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Stories And Their Proper Place In Games
This has been discussed a little bit before now, but I'll bring it up formally. Here's an article at Slate about stories in games:

Summed up: Stories interfere with non-linear gameplay. Stories limit the life of a game and thus encourage you to buy new games. Stories cover up the gameplay--or lack thereof. Stories are bad.

<czgSux> please repost/edit it so it includes more sexual innuedo

lol czg is gay.

Pah editing now is stupid.

P.S. there's you're innuendo, silly Norwegian. 
I Agree. 
I had read a similar article recently, about how cutscenes (and the storylines they enforce) not only interrupt the play of a game, but inhibit the possibilities of said game as well. I think games should be treated more like environments than stories, settings with short-term goals and missions based on the environment rather than a overall goal (infiltrating a building to allow access across a bridge, that sort of thing). Of course when speaking of a shooter-type game (which I'm assuming, here), the basics must be observed, -- i.e., the Bad Guys Who Threaten The Peace, the Bad Monsters Of The Wild, the Heavily Guarded Ancient Power That Must Be Accessed -- in order to have something to shoot at and/or avoid, or else it turns into something like Myst, which sucks. 
Let's Get This Topic Started 
I thought the topic would be fairly controversial because the quality of a game's story is a sticking point for players, and it's important to set a context for most types of games. (E.G. Pacman compared with Undying.) Or do you people think that you can do away with stories altogether?

Questions for discussion:

* Would Half-Life 2 be just as good without the story?

* What about Quake, or Warcraft 3?

* Or a Final Fantasy game? 
Well Whatever. 
Once you read the fucking article, you'll notice the guy is annoyed with cutscenes as a way of taking the interactivity inherent in a game away from the player. This I agree with. This is (one of the reasons, besides sex) that HL2 succeeds, they never take control away from the player. (Except when the player is physically confined.)
His argument that the story is just a way to sell the same fps over and over again with different story is kinda void imho, as the story provides a setting, which is a trillion times more important than the backstory, right up there with the actual gameplay which is (in most cases) not related to the story at all.

What am I trying to say? Nothing really. I don't like cutscenes but I can like a story if it's there.

I'm also a really bad writer.

P.S. RPG isn't even one fifth as sexy as Barney is. 
Eh What Was The Story Of Undying Again? 
Some guy goes to an island and there's ghosts and you for some reason have to trek around the entire place and then fight a giant vagina on a tiny isle? 
czg. You're funny.

Undying's story: you're Irish, so you go to a friend's mansion and fight his dead siblings and travel to netherworlds and fight goons of the dead siblings. 
I don't think a story is the same as a setting. A setting is the conflict which elicts the player's involvement in the environment, while a story is a line of situations that tie him to specific actions within the environment. A setting is a much more open-ended premise, while a story is series of often predictable and limited goals. So nyah. 
So It's Like I Said. 
You fight ghosts. (And a vagina)
Kinda like Pacman innit? (Minus the vagina) 
Half Life 2 Storyline 
That's funny.

I played and really enjoyed HL2 - I didn't know it had a story until I started playing it. I didn't take any notice of the unfolding(?) story while I played it. I couldn't tell you now what the story was. I would happily play more. I play shoot-em games to kill things before they kill me. That is the story.

I support giving the player control of the game: start a cut-scene for those who want a story but let me hit Escape so that I don't have to watch it. I do remember the poxy-dog-training-me-waste-of-time in HL2, let me die while I learn how to use the catcher's mit but let me get on with the game.

That's why I still like Quake: all the levels are start, kill things, find the exit. Oh, and maybe find some secrets en-route.

