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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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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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