What's in a game? A discussion of gameplay and narrative

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#1 Posted by anab0lic (273 posts) -

Great video from TB that pretty much sums up how I feel the games industry has taken a turn for the worse in recent years.

#2 Edited by gamingqueen (31076 posts) -

I wholeheartedly agree and I think the insane amount of cutscenes is a disease which is plaguing a lot of video games today. I said the Last of Us should NOT be named GOTY because it's a video game with gameplay made to compliment a story. We need the opposite. A story made to compliment games. A story doesn't have to be so complicated that you'd need to shove in cutscenes every five seconds just to be able to tell it. It doesn't have to be complicated to be great and leave an impact on gamers either. In fact, many of the games that left a great impression on gamers didn't have that many cutscenes. Narrative in games is being to reduced to cutscenes only when it was a combination of gameplay, sound, graphics and cutscenes.

#3 Edited by Ish_basic (4040 posts) -

Yeah, same old argument. Games need to integrate their storytelling into the gameplay, stop trying to be movies and move away from cutscenes. I agree completely, and I'm looking forward to that day when devs realize the unique advantages of gaming as a story telling medium. Get tired of talking about, though, but I'm glad to see that more and more over recent years I see more gamers coming around to the fact that "doing it like the movies do" is a road to nowhere.

I liked his comments about Beyond. That we think the lack of a "gameover/retry" screen means there's no failure state is because we look at the concept of failure when it comes to videogames too simply. In life, if you, say, drop the gaming winning TD in the super bowl, you don't just drop dead and get a chance to run the play over. You keep going, dealing with the impact of that event on your life. In Beyond there is one scene in particular where you can talk someone down. I couldn't figure out how to do it and the character died, but the trophies make me well aware that I could have saved him. I'm gonna have to figure out how to do that, because it wasn't obvious. More organic failure states is indeed a necessary area to explore if we want to make more satisfying gaming narrative experiences.

#4 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

Didn't watch the video. But yeah, this narrative delivery by cutscenes needs to go back to the silver screen it came from. However, I don't blame a single developer for using cutscenes no matter how much it effects player agency. No , I blame the community. They've forgotten that theres already a medium specificly designed for people who enjoy wathing instead of interacting. The usuall counter argumen't to this is: "but I want this specific story, and I can only get it from the game's cutscenes" and my counter argument would be: "YouTube, b!tch !" lol ! But in all seriousness, can we please start playing games instead of watching them ?

#5 Edited by RageQuitter69 (1297 posts) -

Another problem with games which rely on narrative is the fact that the critics praise the story and ignore issues with gameplay, the games that undeservingly received the GOTY award in 2008 and 2010 are prime examples:

"giving you control only at times when it doesn't want to shove your script writing and narrative down your throat" sums up what I think about Metal Gear Solid 4, 16 hours of cutscenes and 4 hours of gameplay is awful, yet no critics complain about it. At least what little gameplay there is, is good

"a title that I would have preferred to watch, not play, the act of playing it lessened the overall experience" sums up how I feel about Mass Effect 2, the storytelling was great, what you didn't talk about much was the decline of quality of gameplay mechanics, yet critics don't complain about it, they praise the game just because of the narrative.

#6 Posted by drekula2 (1949 posts) -

combat-cutscene-combat-cutscence is a pattern that will be dated in time. but thats not to say it cant be done well.

#7 Posted by bob_toeback (11267 posts) -

The entire reason I like MGS4 is because of the cutscenes... Not to say I dislike the gameplay, but still. I don't get the obsession with making it purely gameplay. I look for an experience as a whole... whether that means I will be willing to overlook a lack of story or a lack of gameplay, depends on if something is good enough to make me do so...

#8 Posted by Jacanuk (4990 posts) -

I dont get this idea that if someone doesn't like something, it has to be removed.

I like the cutscenes and therefore i buy games with cutscenes, so if you dont like cutscenes don't buy the game, thats best way to tell a developer that they have messed up, by letting your wallet speak.

#9 Posted by chrisrooR (9027 posts) -

I think there's definitely a healthy medium between having a great story and great gameplay that compliments the story. Cutscenes are fine, as long as they aren't overused.

One thing I find cancerous to gaming is the use of QTE's as a gameplay mechanism. It's not. Anything that yanks control away from the player every minute isn't fun for me. It's annoying, and it greatly decreases the satisfaction I have with the game.

Another thing I really dislike is the perceived 'open world' that's limited by forcing a linear path on the player. A great example of this is Hitman Absolution, which suffered immensely from this implemented mechanic. They had a great opportunity to make their levels open world, but ended up being a linear QTE borefest. The last hit in the game even yanks control away from the player and replaces it with a cinematic. It felt cheap.

Instead of crafting a unique experience, we're left with an experience that's unchanged for every player.