Simple things please simple minds... 
Some Thoughts Not About Vagina But About Stories 
I think stories are a good element of the game. But how much will it take in the game is another question. It depends on genre, some need it more, some less. I think even fps games can be divided into two types: real action games (Quake, Doom) and less action games with story that is interesting to pass thru (Half-life). If you expect just to shoot and run you don't need any story, but if you're the player that likes to enjoy story-games instead of lot of gibs then you will be not satisfied with games without stories.

oooh what a crap did i say..
maybe i'll explain this point more later 
Eh? Woah! 
HL2 had a story?? You meet some people and go from A to B and the bad guy you see in the beginning on TV is the same bad guy you meet in the end. Oh wait, that prim bitch who's begging for a good shafting ends up sorta betraying you - that was the story.

HL2 had no story at all. It had a LOT of scene setting, and various vague and useless half-hints to make you think something was going on, but that was it.

The scene setting itself was a major part of the game, and one of it's strong points. It's not the same thing as a story but perhaps it has the same overall effect, a focus on narration and a cinematic experience.


As to RPG's original question, yes story can interfere with non-linear gameplay, but not necessarily so. E.g. Deus Ex, a stronger story than many and a lot of non-linearity within each section.


Trying to think of FPSs/3PSs with a story, actually.... 
Czg is right (when he isn't being a cock) - the summary is wrong. It it's about story, it's about the story getting in the way.

Example: We were pitching for a Dirty Harry license with an fps game. Everything was there, the magnum, bay bridge in the background, speech samples, throwing suspects around, yadda yadda. The only problem was that it still felt kinda generic fps and not very Harry.

Then someone decided to add a small cut-scene to the start of the level. Very short, it just saw Harry walk on, sup from a coffee cop, throw it away, pull out the magnum, then the camera zoomed into his head and you took over.

Straight away, people gained a sense of who they were playing. In a funny sort of way, they then provided their own story and cut-scenes from then on by playing the game in character.

My point is that story and setting can be good as long as they are about establishing a reason for playing the game, and at the same time don't make you feel like a spectator. I think this is clear when you look at the games where the story works (hl, tetris, gta3), and doesn't (halo, vice city). 
Even a preview can't save me. "It isn't about story..." 
It Is Really A Matter Of Good/bad And Ugly 
uses of cut scenes. To say cut scenes kill the game play is just too general a statement to have any real meaning. It is the integration of the story elements into the game play that makes it work or not.

From Maj's discription, I bet that that would indeed be a thrilling scenerio, close to the bone between drama and game play like in Max Payne where the game play was constantly being interupted by plot developments. I'm sure it annoyed some gamers but for me it worked perfectly.

I actually preferred Farcry over Half-Life 2 and part of the reason was the thinness of the HL2 narrative as compared to FarCry. The story to Farcry was action/adventure cheesy, but it was fun stepping into that big lug's shoes for those many hours of game play.

As for the main objections of the article:

Stories limit the life of a game

I have played through Dues Ex thrice so far and it is in the interest of finding out more about the underlying narrative that I have done so. From the message boards, I doubt I am atypical (on this point ;))

Stories interfere with non-linear gameplay

It is only through narrative that diverse scenerios involving subbases, Parisian catacombs, dives in Hell's Kitchen can have any chance of making sense in the same title.

The alternative to this is Quake and Painkiller which are really arcade romps in the first place.

Stories cover up the gameplay--or lack thereof

That is a matter of effective versus poor usuage rather than appropriateness. 
I love metal gear solid 1, 2, and 3 because of their deep involvement of the player in the setting. However, the backstory given through the cutscenes is done so tastefully, that I never ever skip them :) Perhaps analyzing just those three games would yield alot of information about how to implement a story correctly. Of course, the linearity of the plot in those games is what makes them feel so cinematic, but the experience is enjoyable even for someone like me who plays QUAKEWORLD. 
Tying Together Environments 
It is only through narrative that diverse scenerios involving subbases, Parisian catacombs, dives in Hell's Kitchen can have any chance of making sense in the same title.

But that's really part of the question: Do we even need a story these days?

Sure, a story can lend a great sense of setting and purpose, but Tetris, one of the most enduring games of all time, had no story at all.

And you could strip away all of the story from GTA3 and still have a great game. Just have phones/characters who assign random computer-generated missions. This might even provide a longer-lasting game than the way it is now.

