Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 21, 2014, 09:05:43 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
We have a new board! Pop on over to the Game Journals section and tell us what you've been playing!
337893 Posts in 13833 Topics by 2212 Members
Latest Member: WhiteWishes
* Home Help Search Login Register
+  RPGFan Message Boards
|-+  Media
| |-+  Single-Player RPGs
| | |-+  Are Storylines Really So Important?
« previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 5 Print
Author Topic: Are Storylines Really So Important?  (Read 15820 times)
James8BitStar
Posts: 80


Member
*


View Profile Email

Ignore
« on: March 25, 2006, 05:58:58 PM »

Hi.

This probably isn't the best way to introduce myself, and I'm almost sure I'm going to step on a few people's toes.  I'm sorry about that, but I have something I want to get off my chest.

I have been playing RPGs since I was fourteen, ever since the Americanized SNES version of FF4 got me hooked on the genre (I had actually played FF6 first, but it was 4 that got me hooked).  Currently, I own over 100 RPGs, including both PC and Console titles, which is far more than I can say for any other genre in my game collection.

And... I get at least a little miffed when I read an article about RPGs that mentions "storyline" and "characters" first thing.  Especially articles like this one, which retroactively apply these standards made in a time when people viewed RPGs differently.  I mean, saying FF1 sucks for not having a good storyline is like saying Looney Tunes sucks for not having computer animation.

Moreover, I really don't feel that storylines are all that important, except as an accessory to the plot.  I like to know what my character is doing and why he's doing it, but anything beyond that is just icing on the cake to me.  I play RPGs for their gameplay.  I know, I've heard the story that "well all RPGs have practically the same gameplay," but... I'm going to be honest, that's bunk.  I have a story of my own that illustrates that point.

This last week, I've been playing two old-school RPGs:  Breath of Fire and Dragon Warrior II.  Both were games I got in a pawn shop recently, and had never played and only barely read about before I started playing them.  They're both games that, on the surface, are very similar--they both have menu-based, non-Active Time battle systems, both have random battles, both have characters with specific fuctions, etc.  The point is, neither has anything that "stands out" to the average person and makes them realize how different these games actually are.

A case in point:  in Breath of Fire, I know exactly what order my first three characters are going to attack in.  Most of the time, I also know when the enemies are going to attack.  This allows me to plan out the entire round of combat and efficiently destroy my enemies.  In Dragon Warrior II its more random--sometimes the hero attacks first, sometimes its the Prince of Cannock, sometimes its one of the monsters--even in match-ups I've had before.  So DWII is more of a game of chance.  What's more, the starting characters have different abilities and spells, so right from the get-go you require different combat strategies.

Even outside of battle, there's huge differences that force you to tackle the games in different ways.  Stuff is cheaper in BoF, allowing you to more easily keep up with the best equipment and have big stocks of herbs, which you can have because the guys in BOF can carry more than the guys in DWII, which means in DWII you have to more carefully manage your items and magic--there's more of an issue of "should I heal with magic or use herbs?"

So even though the games look the same on the surface, a perceptive player can play both for thirty minutes and already start to see huge differences in the gameplay.

I'm sorry, this was a totally unnecessary rant, but this is something I wanted to get off my chest for awhile now, and I chose here to do it because I didn't think any other forum would understand my gobbledegook.  Thanks for hearing me.
Logged
D-Rider
Former God of RPGFan
Rainbow Club Member
Posts: 3688


Solitary One

Member
*

ChlamydiaBlues
View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2006, 06:17:44 PM »

The greatest plot and characters in existence don't mean a damn to me if the gameplay blows.  I'm with you; I don't see how a good storyline can be the main concern of the average RPG player.  I'd much rather play a fun game with a mediocre plot (say, Legend of Mana) than a boring game with an interesting premise (say, Xenosaga).