Lastly, gameplay should NEVER EVER suffer because of a forced narrative. Again, a great example of this would be Hitman Absolution. You play as a ruthless Hitman, yet many of the levels FORCE the player to play stealthily because the storyline commands it. Other levels try and 'penalize' the player for playing the way they want to play.

A truly great game for me has an immense amount of freedom, almost no QTE's, and cinematic cutscenes that help bridge a storyline.

#10 Posted by MirkoS77 (7782 posts) -

I don't understand this massive phobia of cutscenes and story. They have their place and I'm perfectly fine with them when well executed and done in moderation. MGS IV was not. That's where it becomes a problem and I don't blame the story there.....I blame the storyteller. A prime example of how not to tell a narrative with piss poor writing and editing to boot. On the other hand, I'd submit TLoU as a perfect example of competent storytelling while keeping it as minimalist as possible. The narrative was expanded upon as the player played alongside subtle yet effective dialogue exchange to gradually build characters and plot. What cutscenes were necessary for elaboration were restricted to only a few minutes at most and interspersed properly. They were also well written, acted and edited.

I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. In fact, I hope we see more of it (as long as it's just as well-done as TLoU).

Tbh, I find the term "video games" to be a misnomer and a disservice to what this medium is capable of offering (and should be capable of) and it's long past time that this terminology be abandoned. It's infantile and inaccurate; gaming has matured. "Interactive entertainment" is much more suitable and encompassing. There's plenty of room for differing methods of storytelling in gaming while retaining the nature of gaming itself and I find the reason people are so objected to it is that what is there and has been attempted is 99% of the time, quite frankly, shit.

Of course there will always be those who never want to have control taken out of their hands. Understandable, but that's why Nintendo exists. There will always be games where gameplay plays paramount. People shouldn't worry.

#11 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

While we are on this Topic, I wana Bring Up Beyond: Two Souls. This game does not bring up meaning consequences for the decisions you make like Heavy Rain but its narrative has been delivered more intuitively, Its Interacive Storytelling at its Finest, much more relative to gaming than whatever it was Hideo Kojima Was trying to pull with MGS IV. Which one has the better story ? Well theres no objective answer to that because they are polar opposites. So lets add some context: in this medium (gaming): Beyond wins. In Passive Mediums (like Movies). MGS wins.

#12 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ bob_toeback & Jacanuk. You'd be right, if it weren't for the fact that with Cutscenes, we're going backwards. Now If you said story I would agree most people need it to enjoy a game and it is a requirement for interactive entertainment. But cutscenes, nope ! Thats something YOU want/need, not the medium, it can do fine. Plus if player agency is not that important to you, why don't just watch movies, and let the reall gamers be?

#13 Edited by Ish_basic (4040 posts) -

@MirkoS77 said:

I don't understand this massive phobia of cutscenes and story. They have their place and I'm perfectly fine with them when well executed and done in moderation. MGS IV was not. That's where it becomes a problem and I don't blame the story there.....I blame the storyteller. A prime example of how not to tell a narrative with piss poor writing and editing to boot. On the other hand, I'd submit TLoU as a perfect example of competent storytelling while keeping it as minimalist as possible. The narrative was expanded upon as the player played alongside subtle yet effective dialogue exchange to gradually build characters and plot. What cutscenes were necessary for elaboration were restricted to only a few minutes at most and interspersed properly. They were also well written, acted and edited.

I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. In fact, I hope we see more of it (as long as it's just as well-done as TLoU).

Tbh, I find the term "video games" to be a misnomer and a disservice to what this medium is capable of offering (and should be capable of) and it's long past time that this terminology be abandoned. It's infantile and inaccurate; gaming has matured. "Interactive entertainment" is much more suitable and encompassing. There's plenty of room for differing methods of storytelling in gaming while retaining the nature of gaming itself and I find the reason people are so objected to it is that what is there and has been attempted is 99% of the time, quite frankly, shit.

Of course there will always be those who never want to have control taken out of their hands. Understandable, but that's why Nintendo exists. There will always be games where gameplay plays paramount. People shouldn't worry.

Not a phobia. It's about ambitions. I want story, and I want it in ways that only gaming can provide ( did you watch the video? it's pro-story, just debating techniques). I'm not saying cutscenes should be removed entirely. Gaming has a unique ability to tell a story that other mediums don't provide. Rather than be content doing it like Hollywood does, I would prefer they explore interactive story telling techniques, but so long as cutscenes are the crutch that storytellers in gaming lean on, they'll rarely chance to explore this potential. Sometimes you just need to rip the training wheels off, and devs are just so hesitant, so conservative.

What would you think of a movie that was just someone holding pages up to the camera and you had to read them? Where there is the potential for visual enactment, why would you settle for having to picture it in your head? Just so with gaming - where there is the potential for agency, why would you settle for being an observer?

