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Why Video Game Stories are "Stupid"

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March 24, 2008 3:40:06 PM

Article written by Rob Wright.

Why are video game stories so bad? At GDC 2008, 2K Boston's Ken Levine went behind the scenes to explain how BioShock's award-winning story was cut and dumbed down, and why the average gamer doesn't care about "stupid" game stories.

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2008/03/24/ken_levine_on_story/
March 24, 2008 4:34:33 PM

Just curious, but why did Ken Levine think this form of entertainment would be any different that current TV shows and other really stupid (aka 8th grade) material found on TV?

Some really obvious facts:
1. Only 5% of the populate graduate College/University
2. Not many gamers are entertained by having to use their gray matter
3. All FPS are reactive, not pro-active (zero creativity)
4. Target audience of FPS gamers are statistically on the younger side (teens)
5. cool graphics, blood, splat, gore, and sex sells, not clever plot twists and character developments

This is not new, if TV/Entertainment were aimed at a more educated audience, we wouldn't be seeing so many of these really brain dead "reality" shows, and some of the super simple jokes you find in many current day sitcoms, or the very predictable drama shows where one can usually finish the script before the show ends.

And when something new and fresh does come along, it gets overused -- like the now classic start from the middle or start from the end of a story and work backwards to the beginning. Interesting when first used but now getting very over used and old.

And then we have the Political Correctness, so many not so stupid stories die a miserable death because they are not politically correct and would never pass US censorship.

So what we end up with is some amorphous blob of brain dead material.

March 24, 2008 7:26:21 PM

And if the plot is good, the big audience or the big money does not understand the idea...
Firefly... dead before first season, B5 allmost dead many times, Grusade dead very soon after heavy mess up with original script (that was considered too complex ...

Same old story...
I am happy, that we have HBO, that even tries some time... even they have ended soem good stories...
Related resources
March 24, 2008 8:12:39 PM

V8VENOM said:
And when something new and fresh does come along, it gets overused -- like the now classic start from the middle or start from the end of a story and work backwards to the beginning. Interesting when first used but now getting very over used and old.

And then we have the Political Correctness, so many not so stupid stories die a miserable death because they are not politically correct and would never pass US censorship.


1) Starting from the middle (in medias res) was probably cliche even when Homer got around to using it when he wrote The Odyssey over 2,000 years ago. "Cliche" does not mean "bad", but they are very so often seen together that they may seem inseparable. Everything has been done before. The problem is merely one of execution.

2) I am interested to see how "PC" "US Censorship" is killing good stories. Got any good examples?

March 24, 2008 8:56:28 PM

Bemoaning the lack of story needed in a FPS?
He's just developing in the wrong genre.

Then again, I also agree that a realistic dramatic storyline would likely raise another storm in Congress with Hillary demanding more laws regarding video games.
March 24, 2008 9:17:56 PM

ganpachi said:
1) Starting from the middle (in medias res) was probably cliche even when Homer got around to using it when he wrote The Odyssey over 2,000 years ago. "Cliche" does not mean "bad", but they are very so often seen together that they may seem inseparable. Everything has been done before. The problem is merely one of execution.

2) I am interested to see how "PC" "US Censorship" is killing good stories. Got any good examples?


In the "Leisure Suit Larry Collection", Leisure Suit Larry 7 was left out entirely because of ESRB issues.

You could argue that Leisure Suit Larry isn't a good story, but this is proof that there are games and themes that you used to be able to buy, that you can't anymore.

Even a dumbed down bioshock was still smarter than almost any other game released that year, as far as story goes. I've set aside money in the bacon fund for Ken's next game. Assuming of course, that we don't have another activation debacle.

Still waiting for a true successor to deus ex though.
March 24, 2008 9:24:19 PM

ganpachi,

No immediate good examples I could provide here without mod deletion. But lets say "A Clockwork Orange" for example, banned in the UK -- would make a great FPS that doesn't have to follow the traditional path of kill millions of bad guys and be rewarded. The social/pyschological boundaries could provide vast world in which to operate at a virtual level but the rewards would be far to risky and/or suttle and probably not be understood by the "average gamer".

