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Author Topic: Are Storylines Really So Important?  (Read 13907 times)
Dincrest
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« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2006, 11:40:16 PM »

The beauty of an RPG is that even if the storyline is bleh, it has other legs to stand on.  Like if a dog gets hit by a car and has to have a leg amputated, it can still run around, be active, be happy, remain balanced while standing and running, and be a great dog even with only 3 legs.  

On the other hand, a digital comic/digital novel game like EVE: Burst Error or Ever 17 is 99% dependent on story since the gameplay is nothing more than picking choices like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  A game like that is one I truly play for the story.  Many love adventures fall into that category too.  If the story and characters aren't compelling, NOTHING can save the game.  

The same could be said for many western style point-and-click/graphic adventures.  A game like Normality comes to mind.  The puzzles were well-designed and often quite clever, but the story and characters were pathetically bad and so annoying that my overall impression was that the game was a stinking pile of shit.  This is a genre that is so dependent on the narrative that even good gameplay can't save it if the story/characters/narrative/plot are awful.  

I haven't played too many RPGs lately since my position on staff is to review digital comics/novels, love adventures, and point-and-click/graphic adventures, but I was completely smitten by Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.  The main storyline was pretty blah, but the gameplay was addicting and the characterizations/ character development kept me entranced.
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James8BitStar
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« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2006, 11:56:44 PM »

Quote from: "Hidoshi"
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.


Now here I'll agree--Phantasy Star I beat the crap out of Final Fantasy I.  There isn't even any competition.

There were things I didn't like about Final Fantasy myself, though overall I think it was a decent game.  Actually I considered it the third best of the series until I played FF3.
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Urban Sketch
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« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2006, 11:59:18 PM »

Quote from: "Marona"
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.


I know exactly where you're coming from. I'm the same way sometimes, as I am a total sucker for a great soundtrack.

Games like Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy IX can be amusing me to just when I'm simply running around, mainly because I'll be enjoying the music so much.
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CluelessWonder
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« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2006, 01:43:34 AM »

Hmm.  Interesting question you posed.  A few years ago I would have emphatically said story, since I was originally a point-and-click adventure gamer.   Like Dincrest said, it is all about the story.  But I changed my tune after playing Xenosaga II.  I thought the gameplay was atrocious, though the story kept me going.  In fact the story will is what will drive me to purchase the third game.  

Anyways, since playing Dark Cloud 2, I've learned the power of gameplay.  The game is actually my favorite rpg of all time.  The story wasn't bad, but it wasn't going to win any awards.  It was the plethora of things to do in the game that made me invest 130+ hrs into it and makes me willing to pick it up again even now.    

My other favorite rpgs, Valkyrie Profile, Persona 2:  EP, and Xenogears had a great story and fun game play.  Though in the case VP, I think its strong suit was character development rather than story.  Seeing their deaths made it all the more touching for me.  

So is gameplay more important than story or vice versa?  I don't know.  But I do think character development is more important than story.  Take ToL for instance; the first half (main story) was the weakest part of the game IMO.  I didn't care about their quest, but I enjoyed their interactions with each other throughout their journey.  The second half of the game (character quests) was what made the game worthwhile.  You can have the most epic quest with the greatest story, but if I don't care about the people going on it, it means bupkis.

Edited to add:  I was thinking about this in the shower and I came to the conclusion that neither one is more important than the other.  They are both elements that either add or detract from a game's quality depending on how well they are executed.
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Bogatyr
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« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2006, 01:46:46 AM »

