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A narrative-absent game/spurning convention.

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Master-Frog, Jun 27, 2020.

  1. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    Intro logos, main menu, intro story scenes, playable tutorial disguised as the beginning of the game, various expositional elements seamlessly woven into the experience, or hamfistedly crammed in via dedicated explainer devices... I mean, we get it... right? Games began borrowing from Hollywood and now gaming is Hollywood, at least a spiritual successor to it in an era of waning demand for elaborate, artistic feature length film. Now we have elaborate, artistic movie games. Game movies.

    And they have their own formula, just like movies did/do. Tropes. Etc.

    If one was to make a shooter where you traverse several interlinked worlds via a non-linear hubworld, in search of keys, money, ammo, new pew pews and magical macguffins.... would it at this point feel like a throwback to an era nobody really misses (except some nostalgic geeks like me) or would it be, in fact, a revolutionary act? A welcome and refreshing one, at that?

    I mean, ZERO explanation for what is going on. You are just thrown into the boots of the main and given a basic weapon and a general direction to head... and that's it, figure it out. No narrative devices. No expositional angel or person calling you via a secret radio channel. Literally no explanation. You can read the story.

    Would anyone care? Would it matter? De-limbing shock troopers and alien guardians with bizarre weapons while solving puzzles and navigating maze-like environments... isn't that enough? I think it should be. But maybe I am missing something... Maybe investing weeks of work and major cash into short cutscenes 99% of players will skip is crucial to the fun.
     
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  2. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Is there an actual narrative? Or is it absent them altogether?

    I've been thinking about a game where there is a narrative, but the player has to do all of the work to move it forward. Imagine an open-world game where a set of connected events happen but the player is not informed of them, and experiencing one doesn't prompt a quest log pointing to the next.

    Anyway. Recently there was a Call of Duty game with only multi-player. That fits, I think.
     
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  3. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    Absent entirely of any narrative device, plot device, expositional elements. Null and void. The goal of the game is to progress forward and continue playing the game, not to complete a story or save anything from anything. Of course, there is a main villain, but this is revealed only by his appearance at the end of the game. You sort of piece the story together as you play. You figure stuff out later, like "shower thoughts" or "fridge logic" (if you understand the references).

    There is a story, and the story is expressed in the level design, the character design, the weapons, the music, the names of worlds and locations, cryptic symbols and things like that. But just at no point does the game use any written or spoken language at all to explain anything to you, nor does it use cut-scenes to show you important past events to provide context. You are just thrust into the middle of an epic storyline.

    In fact, your character is actually a gray alien, and so even your HUD is in an alien language. The point is you--the person choosing to complete a hardcore shooter game--know games so well, you don't *need* any of the bells and whistles. Just the meat and potatoes, strafing, jumping, weapon selections, challenges, and environments to explore and things to discover. I mean, why not?
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
  4. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Sounds like a refinement or extension of what people mention for Dark Souls (I've not played, just hard people talk about it's approach). Sounds rather intriguing.
     
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  5. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Not really imho. Dark Souls has a lot of NPCs monologing at you, and lots of flavor text on item descriptions. Sometimes you're even asked to make narrative choices, either directly or indirectly.


    You mean like Minecraft?


    I don't think people would think about this aspect a lot. If it's a great game, it's a great game. If it doesn't pull people in, it doesn't pull people in. Both can happen with and without story.
     
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  6. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    True. Sometimes I like my favorite game, sometimes I don't game for months. I just want to make a game I want to play. Maybe have some beers while building the levels and testing, do everything out of order, make it really confusing... so when I come back to play it through myself, I can genuinely not remember the puzzles/mazes and have a good time.
     
  7. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    If making a game that is easy to get back to after a long time and one that can still surprise its maker are priorities for you, then maybe look at procedural level generation, possibly used in a wave-based arena survival shooter. You can still tie that in with a metagame progression, like for example you pick a dropzone where you land to scavenge gear while killing monsters and make a risk/reward choice for staying longer and fighting stronger monsters that drop better loot but risk losing it all and respawning at your base without loot, or play it safe and fight your way back to your shuttle earlier, to finish the level and return home with your loot. If you add an XP grinding mechanic that doesn't get reset on death, you make sure you're always making some form of progress, even when you die, and the risk/reward choice at the same time functions as a self-balancing mechanism for difficulty. So that when you come back after a long time you can still progress and get into the game slowly instead of being trown in the deep end where you have a tough time getting a hang of things again.
     
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  8. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Sounds like almost any 1990's first person shooter.
     
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  9. welby

    welby

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    I can simulate this by hitting X over and over,..lol.

