Personally I don't care about story when I'm playing a game. It's not at all important to me, or even necessary, unless it is used to explain how to play the game. All I want to do when I buy a game is play it not watch it. I enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction of getting further/ better at the game and eventually completing it. I always skip intros and cut scenes. To me they're like the annoying television advertisements that come up in the middle of watching a good tv show/movie.
Veteran game designer says better stories in games will attract nongamers; fears next-gen hardware could dilute focus on engaging narratives.
SAN FRANCISCO--As the designer of such celebrated games as Deus Ex and Thief, industry veteran Warren Spector probably knows a thing or two about storytelling in an interactive environment. In a packed lecture at the Game Developers Conference today, Spector said creating better and more involving stories in games was vital for the industry, as engaging storylines would attract much-needed newcomers to gaming.
"I don't know about you, but my budgets are going up. We need to sell a lot more copies or we're not going to be able to make games for much longer. I think stories can be key to reaching nongamers, but we have to start creating more emotionally satisfying and interactive stuff," Spector said.
"If what we're already giving people is enough, then all of the nongamers out there--which is most of the world--would already be gamers. We have to give them something different."
Spector, president of Texas-based Junction Point Studios, expressed concern, however, that next-generation hardware may dilute the industry's focus on narrative, as studios battle with the rising complexity of creating the detailed graphics and artificial intelligence that the next-gen hardware is capable of.
"It may be that next-gen hardware will make it harder for us to focus on stories and character involvement and character interactions. People who want to tell stories in an interactive manner, I think their job is about to get a lot harder. The problem is that our characters look better, our world looks better, and players expect a certain level of graphical quality," he said.
"Back in the day, our characters just had to navigate around a 2D world, and that was easy. And then we introduced 3D graphics, and all of a sudden, the graphics became better and better, and our AI struggled just to keep up with navigating in a 3D world. All of that effort that could be used to tell stories may be shifted to just keep up with the graphical possibilities."
Spector's main piece of advice for those in the game industry was to focus on creating shared stories with players, as opposed to straight linear pieces where no player involvement was required. This doesn't mean that all of the focus should move to narrative to the detriment of gameplay, Spector said.
"The best way to do this is to get over yourselves. It doesn't matter how cool or creative you are--don't tell your story, work with players to tell our story. Let players off the rails. And let them explore the inner life of their characters," he said.
"If you think that story has no place in games, you're crazy. If you think story is everything in games, you're just as crazy. It's all about balance."
Spector left Ion Storm Entertainment--the studio behind the Deus Ex franchise--in 2004 and resurfaced a few months later as the head of Junction Point Studios. While Spector did not disclose exactly what his company was developing, he did drop a few hints as to what areas the 24-strong group was focusing its efforts on.
"At Junction Point right now, what we're looking at is how to make characters more expressive in real time without conversations. We're looking at silent movies, at early cartoons--and you would be amazed at how much communication happens without a word," he said.
Well you've heard it from the horses mouth, after all the 'graphics demoing' by most companies and the games start to look 'samey' then they'd need to focus on other things to keep thing interesting like story. Think books - they're all made of paper, what differentiates them from one and other? The story of course. I still think characters or NPC in games should die of cancer, as this is the grim truth/reality in the real world. I know all this about games meant to be escapism and fun pastime and so on?but still?
Warren Spector is a Game God, no doubt about it. And I agree with him that compelling stories are needed in games...along with simpler control schemes.
Not to be critical of this guy, but whats he thinking? Gears of War has been the most popular next-gen game so far and it did it without any story at all. I think Spector has more faith in gamers than I do, Look at the storys told in 50 cent bulletproof and Okami, then check the sales figures on those games. Casuals want something to be familiar not a good story.
I agree. Better stories really are needed in the gaming industry. Most game don't have a very interesting story, but there are some games that have great stories. Having a great story really adds to the game.