I am in the camp of "RPGs don't have good storylines, so I want them to be fun". Unless people think those angst filled teenagers, cheesy characters, badly written and developed romancing, and overall RPG badness - I will stop here, because complaining about those clichés have become as much a cliché as the clichés themselves... but you get the idea. In this case, I urge you to read some classy books.
Anyway, I also have fun doing typical RPG little things: exploring the world map; the thrill of finding a new town; buying new equipment; talking to people; looking for side quests, secrets; facing that tough boss; getting wasted by him and changing my whole character customization and battle strategy, and beating him without the need of leveling up - thus proving battles require thought, and not power leveling - watching events unfolding; hearing that amazing track in that gorgeous town, forest, story scene - or what have you - managing my characters... all the while experiencing an engaging story - yes, engaging, because they are never good - that keep me interested.
No more no less.
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Sketch
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« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2006, 01:52:36 AM »

I really enjoy a good storyline, but I've gotten to the point where I feel that there are so few groundbreaking stories nowadays that it doesn't really bother me whether a game has a shitty storyline or not. I guess you could say I'm easily satisfied.

Unless the plotless game is paired with an equally crappy battle system, because that would make a bad, uncompelling game, would it not?

So my vote goes to the 'fun factor' pile, I guess.
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Ramza
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« Reply #21 on: March 26, 2006, 02:28:46 AM »

Quote
The beauty of an RPG is that even if the storyline is bleh, it has other legs to stand on. Like if a dog gets hit by a car and has to have a leg amputated, it can still run around, be active, be happy, remain balanced while standing and running, and be a great dog even with only 3 legs.


What about that one-legged dog from homestarrunner.com? Y'know, Li'l Brudder? How's he fit into this analogy? :P

Anyway, I didn't read the thread because I'm feelin' lazy tonight. I'll just put it like this. You get what you want out of a game.

If a game has terrible gameplay, that's fine with me, so long as I'm not stuck with an inordinate amount of terrible gameplay. i.e., Xenosaga can't be bad, because even if you don't like the gameplay, it's 1/2 cutscenes ANYWAY.

Seriously, I'm a sucker for a decent plot with well-done character development. Unless a game is hyped for some factor OTHER than story, I tend to rank story as one of the highest factors in any game, w/ gameplay being 2nd. That's just me. That's how I feel about the games I play.

But, even if a game is light on plot, fun gameplay CAN make the difference. See Romancing SaGa. (yeah that's right, a FUN SaGa game. Eat it.)

I like you, Mr. new-to-the-boards. It was a fine question to pose, and digging up that old editorial was appreciated too. I liked that one, especially for its lashing out against trendy non-conformists (the ultimate paradox of our time).

Ramza
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« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2006, 04:09:43 AM »

Quote from: "Sketch"
I really enjoy a good storyline, but I've gotten to the point where I feel that there are so few groundbreaking ...


Kind of hard when every single possible story twist has already been played.

Bogatyr: Define what a 'good story' is then. Go in depth about it, not just 'fine literature is good' because arguments like that don't hold any water.
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Marona
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« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2006, 04:41:54 AM »

Thinking back I thought of another example I would like to share with you guys, and that would be "why do I like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest so much?"

I adore this little game, but why?... very mysterious. I dont think I can say no to this game when I see it sitting on my shelf and im looking for something to play, I can just pop it in and go and have myself a ball with it even if I wont feel enlightened or awed at when im done. As opposed to a game like magna carta - where I enjoy the game, but its to..."heavy" and I really need to be in a special mood and have a lot of time on my hand whenever I want to have a go at it.

I think if I were to pick an arguement (gosh I need to break my habit of beating around the bush) - I would say that no, the story isnt the most important aspect of a game. If a game has a sterling story, I just plain wont be inspired to play it if it doesnt have that certain "charm" that I need that makes the game fun for me as an individual. Sure I love a great story in a game, but its not the focus point since I play my games to make me feel happy and entertained, If I want a great story, I just make a trip to the public library.
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Professor Gast
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« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2006, 04:55:02 AM »

Personally, I prefer a great story over gameplay. Given that very few recent RPGs have managed to impress me, I'm already content when I get a good story in combination with a battle system that does not annoy me. I don't need anything special or fancy, just some traditional turn-based battle system with a few standard features will do. The two games I probably enjoyed playing most in the current generation of hardware were Xenosaga Episode I and Xenosaga Episode II. The latter was definitely inferior to the former in most ways, but at least both games offered great stories, while having battle systems that worked just fine for me.

