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Author Topic: What hooks you to a story?  (Read 977 times)
Hathen
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« on: January 04, 2013, 06:42:14 AM »

RPGs are a really long time investment. With that in mind there's probably a ton of games that we've never ended up finishing because the story just couldn't hold onto our interest. These days it seems pretty standard to start any sort of game with an elaborate action sequence of some sort (Mass Effect 2, for example) since that gets the audience excited right off the bat and takes its time to settle the viewer/player into the story later. It doesn't have to be about games, though how it might differ for you between mediums can be interesting too.

For me, it's usually a mystery or a question beginning a story that gets me hooked. Bonus points are given if it allows me to empathize with a character in some way. Off the top of my head, I think this is one of the most memorable openings to any game I've played.
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2013, 11:25:04 AM »

There are a lot of potential hooks for me, but I'll just mention the one thing I thought of right away when I saw this topic: Uncle Iroh from Avatar.  I know you asked about games, but the same thing would grab me in a game.

What I like about the character is that he starts out calm when everybody else is freaking out.  We learn that he's taken some unspecified actions that were unpopular because they were the right thing to do, but he's neither self-righteous nor all emo about them.  He's just a quiet backbone for the people who need him.

So I guess what that makes me think of in other stories is characters who start off somewhat sympathetic, but whose hidden depth is revealed over time.
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Klyde Chroma
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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2013, 12:52:41 PM »

The writing..... as non-specific as that is.... good dialogue with attention given even to what the NPC's have to say has a lot to do with keeping me enthralled with a title. generic speech really pisses me off.... it doesn't necessarily need to be meaningful in any way... just well written....

Breath of Fire 3 for example... I love everything about the franchise in my youth, but after just replaying 3 I can safely say the bland and style-less writing made it a chore by the end for me.... I can't think of a single memorable line uttered from beginning to end....

In contrast I'll cite Agarest 2.... there are alot of problems with the game but the dialogue lends a great deal of "character" to the characters with some spouting off a line or two that I even jotted down in a tablet as quotes I cared not to forget. Despite the gameplay flaws, I'll finish it enthralled for the dialogue alone.

One more... Eternal Sonata.... though I didn't get very far into it due to having other games  to play, it still stands in my mind as something I "need to someday get back to" because even the NPC's in towns speech was interesting....

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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2013, 01:53:23 PM »

I can't imagine there being any story hook to Eternal Sonata that'll last past the moment somebody starts to die (and given that that's the entire point of the game, well I rest my case).

Meanwhile the things that tend to hook me is if I see set ups that are either well done or unusual. Not everything needs to start out with a murder mystery starring a goon living in a shipping crate in desperate need of psychological care to get my interest, but it doesn't hurt so long as the story doesn't try explaining everything by saying "A technowizard did it!" (granted that's not to say I would get hooked to a story where you're some chump found standing unconscious over a murdered body who can't retain a line of consciousness over five minutes because no matter how hard the game pretends like this guy did it we all know he didn't because some technowizard did it and the whole goddamn mess goes completely insane trying to untie the Gordian's Knot of its own plot and fails spectacularly at it; sorry where was I? oh right, the body).
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« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2013, 02:10:44 PM »

Good dialogue, and the world it's set in. Atmosphere is very important to me. This is why I enjoy the SMT games so much. I love the entire atmosphere of the games, and the world that they build.
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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2013, 06:14:33 PM »

Hot chicks in skimpy outfits offering plenty of fanservice. 
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I kid, of course.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I complain about chainmail bikinis and other such impractical armor. 

In all seriousness, it's well-written dialogue and compelling characters.  Even the most mundane story will grip me if the writing and characters hold my interest.  With all the theories that there are only a finite number of plots, it's the people undergoing those trials that make or break it for me.

http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/plotFARQ.html

Event scripting is important too.  I'm sure we've all played RPGs that felt artificially padded, with plot points jumping in from left field every so often.  I like a tightly focused RPG plot that wraps up loose ends.  My favorite kinds of endings are the ones that show and tell you what happens to all the characters.  If a story only requires 15 hours to tell, don't pad it out to 51.  That's like trying to spread one spoonful of peanut butter over an entire loaf of bread.  Ultimately, no one's satisfied.
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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 07:58:30 PM »

The only RPG that held my attention on story alone was Xenogears, and I didn't even think it had a good story when I was playing it and to this day I have no idea why I DID finish that game.

The thing with stories in games, it's like... Games are an interactive narrative, so on one hand I really like games where I can control the narrative or... no, not what I mean... Games where my ACTIONS shape the narrative. Like Crusader Kings -- you have a personal character in the game, and he'll pick up different traits or grow in different ways depending on what you do, and I feel a lot of connectedness to my in game dynasty because of that.

And Boatmurdered is sort of a canonical example of gameplay as narrative.

On the other hand I DO like more traditional stories in games, although I think I prefer... more non-linear stories that I can explore myself. Sort of.

I guess what hooks me in a story, though, is... when a story gets me thinking about its possibilities, beyond what's necessarily being told, and then what keeps me is the quality of writing, and the detail.
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2013, 12:30:37 AM »

Anything that includes a person dressed as high being lowered from the roof by a machine that makes everything better. I like it when there are a bunch of those too.
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Hathen
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2013, 03:48:53 PM »

Quote from: Kevadu
What I like about the character is that he starts out calm when everybody else is freaking out.  We learn that he's taken some unspecified actions that were unpopular because they were the right thing to do, but he's neither self-righteous nor all emo about them.  He's just a quiet backbone for the people who need him.

Hm, so it sounds like you like it when a story kinda "promising" you something it'll expand upon down the road, such as a seasoned character that doesn't put it out for display. I think that's similar to my love for a mystery driving a story, where you're seeking an answer to a question that will likely get an explanation because it's probably really central to the story.

Quote
I know you asked about games, but the same thing would grab me in a game.

I don't mind if anyone wants to throw in their thoughts about any medium. I'm interested in hearing what hooks people on stories in general, and I think that generally for the same person the elements are actually the same ones across mediums, its just that different mediums need different ways of presenting the same idea.

good dialogue with attention given even to what the NPC's have to say has a lot to do with keeping me enthralled with a title. generic speech really pisses me off.... it doesn't necessarily need to be meaningful in any way... just well written....

If you haven't played it, maybe you can try playing Chrono Cross, or if you have, did you ever sit down to read all the NPC dialogue in the game? Most of the NPC dialogue in Chrono Cross is anything but generic.

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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2013, 01:04:24 AM »

Chrono Cross is weird in that a lot of the party member text is generic buuuut you also get a lot of personal quests, and there's actually a ton of optional scenes if you really go out of your way to explore it.

I really enjoyed Chrono Cross' story but I have no idea why. It wasn't so much the plot that grabbed me -- the plot wasn't the focus -- but the themes. I guess. Analyzing my own reaction to Chrono Cross is one of the great mysteries of gaming for me  !!

But yeah, the themes. So one that comes up a lot is confronting mortality. Or individuals confronting their ids -- both by means of travelling across dimensions and seeing other ways things could've turned out. Another big one is mankind proving its collective worth. The narrative is fractal-like in its construction, and circular to a degree -- time resets at the ending, and Kid and Serge swap their roles of the searcher and the searched.

It's like Dhalgren -- it's a puzzle that was never meant to be solved. I think *that* is why I like it so much.
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Mickeymac92
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« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2013, 08:57:58 PM »

Pacing, sometimes likeable characters.
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