Quote: Alaris83 "Dear Warren Spector: STFU and GTFO until you can bring us a true sequel to Deus Ex to a make up for that piece of garbage you call Invisible War." Harvey Smith was the designer on Invisible War, not Warren Spector. Besides, the game wasn't that bad so quit whining.
I think Specter is amazing.. His involvement in the Looking Glass games puts him very high on my list. But somehow I don't think the stories are what will draw people in. First you need people to "get there"..by "there" I mean, you need them to have a console or a computer, and/or be online.. I don't think games are what's going to sell consoles. You're going to need it be something more like community features.. Not gaming community either. Think myspace or youtube. The Wii is doing a better job with this than XBL so far. Getting weather and news and being able to share photos will resonate more with non-gamers than any gaming application.. Once you have everyone hooked up, you can package gaming content as some kind of interactive virtual movie.. I think people might be interested in that kind of thing. Most people aren't interested in sitting in front of a screen for 1-3 hours, hitting buttons..
Dear Warren Spector: STFU and GTFO until you can bring us a true sequel to Deus Ex to a make up for that piece of garbage you call Invisible War.
DEUS EX was one of the best games ever made. I'll remember it fondly forever, and if every game had a storyline that involving there wouldn't be anyone that could resist.
Actually, Proust is kind of right. Spector is a great designer, and his points above are all valid in theory... but he's no writer. Writers are very often neglected in this industry. Designers are supposed to be both creative types and tech types, but narrative is an aftethought. Spector's heart is in the right place, but his stories are consistently about reusing classic sci-fi and fantasy clichés. It's all in the structure of the positions within game developers. Directors and producers work as script supervisors and the initiative is always on them as lead designers. That means they develop a gameplay system, then develop a story to go with that system. It never works the other way, it's never developing a gameplay structure that can tell this story because, unlike in the TV or film industry, the process in the game industry starts with building the tools to make the gameplay work, not with a written script for the story. Who knows? Maybe the rise of middleware in the next generation will help to some extent. We'll have to wait and see. What I do know is that stories penned by pros like Paul Jenkins (Hulk:UD, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2) tend to be much better than the average excuse for a shooter, Deus Ex included.
Proust, do you know Deus Ex? That would be a great material for a book. And yes, Warren is right. I'm dying to know what he and Doug Church (at EA) are working on. :)
Um this is quite hypocritical cause game companies have policies to refuse storyes by outside writers no matter how good they are unless they are already a well known story ie Harry Potter, Spiderman, in which case they follow a movie, TV, comic or book history and make a new story with their currently hired story writters just look at spiderman, does he shoot web or use Cartridges? And never hire the guy/girl with the new story ideas instead they just recycle the same story look at FFIX and FFXII-Save the princess?
proust, you see the title of president and you assume spector's a maniacal power head, and you're assuming that he likes certain franchises, even though, tell me if i'm wrong, you don't know the man. he's not putting a gun to anyone's head and telling them "here's the right way, do it," to every writer in the business. he's telling people that this is a great way to tell a story. he's been in the business for decades. he has enough experience to know what he's talking about. allowing the player to be emergent in the gameplay that follows the story instead of setting him or her on a rail and giving the player the same exact experience as everyone else who bought the game is a great alternative in telling a story. there are people that do a great job of making linear games. take god of war for example. spector's basically saying, "hey, there's another way to do a story. it works. let's try to involve the player in the actual game story." a lot of games just try to set you on a rail and try to show off how cool their story can be. it's time to explore different alternatives. you're making a lot assumptions about a man you don't know. you don't know his personal tastes. you judge a man by his title, not his merit. you even presume the consumer market won't buy books based on games, even though Halo books are written and sold in mass quantity, but i won't comment on the quality of those books or any of the various others based off gaming franchises, because that's all based on personal opinion, which is very loosely based. there's absolutely no doubt a lot of people feel the way you do, but with all these assumptions, how can anyone take your argument seriously? you're basically defiling the image of another man. http://www.junctionpoint.com/ this is the company that evil mr. spector reigns as president. http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070305/sheffield_01.shtml this is a great interview spector has with brandon sheffield from gamasutra. arguments aside, it's hard to see people criticize gaming vets who wish to do good for the industry. people tend to forget, when trying to bring a game to the public, it's all based on a business. it's hard to make advancments in games when a publisher doesn't want to take a risk and tells you that "you aren't allowed to say story anymore." don't blame the developers for the landscape being as barren of good stories as it is. they're the ones trying to do good. they are the people in the position to do so.