Personally I'm a little miffed that my choice to experience such material (good or bad) is never making it's way to the public. I'm a little more than over the "produce for the stupid" mentality that seems to be the only way to get anything published and/or make money.

"Everything has been done before" has it? Do you or anyone feel they can validate such a statement? It would be impossible to validate and easy to defunk -- new concepts/ideas do surface all the time.

There is a wealth of new ideas that have not been done before, but these ideas get killed before release.

And "Bad" is merely a judgement at a moment in time.
March 24, 2008 10:06:00 PM

Well I guess I am not your average game player but I am still playing Oblivion and X3 reunion and the more detail and story I can get then the better and richer the game experience is to me
Although I have to agree once you get cought up in the fast pace action of solveing helping and killing the bad guys you end up snow balling right through to the end of the game and yes you do miss the little things as in the games Halflife2 episode2 or FEAR persius mandate and then you look at the time and you have been at it for 6 hrs and your almost through or are at the end
Short and sweet is the flavour of the month for the games comeing out now no big poduction ones like Crysis
I realy did like Bioshock and would have craved more if it wasnt for that stupid program that got loaded into my system files to stop pirocy because im constantly modifying my com I used up all my starts just to play the game once no I refuse to play Bioshoke ever again in protest
its my computer not theres they dont have the right to play with my sys files
March 24, 2008 10:40:31 PM

V8VENOM said:
But lets say "A Clockwork Orange" for example, banned in the UK -- would make a great FPS that doesn't have to follow the traditional path of kill millions of bad guys and be rewarded. The social/pyschological boundaries could provide vast world in which to operate at a virtual level but the rewards would be far to risky and/or suttle and probably not be understood by the "average gamer".


First off:

"Contrary to popular claims, this film was never banned in the UK. It originally received an "X" rating in 1971 and was withdrawn from distribution in 1973 by the film's director. In 1999 (the year of Stanley Kubrick's death), the film was released again and received an "18" rating." -imdb

And the books and movie are both readily available on amazon.uk.

I think the major drawback that games face is that they must be event driven. It is very difficult to maintain a character driven storyline (outside of the pervy world of high school dating sims) without boring the audience to death. Character development is more meditative and closely linked with story telling, whereas games require active participation. Anytime a character develops, or a player is induced to make a moral choice in a game (a la Knights of the Old Republic), it is always as a function of response to an environmental cue.

Bad movies and books are often critiqued for being event-driven, but that is the very strength that drives most games.

March 24, 2008 10:49:49 PM

Gaming at its infancy was all about just being able to show that you could blow things up. Hoolywood does three things : blows things up, blames everything on the corporate baddies, and assumes everyone wants this teeny bop ideal. So, being that games are much more of a personal experiance, gamers want more from their games. For the teens its all about better, wilder explosions etc. Thats a lucrative market for the gaming industry, as they tend to drag older or more mature gamers along with this type of game. Gaming is growing up now, been around too long for only one type of genre aiming. I think theyre missing the mark, tho no one wants to spend the money-take the chance of something better, only every once in awhile, which is just a shame
March 24, 2008 11:08:29 PM

LOL... or maybe some subjects simply don't translate well into FPSes and the target audience is so very very wrong? LOL

If you want to attack objectivist epistemology maybe you'd have better luck making a manga style RPG? ;) 
March 24, 2008 11:42:25 PM

Interesting article...

For me, the best bit about the Bioshock plotline was how the studio acknowledged one of the fundamanetal limitations of the FPS genre - the requirement that players hit key checkpoints to advance the "plot". I mean, they really just took the limitation head-on and integrated it into the story. Great stuff.

I'm hoping that one day in the not-too-distant future, it will be possible for small studios with real artistic inclinations to be able to produce "games" that give us category III types what we crave. Sure they won't be making a 5-million seller, but at least some sort of vision could be realized.

March 25, 2008 3:53:49 AM

I would love to be able to read the original story for this game. I have to admit that I was a little bit dissapointed in the story after waiting for this game for so long, but I'm one of the gamers that would really like to be immersed in the game.

