"Plot is highly overrated," League of Legends designer says

Tom Abernathy says developers should instead focus on developing strong characters.

"Plot is highly overrated," League of Legends developer Riot Games narrative lead Tom Abernathy said today during a Game Developers Conference presentation at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Abernathy, who previously worked at Microsoft on Halo: Reach, said internal and external research "proves that out."

It's not plot that truly hooks gamers, but rather characters, Abernathy said.

"Users don't remember plot; what the do remember is they remember characters," Abernathy said. Players become "hooked" in a game if they care about its characters, he explained.

"Focus on the things that they will retain, that are going to be most important to them in the long-run," Abernathy said to a room of developers and press. "Focus on character."

But to create believable and compelling characters, developers should make sure that characters' motivations are aligned appropriately with the motivations that they are leading the player to experience as well, Abernathy said.

Also during the talk, co-presenter Richard Rouse III, a design lead at Microsoft, said most players do not finish games. He estimated that only about a third of players actually finish the games they play.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
See more coverage of GDC 2014

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

Want the latest news about Halo: Reach?

Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach

Follow

Discussion

465 comments
AwkwardTurtle42
AwkwardTurtle42

A plot is one of the things that makes a game for me. A good plot and compelling characters go hand in hand with each other. If a game has a weak or generic storyline then there's not much reason for me to push forward or care about what's going in in the game. I really don't understand why some people think games should be limited to just one thing. It's like a guy who wants a TV channel to be axed and his only reason for it is "I don't like the channel".


If you don't like it then don't play it. I don't know what else to say on that. I remember the plot of every game I currently have. Sure it's normal for people to forget some details a while later but I could still give a quick summary of what it's about. Some people just can't get into a game sometimes so they move onto something else.

Def-Trex
Def-Trex

Plot is good I just hate it when there are too many cutscenes.I would rather the plot move along during the gameplay like in Bioshock or Half Life 2.Games full of cutscenes are unplayable for me these days.That's why Im not such a huge fan of sony games lately, or Microsoft either(looking at you RYSE).

Geogyf
Geogyf

1. League of Legends is a Moba game. It doesnt have a real story, but it does have one. (they even had an e-newspaper about lore)

2. The designers implement some sort of (ridiculous) plot in LoL (Demacia vs Noxus vs Ionia vs Shadow Monsters vs Void monsters)

3. Every LoL character has it own story (they have even events about it)

4.There were thousand/even million story & plot-related articles and discussions in LoL forums.

5. As a MOBA game, LoL doesnt have a plot/story that can be finished ->LoL cant be finished.

6. The only sense of completion in LoL is going max level, having some runes/runepages or having ALL the champions. 


While LoL is one of the best MOBAs along with DOTA 2, i have often argued why Game Sites give 9/10 ratings.

MOBA games dont have much going for them especially if you compare them with an AAA game


Overall

LoL does have some sort of story, but as a MOBA game it could never have an AAA story.

LoL's character have story/lore in them.


Since LoL characters have story in them -> LoL does indeed have a story

Sidenote: Riot has started to remove lore from ingame, now you have to go outside the game in the client to see it.


Conclusion

Mr. Tom Abernathy is making some errors. 

I would say it more like he meant something else to say in his interview.

If LoL didnt have lore i guarantee that it wouldnt have the headstart it has now.

Furthermore without some sort of story, the characters wouldnt be as strong as they are right now

locknuts84
locknuts84

Could have sworn it was gameplay.

macmert
macmert

...and they let HIM to design games???

mjorh
mjorh

"Plot" is the engine of "Video game"  !

ringringabel
ringringabel

most gamers don't finish games because THE STORIES SUCK

the last of us was one of the few games that had me playing for hours wanting to know what happened next, and that's because the narrative was extremely strong. these fellas got it all backwards..

sknight175216
sknight175216

Shut the f...nevermind. It's not even worth it ha ha.

scraggly_bear
scraggly_bear

Ugh, this is what's wrong with games... Maybe only a third of gamers finish games cause they play games with no plot...

Hellcanwait
Hellcanwait

Guess I'll stay far away from anything developed by riot games and Tom Abernathy, ty for the heads up.

Martyr77
Martyr77

This is what we get when we have multiplayer only games.

grove12345
grove12345

modern PC gaming FTW!!

Thank god it hasnt died at all right guys? Just degraded. hurray fun 100fps 

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

On the greater cosmic list of overrated bullshit in the universe, "plot" doesn't even crack the top 100. Oddly enough though, League of Legends comes in at #11 with a bullet, falling just behind the Big Bang Theory, the music of Kiss, and McDonalds french fries. Oddly enough, "Tom Abernathy's opinions" aren't currently rated, but I suppose if every virtually unknown, ignorant hack was included on the greater cosmic list of overrated bullshit in the universe, there would be little room for anything else. 


Now I'm off to go play Bioshock Infinite, and give myself a chance to let Tom Abernathy and his worthless opinions fade into the ever expanding void of game dev obscurity before Peter Molyneux and Cliffy B show up, open their hideous gaping maws, and clog the fucking toilet again. I should probably get around to uninstalling League as well, since I haven't bothered playing it in well over a year.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

I disagree, great plots can be used as a tool to further bring life into the characters so it's just as important.

endersdragon
endersdragon

Depends on the type of game.  Platformers, who cares about the plot.  Puzzle games, who cares about the plot.  Strategy games, for the most part who cares about the plot.  Sports games, who cares about the plot.  And yes MOBAs, who cares about the plot.  However for 3rd person shooters, role-playing games, action/adventure games, and some first person shooters, plot is essential.  Probably forgetting about a few genres but that is most of them.

gplayer5
gplayer5

Ummm, why is a LoL developer talking about plot? LoL doesn't have a plot. It's just a MoBA.....