Given how many RPGs have already been developed and released by Japanese companies, no wonder that people are running out of new ideas. However, in my book that's not even the point. The key is to mix those existing ideas in a way that you create something that at least looks unique as a whole, no matter how old and frequently used the ingridients may be. As long as the developers manage to create a believable storyline put it in appealing new world, throw in some interesting characters with solid character development, I'm content.

Today I probably would not continue playing games with great stories and poor gameplay (Vagrant Story) or games with poor stories and gameplay (Lunar Silver Star, Star Ocean The Second Story or Legend of Legaia) just for the sake of completing them. Then again I'm almost done with Grandia III and have to admit this game's story and character development or rather the lack thereof were just plain bad. The battle system and the visuals are nice and all, but they can't compensate for the lack of story or character development, if you ask me.
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Raze
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« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2006, 10:10:24 AM »

Quote from: "Leyviur"
Quote from: "Sketch"
I really enjoy a good storyline, but I've gotten to the point where I feel that there are so few groundbreaking ...


Kind of hard when every single possible story twist has already been played.


Maybe as far as plot twists go, yeah. It may even be true that, as far as stories in general go everything that could be told has been. But of these not every story that could be told well in a rpg has been. Like norse mythology is..well pretty damn old. Yet the only rpg I've played that has me right in the middle of that is valkyrie profile(Of course you get name dropping with mythology references all the time, but it ends up being just that-name dropping.). Being a valkyrie and guiding people at the end of their lives (and then taking their spirits..uh...dungeon crawling with me) is a pretty unique perspective. For another example so's playing a 1920's detective in the upcoming new Devil Summoner game.

Dumbass hero saving his weak and timid girlfriend from a madman who wants to become god, AGAIN..not so much.
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Dincrest
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« Reply #26 on: March 26, 2006, 10:14:46 AM »

Since the discussion is veering into the deconstruction of story, this thread might be some good reading.  http://www.rpgfan.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=163

On page 2 I offer up a link about the theory that there are only a set number of plots (be it 1, 3, 7, 36) and that every story is a retelling of those plots.  

Marona- in your post about Mystic Quest, you touch upon that intangible factor known as "mojo" that a particular RPG may have.  In particular, that "guilty pleasure" mojo.  You know X game is lousy and has flaws you would normally find unforgivable, but something about it keeps you coming back.  Thousand Arms is that game for me.  The storyline has more holes than Swiss cheese, the battle system is pretty clunky, the dating sim aspects seem a bit patchworked, overland navigation is a pain... in short the game has many flaws I normally find unforgivable, but I beat hte game twice, because it had an intangible charm/mojo.
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« Reply #27 on: March 26, 2006, 10:49:23 AM »

Truth be told, I kinda find the "There's only so many plotlines and they've all been told" view kinda depressing.  I write and draw (or attempt to) in my spare time, and I like to think I'm capable of coming up with something original.  Maybe I'll post some of my things in the creativity section eventually.

I also find it kinda not true in the same sense that "all RPGs have the same gameplay" is not true.  Sure, you can watch The Neverending Story and say it's another movie about a boy going on a heroic quest to save the world, but how many such heroic quests are A) against an intangible threat (as opposed to say, an evil dictator), B) require the hero to break the fourth wall, and C) end up failing, for the most part?
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« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2006, 10:58:07 AM »

What matters is not a plot twist, but rather how a plot twist is told.

You could have the ultimate plot twist but if it gets executed badly, it'll still suck.
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Dincrest
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« Reply #29 on: March 26, 2006, 11:05:52 AM »

In other words, it's less about the story itself and more about the storyTELLING.  A good storyteller can captivate me even if s/he is telling me a story I've heard multiple times before.
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