For whatever reason, people want to assume that leaving the player in control means the story can't be as strong? Why? Where is this written? The story can be even better and it can be of the sort you can't enjoy anywhere else. I know I sometimes use words like "better," but what I really mean is "unique." What I really want is gaming to establish its own identity as a story telling medium.

#14 Posted by turtlethetaffer (16843 posts) -

I like both good stories and good gameplay. Although, ultimately, gameplay is more important. You can have a great game with a shit story, but a game with weak gameplay and a great story is simply not as good.

Ideally, a truly amazing game will have a nice balance of both story and gameplay. At least, my favorite ones have that balance.

#15 Posted by Jacanuk (4990 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu said:

While we are on this Topic, I wana Bring Up Beyond: Two Souls. This game does not bring up meaning consequences for the decisions you make like Heavy Rain but its narrative has been delivered more intuitively, Its Interacive Storytelling at its Finest, much more relative to gaming than whatever it was Hideo Kojima Was trying to pull with MGS IV. Which one has the better story ? Well theres no objective answer to that because they are polar opposites. So lets add some context: in this medium (gaming): Beyond wins. In Passive Mediums (like Movies). MGS wins.

Two things you have to remember Lulu, Cage hates game over screens and you only play as one character, so the decisions you make in game can't be as "fatal" as in heavy rain and still keep the story going.

#16 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ Jacanuk

David Cage wasn't going for choices in Beyond. He was not trying to provide each player with a unique experience. He wanted to reel players in with a fixed linear story, interactively. Basicly with Heavy Rain he wanted to achieve Story Crafting/Bending but with Beyond he really went for Interactive Story Telling, and he explored those genres very well, especially horror in "The Condensor", I've never played anthing like that before, it was better than anything President Evil could come up with back then. Personally I think alot of Critics knocked off a few points because Beyond didn't have meaning full consequences for its choices, but thats like giving GTA a lower score because they used a single protagonist instead of Three, but in both cases neither of those concepts are a requirement for the genre they're in, so they should have no bearing on the games actual score, if anything, adding an inferior version of the concept should dilute the score. Look What I'm trying to say is Beyond is Fucking Awesome.

#17 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ Ish_basic

Your words touch me in a way no man has ever touched me before. :P

#18 Edited by MirkoS77 (7782 posts) -

@Ish_basic said:

What would you think of a movie that was just someone holding pages up to the camera and you had to read them? Where there is the potential for visual enactment, why would you settle for having to picture it in your head? Just so with gaming - where there is the potential for agency, why would you settle for being an observer?

For whatever reason, people want to assume that leaving the player in control means the story can't be as strong? Why? Where is this written? The story can be even better and it can be of the sort you can't enjoy anywhere else. I know I sometimes use words like "better," but what I really mean is "unique." What I really want is gaming to establish its own identity as a story telling medium.

I'm finding the more I play games such as B2S or TLoU or MGS4 (or any of these narrative driven games), one crucial aspect of storytelling that conflicts directly with free agency that sticks out to me is pacing. A large part of any well told story is its pacing and proper progression. And when agency is introduced to the audience, that control is immediately removed from the person telling the story and given to the one experiencing it. The player essentially takes over the reigns of being the director. Now I'm no game designer mind you, but I'd see that as a fairly difficult obstacle to overcome. In a sense I think that telling a story in any sensible manner conflicts directly with the things that people have traditionally attributed with contemporary game design. At least from what I've seen so far...

#19 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ MirkoS77

B2S doesn't have that problem, the pacing is mostly consistant because the story will move foward with/without the player, I would say the lack of making a move/decision, is a decision in itslef. Unfortunately others don't see it that way and have labelled Beyond has a movie that plays itself. :( . Breaks my heart.

#20 Posted by Ish_basic (4040 posts) -

@MirkoS77 said:

@Ish_basic said:

What would you think of a movie that was just someone holding pages up to the camera and you had to read them? Where there is the potential for visual enactment, why would you settle for having to picture it in your head? Just so with gaming - where there is the potential for agency, why would you settle for being an observer?

For whatever reason, people want to assume that leaving the player in control means the story can't be as strong? Why? Where is this written? The story can be even better and it can be of the sort you can't enjoy anywhere else. I know I sometimes use words like "better," but what I really mean is "unique." What I really want is gaming to establish its own identity as a story telling medium.

I'm finding the more I play games such as B2S or TLoU or MGS4 (or any of these narrative driven games), one crucial aspect of storytelling that conflicts directly with free agency that sticks out to me is pacing. A large part of any well told story is its pacing and proper progression. And when agency is introduced to the audience, that control is immediately removed from the person telling the story and given to the one experiencing it. The player essentially takes over the reigns of being the director. Now I'm no game designer mind you, but I'd see that as a fairly difficult obstacle to overcome. In a sense I think that telling a story in any sensible manner conflicts directly with the things that people have traditionally attributed with contemporary game design. At least from what I've seen so far...