If only I had seen this thread before my copy of Oblivion arrived.  I could have ranted for ten paragraphs. :P
Logged

Ryos
I can has demons?
Posts: 1700


Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2006, 06:18:19 PM »

All RPGs have practically the same gameplay.  Actually, they all have pretty much the same plots and characterization too.  Hmm.  Oh well.  And FF was ridiculously light on everything other than fun gameplay.  That wasn't so bad at the time, but it hasn't aged very well.  You have to keep in mind that it's better to look at how a game is now compared to what it was when it was released.  There's no point in playing crap (which I don't really consider FF to be, there's worse stuff like Hydelide out there) if it used to be acceptable when it came out. :p
Logged

It's never too late to start learning; it's always too early to stop learning.
Eusis
Administrator
Posts: 11803


Member
*


View Profile
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2006, 06:20:44 PM »

What I consider most important isn't the gameplay, or the story, but simply how much I enjoy it. If it's got a great story I like but gameplay that only passes as functional and possibly enjoyable (see: Suikoden II), then I'll greatly enjoy it. Likewise, a game could have a great battle system but a crappy story like Growlanser II, and I'll still enjoy it. Hell, there's games where the battle system was horribly rough and the story sucked ass (FFVIII), but I loved them anyway. Maybe it sounds like I'm trying to be above the argument, but really... How much you enjoy it /is/ most important. :P

With all that said, I don't think RPGs like the pre-FFIV FFs and the old DQs have aged very well - I can only enjoy them in their remade format. And I wish there was more varity in the stories. You ultimately are restricted to a story that has fighting being an important part of it, but you could at least mix up the little details - I want older main characters to not be a minority in RPGs, for instance.

Edit: Though I should note that if I have to stick with great story but shit gameplay, or shit story but great gameplay, I'd rather have great gameplay. I enjoyed SO3 way more then I did XSII in the end.

Edit 2: Actually, looking over the replies, Ryos brings up a good point - you're inevitably going to be sticking with several similar games and copycats within a genre, but I think RPGs as of late have been worryingly stagnant. Maybe it's half because I was a teenager at the time and hadn't been used to seeing the same ol' over and over again, but I recall there being more diversity in the 32-bit days. Nowadays, it seems like the best you can hope for is either a charming/well done variation of the same ol', like Tales of Symphonia, or go for a Shin Megami Tensei game.

Edit 3 because I'm an indecisive asshole: I changed SO3 up there to GrowII. SO3 was an alright story with some crippling flaws. GrowII however, was an abomination with no idea where it wanted to go. :P
Logged
Cauton
Posts: 655


Member
*

cauton42@hotmail.com
View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2006, 06:35:15 PM »

I tend to value story and characters over pure gameplay in most cases. If the story is interesting enough I will put up with medicore gameplay (Xenosaga series), but if a game has a really, really annoyingly bad storyline no amount of fantastic gameplay can save it for me (Grandia 3).

That doesn't mean that I demand that every game I play has a fantastic storyline, though. As long as the story provides ample motivations and explanations for what is happening, and it isn't too clichéed,  I'm a happy camper. Most games fall in this bracket, really, as the majority of RPGs still have very similar storylines and gameplay. Dragon Quest VIII, Grandia 2 and Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~ are all games I have enjoyed a lot without them having exceptional storylines.
Logged
Jimmy
Posts: 1059


Wakens the Ferine Strain

Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2006, 06:58:15 PM »

Once upon a time I thought story was unimportant and as long as the RPG was FUN to play. That is until I played Star Ocean 3. I hear epic, fantastic plot, and what do I find? Characters that piss me off to no end and a story that crapped out within the first five hours. I loved the battle system, but I just couldn't stand the incoherent characters and a story that wasn't going anywhere so I gave up on it.

After that experience I revised my rules: If the battle system is fun, and with plot and characters that don't just end up annoying me, I'll most likely enjoy it.

A recent example, though not the best one, is Grandia III. It has a simple plot, and characters that hardly develop. But neither of them are so annoying to keep me from playing and enjoying the game...though Alfina comes damn close at times.

