The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by AppleQueso Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:23 pm

brandman wrote:
Zodd wrote:Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Metroid, Sonic, Dragon Warrior, Street Fighter 2,......They are considered classics because of game design.....not because they had powerful emotional impact on the player.


I dunno 'bout you guys, but I was pretty emotional when that baby metroid saved meh life in Super Metroid.


Yeah, sure, but that's not why it's considered such a classic.
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by brandman Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:34 pm

AppleQueso wrote:
brandman wrote:
Zodd wrote:Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Metroid, Sonic, Dragon Warrior, Street Fighter 2,......They are considered classics because of game design.....not because they had powerful emotional impact on the player.


I dunno 'bout you guys, but I was pretty emotional when that baby metroid saved meh life in Super Metroid.


Yeah, sure, but that's not why it's considered such a classic.


I know that (for the most part; when people talk Super Metroid, one of the top things I hear cited is the baby metroid scene), but he said that like there were just straightforward games, with no emotion, when that's just not true. Not only that but along with excellent gameplay, memories and emotions attached to games is what creates classics, that's why people still take LoZ: OoT when LoZ: SS is just as good if not better. We retro gamers should understand nostalgia better than most anyways.
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by Gunstar Green Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:05 pm

Take a look towards the indie scene. What about stuff like Minecraft? It's insanely popular and not quite like anything else. And "creating a new genre" is tough anyway. It's hard to make anything that won't be classified as something because our hobby is so incredibly vast, even if it's a hybrid of many things.

The creativity is there and as strong as ever. You just have to look for it beyond the blockbuster hits. Too many people will just look at big budget shooters and the like and say the entire industry is stagnant.
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by brandman Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:47 pm

Gunstar Green wrote:Take a look towards the indie scene. What about stuff like Minecraft? It's insanely popular and not quite like anything else.


Ever heard of Infiniminer?
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by sabrage Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:31 am

I wrote these paragraphs for something else, and when I realized that it was very off-topic I searched "Narrative" and here was a recent thread about exactly what I was thinking that I missed.

I don't play video games for the story. I simply don't. That's not to say that some games don't have great stories, because some certainly do, but the long and short of it is that I strongly dislike the cognitive dissonance that occurs between the main character massacring 50,000 faceless soldiers and then carrying on their life as if they aren't some kind of mass-murderer. It would follow, then, that my some favorite video games pretty much eliminate this issue entirely (shmups, Catherine, 3D hack and slash), because it immediately pulls me out of any attempt to address morality in the narrative. There's countless articles on this exact problem, but one particular example has risen to the top: Zoran, the antagonist in Uncharted 2, directly addresses the men that Drake has murdered in his pursuit of treasure. "You think I am a monster, but you're no different from me, Drake. How many men have you killed? How many, just today?" And the answer, of course, is several hundred, yet he suddenly has a change of heart and refuses to pull the trigger on Zoran. (Of course, Drake is back to his ol' mass-murderin' ways by Uncharted 3)

This doesn't prevent me from enjoying any game, mind, but the inherently violent nature of video games - something that I personally enjoy - somewhat hampers the effect of an attempt at a serious narrative for me. By comparison, Demon's Souls, a game with almost no narrative at all, had a much more pronounced effect on me than, say, Mass Effect, because it embraces the fact that it's a video game, not a movie, and it plays to its own strengths. The repetitious deaths and the hostile enemies are all tied perfectly into the setting and introduction. Put simply, video games are generally not a very good storytelling medium.

So, with that out, what am I getting at with all of this? It's become increasingly apparent to me as I play more and more games that developers have gotten too comfortable with their genre archetypes, and are now simply content to change the names and faces and slap a new title on it. I don't want to run down another one-way corridor and have enemies pop out at me. I don't want to take cover behind the same chest-high walls. I don't want another open-world game where the only impetus to explore is another dot crossed off on my map or an incrementally better piece of gear. I feel like I've seen and done all this shit already, because I have. For every Zeno Clash that we get, there's also a thousand "indie" 2D platformers that think they can make it big simply because VVVVVV pulled it off. And it's all bullshit.

Part of the reason I enjoy retro gaming and the PC so much is because it really feels like a lawless frontier of creativity. Oddballs like Startropics and Dwarf Fortress simply don't exist in the big-budget, intensely focus-tested reality that is console gaming these days. I was talking to a friend about the new Spec Ops game, The Line. It's certainly pretty. I hear the story is dark, complex and gritty almost to a fault. But underneath all that? It's a third-person cover shooter, and the only interesting twist to the gameplay is that at certain, highly scripted points in the game, you can drown your enemies in sand. It's a cool enough concept, and the tech behind it is rather impressive, but at the end of the day it's no different than shooting the red barrel. Assassin's Creed 3, Halo 4, Black Ops 2... These games are going to sell untold millions without introducing anything truly new to the formula that already made them billions.