There's different ways to keep the player in the control, so "keeping the player in control" doesn't have to mean "let him make lewd gestures with the crouch button while the NPC is talking." Take Alpha Protocol - plays like a regular shooter/RPG hybrid, but then you get into conversations it becomes more of an adventure game like we see with TellTales latest titles. Conversations move, you have to decide how you want to play the conversation, including if you want to perform specific actions, etc. But the conversations have timing and you can do nothing - that is also a choice. You can miss your chance. Say the wrong thing, act the wrong way. ANd the NPC will remember all of this, so it will actually affect later conversations even beyond any instant consequences. The point is, I'm not watching, I haven't lost control of the flow events. Conversation is effectively gameplay. (And this is 10x better than anything BioWare has ever done, even if it sounds similar).

However, even if you want to let the player spin around in circles in front of an NPC while the story is happening, I don't see a problem. If you want to hear the story and you want it to move, you won't do things like that. It's reasonable for the devs to make the assumption that the player wants to hear the story and trust him with control. We're not children that we need the game to sit us down for story time. Just make sure the proper cues are in place so the player isn't totally lost and let the story happen. Part of the fun, also, is seeing things you didn't see the first time through because you were looking somewhere else. Breakdown did this with what I felt were magnificent results, even if everything else about the gameplay was mediocre. It was a pretty generic story, too, but somehow staying in control just made it gripping.

#21 Edited by Archangel3371 (15832 posts) -

I love cutscenes in games especially when they're as beautifully pre-rendered as games from Blizzard and Square-Enix typically are.

#22 Edited by MirkoS77 (7782 posts) -

@Ish_basic: I've yet to play Alpha Protocol but I keep hearing good things about it. I'll have to check it out sometime.

#23 Posted by The_Last_Ride (72969 posts) -

To be honest, i don't mind cutscenes at all. If a game wants to keep you in the gameplay that is fine. But i like cutscenes. Why has this become the anti-christ in gaming in the last few years? It's not that bad, and if you don't want to play a game like Walking Dead or Beyond Two Souls or even Metal Gear Solid 4, then just skip it...

#24 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ The_Last_Ride

Beyond has Interactive Cutscenes, big difference !what I wana know is why people insist on non-interactive cutscenes in an interactive medium ? Seriously, have you considered that maybe you're doing it wrong ?

#25 Posted by VintAge68 (429 posts) -

@The_Last_Ride: I too tend to getting impatient when cutscenes are too long but there are some (e.g., the begin of The Last of Us) where I think that any "interaction"--for having to reflect on what to do next--might be an interruption of the current scene's tension--that's why they introduced QTEs as a compromise between player interaction and narrative flow...

#26 Edited by gamingqueen (31076 posts) -

Cutscenes of a man living inside another man's arm. Yay! the best game eva!

It seems not many people here have actually watched the video. The cynic brit is saying video games with longer cutscenes don't allow you to explore and experience things by yourself. They dictate your experience. I don't think punching a sequence of buttons is exploring either. QTEs were supposed to make gaming segments look cinematic after all.

#27 Posted by loafofgame (696 posts) -
@Ish_basic said:

There's different ways to keep the player in the control, so "keeping the player in control" doesn't have to mean "let him make lewd gestures with the crouch button while the NPC is talking." Take Alpha Protocol - plays like a regular shooter/RPG hybrid, but then you get into conversations it becomes more of an adventure game like we see with TellTales latest titles. Conversations move, you have to decide how you want to play the conversation, including if you want to perform specific actions, etc. But the conversations have timing and you can do nothing - that is also a choice. You can miss your chance. Say the wrong thing, act the wrong way. ANd the NPC will remember all of this, so it will actually affect later conversations even beyond any instant consequences. The point is, I'm not watching, I haven't lost control of the flow events. Conversation is effectively gameplay. (And this is 10x better than anything BioWare has ever done, even if it sounds similar).

However, even if you want to let the player spin around in circles in front of an NPC while the story is happening, I don't see a problem. If you want to hear the story and you want it to move, you won't do things like that. It's reasonable for the devs to make the assumption that the player wants to hear the story and trust him with control. We're not children that we need the game to sit us down for story time. Just make sure the proper cues are in place so the player isn't totally lost and let the story happen. Part of the fun, also, is seeing things you didn't see the first time through because you were looking somewhere else. Breakdown did this with what I felt were magnificent results, even if everything else about the gameplay was mediocre. It was a pretty generic story, too, but somehow staying in control just made it gripping.