Grandia III reminds me a lot of an updated RPG from 15 years ago. The story and characters are both very undeveloped yet it's fun to play.

Okay, I've given my rambling two cents.
Logged
Scree
Posts: 64


Member
*


View Profile Email

Ignore
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2006, 07:47:51 PM »

Quote from: "The Darkrider"
The greatest plot and characters in existence don't mean a damn to me if the gameplay blows.

ditto
Logged

V-Dawg
Posts: 179


Member
*

PizMasta+V
View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2006, 08:43:22 PM »

I'm going to have to side with Eus on this one. It's impossible for me to say outright what single aspect of an RPG is most important. Rather, it's the amalgamation of all the different elements that makes or breaks a game for me.

Several of you mentioned fun gameplay as the reason you play RPGs. But really, unless we're talking about something with a real-time battle system (like a Tales game), how "fun" are RPGs? How much "fun" is it pressing "Attack" for the umpteenth time or watching the same stupid spell animations again and again (yes, I know there is more to RPGs than battles, but let's face it, the bulk of the gameplay is spent fighting)? I can't say games like Skies of Arcadia or Xenogears or Final Fantasy IX were "fun" because of their gameplay. But they still were great games on their own right because of the way they made me feel while playing it.

I'd say story and characters are more important than gameplay in a role playing game since for me, not many RPGs are very "fun" to play. It's the whole experience the game provides that is "fun" - visiting different towns, interacting with characters, seeing how the plot unfolds, taking in the sights.

Basically, I enjoy different RPGs for different reasons, and the same goes for RPGs I dislike.
Logged
Hidoshi
RPGFan's Open Source Field Agent
Posts: 2901


Built This House

Member
*

clothothespinner@hotmail.com BrandingRune
View Profile WWW

Ignore
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2006, 09:09:01 PM »

I don't really rank these things. I prefer a balance myself. If the gameplay is amazing, but I have no attraction to the chracters (or even repulsion towards them), and the story is bland, I'll feel like something is wrong. It'll ruin a lot of the game for me. What I do think is important is that the game have some redemption in all these fields. That includes graphics and sound as well. Mind you, these are secondary in my book, but they certainly don't hurt.

There are some games I've enjoyed merely based on the story. One has been Xenogears, another was Phantasy Star 4. To be honest, neither game really did much for me gameplay wise, but they didn't do anything so wrong it turned me off. And both the story and its characters were strong enough to make up for various problems. Citan Uzuki will probably be a favourite literary character of mine for years to come.

Conversely, a game like Star Ocean 3 disappointed me immensely. The gameplay was great, no two ways about it. But there were other fields that had such huge potholes in them, I couldn't help but come away feeling like the game was incomplete. One major thing was the setting. The opening and first parts of the game set the player up for this vast, star-travelling story, and then the rest of it has you on this one tiny medieval world. Big letdown. I didn't like many of the characters either, outside of Cliff and Mirage. Most of them either didn't get enough backstory, or the plot related to them wasn't very interesting. As such, I had to struggle through most of SO3, and I really don't like having to do that.

There are certain games which get away with it. Diablo comes to mind for instance. The story in Diablo is little more than a vehicle for progressing from dungeon to dungeon. It's not filled with many twists and turns, it's just barely serviceable. Your character is little more than a paper doll. But that's okay, because Diablo made up for all that by having 90% of its focus shifted towards the dungeon crawling. You knew what you were getting into with that game. The presentation was as such from the start that it wouldn't suddenly disappoint you.

I think a major key to making a game work is to have a good first half. Grandia III's evidence of this, if the reports are to be believed. So was Xenogears. No, granted, this may not be a universal opinion, but it's how I feel about the matter. Xenogears 'got me', in that it was fun enough to play and the story compelled me to pay attention. It didn't really matter that the second half of the game was largely one huge scrolling text block, because I had invested so many hours playing already that the exposition didn't bother me at that point. I was already too involved.