I definitely would have had the game take a lot longer with a lot more story and characters to it. That would have been awesome.
March 25, 2008 11:40:06 AM

In the interview, didnt he say that the past history was forgotten basically? Thats a shame. Even hollowood makes part deauxs. The more the history/character build, the deeper the realism. The reason Ive mentioned this just doesnt apply to the FPS genre, but games in general. If you look at a few of the current posts, youll see that people want more intense story, not just graphics ability or explosion/action
March 25, 2008 2:32:45 PM

I think Levine is a moron. Good stories in games are NOT stupid; in fact in some cases they're absolutely necessary. Some games, like the Half-Life series, are great BECAUSE of the story. I have had few emotional responses from good games, but the end of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 definitely elicited one. Levine wishes he could do that. His stupid Little Sisters didn't freakin' do it.

The whole "Would you kindly" thing ruined Bioshock for me. That and becoming a Big Daddy. Ugh. It made me wish I'd pirated it. I certainly won't be paying for the next one; hell I may not even play it.

Keep making your crap console games, Levine, and let people with half a brain enjoy good games.
March 25, 2008 3:16:17 PM

Polynikes said:
I think Levine is a moron. Good stories in games are NOT stupid; in fact in some cases they're absolutely necessary. Some games, like the Half-Life series, are great BECAUSE of the story. I have had few emotional responses from good games, but the end of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 definitely elicited one. Levine wishes he could do that. His stupid Little Sisters didn't freakin' do it.

The whole "Would you kindly" thing ruined Bioshock for me. That and becoming a Big Daddy. Ugh. It made me wish I'd pirated it. I certainly won't be paying for the next one; hell I may not even play it.

Keep making your crap console games, Levine, and let people with half a brain enjoy good games.


Um....

Listen, you're not going to find a bigger Half-Life fan anywhere than me. But let's be honest, the series' storyline isn't exactly groundbreaking. Don't get me wrong, it's an extremely well-executed narrative. But the plot is fairly straightforward and somewhat formulaic. And Episode Two was too predictable -- did you seriously not know how that episode was going to end?

As for your pirating comment, how bout you just not play the next game instead of ripping it off? That way everyone will be happy.
March 25, 2008 4:20:24 PM

I may pirate it just out of spite.

I'm not saying Half-Life's story is amazing, but the presentation, at least, was phenomenal. Can't say that about Bioshock. I cared when Eli died, but didn't feel a thing when I harvested a Little Sister. Maybe if they hadn't wussed out and actually showed you impaling her...
March 25, 2008 4:20:27 PM

robwright said:
Um....

Listen, you're not going to find a bigger Half-Life fan anywhere than me. But let's be honest, the series' storyline isn't exactly groundbreaking. Don't get me wrong, it's an extremely well-executed narrative. But the plot is fairly straightforward and somewhat formulaic. And Episode Two was too predictable -- did you seriously not know how that episode was going to end?

As for your pirating comment, how bout you just not play the next game instead of ripping it off? That way everyone will be happy.


Uh HL2 had a good story, didnt have to be groundbreaking, well it was to me since it did tell a decent story and not many games do that. So in a sense it was groundbreaking. Having Alyx added in the HL2 added a little depth, not a lot but hey they tell a better story than most games. I think Levine is an ID10T as well, the thing I would like to see more is a decent story. Heck I loved COD4 (except it was to short) since it felt like you were playing a movie and you experienced several perspectives (even as a president that got executed). The multiplayer bit in games is lacking as many "normal" people have grown weary of the immature 12 year olds who either hack or play 12 hours a day and have "L337" skills... A lot of us regular folk would prefer to get with friends, play coop and play a great game with a great story...
March 25, 2008 4:57:51 PM

tmeacham said:
Article written by Rob Wright.

Why are video game stories so bad? At GDC 2008, 2K Boston's Ken Levine went behind the scenes to explain how BioShock's award-winning story was cut and dumbed down, and why the average gamer doesn't care about "stupid" game stories.

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2008/03/24/ken_levine_on_story/

did you actually read the article? because it looks to me like you just looked at the title saw "story" "game" and "stupid" and then posted - the tone of the article seemed much more positive, and pro complex story than you make it sound (i'm really only talking about the "why the average gamer doesn't care about "stupid" game stories" part, since he didn't actually refer to average gamers - just 3 different catagories, and it seemed to be about trying to avoid conflicting those catagories interests)
March 25, 2008 6:00:03 PM

I see it as a total cop-out. Claim that most people are too stupid or just don't care, and you no longer need to spend the time, energy, and money to make an intelligent game. Hollywood puts puts out many lame movies this way. All they care about is making as much money as possible with as little effort as necessary.