I agree with his essential idea that good stories are what make great games. But just because a game has a good story does not mean that it will be a fun game to play. However what he says at the end about making the characters in games expressive without the use of words is a great thing to improve on. It would definitely make games more realistic.
Proust look at his work, he does this. However no one else does this like I mentioned. This is GDC this is a conference for game developers to share ideas, you don't want to hear ideas don't look to GDC.
I just think this a bunch of BS - like a politician complaining about our educational system. He right, games need to grow up but hearing it from the president of game company is too much. Just read what he said: "Spector's main piece of advice for those in the game industry was to focus on creating shared stories with players, as opposed to straight linear pieces where no player involvement was required." or this "The best way to do this is to get over yourselves. It doesn't matter how cool or creative you are--don't tell your story, work with players to tell our story. " What does that mean? It's rubish. You want games with a good plot hire good writers. Don't tell them what to write just let them be creative and tell a story unconnected to marketing stratagies or character archs or any other nonsense. He talks about the importance of story but I'm willing to bet he thinks Siderman or Superman or Xmen are all great stories. I like FF, and as far as games go it is top tier, but it wouldn't sell one copy as a book and that is saying something.
I agree with this. I love it when I play a fun game that has a great story. RPGs have some good stories, but other genres don't have as many games that have that. I don't play too many RPGs (I'm starting to play some more though), and that's why when I play a game like MGS3, I remember that game far after I have completed it, rather than a game with good gameplay but no story, which can be forgetable. Balance is very important. MGS3 had a great story, interesting characters, character development, and a surprising ending. But it also had great gameplay. That's why this industry needs more people like Hideo Kojima and Warren Spector, and more games with memorable stories to accompany the fun gameplay.
Proust - "Stories have never been very good in games." You are an idiot... Metal Gear Solid 3 anyone? Final Fantasy? Fire Emblem? You can't tell me games never had a great story.
Fully agree. The Final Fantasy Series and all RPGs are nothing without a good character and plot driven story. I sure wouldnt have been attracted to the MGS series or FF series if they didnt have Masterful stories. i consider it extremly important
proust, you're honestly comparing 16-bit generation games to games today? face the truth: the gaming industry has matured and needs to continue to mature. no one said realistic graphics and physics engines don't help immerse the player, and advancements in technology don't propel good stories all the time. a devoted background story and dialog made half-life's story what it is, and tim schafer made grim fandango and psychonauts what they are today. warren spector is just stating that stories need more emphasize. yes, stories matter. blasting zombies or sci fi comic relief in a player-motivated game may be great for you, but look at all the people's comments below you. people want a well-written story to give them a reason for doing anything at all, to help immerse them in the game instead of playing through for just instant gratification and self accomplishment. the gaming industry may make the profits its other entertainment brethren do, but it's a joke when compared in quality of story. you're the fate of the world how many times? you're an awesome marine again? it's people like veteran warren spector that will balance out the forms of entertainment offered to us, but no, you keep admiring those pretty, pretty graphics on that HD TV. do some research next time. warren spector is a boon to the gaming industry. who are you?
Uh DUUUH!!! Coulda told you that. its just that people are just now realizing that good stories are key. i'm sick of crappy story-lines slapped on some half decent gameplay idea. I game for the stories...thus why I play RPG's. ITs about time they started giving games more substance.