Star Ocean 3 on the other hand didn't give me enough time, nor did it ever reward my expectations. Xenogears sets you up for a huge, intrigue-filled plot. Star Ocean 3 sets you up for a sci-fi, spaceship-filled adventure. One fulfils, the other doesn't. Expectations are key here.

Would I choose story over gameplay? No. I like balance. And I like it when the game fulfils some of my initial expectations to the point that I can feel the trip has been worthwhile. It's sort of like getting a really good burger, but the bread's a bit stale. At least that's some tasty meat, and that's what I expected. The bread? As long as it isn't hard as a rock or moulding right there on the patty, I can live with.
Logged
James8BitStar
Posts: 80


Member
*


View Profile Email

Ignore
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2006, 09:17:20 PM »

Quote from: "V-Dawg"
Basically, I enjoy different RPGs for different reasons, and the same goes for RPGs I dislike.


I greatly agree with this statement--not all designers seek to make an RPG that has a great story or the best game design possible, so really it should be expected that players will allow some flexibility with regards to what they seek in a game.  Sadly, what I usually see is either "it has to have a good storyline" or "it has to have good gameplay," no middle ground.

Quote
Several of you mentioned fun gameplay as the reason you play RPGs. But really, unless we're talking about something with a real-time battle system (like a Tales game), how "fun" are RPGs? How much "fun" is it pressing "Attack" for the umpteenth time or watching the same stupid spell animations again and again (yes, I know there is more to RPGs than battles, but let's face it, the bulk of the gameplay is spent fighting)?


I've heard this view before... but honestly, I can't quite agree with it.  I actually can't really understand it.  In good RPGs anyway, the game will usually be more than just "pick 'attack' for the umpteenth time" and there will be levels of planning, even some that take place outside battle.

I've always admired RPGs that make some attempt to be challenging.  It seems like many of them, particularly some more recent ones, feel they need to make battles overwhelmingly easy.  In the elder days (and remember my first RPGs were on the SNES, so there's no concept of me speaking from nostalgia here) it was often a lot different.  The article I linked to had the writer complaining about the "insane difficulty" of Final Fantasy 1, and how you "had to spend insane amounts of time levelling up or risk going insane" (quoting from memory).  When I read comments like that, my first thought is that the author must've went into the game, expecting it to be like FF7 where he can just attack, attack, attack and hope to win, that he must've been in the mindset of "only collect cure and direct damage spells and ignore stuff like Sleep because it never works," and then when the straightforeward stuff didn't work, he assumed the game was just badly designed.  Needless to say, I beat FF1 without a hassle, and I rarely, if ever, stopped to level up.

Anyway, RPGs can be fun without a real-time system, much the same way strategy games can be fun without a real-time system.  (Though sometimes, I prefer the simplicity of real-time).

I've never really believed in the concept of a game "aging," either, but that's just me.

So far, I'm enjoying Dragon Warrior II far more than Breath of Fire.
Logged
Raze
Posts: 849


Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2006, 10:12:14 PM »

I can't even remember the last time I played a rpg with a great story(Digital Devil Saga may have been going somewhere, but I got distracted by something or other and never got a chance to finish it). You may have some cool characters here and there and a good scene now and then, but never enough to come together to the total package. It's all ranged to bad and cliche to..decent and cliche. I mean, I liked the dragon quest 8 story and all the characters for example, but when I picked up the controller it was because I wanted to play the game. Never once because I was anxious to 'See what happened next'.

 Or Grandia III which I'm playing now, that Penny Arcade comic and the rant that went with it had me prepared for the worst. I was expecting something terrible, instead I've just got the usual. Most of the people making these games clearly don't care about the story, they're just drawing from a already existing template and not even trying to spice up the cliche story with their own unique style or anything.(Though going back to DQ8 to it's credit it did have a bit of it's own unique style, it's far more 'fairy tale' then other rpgs and I think that helped it a lot)

Going back to that penny arcade thing, comic-http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/02/22 and a quote from the rant.