They conveniently forget how popular games like Myst were. It sold more copies than Bioshock ever will.

I am tired of arcade/console like games that are all about killing. I loved HL2 and enjoyed Doom III. I am not enticed by any of the new shooter games. They just seem to be more of the same in a different context.
March 25, 2008 6:03:21 PM

He said exactly what makes sense. Make a marginalized story around marginalized gameplay to keep the largest number of potential customers happy enough to buy your game. The middle is where you find the big sales.

Whether or not that makes the best game, that has been shown time and time again to make the best sales. Almost all of these companies are publicly traded, so their job is to do what is in the best interest of their shareholders(Not the gamers). That is to make the shares more valuable.

Making an extremely deep and complex original game simply isn't going to bring the return on investment that something a little less taxing on the mind would. It's sad, but good long lasting games arn't good business. Just like good cars or good tvs or good PC hardware or good anything else that isn't completely disposable doesn't make for good business. Everyone makes their money on the middle.

On a side note though, it would be interesting to see a high-end car manufacturer model applied to a video game developer. A far more expensive game that is much more polished and refined might actually sell well.
March 25, 2008 6:49:28 PM

clay12340 said:
On a side note though, it would be interesting to see a high-end car manufacturer model applied to a video game developer. A far more expensive game that is much more polished and refined might actually sell well.

That's an interesting idea... Though I'm afraid the cost would be too prohibitive. They'd have to charge a serious premium, as I'm sure they'd expect very low sales numbers.

And besides, I've bought plenty of EXCELLENT games for $50. There's no reason why I should have to pay $100+.

(Also, for some reason when I hit the reply button it says the thread doesn't exist. I refreshed it many times and it still showed up, but I can reply via quoting... Weird.)
March 25, 2008 8:27:06 PM

I'd gladly pay $250 or $500 for a game that was actually excellent and well supported(But you'd still never know). Hell I spent $210 on Hellgate London and we all know that wasn't worth it add in all the games I've bought that are simply crappy and it becomes an expensive habit.

Had I spent that on Diablo or Diablo 2 or Starcraft or one of the Fallouts or TF2 it would have been money well spent in my opinion. I've logged thousands upon thousands of hours in those games. I always figure if I'm getting a 1/5 ratio of hours I worked to pay for it vs hours of enjoyment from the game then I'm happy.


Now on the same token you'd end up with every game that was previously $50 rising to $100 or $150 once someone is getting a larger sum of money out of their game. Then my $50 mishaps would be two or three times as stupid. Isn't that the fun of commercialism though?
March 26, 2008 3:15:45 AM

Interesting and sad how much story was omitted in Bioshock. I think 2K should eventually release a massive "patch" or "expansion" via download or even boxed, that restructures the game into something close to the original, much-more ambitious experience. I'd bet that many who have played Bioshock (I'm only a tenth or so into it) and found it way better than average would be glad for the *option* of buying the more-complete game.
March 26, 2008 6:03:26 AM

A very interesting read.

I don't take the premise that game stories should be simple as an indictment on my intelligence. I don't need or even want everything I do to force me to think. I'm quite capable of deciding on what to spend my mental energies without being lead by the nose by some pretentious pseudo-intellectual on a mission to educate the poor ignorant prolls.

I play games to *relax*. Sometimes, relaxing can mean working out strategy in a game like Civilization, and sometimes it can mean I just want to load up a game like Call of Duty and blow stuff up. To be perfectly honest, if I want a complex story, I am not going to look to a game for it. I'd rather read a book.

Games just don't strike me as a very good medium for delivering a complex plot. They demand action, often immediate action, on the part of the player to advance the story. This is great for action oriented genres like first person shooters, and can work for other types of games as well, but it really doesn't lend itself well to the way that I like to digest a complex story.