If you play video games purely for the story, good on you. I'm glad that someone enjoys the effort put into these games, and games like The Witcher and Catherine are certainly a step in the right direction. But that's not what I'm here for. A lot of discussion here seems to revolve around the overwhelming number of games that are released, but the moment I realized that most of these games are variations on a theme, I stopped caring about that. There are only a finite number of times I can do the same basic actions and still pretend to myself that I'm enjoying it.

(sorry if that was a little scatterbrained, I'm low on sleep. Also it was written with an entirely different purpose in mind, so apologies for any retread)
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by Erik_Twice Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:54 am

The problem is that instead of having narratives spring out the game we have third rate fantasy novels slapped onto a game. When I see a Final Fantasy title I see a movie spliced regularly after a game component, not a game with a real narrative to it. There's a huge disconnect between mechanics and the supposed tale or whatever ideas the game is supposed to convey.

I disagree that games are a bad medium for storytelling, what they are is a bad medium for storytelling only what story that the designer wants us to read because forcing everyone into a railroad simply clashes with the freedom you must give to the player so he's actually one. And it's sad because he doesn't actually need to force anything, the themes and ideas that the story is supposed to convey can be done with mechanics and in a much more credible way.

Stories should arise from the players actions and the best gaming stories I have were done in gamse with not a single line of plot.
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by sabrage Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:04 am

General_Norris wrote:The problem is that instead of having narratives spring out the game we have third rate fantasy novels slapped onto a game. When I see a Final Fantasy title I see a movie spliced regularly after a game component, not a game with a real narrative to it. There's a huge disconnect between mechanics and the supposed tale or whatever ideas the game is supposed to convey.

I disagree that games are a bad medium for storytelling, what they are is a bad medium for storytelling only what story that the designer wants us to read because forcing everyone into a railroad simply clashes with the freedom you must give to the player so he's actually one. And it's sad because he doesn't actually need to force anything, the themes and ideas that the story is supposed to convey can be done with mechanics and in a much more credible way.

Stories should arise from the players actions and the best gaming stories I have were done in gamse with not a single line of plot.

Thanks for posting this, I realized in the shower that I didn't put a disclaimer that violence was obviously not the only barrier to narrative excellence in games, and I couldn't have put it better myself. It's funny you should mention Final Fantasy; I was playing FFIV last weekend and I realized mid-battle that the only possible reason I would want to continue playing was for the story, which truly is compelling, so I'll probably end up selling it and reading a Wiki summary instead. The battle system is just too simple and basic to justify another 20+ hours of slog.

A recent example of how narratives can exist simply through emergent gameplay is the recent Day Z mod. There's no in-game storyline, but players are frequently compelled to share their experiences with one another because their experiences are highly unique. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published several thousand words just recanting their adventures in Day Z, all of which were far more interesting than "the zombie virus makes zombies and they kill and die" cutscenes that accompany every other zombie game. And those stories made me far more interested in the game than any set of bullet points ever could.
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by Erik_Twice Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:08 pm

BTW, concerning what you said about Indie Games, I just read something on an unrelated topic but that fits:

The reason why they feel similar is that they are trying to do "Game X but better" instead of using new concepts, so as to speak.
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by Tempest Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:56 am

I've come to the same realisation recently. I play games to enjoy playing the game, to achieve a goal, not to watch a narrative.

That's not to say that narratives have no place in videogames. If a game is designed well, that is, the narrative and the gameplay enrich each other and work towards a common goal, then narrative can be a worthwhile addition to a game. It doesn't have to be a good story either. I've recently returned to House of the Dead: Overkill. The story is very cliche and camp, but this is why it enriches the gameplay experience. A game where you shoot zombies (sorry, mutants!) will always conjure the clichés of that genre. Instead of avoiding the cliches, like good stories do, this game's narrative embraces them and turns their campiness up to eleven. It delivers the same type of gameplay and narrative as the previous games in the series. However, what makes it interesting and different, thus a good game, is how it delivers these elements. House of the Dead: Overkill uses the grindhouse cinematic style to parody that style of storytelling, making it different enough from previous games in the series. In essence, it pokes fun at itself. Few games do this (at least that I’m aware of), and rather than being a new genre, it’s a new take on the light-gun shooter and horror genres. Granted, the gameplay is mostly unchanged, but this new presentation of the genre enriches the tried and true gameplay, which was always fun, and makes it seem like a new experience anyway.

There are other games that do similar things, in different ways, to their own genres. Rez showed that audio in a game could be more than background music and sound effects. Goldeneye showed that we didn’t always have to kill aliens in first-person shooters. This works at any level within a game: visuals, audio, gameplay, narrative, and so on. And this is where we will always see innovation in games.