I'm not sure if you can convey all the emotions and developments of a (complex) narrative during actual gameplay. That's what the cutscenes can be useful for. During gameplay you often can't see the emotions on your character's face, you can't simulate intricate physical interactions between characters, you can't change camera angles to give an accurate impression of a specific situation. I don't understand how you see cutscenes as treating gamers like children. They are a cinematic intermezzo that can help to quickly display the more specific and complex emotions and developments in a story. I suppose they go against the nature of video games by being non-interactive, but they have their use.

Of course, a lot of the storytelling can be done during gameplay (through music, level design, in-game scripted dialogue), but in some cases it's also about how stubborn one is in wanting to be able to push buttons. I mean, a lot of games just lock you up in a small contained space where you are free to move around, but there's nothing you can do about story progression (which basically makes it a cutscene). And dialogue options in essence are just very specific scripted moments in which you can choose which linear path you are going to take (which isn't really about telling a story either, but is just you choosing how you want the story to continue). I'm not saying there isn't more storytelling potential in game design, I'm just saying that narrative will always limit freedom and interaction in a noticeable way and that cutscenes can be very effective in certain respects when it comes to telling a story, because well... movies are very effective in telling a story.

Anyway, I'm not disagreeing with you. The general view on what gameplay is might be too limited to allow for more complex storytelling in games. For instance the apparent need for repetition (as you pointed out with your example of failure states in your first comment) can be very limiting when it comes to telling stories, especially in video games.

#28 Edited by bob_toeback (11267 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu said:

@ bob_toeback & Jacanuk. You'd be right, if it weren't for the fact that with Cutscenes, we're going backwards. Now If you said story I would agree most people need it to enjoy a game and it is a requirement for interactive entertainment. But cutscenes, nope ! Thats something YOU want/need, not the medium, it can do fine. Plus if player agency is not that important to you, why don't just watch movies, and let the reall gamers be?

lol, you act as if I'm the one making these games. I merely enjoy them (and movies for that matter). Mediums and definitions change... if they are ever stagnant to begin with.

#29 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ bob_toeback

They evolve, they never change. Except games appearently instead of evolving, they just leach off a well established medium and gamers are none the wiser.

#30 Posted by gamingqueen (31076 posts) -

@bob_toeback said:

@Lulu_Lulu said:

@ bob_toeback & Jacanuk. You'd be right, if it weren't for the fact that with Cutscenes, we're going backwards. Now If you said story I would agree most people need it to enjoy a game and it is a requirement for interactive entertainment. But cutscenes, nope ! Thats something YOU want/need, not the medium, it can do fine. Plus if player agency is not that important to you, why don't just watch movies, and let the reall gamers be?

lol, you act as if I'm the one making these games. I merely enjoy them (and movies for that matter). Mediums and definitions change... if they are ever stagnant to begin with.

Yeah but we;re meant to play them not watch them. It's about involving people in the story not excluding them.

#31 Posted by platinumking320 (667 posts) -

I'd put up this video from PAX Arcade's extra credits. They hit the nail on the head. With devs wanting to tell a specific story without stopping to think about what 1. what central ideas do they want to communicate. 2. How flexible is it to any type of game or medium. 3. What mechanics, world, characters, elements best service this idea, and when the mechanics are first solidly worked out, THEN seeing how the game in action can progress into a narrative.

Even fiction in tv and movies and books make this mistake too trying to wrap a story before letting it come alive. Good creators don't know everything. When Breaking Bad started all the creator Vince Gilligan had was the pitch "From Mr. Chips to Scarface." progressing naturally allows a creator to open their mind to what ideas just naturally work better, to tie together a laser focused tighter product, and leaves less chance for shoehorning lazy bits.

#32 Posted by bob_toeback (11267 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu said:

@ bob_toeback

They evolve, they never change. Except games appearently instead of evolving, they just leach off a well established medium and gamers are none the wiser.

Film narrative essentially began as an extension to stage theater. I'm sure there are many people who have felt the same way you do, back then.

@gamingqueen said:

@bob_toeback said:

@Lulu_Lulu said:

@ bob_toeback & Jacanuk. You'd be right, if it weren't for the fact that with Cutscenes, we're going backwards. Now If you said story I would agree most people need it to enjoy a game and it is a requirement for interactive entertainment. But cutscenes, nope ! Thats something YOU want/need, not the medium, it can do fine. Plus if player agency is not that important to you, why don't just watch movies, and let the reall gamers be?

lol, you act as if I'm the one making these games. I merely enjoy them (and movies for that matter). Mediums and definitions change... if they are ever stagnant to begin with.

Yeah but we;re meant to play them not watch them. It's about involving people in the story not excluding them.

I can feel involved in a story either way... It seems to me the games that play like interactive movies involve you more in the story, because you have some slight input as to how it plays out (keep in mind I have not played anything like Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls, but the idea of different things happening even if you decide to let the controller lay on the ground, suggests some sort of input.)