I also do not believe that simple = bad. I'll take good game play over an attempt at complex story telling any day of the week. If someone manages both, more power to them, but if budget forces a choice, just give me a good game, preferably a bug free experience. I don't expect to unravel the deeper mysteries of life in between blowing up digitized space aliens/monsters/Bad Men*tm/fluffy-yet-somehow-menacing-animals. All I need from a game's storyline is enough to keep me engaged in the virtual world I'm exploring.
March 26, 2008 7:52:00 AM

I dont think reading , say, the bible is ever going to equate to a game either. Using ones imagination takes on many forms, and used by people in differing ways. What I like is the ability to do so, with a somewhat painted background, with choices and consequences. The more you narrow that down, the lessor a game means to me. Point shoot and destroy, that leaves me with nothing. If I want better coordination, a game of basketball,going fishing, or catch seems better to me, and far more relaxing. I think peoples levels of desire for control/background story differ greatly. Sometimes a game written in a path form is perfect with the story and fully adequate, other times its fantastic to roam free within the game, with many sideplots written in. Its all variables that the gaming industry should consider, cause we already have hack n slash shoot em ups up to our eyeballs
March 26, 2008 12:54:26 PM

Ixad said:


I don't take the premise that game stories should be simple as an indictment on my intelligence. I don't need or even want everything I do to force me to think. I'm quite capable of deciding on what to spend my mental energies without being lead by the nose by some pretentious pseudo-intellectual on a mission to educate the poor ignorant prolls.

...

I also do not believe that simple = bad. I'll take good game play over an attempt at complex story telling any day of the week. If someone manages both, more power to them, but if budget forces a choice, just give me a good game, preferably a bug free experience. I don't expect to unravel the deeper mysteries of life in between blowing up digitized space aliens/monsters/Bad Men*tm/fluffy-yet-somehow-menacing-animals. All I need from a game's storyline is enough to keep me engaged in the virtual world I'm exploring.


Nice post.

My take on this is the following: Entertainment is story telling, it has been since humanity emerged from evolution. Stories were told during cold and dark nights near the campfire in a cave...

Since then humanity invented the arts, stage plays, and of course the written word.

Computer games did not start out as story telling... I can't say I have experienced any kind of story in Pong or Asteroids. However in the early stages computer games were also discovered as a means for telling stories, starting with text adventures, etc.

As far as I can see, storytelling through a computer game is still in its infancy. It is a significantly different medium of communication than books, plays or movies. All of those are media where the audience is passive, absorbing the story that is presented to them. Telling a story through a computer game means involving the player interactively, he has a part to play in the story and the player will demand he has freedom in that (at least the perception of freedom). I think most games are still not even scratching the surface of what is possible with the computer game medium. Storytelling in this "new" medium is a whole new ballgame, it is more and more becoming the art of creating a world in which the players can create their own stories (basically whats done in MMO's but this is also extending to single player games (sandbox types, etc)). Not everyone will be looking for this new form of entertainment, but the passive media are not gone, so there is certainly room for this new form of story telling and I am looking forward to it. One of the reasons why I am really looking forward to see what Remedy is creating with Alan Wake. I really loved the Max Payne stories (although player freedom was too limited in those days)




March 26, 2008 6:18:32 PM

hmmm...
if Bioshock's story was so good and so big, why not to make a book or a comics book?
March 28, 2008 2:16:20 PM

@ BigMac

Totally agree. I do not have the predictive powers to forsee how storytelling will evolve in the "game" format, but I'm very interested to see how it goes. I have to say that I'm a little disappointed that we have not seen more experimentation in this area.

As far as all the complaining about Bioshock's story, I have to at least partially disagree. As I mentioned above, I thought that the "Would you kindly?" bit was a very clever, in-game acknowledgment of of the fundamanetal issues of storytelling in this new format. It was not groundbreaking insofar in that it did not overcome the checkpoint format, but it showed that the developers were at least thinking about it.

I managed to get involved enough in the story that harvesting the sisters was something that I did not want to do. Then again, I had no problem upholding the Virtues of the Avatar in UltimaIV, and that was just some sprites on the screen. I think that maybe a person can only get involved with a story if they are willing to invest a little empathy and imagination in it. I'm not criticizing anyone for not getting into the Bioshock plot - I have been totally unable to get into a variety of stories that I might have been able to with a little investment of time. For me, I think it was the inital setup and the great art-deco layout that enticed me into caring about the Bioshock story...
March 28, 2008 2:31:51 PM

Chazwuzzer said:
I thought that the "Would you kindly?" bit was a very clever, in-game acknowledgment of of the fundamanetal issues of storytelling in this new format.