I'm glad someone is finally saying, Spector has always been a personal hero for me even after I got into the industry and it's stuff like this that gets my respect. His proof is his games, he really just produces compelling and interesting games, something very few other people are able to do, any idiot could have figured out how to do a version of Gears of War or God of war, but I've yet to see a game that can rival system shock, deus ex, and the original wing commander. Spector's project's list just reads as a list of hits.
Proust "next-generation hardware may dilute the industry's focus on narrative." What is this guy talking about. Jesus man, think. You think the stories were good on the NES. Mario Bros, Zelda - are they good stories?! What is this guy thinking. Stories have never been very good in games. In fact they tend to improve with each improvement in hardware - they become more film like, more emotive. Are they lacking - yes but that has everything to do with the capatalist hollywood mantality in this country and NOTHING TO DO WITH "next-generation hardware may dilute the industry's focus on narrative." Bah. Are you saying that all the old games have no good stories? Have you ever played FFVI? RPG's have always been my favorite due to the stories
I tend to agree with Jaffes "games are like porn" approach. You can stuff as much story in there as you want, but its gotta fit between big chunks of hardcore action. I think there are a lot more people out there willing to play a game with great gameplay and no story than vice versa.
"next-generation hardware may dilute the industry's focus on narrative." What is this guy talking about. Jesus man, think. You think the stories were good on the NES. Mario Bros, Zelda - are they good stories?! What is this guy thinking. Stories have never been very good in games. In fact they tend to improve with each improvement in hardware - they become more film like, more emotive. Are they lacking - yes but that has everything to do with the capatalist hollywood mantality in this country and NOTHING TO DO WITH "next-generation hardware may dilute the industry's focus on narrative." Bah.
I completely agree with Spector, and am glad someone finally said something. Problem is.... I doubt anyone is going to listen. As gaming becomes more and more mainstream it will continue to cater to the idiotic unwashed masses. Grahics over story, tried methods over innovation, Madden over Psychonauts. Makes me miss when gaming was a niche hobby.
Indeed, stories are what keeps both a gamer's attention (and us talking about it) and is what could bring non-gamers into a game. I mean, TV shows, movies, and other media that have great stories do EXTEMELY well. A great story can easily make a gamer out of a person who was intrigued enough by it. As for casuals, eh. Some might become gamers but others could careless. There are those who casually watch tv and care not for shows like 24, etc. My dad himself doesn't care about the story in MGS3 or RE4, he just wants to "shoot something" he says. Kinda not so smart though, wanting to shoot things without knowing why.
I concur. 360 and PS3 are both lacking in this department. Games like MGS4, Mass Effect, Heavenly Sword, Bioshock and FF12 should help balance it out. But some lesser known games need to come out and surprise everyone with some seriously good character stories (ala Longest Journey, Psychonauts, etc etc)
Story is probably my main influence in buying games. I lobve RPGs for their engaging and long stories.
I totally agree with Warren. If the industry doesn't shape up, it'll be extremely hard to make a profit. And soon, there would be a lot less titles out there. Immersion is the key, and I'm glad to see someone is working on "character animation" to relay communication. I should have known it would be this guy. He's extremely smart. I get the impression it's not really character animation, too. It's probably more (at least I'm hoping) of an artificial intelligence for body language. All character animation in the future will be entirely dynamic--and that alone will dramatically increase the player's experience. What amazing times we live in.
Stories are a big reason why I play video games. Lately though, the stories in the games I've been playing suck horribly.
FINALLY it has been said. I know reading this, a lot of pessimistic gamers (which would be most of the gaming populace) are thinking games that focus on story or are too different just won't sell. But looking at games planned for release later this year, that's about to change A LOT. Hopefully soon game developers will just let console manufacturers worry about money and make games as unique and innovative as they want regardless of whether we're used to it.
That's the first truth out of GDC. Everything else is marketing and business. Games suck because development costs are high and developers are forced to released their games halfway through and therefore there is little concern about stories or engaging storylines.
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