships between story clips and define four dimensions of time that must be obeyed.

The narrative engine is the core for production of interactive stories. The run-time character, world, and narrative state vectors are compared to the precondition constraints of the clips stored in the database to extract the most appropriate story clip candidates. This comparison is accomplished by computing the vector difference between each story clip's preconditions and the current story snapshot. The difference vector is scaled by a proportional weighting vector to emphasize particular state vector components. The candidate clips specify potentially divergent plot options and some differences may rule out a clip completely, such as narrative and temporal cohesion. But variance is allowed and expected in the character states, as they describe one moment of time where each of the individuals in the story had one of many emotional combinations. The narrative engine orders the clips according to the quality of their match with the current story state.

The narrative engine uses the evaluated story clips to present the user with the opportunity to choose the branching of the story while constraining the story divergence to be feasible. When multiple story clips are viable at one time (which occurs quite frequently), the narrative engine queries the user to select one clip from a list of the four most similar ones, presenting the most similar one first. The textual query presented to the user is constructed from the textual summaries associated with each of the four similar clips. If fewer than four possible clips exist, all the feasible alternatives are presented. If only one clip is appropriate, it is issued to the user automatically, providing the text connecting the previous and following causal events. The user's selection is integrated into the story, and the clip's postconditions are used to update the current story's state vectors, recording the narrative's progress. Functionally, the user queries are prompts for taking action, but by presenting them as an emotional inquiries, the story emerges through a psychological perspective and less removed than with a more hack-and-slash interaction.

That's essentially the basic idea of our system -- there's much more that my group is working on that I cannot share, but be assured -- as computers have aided the artist, the sound designer, and other creative people in the game development world, so they will soon aid the writer.

Exciting times, for sure.

The Getaway (3, Interesting)

mccalli (323026) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012059)

The game that held my attention with a plotline most recently has been The Getaway on the PS2.

I have two kids and work to contend with, so I rarely get a chance to play games these days. I often ignore story-based games for this reason: no time to finish the story. Zelda: The Wind Waker fell victim to this, Resident Evil, Prince of Persia...lots that are considered to be good by most people's standards (though I had other reasons for dumping Resident Evil too - let me know when they've got a reasonable save system and controls that don't involve walking into every wall, would you?).

But The Getaway passed the test with flying colours. A good plot, great soundtrack, good graphics and lots of tension. Can't knock it - I thoroughly recommend this game to anyone. Very much looking forward to The Getaway 2 which has been announced.


the best was (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012066)

atari combat. That story made me cry.

I tell you what doesn't.... (2, Insightful)

LilMikey (615759) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012074)

A movie storyline... Jeez... I wish they'd get a clue and stop trying to rip movies directly-to-game. Movies are designed to tell a story, Games are designed to put you in a story...

If anything they should be going the other way!

Pac Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012104)

You are a funny yellow head who is stuck in a maze. You must try to avoid the goblins who are out to touch you.
Meanwhile, you must eat as many little dots as possible to successfully move to the next chapter.

Now that's a good game!

Slashdot Jeopardy! (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012106)

Geek: I'll take "Suicidal Web Administrators" for $100, CowboyAlex.

CowboyAlex: The answer is:

There seems to have been a slight problem with the database. Please try again by pressing the refresh button in your browser.

An E-Mail has been dispatched to our Technical Staff, who you can also contact if the problem persists.

Geek: What are the two Stupidest Possible Things a web server can be programmed to do during a Slashdotting?

CowboyAlex: Correct for $100, go again, geek!

No storytelling in modern games? (1)

Jacer (574383) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012117)

I guess Baldur's Gate was just a graphics orgy with no plot or development.

Max Payne 2 was a landmark in game storytelling... (3, Interesting)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012135)

...unfortunately, I'm not sure it was all positive. I'm quite certain that one of the hospital scenes in MP2 was the first time I thought to myself, "Enough of the fucking back story already. I want to play!"

The Max Payne team, and Sam Lake in particular, should be commended for bringing a level of depth to the story that most games in the genre have never even attempted. But there are a lot of people who believe that all that great story came at the price of disrupting the balance between exposition and gameplay. Plus, there are plenty of people who thought that the story just sucked [penny-arcade.com] .

On a side note: anyone else notice the resemblance between Max Payne story author Sam Lake [jivemagazine.com] , and Mr. Needs a Maalox himself [rockstargames.com] ?


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012138)


i am scared that they might monitor it and that is why i am scared that the might monitor it and that is really why.... i think thats enough to pass the lameness filter.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9012233)

They try... on the network where I'm an oper, we generally remove their monitoring bots from our servers when we find them.

Baseball Kid (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012147)

OK Max Payne 2 was a good game. but wtf was all that baseball kid business? I thought it was ridiculously ott.