    Stop talking, Lara !

    ;p
     
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  10. Lime_x

    Lime_x

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    This sort of sounds like the game "Inside", where there's no dialogue or cutscenes. I don't even think there's any button prompts as far as I can remember.
    I think it's an interesting concept to let the world speak for itself and there are probably a lot more examples of games that do similar things. That being said, I don't think every game needs to go for that perspective and I'm happy that people have different views on how to convey their art to others. :)
     
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  11. Not_Sure

    Not_Sure

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    If I ever get my act together and make my Doom/Metrovania game I fully plan on doing just this.

    No start screen.

    You start the game and it just starts.

    Then after a break in the action, then the title pops up in a brief moment of quiet, right before going nuts again.

    And at no point is it an easy tutorial. I want most people to die before reaching the title (also the first checkpoint) and have the game automatically close if you die.
     
  12. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I think there is big difference between what gamers/game developers like us want, and what is commercially viable. Maybe not always the case, but I think we have to be cautious about the difference between the way hard-core enthusiast experience the medium, and the way the average consumer does.

    But, just purely my opinion, I wont even play games that have story any more. Not because I dont love a good story and characters, but because they always suck. There isn't a good writer in games. The very best of the medium is, IMO, awful. Games aspire to be like hollywood, but what a low bar. Hollywood is terrible.

    But you see? That's just the snooty opinion of a hardcore, spoiled enthusiast. Clearly there is millions to be made from telling what I would call "an awful story."

    That's all to say, do what you want, just make sure you know who the audience is for it and how to reach them.

    I only a play a few pure simulation games anymore. To me, that's the apex of what the medium is good for. Theme is still important to me. I need to believe in the fantasy, get immersed in it. But when poor writers try to introduce a plot and characters, that usually kills the theme for me because its too stupid to believe.

    The older red storm tom clancy games were heavy on theme, light on story. That really worked with me. The new ubisoft ones are full of idiotic characters and plot, and the theme isn't as focused. Doesn't work for me. The old adage comes to mind, "Keep your mouth shut and people will wonder if you are fool. Open it and remove all doubt."
    I think big problem many amateur writers face is they always wnat to say too much. Wont let the users imagination do the work.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2020
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  13. Zomby138

    Zomby138

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    Out of interest, what do you consider to be the best of the medium in terms of writing?
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020 at 10:48 AM
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  14. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Similar to the above - what is "the best" in the medium, and why is it bad? What are you comparing it to?

    I see this take a lot but it's never backed up with examples and explanations.
     
  15. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Well, in general since this is a game developer forum i try not to S*** on any games specifically, and especially not any indie games.

    taking a mainstream example, a lot of people consider naughty dog games to have some of the best narrative experience in games. I think all of their games are too dumb to play, at least considering the story. The original TLOU did do something right with the characters, though to me personally I don't kno

    rockstar games occassionally accomplish something witty that can be entertaining. i cant recall one likeable or relatable character though, nor a plot that was compelling.

    from the witcher series I remember a single side quest I found compelling, but that was mostly due to the stellar music. there was some great themematic moments here and there, but there was a lot more cringe that had me rolling my eyes.

    Nothing really novel about my opinion in most cases. Just the usual ludonarrative dissonance argument, unlikeable, unrealistic characters, outrageous plots, unintelligible narratives, etc. Nothing you can't listen to from youtube critics.

    What do I compare games to? All media. Probably I have spent most hours with is video games, but I used to read alot and of course watched plenty of movie and tv growing up. Good story, good characters is medium agnostic IMO. If its got it, it's got it.

    Disney and Pixar is always reliable source for compelling stories and great characters, even if it is for children. They just know what they are doing. Netflix puts out great true crime series that really set the bar for "can't stop watching even if I wanted to." The pablo escobar series, for example.

    Books, I mostly read non-ficiton. off the top of my head in fiction category... There was a fantasy book awhile back, name of the wind, i think? First book was stellar, really hard to put down even if a bit cringey at times. Second book I think the editors trusted author too much. Was a nightmare of fan fiction cringe. Traded in the relatable humanity for boyish fantasy.

    Same thing with TLOU2, seems like. Big ego director wanted to explain the whole world and part the F***ing seas with his gigantic mind. Forgot to tell a story for humans.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020 at 2:14 AM
  16. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I think reason video games continue to fall short (IMO, dont forget that), is because developers aren't sticking to what they know. You got people who've never played a sport making outrageous action adventure games in which we save the world and get the babe. So it's all flat and unbelievable. The dialogue between nathan drake and his wife, as example, are so weirdly inhuman it makes you wonder if a computer algorithm is attempting to recreate human conversation.