I completely disagree. Although it was nice of them to point out the flaw in SOME video games' storytelling (obviously RPGs don't have that problem of being stuck on a rail story-wise) it's not like everyone and their mother wasn't aware of it in FPSes already. It merely served to rub in your face that what's happening in the game is beyond your control and you basically just have to accept that you are going to turn into this ugly, useless lump known as a "Big Daddy." And in that amazing, "clever" part where you kill what's-his-face, they even were kind enough to letterbox it for us so we could further enjoy lack of choice. Ugh.

Now, if they'd, oh, I dunno, OVERCOME that story limitation by giving you a choice, either kill or don't kill that guy, become or don't become a Big Daddy, I would have considered it "clever." It wouldn't have been terribly difficult to script a simple choice into it.

So, anyways, I'm not attacking you, I respect your opinion and was just using your word (clever). My beef is with 2k, and jerks like Levine who think story doesn't matter.
March 28, 2008 3:12:03 PM

@Polynikes

In my opinion, even in RPGs, we are still stuck with the checkpoint issue. There are typically more choices in RPGs, but to advance the plotline in even those games, Enemy X must be killed or Item Y aquired. I feel that games like the Elder Scrolls series are moving in the right direction, but we are not there yet.

In the FPS genre, I believe that the title that offered some of the greatest choice was Deus Ex. Even then, despite the choices that you could make, the effect on the overall plot was marginal (the coolest was definitely sticking with Paul in Hell's Kitchen when the MIB came).

Honestly, and it will get under a lot of people's skin, the genre with the most choice is probably the MMO. You could never program in a hundred years the insanity and drama that I encountered playing L2.
March 28, 2008 3:17:30 PM

braitBR said:
hmmm...
if Bioshock's story was so good and so big, why not to make a book or a comics book?


Well, I'm not sure BioShock novels would be the greatest idea -- have you read any of the Halo novelizations? -- but I support a comic book series.

And FYI, Take-Two is currently considering both a movie adaptation and an MMORPG based on BioShock.
March 28, 2008 4:11:19 PM

Bioshock would make a visually interesting movie if done right, but I think the whole Big Daddy sequence at the end would be a bit of a downer. I'd have a lot of trouble accepting that the hero of the story had to undergo a permanent change that destroys him (or her) as a person.

Although you're definitely right about limitations present in RPGs, they still offer far more choice overall. In most RPGs there's a good and a bad path, and, depending on the game, your path could turn out to be VERY different from the other choice. (Not the case in games like NWN2, though, as each main path has the same **** quests... Ugh.) That's the distinction for me. FPSes could integrate this kind of stuff if the developers wanted. I'm not just talking about the choice to kill or not kill little sisters and get a different ending sequence, I mean totally different events would happen from the point you made the choice on. Imagine if in Bioshock your character could either choose to kill what's his face, then go on and become a big daddy to save the little sisters, or he could not kill the guy, and get his ass the hell out of Rapture (which he was supposedly trying to do the whole time).
March 28, 2008 6:28:12 PM

Sengoku said:

Still waiting for a true successor to deus ex though.


You took the words right out of my mouth :) 
March 28, 2008 8:07:21 PM

I realize that it is utter heresy to have this opinion, but I did not think that DE2 was total crap. I stayed away from it after the initial reviews, but curiosity and an $8 price tag ultimately pulled me in. It was, of course, a far cry from the excellent Deus Ex and the ending was just a tragedy.

Still, it was worth a go for $8.

Anything happening on the DE3 front? I remember coming across a URL a while back that had a lame splash screen and that was about it.

