If it's old, sorry, but I ain't seen it.
The folks at Dork Shelfcaught up with the sole creator of Dyad, Shawn McGrath, after his Gamercamp keynote speech, who proceeded to discuss his opinion on linear stories in video games:
I think linear story and interactive anything are completely diametrically opposed. They make no sense together at all, and any attempt to put storylines in games, in any traditional sense, is completely idiotic.
Mass Effect attempted it, and people praise it. Its horrible. Its horrible because the choices that you make are so meaningless and people say, Oh, but its getting to a point where the whole galaxy is going to change based on your decisions, and I say, no, thats impossible, thats an N-P hard problem, thats a computer science problem where that problem is not computable.
So attempting that is a worthless endeavor. Games are really f*cking awesome. We can tell stories through entirely interactive ways, with no text.
When asked about stories with branching paths, or choose-your-own adventure games, he said:Thats my point, is that its impossible to ever get it to be truly there. Its absolutely impossible. Its an incomputable problem. It is infinitely complex, it cannot be solved if things get to a large scale, which is what games likeMass Effectare trying to do.
In Mass Effect, you make a couple of choices and some little things change, but theyre pretty meaningless and dont matter. Some of them are like, oh, this guy died. And youre like, Aw. But its pretty inconsequential. The Reapers are coming, the bad stuffs happening, it doesnt matter. That hasnt changed. You cannot change that in Mass Effect.
When the interviewer countered his point by stating that the stories in individual missions, such as Lair of the Shadow Broker, can change dramatially based on player actions, he responded:
Right, but this is busy work. I dont know why they did that, probably to extend the game to get it a higher Metacritic score or something so you can play it for 70 hours instead of 30.
When asked about the value of Mass Effect's story, he said:
Oh, its just a waste of time. Ive read a lot of science fiction. The science fiction in Mass Effect is not something I would consider even passable for a high school paper. Its horrible. But if you put in a game then its praised for being so great. Its especially so because in the context of video games, stories are f****** awful.
Benjamin Rivers Home does it on a very limited, very small scale and it works. It only works, though, because its so small. And that game has, like, 15,000 branching pieces of dialogue, and its incredibly small. If that was any larger, the amount of dialogue and content that needs to be written goes exponentially higher and it still has an authorial voice, and its still contrived because its created by someone else and not by the player, therefore I dont think it has any purpose.
Hit the jump for everything.
Later in the interview, he goes on to praise the storytelling in Dark Souls.It's an interesting read, at the very least.
So do you agree with his opinion on stories in game? Do you think he's right about choose your own adventure stuff being worthless?
I kind of do. Tech is limited, and at best, you're given the illusion of choice that's ultimately broken down in very simple ways. Hell, look at Mass Effect. In Mass Effect 3, pretty much all of your choices come down to "Who lives, and who dies" until the very end.Everything else is assigned a number and really doesn't matter.
Now games like The Witcher 2 are a different story, but about a third of the game changes depending on a choice you make. So that's pretty crazy, and most developers don't have the chops to pull something like that off.
So, ultimately, is it a waste of time? Should the industry be putting player-authored stories first, and examine what the medium is really capable of? Is Mass EFfect's sci-fi "horrible," and only praised because the standards for video game stories are so low (hint: the answer is yes).
Sound off, System Warriors.