And even still, at the base line, it looks like some "games" are not meant to be played so much, but rather watched. Call them what you want, but they're still being made, and there are people who like them.

#33 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ bob_toeback "Film narrative essentially began as an extension to

stage theater."

You're right, but they took that concept and made it their own, they're not the same, and they will both evolve in their own unique way without sacrificing what makes them unique. Using non-interactive methods to deliver narratives in games is not going to lead to something new, its going to take you right back to wherever they leeched those concepts from, its redundant. I'm not trying to restrict the medium. I just don't want to see it go backwards.

"I can feel involved in a story either way..."

and If I stand close enough to a movie set I can "FEEL" Involved in a movie as much as the actors. My point is you need to distinguish what you "feel" is happening from what "really" is happening. Also You should definately give Beyond a try, be on the ground floor of unique, interactive strorytelling. :)

"And even still, at the base line, it looks like some

"games" are not meant to be played so much, but

rather watched. Call them what you want, but

they're still being made, and there are people who

like them."

I'l be honest with you, like for real right now, I'm being serious, If I knew I could get away with killing one of these cutscene junkies I would take the oppertunity ! Seriously, if I could get away with it, I wouldn't even flinch. Take that how you will. :D

#34 Edited by bob_toeback (11267 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu:

I'm, starting to see where you are coming from. The main thing I don't understand is when folks get up in arms over something like Beyond, for trying something new (and pushing the story-telling aspect to a different level) . If it's not your cup of tea, that's cool, but I don't think you can blame someone for trying.

All in all I'll say I agree with you. I enjoy my cinematics, however they are not needed for the 'game' aspect, though in some instances, are the reason I enjoy a game. I can dig all these aspects, but like I said, I see what your saying

#35 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ bob_toeback

hmmmm. I guess that will have to do. Would it help if I threatened your loved ones, and force you to agree with me ? ;)

#36 Edited by Ish_basic (4040 posts) -

@loafofgame: I don't understand how you see cutscenes as treating gamers like children.

That's not how I meant it. What I was trying to say is that developers shouldn't be afraid of leaving the player in control because said player might wander off. That shouldn't deter a developer from trying to tell a story interactively. It's okay to design these interactive moments around the assumption that the player wants to hear the story and trust them with control, rather than wrestling it away from them (like a child) because the dev is afraid the player won't behave themselves.

Also, shot composition is the domain of film. To treat it as all important is to miss an opportunity that games provide. For example, what do you think would have more of an impact on you: the camera automatically panning to reveal a T-Rex charging behind you, or you in control, hearing the heavy crash of footfalls, a roar and turning the camera yourself just in time to see the beast bearing down in you. Additionally, if there's a conversation between multiple characters, something is said, and one of the characters gets a telling look on his/her face, but you miss it because you're so busy watching the person talking. Maybe, conversationally, had you seen it you would have chosen a different tack for the conversation and maybe this oversight affects what happens next. This is life as we experience it. That moment where everyone stands and up and cheers and we're like "what'd I miss?!" Movies will never have that moment, but you can do amazing things with it in a game.

I'm not saying you have to take cutscenes away entirely, I'm just saying, if you're gonna take away control, you better have a good reason. You have to allow that some stories, some moments might not make sense to have the player in control. But mostly what I see in games today are moments that I could have played that I had to watch instead.

#37 Edited by platinumking320 (667 posts) -

Perhaps it also leads to the problem, that game challenge such as violent conflict is very easy to systemize, and rationalize engagement in the mind of the player. and adversity towards other not as dangerous tasks or mundanity is not as easy to system-ize, and expect at least some level of deep player involvement. Developers occasionally have to re-contextualize the importance of simple tasks in order to give them more value to the player than taste and see. Then there's also the tricky part of system-izing the complications of human relationships and values, and what defines 'winning people over' in a way that doesn't rob the targets of perceived character agency or independence.

#38 Edited by loafofgame (696 posts) -

@Ish_basic said:

That's not how ... to watch instead.

Well, I do think you're ascribing a certain attitude to the developer that is a bit unfair. Maybe I'm naive, but I think most cutscenes are implemented because they can tell specific narrative parts effectively and quickly or because they can be a reward for a prior intense gameplay event and/or a moment of recollection so you can prepare for the next gameplay section (and not just because developers are afraid players might not pay attention). Of course some games use cutscenes way too much. Anyway, I don't think we're disagreeing, but we might have different opinions on the amount of cutscenes that should be implemented in video games...