Quick edit: "What's his face" was, of course, Andrew Ryan, named after Ayn Rand (See also Atlas and Fontaine). I think that his death scene was the ultimate comment that the game offered concerning the objectivist/determinist debate. So, at least there I give the developers a pass. Now, whether a game like Bioshock can function as a meaningful medium for philisophical debate is another issue entirely.
March 29, 2008 12:05:28 PM

V8VENOM said:
ganpachi,

No immediate good examples I could provide here without mod deletion. But lets say "A Clockwork Orange" for example, banned in the UK -- would make a great FPS that doesn't have to follow the traditional path of kill millions of bad guys and be rewarded. The social/pyschological boundaries could provide vast world in which to operate at a virtual level but the rewards would be far to risky and/or suttle and probably not be understood by the "average gamer".


Clockwork orange was never banned in the UK.
April 1, 2008 11:22:36 AM

Polynikes said:
I completely disagree. Although it was nice of them to point out the flaw in SOME video games' storytelling (obviously RPGs don't have that problem of being stuck on a rail story-wise) it's not like everyone and their mother wasn't aware of it in FPSes already. It merely served to rub in your face that what's happening in the game is beyond your control and you basically just have to accept that you are going to turn into this ugly, useless lump known as a "Big Daddy." And in that amazing, "clever" part where you kill what's-his-face, they even were kind enough to letterbox it for us so we could further enjoy lack of choice. Ugh.

Now, if they'd, oh, I dunno, OVERCOME that story limitation by giving you a choice, either kill or don't kill that guy, become or don't become a Big Daddy, I would have considered it "clever." It wouldn't have been terribly difficult to script a simple choice into it.

So, anyways, I'm not attacking you, I respect your opinion and was just using your word (clever). My beef is with 2k, and jerks like Levine who think story doesn't matter.



I've got to say i totally agree. Bioshock's story failed for me. I killed one little sister at the very beginning of the game and none after that, and got the 'bad' ending which seemed totally irrelevant to my game experience. This is poor, lazy design.

The one think Levine discussed which i agree with, is allowing the player to decide how much of the story they want to hear/see/read. But Bioshock pales in comparison to Deus Ex on that front.

There are two things fighting against gamers in this day and age. 1.)the aforementioned shareholders and 2.) Marketing departments which tell developers that 10% of games get finished, so they have to make games shorter. Hence this 10-12hrs of gameplay most of us face with new games. But the bottom line is that you can't tell a good story in a game within 10hrs. Which is why games like COD4, Halo3 and (worst of all given the expectations) Bioshock, which leave you feeling hollow and empty after completing them.

When i finished Deus Ex i felt like a hero who'd just saved the world after an epic quest. When was the last time anyone felt like that after finishing a new game?
April 1, 2008 11:48:07 AM

khimaros said:
When i finished Deus Ex i felt like a hero who'd just saved the world after an epic quest. When was the last time anyone felt like that after finishing a new game?


Amen

The fact that only 10% of the (single player) games get finished says something about current generation of gamers (not all negative mind you, many people are just looking for different things nowadays than single player campaigns) but it probably says more about how stories are told in games at the moment. There is so much room for improvement.
June 12, 2008 11:57:15 PM

I think Bioshock provides a good blend. Its 60% action and 40% plot imho while you are running around on missions and 40% action and 60% plot when you are exploring.

If there is too much to take on board you need personal diaries you can access in the game and spend a while circling through that. That is good, but it isn't always the most exciting game experience.

I feel that video games are 'what actually happened' and movies are select scenes taken from that with seemingly incidental scenes which are often set-ups for the plot.

Reading a book you are simply reading and imagining. In playing a game you are hands on experiencing and imagining as you control your avatar as well as interpreting the plot. As you add levels of plot complexity, you have to either increase the level of in game recall screens to review data or frustrate some gamers. I wouldn't have wanted toooo much more plot personally. I enjoy missions and choosing a side and emotional and moral decisions. I can't always remember that aunty doris wanted a sword of unimaginable strength from a sooth sayer in dr'k'thford town. I can get with the optional mission arrow and a lot of upgrades :) 

I felt more disappointed in my self for the little sister choices I made, than I have ever felt before in a game. It's not like the choice is made late in the game so you can reload a save game and come out all heroic and honest. If you were seduced by the idea of NEEDING lots of Adam at first -even if realising your error within a few harvests - the outcome can only be bleak. I am playing it through again.

Cheers, Jim
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