And does Quake even need a story, a backdrop, at all? Someone will say that you do to give the player a reason to kill all the baddies. But whether you have a reason or not, as soon as monsters start attacking you you're going to defend yourself.

Perhaps silly remarks, but maybe they'll generate a response. 
HL2 Had A Story? 
Well, nothing I'd call a real story, not what I'm used to anyway.

What about RPG games? An RPG game without a story is a coaster.

Cinematics are great, I loved Warcraft 3's cinematics, a real treat.

Quake has no story, but is the greatest game of all time.

Hexen had a story, 2nd greatest game of all time.

Bleh, good games are fun to play, end of story. (lol!) 
Correlating Story With Realism 
Now what about this: Has the continued integration of stories into games been wholly or partly responsible for the increase of "realistic" games?

Clearly, plotlines have become more and more integrated into video games since games were first created. Over that time, the character's abilities have increasingly approached the asymptote of realism. Some would say that realism is also responsible for the deterioration of gameplay over that same time period.

So if we did away with plotlines, would that decrease realism? A character in a non-story based FPS might not even be human, so people might stop pointing out the impossibility of him/it running at 1000mph and carrying 2 tons of ammo.

More silly ideas for comments. 
Agreed With The Article...kinda 
The author of the article makes a good point, and one I've always believed myself -- games are more fun when the player has created his or her own history and story just by playing the game in question.

However, I do think that that storylines and cutscenes are necesary in some games...Final Fantasy VII comes to mind. It was a great game on its own, true, but how blown away were you the first time you saw the cutscenes in it? And they weren't just there to exist on their own, they definitely helped move the story along and give you a sense of enrichment.

A few people have argued that Half-Life 2 really didn't have much of a story despite the fact that a good amount of time was devoted to scripted events. I happen to disagreee. Half-Life 2's story is what you make're left to piece together the puzzle without it being spelled out in giant neon pink letters -- "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED." It would ruin the fun of the game if the narrative was like that.

The backdrop of the story of Half Life 2 is there, it's just up to you to give it a voice. Whether you piece it together like Hemmingway, or like Asimov is entirely up to you, and I think that's the point that the article makes. Games are better when you aren't told exactly what's happening, they're better when the story is told or imagined by the person who's taking part in it (the gamer) 
It would help if you gave an honest opinion, rather than closing with these limp dicked "ahahah I'm only jiving lol" apologies. 
Honest opinion: u suk phat cock lol

Honest enough for ya? Eh? EH??

Okay. I'm trying to get people to actually reply and have a discussion thread with more than 12 replies. If I suggest something plausible and don't label as possible pap, I suspect that people will take my word for it and not contribute anything to the thread. 
...and I thought I was an egotist. Personally, I'm far more likely to argue with someone who I think is honest and right/wrong, rather than someone who's just throwing out argumentative bones.

Btw, penis. 
hah, you said "bone."

...and "penis." 
Going Back Over Some Of Those 
I think GTA3 would be a better game if it didn't have the story. The game itself never ends anyway; as soon as you finish the last mission, the credits roll and then it dumps you back in the game to do as you please. Skipping the story and just adding computer-generated missions would make the game have even better longevity, IMO.

Quake feels like it needs a backdrop, but I think it could probably work fine without one. All of the custom maps released in the interim have done fine without a story, anyway.


And I think plotlines/settings are partly responsible for the deterioration of gameplay. They're certainly an extra layer of seperation between the player and the gameplay, and thus it takes a little bit longer to recognize a game's shallowness. Furthermore, having a story/setting based on realism will certainly generate some realistic games a la Rainbow 6. 
Kinda doodling around RPG's point here, I'm thinking whether better graphics/sound are to blame for the increase in stories. I mean, back when your hero was a blob of primary coloured pixels, the game was inherently abstract, and so was any plot. In a way, the increasing sophistication of technology has demanded an increasingly sophisticated reason, for which a story is the easy (only?) answer.