New genres are rare in any medium. Instead, we get innovation within a specific genre. This does not mean adding a few new features. It means taking a previously used concept and rebuilding it. It’s about stretching the boundaries of what has come before without straying too far from the original concept. Yes, there is less of this in today’s safe, highly money-driven market, but it is still there, even in minor ways. The Wii, DS, and Kinect changed the way we interact with games. They are simple concepts, yet they (mostly) work.

The best concepts, narrative, game, or otherwise, are simple. In the original Sonic the Hedgehog, players were instructed to stop Robotnik from turning innocent creatures into robots. In the original Mario games, and indeed most of the current games in that series, the narrative instructs the player, as Mario, to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. They are simple concepts, yet they work. And that’s all you need from a game narrative: an incentive to play the game, to make the player want to take on the role of the protagonist, and accomplish their goals. Current games over-complicate this. Recent Sonic games are a good example because they add too much superfluous material to make the narrative and game appear bigger and better than it is. Yet, this only serves to make the narrative less and less important to the game, thus the player.

I’m not saying that games need to go back to narratives that are this simple. What I mean is that if developers can’t get the basic elements of narrative correct, then why bother trying to make the narrative more complicated?

Narratives, at their core, are simple, and each is essentially the same: a protagonist encounters a disturbance to his normality, goes out to rectify the situation, encountering many allies, enemies and tests along the way, before, after seemingly being beaten, overcomes the odds and returns things to normality or makes them better than they were before. Despite this sameness, we return to narratives to see how the protagonist overcomes his odds, and how it is different from the last narrative we experienced. Unfortunately, many game narratives don’t try to make these narratives unique.

Some people say that games are better without narrative. Well, games have always had narrative, even the earliest ones. They gave you, the player, a reason for playing the game, even if it was as simple as beating another player or the computer. The purpose of Pong was to score points. It’s not much of a narrative, but it’s still there, driving the player into the game.

The difference is that these days, narratives are bigger, more complex beasts. And perhaps, in their desire to make their game unique, some developers have lost sight of the core purpose of narrative and its simplicity. If complex narratives are going to remain in videogames, then developers need to have more respect for players. They can’t continue to rehash the same sci-fi/fantasy narrative clichés. They need to come at it from new, unique perspectives. How can we accomplish this task we’ve done a thousand times before without doing it the same way?

The trend in current games is for developers to just give an established concept a fresh lick of paint, usually through graphics and narrative. They believe players will enjoy it. To some extent, some players always will because they don’t know any better. However, a good game, a classic game, avoids this approach and finds something unique that will make players want to continue playing. This needs to come at both the gameplay and narrative levels. The same theories I’ve mentioned about narrative apply to gameplay. A good game is one that takes previously used core mechanics and adds something meaningful to it. Each new game should rework a known concept in its own unique way. It’s about innovation of what’s already out there. Sometimes that’s a big step outside what we’re used to, and other times less so.

To me, a game needs to put gameplay at the forefront, because otherwise, why not develop the narrative as a film, novel, play or something else?
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Re: The evolution of designs rather than narratives...

by JayJaySut Mon May 20, 2013 8:38 pm

Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Metroid, Sonic, Dragon Warrior, Street Fighter 2,......They are considered classics because of game design.....not because they had powerful emotional impact on the player


I'd say they were going for an emotional reaction but that they got it through design rather than narrative because I definitely feel different playing Zelda then I do playing Megaman. I think we should be comparing games more towards paintings and songs rather than movies and books. A great painting still tells a story, it doesn't have a plot but there's still a story there likewise a game like Zelda tells it's story without actually telling it's story. A recent game that kind of bothered me was Bioshock Infinite where people were so quick to jump up and call it art when all they really had to cite were scripted sequences (just because it's in first-person doesn't make it not a cut-scene!) where the majority of the gameplay was just mowing through bad guys. I think a good rule of thumb should be do don't show. Other story based games that kind of bother me are things like Heavy Rain (which I'll be honest I haven't played) but you can still tell story was the main driving force behind it rather than gameplay. I think what we should really do is find new ways to communicate ideas in ways that only videogames can I'm not saying videogames only have to be about reflexes and challenge but think about the time you made exciting discoveries in TLOZ was that really any less valuable than a lot of even really good movies?
You could say that Heavy Rain gave you choices and a movie couldn't do that but I say you'd still be considering the choices watching a movie and whatever the character did that's what they did I don't think offering the player difficult choices for the sake of difficult choices is the way to go. I don't think videogames should go for movie emotions just because those get respect I think we should go for emotions special to videogames that don't always have to boil down to adrenaline. This is an interesting article for anyone patient enough to read this:
http://boingboing.net/features/morerock.html
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