    You got to at least start from a nugget of something you actually know. And when I say "know," I don't mean theoretical knowledge. I mean experience. So, for instance, if you are a basement dweller who never talks to the opposite sex, dont try to write that. Or if you really want to, get out the basement and get some experience. Then you got some clay to work from.

    You can extrapolate from just a little bit of experience, but if its just pure fantasy, it always come off as idiotic, as least to me. It is like when a child is telling a story and you know its a big lie but you play along cause they're a kid. Thats what most game stories feel like.

    Doesn't mean i think heroic fantasy or save the world with your gun should be taken off the table. But when writers work in some human element that they actually know about, that's when it really works. When they stop trying to be clever or edgy but just relate some meaningful human experience.

    and last thing, I always share this quote because I think it's important:
    “A writer who does nothing but write”, he replies “is like the moon which gives off some light, but it’s borrowed, taken from the sun. A writer needs first hand experience, which only working in an other field can give him. Otherwise he is writing what he has read in other books”.

    thats from Stavros Melissinos, a poet in athens. I think it speaks for itself, but obviously my view is that if you making a game thats a copy of another game (nevermind gameplay for this, just talking story), things are, at best, moving in a circle, but more likely going downhill.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020 at 2:22 AM
  17. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    This is really just begging the question, but it's inconsequential I suppose.

    In any case, on the original topic, I think there's probably a market for everything. Who knows how large it is.
     
  18. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I mean, you point to almost any game I can explain why any of those three things fit the bill. It kind of becomes too wordy to get into specific cases, and its the sort of thing where if it sounds totally wrong to you, there is just too much difference between my perspective and yours to find much common ground.
     
  19. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    The concept of a game having "unrealistic characters, outrageous plots, [and] unintelligible narratives" definitely doesn't sound totally wrong to me. As you say these comes down to personal opinion. That's not actually "good" or "bad" writing. The Sound and the Fury was a miserable experience for me to read, but me not enjoying the style it employed didn't make it bad writing.
     
  20. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    when I use generic negative words like bad, awful, too dumb to play, etc, what I mean is: I couldn't enjoy it and/or I think it could have done better as a commercial product, or at least done more to advance medium beyond its current general status of being considered "silly."

    i use simple words for brevity. if people find it offensive, they taking it too serious. its waste of time and energy to go through preamble explaining our flawed human state every time we wnat to have an opinion about something.
     
  21. Deckard_89

    Deckard_89

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    @BIGTIMEMASTER I agree about the old Tom Clancy games. They were just genuine, authentic. The stories were told via briefings and that was it, you got to work. Planning your squads, equipment etc then boots on the ground.
    The new ones just seem like Hollywood-ized shooters to me, and there's too much posing with beards and tattoos (that some guy may have even bought with real, actual money) for my liking.
     
    BIGTIMEMASTER likes this.
  22. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    yeah they nailed the theme. It's pure military. No F***ing around. Serious business.

    imagine if they kept that original theme but just updated the controls, AI, graphics, and put you in the open world with dynamic simulation of enemy forces. Man, I might still play games!

    Could charge some money for new weapons and maps too. Only game I play anymore if theHunter:Call of the Wild. I am more than happy to shell out $3-$5 every couple of months for new content in that game. It's perfect and I like to support it.

    I guess there is more people who want to customize their neckbeard and bicep tattoos in cool guy fantasy simulator though. That's what makes me sad.
     
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  23. Deckard_89

    Deckard_89

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    @BIGTIMEMASTER Two games I would recommend are Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising & Hidden & Dangerous 2. The former came out in 2009, the latter 2003. So, not new either, but there you go. Operation Flashpoint 2 must be played on Hardcore difficulty though - if you ever try it. A truly terrifying game, more than any horror game...
     
  24. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    i played flashpoint quite a bit back in teh day. I remember liking it a lot. I even messed around with the editor a bit to make custom missions. Never heard of the other one, so I'll check that out. Thanks for recommendation.
     
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  25. cyangamer1

    cyangamer1

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    I see many across different gaming forums bemoan the lack of these types of games (or at least there not being enough of them), so there's definitely a market for it -- especially in the indie scene. I don't see why the medium can't be big enough for both, as someone who prefers story-driven games with talking characters and the like.

    You just have to make sure you seek out that audience and have a good idea of what they'd be interested in, while also putting in your own spin.

    I will say having completely no story or explanation may be a little more niche, but that just means that the fanbase for it will be even more passionate, which always draws in more people curious about the hype. I feel like that's how Dark Souls got so popular, as that style was definitely niche when it first came out.
     
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