On a more concrete note, I actually think Quake would have been better off with a fuller story (and god I feel dirty saying that). Tying back into the first paragraph, I didn't feel the same thing as strongly with Doom. The extra realism of Quake demanded a more realistic answer.

Hrm... *ponder* *ponder* 
Let's Try This Again 
I wasn't impressed with HL2's "story" because there wasn't a whole lot of story there.

What about RPGs? An RPG without a story is like RPG with pants on. Well, RPG as in Rob, not as in RPG... you know what I mean.

Quake has no story, it's the best game ever made.

Hexen has a story, it's the 2nd best game ever made.

I enjoyed Warcraft 3's cinematics, they're a great treat.

Games are fun because they are fun, story or not. End of story. (lol!)

say fallout
great story written according to classic rules
yet pretty no-linear

btw makes me wonder who did the story for hl2
there are basic rules, and u can read it
yet they ignore them and pretty much fail 
Games certainly don't need stories, at the same time I think the "game-medium" is a valid alternative to books/movies/etc for storytelling but to amek it work the qualities of the story has to make up for the gameplay sacrifices a story bound game has to make. 
But if your point is indeed true, that still doesn't account for some games such as GTA3 where it might work even better without a story.

And these days there are some pretty abstract games (Katamari Damacy) that would probably be just fine without a story, too.

Not to mention Quake 3, which had perhaps the worst and most uninvolved story of any FPS ever. 
But if your point is indeed true, that doesn't account for some games that might be even better without a story, such as my example of GTA3.

And these days there are some pretty abstract games such as Katamari Damacy that would probably be fine without a story.

Not to mention Quake 3, which has what is perhaps the worst story of any FPS ever made. 
But if your point is indeed true, that doesn't account for some games that might be even better without a story, such as my example of GTA3.

And these days there are some pretty abstract games such as Katamari Damacy that would probably be fine without a story.

Not to mention Quake 3, which has what is perhaps the worst story of any FPS ever made. 
<--Fat Man Bending Over To Moon The World With His Shiny Ass 
This quote seems timely:

Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.
- John Carmack

I personally think that the harder you try to make a game that's "realistic" (in whatever way people choose to use that term--whether it refers to our world, or another), then the more you will need to attend to "story" (whether that's an actual linear narrative or simply a sparse-but-feasible backstory combined with a logically interconnected environment). The two go hand-in-hand.

Stories do none of the negative things mentioned above if implemented well. Implementing them well is often difficult and time-consuming, and therefore often arguably more trouble than it's worth... 
No Clear Answer 
Painkiller feels a bit hollow without a story (what's presented as a story is so separate from the game that it is essentially absent - the cutscenes are like commercials and the game is the show). For a game that is to have an arcade action fun feel, this is fine.

On the other hand, AvP2 was really helped by the unfolding stories for each species. Without the story and the mission objectives that fleshed it out, this game would suffer unbearably and would lose the fear and tension. The mission pack was far less satisfying as it felt too arcade-like and didn't use pacing like the initial release nor could it have much in the way of plot due to its short length.

I like stories in games and while cutscenes are okay (Deus-Ex 1&2, WoT, AvP2), I find the best overall experience is where the story unfolds within the game (Half-Life, System Shock 2) and requires that players who want a story put some effort into extracting it by eavesdropping, paying attention to scripted sequences and snooping around for notes, PDAs and emails. Those less interested could just barge on and ignore these things if they choose.

One step better would be to combine the in-game story telling with the multi-branched outcomes of Deus-Ex. I'd like to think that this is the future but Games-as-Movies seems to offer more shareholder value.

Does Stalker weave a story or is the story the one you create by your own in-game choices? 
Painkiller needed a story to show u topless chick
I guess

yay for stories 
<-- Someone Cut A Slice Out Of The Sun! 
That Carmack quote is kind of irrelevant IMO. I prefer porn without a story. I know what I'm watching and why, now just get me to the good parts.