Generally it's good to have both strong characters and a great plot. Also having excellent game play is what makes a game truly exceptional.

bmart970
bmart970

I'd say strong characters and plot are somewhat related.

tmservo
tmservo

I might have agreed.  Until games like Last of Us just nailed a storyline.   Even Tomb Raider had a fun storyline.   Yes, make the characters great, but when you have great characters and a great storyline you've got a classic

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

I am sick of these stories of developers telling us what we want/need. Brings to mind the Titanfall situation: 'single player is seldom played, and overrated, not needed'. Uh. Ok, really? How about making a single player mode that IS also co-op (*cough* *cough* Halo *cough*).


Now we are told that games don't need a plot?  What's next, games don't need sound? This is all just justifying short comings. But yes, I admit that Pong and Tetris didn't need a plot (or characters for that matter).

SingletreeAve
SingletreeAve

No mention of focusing on gameplay?  Interesting.

kozamor
kozamor

Abernathy said.....Abernathy said...........Abernathy said......Abernathy said......lol sucks i say!!!!

madgame23
madgame23

The character is what sells the story.  The story it self has to be interesting or why play it?  What makes the game great is how the character interacts with that story and how he/she develops it and changes it or concludes it.  Plus decent visuals and mechanics go a long way also to making games great too!

voods07
voods07

Riot; you're like a 4 year old company whos status is elevated by 12 and 13 year olds....lets not get cocky.

Ivora
Ivora

Who says you can't do both?

hiphops_savior
hiphops_savior

Here's one reason why Heroes of the Storm will be a far more appealing game than League will ever be; the fact that Blizzard lore has enhanced the characters with plot development throughout the games they have appeared.

Raditz5
Raditz5

It depends on what kind of game you are making, just like with anything. Not sure how this is news worthy outside of giving us all a chance to bash this idiot. What if Sephiroth never killed Aeris! Would we have cared that she died if we did not love the character though! Would we have loved the character if we did not care that she died! .....

TheLeftHandDoom
TheLeftHandDoom

i actually agree with this.  Look at all the super hero movies.  The plot really doesn't matter:  Super hero A has to prevent super villain B from destroying the Earth.  But this time, he gets help from Super hero C, who happens to be a hot chick in Spandex.  $500 million box office.  It's the characters we're going to see, not the plot.

SoulxReaperx366
SoulxReaperx366

Big surprise, designer of a game with essentially no plot says it's not important. Look at fallout and elder scrolls, the characters have a thing here or there from past experiences, but mostly the game is focused on plot, and look at the success of them! The problem with plot is no one comes up with anything new anymore...

pedram007
pedram007

No League of Legends is highly overrated...plot is law fool!

surrealme
surrealme

You could have the best characters in the world and if the plot is shallow, nonsensical, or otherwise not compelling I'm not going to be able to bond with them. Characters need depth and motivations you can empathize with in order to be truly memorable. I'll still remember Geralt of Rivia and Triss Merrigold years from now Because they had a deep enough story to make me feel connected and care about them. I couldn't tell you a damn thing about the characters from any RTS or MOBA or other games that aren't story driven that I've played. Not that it makes them bad games, just that without a memorable plot you can't have memorable characters.

CrackDima
CrackDima

useless comment.  You can have an engaging character and a boring plot, you will put the game down just as fast with an interesting plot that has characters you dont give a shit about.  Both are important to a memorable game.  This comment is even more dumb coming from a creator of a MOBA.  I like MOBA's personally...but if a famous writer said, "written words and books have been very successful for me. I think every movie should have words and page #'s on the screen"  derp drp drp drp drrrr

dussan2
dussan2

I seem to recall the plot to a shit ton of games.

- Mass Effect

- Dragon Age: Origins and DA2


I even remember the plot to Modern Warfare, that Infinity Ward did.  


What an ass.

vivmark
vivmark

Your game is highly overrated.

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@AwkwardTurtle42  Not just that. Games with Plot have much more memorable character then lets say League Of Legends or such, what is this guy on about LOL

sirchick
sirchick

@Geogyf  he said plot is highly overrated.. aka don't focus your game on the plot before the game features. LoL is deffinately game play before story by a large way. I bet only a small % even read the lore.


I think it might be a jibe at FPS games who make cinematic stories but the actual game to play is same every iteration.

endersdragon
endersdragon

P.S. With that being said, sometime when some of those genres focus too much on plot it leads to a worse game.  For example, Supreme Commander 2 (which wasn't bad, but had way too much emphasis on plot), oh God where to begin with sports games..., Sonic 06, etc.

leakingdogmilk
leakingdogmilk

@TheLeftHandDoom  


All the idiots here forgot that nintendo characters are some of the most beloved video game characters of all time and here they are talking about how much they value the plot of video games. Pokemon is the best selling RPG on this planet and it barely had any plot until black and white.

Def-Trex
Def-Trex

@SoulxReaperx366 I would argue that those games are mostly focused on gameplay rather than plot.Fallout 3 barely even had a plot.

megas1205
megas1205

@surrealme  The plot of Devil May Cry is terrible, but Dante still remains one of the best characters around.

megas1205
megas1205

@CrackDima  Gameplay, don't forget gameplay. Memorable games, in my opinion, have awesome gameplay, even if the characters and plot are medium at best. I love DMC and MGR to death, and those games have shitty stories.