Bah. (1)

Reorax (629666) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012148)

I thought about making a post about Planescape: Torment, but it's been done already. Then I thought about making a post about Xenogears, but remembered Disc 2. (For those who haven't played it, Xenogears has one of the greatest stories of all time, and some of the worst storytelling, especially on its second and final disc. I could describe how it's done, but I would have to copy their style.)

Re:Bah. (1)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012201)

Xenogears was awesome. I was hoping someone would mention it in here. I actually didn't mind Xenogear's second disc though. By that time the gameplay was becoming fairly repetitive, but I had been up for like 35 hours or so playing the game because I NEEDED to know what happened next. I needed the break. ;-)

Different Kinds of Stories... Different Games (1)

pickapeppa (731249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012172)

Stories come in many forms. Max Payne and others like it (Deus Ex, KOTOR, etc...) with the guided-by-the-hand role-playing feel have their appeal. I thought Knights of the Old Republic was the niftiest Star Wars story since Empire. But what's really impressive to me is when the game designers allow the player to more or less make up their own story, ala Morrowind. There was a central story, but the potential range for getting from point A to point Z allowed for a huge variance of gameplay in between. Those kinds of games engage the imagination in a different way than the 'movie story' games do. Or maybe I'm trying to justify the months of my life I squandered wandering around on Vvardenfell.

Look at some of the most famous games... (2, Interesting)

GotSpider (682283) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012174)

Not all of them need awesome storylines to have great playability:

Zelda: Guy has girl, Guy loses Girl. Guy must find Girl.
Mario: Guy has girl, Guy loses Girl. Guy must find Girl.
Gauntlet: Shoot stuff. Shoot stuff. Shoot stuff. Archer needs food. Shoot stuff. Shoot stuff.

What about games with ridiculous "stories" like:

Pac-Man: What story is there here? Yellow dot eats little dots, runs away from colored ghosts.
Asteroid: White triangle shoots at lined objects with a line.

Not all great games need amazing storylines, although they can certainly help matters (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Max Payne).

Best qualities of Max Payne 2 storyline? (1)

jvmatthe (116058) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012213)

This is a serious question: I'd like to know what people feel are the strongest qualities of the Max Payne 2 story. Is it the narration? The characterization? The pacing?

It isn't uncommon to hear how the story in Max Payne 2 is a great example of storytelling (as in the blurb on Slashdot), but I'd like to know just what it has that, say, Silent Hill 2 didn't have. Or Metal Gear Solid. Or Wasteland. Or even Resident Evil 2.

Thanks in advance.

Poor Technical staff... (4, Funny)

Pollux (102520) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012232)

Warning: mysql_connect(): Too many connections in /home/www/jivemagazine/forum/admin/db_mysql.php on line 40

There seems to have been a slight problem with the database.
Please try again by pressing the refresh button in your browser.
An E-Mail has been dispatched to our Technical Staff, who you can also contact if the problem persists.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Poor tech staff. Let's see here, I've tried to reload the page three times, so that's four emails from me alone...multiply that by maybe 100,000 slashdot users...

Man, I know that the web server takes a bad enough beating, but I never knew we could slashdot the mailserver also!

Temple of Elemental Banality (1)

Dinosaur Neil (86204) | more than 10 years ago | (#9012245)

I've been playing The Temple of Elemental Evil from Troika games. It boasts the latest D&D rules and... well... not much else.

After playing it through, I was very disappointed. The story was damn near absent. Your ultimate goal is reflected in the title; good-aligned characters will expect to destroy the aforementioned temple, while evil-aligned will take it over. I've no idea what would be expected of a neutral party, but the point is, there is only a thin back-story to motivate the player. A couple dozen side-quests fail flesh things out. I keep thinking of the D&D based games from Black Isle, especially Baldur's Gate II and the elaborate stories involved. To add insult to injury, the (five year old?) Infinity engine is superior in every way to the one used in ToEE, except for the number of officially supported screen resolutions (but that's another rant).

The game starts you off with hints of nearby bandits who, once dealt with, will unlock the pirate city adjacent to the Temple itself. That's the extent of the story progression. Once the temple is revealed, the player goes progressively deeper in until a final battle is reached. That's it. None of the prophecy-driven complexities of Morrowind or the episodic progression of NeverWinter Nights. One of the things I like about RPGs over FPSs is the story. Every NPC in Baldur's Gate II has a number of his/her own side-quests. Your character in Morrowind can run straight through the basic prophecy-based quests, or spend some time moving up through the various guilds and their elaborate quests. NeverWinter Nights has a pretty linear storyline, but it is a storyline, and side-kick side quests can add to it...

The bottom line: pretty 3D graphics or elaborate spell-effects can enhance a good game, but when the story is just there to justify rampaging through the levels, well, my copy of Doom 2 is already paid for and I don't need another new fscking video card to play it...

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