I do agree that more-realistic worlds tend to demand a more involved story or background, but I don't think games with intricate stories have proven themselves to have the never-ending and extremely non-linear gameplay that has been seen in games where the story/background is less important (e.g. Tetris and GTA3). And that said, GTA3 would have a huge benefit from increased realism (i.e. 100% of the world being interactive, more details, etc), but as I have said I don't think the story is important at all to its gameplay. 
Story is rather important part of the game these days, but not the main (I speak mostly about FPS now). If the story becomes the main part, the game looses the game process itseft. It turns just into an interactive book/movie where you just watch the story and nothing more. 
Seems the writer just want's to see gamse-at-heart instead of simulations or games paralleling life. 
another game - mororwind
has story\plot (whatever is the best word)
nonlinear too 
Anyone who has watched a Russ Meyer film can tell you that some porn doesn't need a story, and some porn is better off for having one. 
I'd Rather... 
play a game that with a background(a detail one won't hurt), while not forcing me to follow somekind of plot(actually most games have somekind of plot but the designer may make the player seldom notice them). 
Intelligent Comments. 
I'm referring to the original article here, not people's replies.

1. Story is not the same as scene-setting / immersion / background fluff. The former describes what is actually happening in the game and your role in it. The latter is stuff that has happened or is happening around you that provides a broader picture of the world (and may not progress at all, like a story inevitably does).

For example, HL2 had almost no story. However, it had a vast amount of scene setting / fluff. Painkiller had some sort of story, but no fluff nor coherence whatsoever. Personally I prefer the latter.

Neither story nor fluff is necessarily realistic (and note that "coherent / convincing" is a different concept to "realistic").

2. One issue is not that how the story or fluff is presented. As the article author suggests, excessive cutscenes that break the action can be tedious (and can actually be less immersive as you step outside your FPS for a while). On the other hand, seeing scenes as part of normal gameplay can make a story or fluff smoothly integrated with the game - however then the player might easily miss or dismiss them. A compromise is to have some mandatory periods of interaction where you retain FPS control, but people interact directly with you for a while. A la HL2 and indeed D3.

3. Another issue is what gameplay goes along with the story/fluff. I assert that a strong story / strong fluff is perfectly compatible with both open-ended, player driven gameplay, and frantic action gameplay. However, it is true that most story / fluff driven games tend to be linear experiences with progression spoonfed to the player and the story / fluff rammed down their throat - HL2 being a prime example. And I agree with the author that that is not good, whilst it does enhance the cinematic experience, it detracts from the gameplay both in gameplay fun and in replayability.

On the other hand, some games do break that mould. Deus Ex is a prime example as both one of the strongest story-driven games AND one of the most open-ended. There's a huge amount of interaction and scene-setting, almost all of which is experienced appropriately through the players eyes, but also a huge amount of choice how one plays the game.

I can't think of an example that combines hardcore action with a good story/immersion....but that doesn't mean it isn't possible. Imagine if HL2 had some route choices and some proper monsters and no sprint function etc. It could work just as well. The fluff can be going on around you just the same. Same with Doom3 - basically if there were more monsters and less Imps spawning up your arse and no vertical mutant owl neck, it could have hardcore action that would combine perfectly with the fluff and immersion and intense atmosphere.

In fact, I think that a story can enhance the action, enhance the playability (and, if implemented right, make the replayability good too). The key I think is for the game to be driven by it's gameplay and how the player interacts with the world, and for the story to fit around that and for the fluff to spice it up and set the scenes for you. That way you can feel more like you are IN THE GAME, whilst feeling in control of how you play it. Not for the game to be driven by the story as the player is dragged on train tracks through a series of scripted experiences. As is too often the case.

Thus, I think, this issue is an example of where the games industry often does something wrong with the concept of stories/immersion, not because the concept is intrisically wrong, but because they mis-use it. 
I Wouldn't Call Valley Of The Dolls 
It Seems Like 
this thread slowly turns into 'Stories And Their Proper Place In Porn' thread. It's ungood. 
Deus-Ex 2 
I know Deus-Ex 2 lacks the RPG depth that Deus-Ex had but it actually does a very good job of offering a good mix of story and open ended gameplay. A good story game tends to have a slower pace as you spend time looking for information and talking to anyone who will talk with you.