And I really think the T-Rex scene for instance is a matter of taste. Using a cutscene might momentarily take away control, but it can also build tension, more effectively align music and image and provide multiple dramatic perspectives in quick succession, which can make for a very strong impact. Panning the camera slowly (while the music goes dissonant and swells), maybe showing a few close ups of body parts, as to not immediately reveal the T-Rex, and then a wide shot, showing the T-Rex in all its might, while lightning strikes and the music climaxes; DON'T GIVE ME BACK CONTROL! DON'T GIVE ME BACK CONTROL! And then they give you back control. ;-P It might be very cliché, but well executed cinematic techniques can make this T-Rex more terrifying and by taking away the controls they might give you the time to actually be terrified (instead of mentally remaining in tactical gameplay mode). But hey, I can see how your description can also be very effective.

But again, I agree that developers aren't doing enough with the storytelling potential that's unique to video games.

#39 Posted by Jacanuk (4990 posts) -

@platinumking320 said:

I'd put up this video from PAX Arcade's extra credits. They hit the nail on the head. With devs wanting to tell a specific story without stopping to think about what 1. what central ideas do they want to communicate. 2. How flexible is it to any type of game or medium. 3. What mechanics, world, characters, elements best service this idea, and when the mechanics are first solidly worked out, THEN seeing how the game in action can progress into a narrative.

Even fiction in tv and movies and books make this mistake too trying to wrap a story before letting it come alive. Good creators don't know everything. When Breaking Bad started all the creator Vince Gilligan had was the pitch "From Mr. Chips to Scarface." progressing naturally allows a creator to open their mind to what ideas just naturally work better, to tie together a laser focused tighter product, and leaves less chance for shoehorning lazy bits.

Those guys at Penny Arcade have never met Telltale it seems ;)

#40 Posted by Pedro (21144 posts) -

@MirkoS77 said:

I don't understand this massive phobia of cutscenes and story. They have their place and I'm perfectly fine with them when well executed and done in moderation. MGS IV was not. That's where it becomes a problem and I don't blame the story there.....I blame the storyteller. A prime example of how not to tell a narrative with piss poor writing and editing to boot. On the other hand, I'd submit TLoU as a perfect example of competent storytelling while keeping it as minimalist as possible. The narrative was expanded upon as the player played alongside subtle yet effective dialogue exchange to gradually build characters and plot. What cutscenes were necessary for elaboration were restricted to only a few minutes at most and interspersed properly. They were also well written, acted and edited.

I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. In fact, I hope we see more of it (as long as it's just as well-done as TLoU).

Tbh, I find the term "video games" to be a misnomer and a disservice to what this medium is capable of offering (and should be capable of) and it's long past time that this terminology be abandoned. It's infantile and inaccurate; gaming has matured. "Interactive entertainment" is much more suitable and encompassing. There's plenty of room for differing methods of storytelling in gaming while retaining the nature of gaming itself and I find the reason people are so objected to it is that what is there and has been attempted is 99% of the time, quite frankly, shit.

Of course there will always be those who never want to have control taken out of their hands. Understandable, but that's why Nintendo exists. There will always be games where gameplay plays paramount. People shouldn't worry.

I personally did not like the abundance of non interactivity in TLoU and if games are moving that direction then I would not be interested in that particular type of game. The feeling that I am just here for the ride in a game truly takes away from the experience. TLoU runs into the problem where the story clashes with the game and you had no control over the story even though the game mechanics facilitated options but because the story is on rails I have to helplessly sit back and watch. TLoU is not the only game that has done this but its the most popular recent.

I believe games need to be created in layers if the game's intentions is to attract the gameplay centric and the narrative centric players. Both elements of the game should be more or less equally satisfying and do not compete with each other. It is one of the reasons I am a huge fan of cutscenes being 100% skippable 100% of the time. The danger I see games running into with the over indulgence in storytelling is that they would be directly compared to movies. As this becomes more of the trend, the games would reduce the gaming elements (which hinders and is the key differentiating factor of the medium) and focus more on non interactivity.

The main problem with most narrative centric games is that the experience is cheap. So cheap that it can only be experienced once. Also the notion of changing the name just because seems rather petty. Its a videogame its meaning is still applicable. Video being a non tangible visual feedback that is equivalent to watching a video online and the game being the interactivity the user has with the visual feedback.

With regards to Nintendo, Nintendo always assume that I am an idiot and holds my hands for the most obvious and mundane tasks. Nintendo is also living in a dimension of their own and their games are exceptionally limited in scope. The danger lies in the copy cat behavior the gaming industry is known for. If company A succeeds with a formula company B to X makes a replica of company's A formula.

#41 Edited by platinumking320 (667 posts) -

@Jacanuk:

@Jacanuk said:

@platinumking320 said:

I'd put up this video from PAX Arcade's extra credits. They hit the nail on the head. With devs wanting to tell a specific story without stopping to think about what 1. what central ideas do they want to communicate. 2. How flexible is it to any type of game or medium. 3. What mechanics, world, characters, elements best service this idea, and when the mechanics are first solidly worked out, THEN seeing how the game in action can progress into a narrative.

