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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.

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<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* 
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