Quote
The stories in most of the JRPGs we get are fucking garbage. Is this a controversial statement? Only the most dominated nihongophile recoils, straining on his Eastern leash. These "stories" are challenges in an of themselves: like a hulking boss creature, they are trials against which the human mind must strive. Exhausting existential retreads that course through the meat of the brain like poison.


There's exceptions to the rule, but in general if you like rpgs with a good story, well...you're kinda screwed. Maybe 5% of them will actually provide it.
Logged
Hidoshi
RPGFan's Open Source Field Agent
Posts: 2901


Built This House

Member
*

clothothespinner@hotmail.com BrandingRune
View Profile WWW

Ignore
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2006, 10:16:17 PM »

In regards to FF1:

I'm probably in the minority of people who really dislike this game, but not for the difficulty. There's no attempt at a story, it's basic beyond basic, and let's face it, the gameplay and all other technical aspects weren't that good, even for its time. Consider that Phantasy Star was out at the same time, and featured not only a number of plot sequences, but full portraits, 3D corridors, animated enemies, and, in my opinion, a far more enjoyable battle system and gaming experience. People load praise onto FF1 for being one of the first, but for me, it's not a good game in light of PS1. It doesn't have that balance I was talking about earlier, and it didn't 'get me' like PS1 did.
Logged
Urban Sketch
Posts: 61


Member
*

timbrown96@hotmail.com Tha+Jamurai
View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2006, 10:57:55 PM »

A great story is a great bonus, but no, it's not neccesary to really enjoy a game. I really enjoy playing RPGs. The exploration, the fighting, the searching, the interaction, the secrets, I just have a lot of fun playing most of them. If I really like the atmosphere of a game, the characters, the setting,etc, then a crappy story won't bother me. Look at Dragon Quest VIII, many people claim that game has an average-at-best story, and it easily ranks as one of my all time favorite games now.
Logged

Marona
Posts: 83


Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2006, 11:27:07 PM »

A really big factor that decides wether or not I will click with a game is simply how charming it is. Im not exactly sure of everything that mixes in to make a game charming to one person, maybe you can relate to one character, it brings back fond memories, the music really suits your fancy, or the style of art really stands out to you... For a few examples -

I *love* Rhapsody: A musical adventure to death and its just a joy to play. Sure its not challenging by any standards, it may be a bit cheesy and its just plain silly - but its funny how it doesnt matter one bit because im gushing and giggling all over it.

The Secret of Mana soundtrack enchants me whenever I play the game, ill play this game for hours just to hear the beautiful music, sure I have the soundtrack itself, but it just doesnt compare to expiriencing it in the game enviroments - they just set my emotions perfect for the surroundings.

There are also times when the story also captivates me as with digital devil saga - I love a good mystery / romance / drama story if you could call it those things, and I couldnt wait to play to see what happens next. This is one of those games that really tugged at my emotions and I really felt for the crew, and boy did I cry waterfalls by the end. (yes im the person who sits next to you in the movie theatre and crys loudly during a romance movie)

I dont really have much more to say, since I dont really have a solid statement - but I do believe there are certain things about a game that reach out and touch you and make you love a game that all of your friends dont like making it really special for you.
Logged
John
Administrator
Posts: 7297


Member
*

DeceptiJohn
View Profile WWW Email
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2006, 11:30:36 PM »

Quote from: "James8BitStar"
Hi.

This probably isn't the best way to introduce myself, and I'm almost sure I'm going to step on a few people's toes.  I'm sorry about that, but I have something I want to get off my chest.


Absolutely not.  This is far better than any 'ZOMG I AM NEW' thread I've seen.  Thank you for posting in an intelligent manner - it will certainly get you more respect around here than anything else.

-John
Logged

THROW PICKLE IN BURGER TO SPEED UP COMMERCIAL
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 5 Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  



Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.20 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!