Even fiction in tv and movies and books make this mistake too trying to wrap a story before letting it come alive. Good creators don't know everything. When Breaking Bad started all the creator Vince Gilligan had was the pitch "From Mr. Chips to Scarface." progressing naturally allows a creator to open their mind to what ideas just naturally work better, to tie together a laser focused tighter product, and leaves less chance for shoehorning lazy bits.

Those guys at Penny Arcade have never met Telltale it seems ;)

Fair nuff. We have clear examples of successful narrative controlled successes, and some you tube comments did disagree with the loose approach. Some games and TV shows I've seen descend into confusion, and later through entertainment inside articles learned about the lack of strict vision and framework on the dev side.

but I think some creators and teams should find out what they're better at. starting small, deductive and spontaneously with a goal in mind or if they're better at an already created framework for making a game. Even one's ability to tell a story well in general can be conflicted by the stuff mentioned in the vid. At least for "some" types of games not necessarily Telltale's.

#42 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

Bump ! ;)

#43 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ Pedro

I don't think The Last Of Us or any other game's problem is a matter linearity or scripting, I certainly wouldn't mind being forced to do something a specific way so long as I am actually the one doing it, choosing whether or not to do would be nice but if the story dictates something specific should happen then they can still do it interactively and the experience would be just as good, and thats what Beyond was like for me.

#44 Edited by wiouds (5294 posts) -

It seem that too many overvalue what the interactive part of the game. Few stories can be told that way and the stories that are are common not that good. It can tell over event but not a story. I would not call what happen to you as really a story. I do like story that give wight to what I am doing. I hate those moment in some games that allow the player to continue to have control of the character while have a "not cut scene" going on. If you want to tell a story then take the time to make it the best you can even if it mean taking control away from the play. Movie been around for a while so use that knowledge they have to make them better and do not be lazy by doing something like first person view then entire dialog.

As for the the linear vs open. Many times I find the linear part of games to be better than the open part of games. The more linear give the game creator more control to craft better parts for the game.

#45 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ wiouds "Few stories can be told that way and the stories that are are common not

that good. It can tell over event but not a story."

Then maybe games shouldn't be telling stories, personally I disagree, I believe in the potential of interactive storytelling but if what you say is true then I'd rather go full on conventional gameplay than to go back to the crap we're using now. In other words for me its all or nothing. I don't do middlegrounds, its half assed patchwork.

#46 Edited by wiouds (5294 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: There is a different between interactive story telling and game play. Picking dialog and moral pick are most of the time not apart of the game play. I do not call choose your own adventure stories as games.

Another problem with the interactive story telling you are taking control from the storyteller. This mean there is less the storyteller can do.

I hate the ideal of the all or nothing. I want the story and game play to work together to make the game better. I find many game play only to be not as good as the games that uses game play and story telling to it fullest. I find that when you are able to get a good story with good game then it is better than the all or nothing that happens.

#47 Posted by gbrading (8057 posts) -

Yeah, I saw TB's video of this and I have to disagree with him. I love Dear Esther. I know it gets a lot of flack but I can't help loving it, despite it's total lack of interactivity and player freedom. It is resoundingly linear and barely interactive, but it is still a game. True, I do not have "fun" playing Dear Esther, but I do get something which is an emotional resonance. I think that any game which can give you an emotional response is worthy of being called a game. The same can be said for Gone Home. All you do in Gone Home is walk around and look at stuff, but it's still a game. And I'm not really having "fun" when I'm doing that either. Frankly I think the whole "fun" criterion to entry is problematic. I didn't read Cormac McCarthy's The Road because I thought it would be fun. Similarly, I don't play some games for fun, I play them because they are entertaining in one way or another.

Also, if anyone's watched his video on The Stanley Parable I find it slightly disingenuous that he considers The Stanley Parable is fine to be called a game, but Dear Esther isn't. True The Stanley Parable contains more "gameplay" and more "choices" but if there's anything The Stanley Parable teaches us it's that the whole idea of player choice is a false choice, because the designer has planned for all eventualities.

#48 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ wiouds

Thats not interactive storytelling thats story "crafting/bending". You don't have give the player a choice, just give them controll, some limited form of Autonomy, the best example I can Come up with is Bioshock Infinite, Booker is his own fully unique character in a linear script and theres nothing the player can do to alter it. But the player is responsibe for accomplish a few of the linear interactive narrative plot points like Monument Tower and sea of doors/stars I think. More importantly I believe this can be applied to the majority of any type of story the author wants to tell without sacrifice. However, I remember this one time in the Testament Of Sherlock Holmes game where Holmes would make the player do things with out sharing his intentions, full avatar disclosure is necessary for this method to work.

#49 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (14638 posts) -

@ gbrading

Those are great "products", but why so insistant on classifying them as games ? Its a narrative masterpiece, isn't thats whats Important to you ?