If you forgive DX2's compromises that they did to suit X-Box, you might find that the in-game immersion and it's decision matrix structure allowing you to somewhat direct how the story unfolds, then you might see it as a suitable template for future games. After finishing DX2, I had to get readjusted to the much less personal gameplay of other titles.

I'm going to play Thief 3 soon and see if it has a similar style. 
Russ did Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but it's not very representative of his oeuvre anyways. 
In a non-linear game, a story is necessary.

How many of you have played Freelancer? It's a space combat sim where you get your little ship, start in orbit around such and such a planet (New Fredonia or something stupid like that), and you get to hyperjump around the galaxy killing pirates, upgrading your ship, ferrying cargo, and running missions for cash.

It was a terrifically fun game because it was so totally non-linear, but at the same time there was a story going on you get involved in, of slowly escalating galactic military and political importance. You'd have a story-related mission, the mystery would unfold, and you'd get to go off for a while until the story people radioed you and told you to meet them on such and such a world in three days.

There is eventually the Final Mission where big alien shit blows up, the galaxy is restored to normalcy, and you get to keep playing after the final cutscene.

It's at this point that the game becomes totally pointless. You can go anywhere and do anything, find all the little side quests you missed, but you have zero motivation to because there's nothing after it. It's like you've finished the peach, now you're sucking the pit.

Fallout 1 and 2 were the same way - you had total freedom in the world, but there was always Vault 13 somewhere on the horizon, which gave all your free wanderings a purpose. Stories don't interfere with non-linearity. Non-linearity needs some kind of overall structure, something you're working towards, to make the exploration it affords worthwhile. 
Good Point 
I was playing Morrowind last night again/still, and was trying to decide when I actually wanted to start the main storyline, which shows another option that's not used very often.

In Morrowind, your primary quest-giver, emperor's -agent guy pretty much tells you, "Go out, have some adventures, gain some experience, join some factions, have fun, and come back and let me know when you're actually ready to start the game." It's almost that explicit.

Many people have admitted never returning and even forgetting where the guy is. 
Just realized I never made my point, which is that Morrowind is unusually fun while you're just screwing around and exploring, but it indeed feels very different and focused once you actually start the main quest, which provides an overall goal and focus. 
Non-Linear Stories 
Hell, look at The Sims. The Sims is 100% about creating stories about your characters living out their lives, and EA has little control over your story compared to in a FPS. 
look at Sims. 
Sorry, Pushplay 
but you have to put a line in the sand somewhere, or else the diabolical forces in society will just walk all over you. 
So what happens in Morrowind when you complete the main story, and then go back to slumming around the World? Do you get bored? 
I loved this game when I bought it (weeks ago), but I haven't played it in awhile. I guess it's partially because I've been busy with Q1, and yeah it can get boring, but most often I don't even follow the main story, just been exploring, adventuring and fucking around. 
Do you get bored?

Well...not so bored that you stop playing, at least if you're me.

But when I was trying to beat the main storyline for the first time I was kind of obsessed with it for a few weeks, and couldn't wait to get home and play, and didn't get enough sleep, and all that sort of thing.

At this point I've beaten it twice, and have a couple of different characters that I'll just have wander around from time to time (and amazingly, I'm still finding new quests and dungeons and there are still factions that I have never even joined).

I'm not so bored that I've stopped playing--it's a beautiful game, and mods and plug-ins add to it--but, for me, a structured plot with progressive goals and events added a strong sense of pleasent urgency and tension that is no longer present; the game has become more passive and less involving with the loss of story. 
In #51 
I meant The Sims is evil in the same way that Rainbows and Ponies are evil, not the way EA is evil, of which I wholeheartedly approve. 
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