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Subject: 999 (Nintendo DS)
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El Diablo
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« on: July 06, 2007, 05:40:01 PM »

As tecnology evolves, games presentation became more and more akin to that of movies, anime, or even TV shows in construction, development and sometimes content (in a good and in a bad sense, I guess). Personally, I feel that RPGs narratives reached a certain level of quality that is comparable to other mediums, but have yet to uncover all of their potential, since games are interactive by nature. What I'm trying to say is simple: they are compelling, they are well constructed(at least the good ones) and they work as a force to drive the player foward, altough I've never played a game just because of a good story, far from it. But that doesn't mean that I don't consider narrative a central part of the experience.

The future, as I would like to think, is in the choices that the player can make, their effect and the sense of control over your destiny inside that little universe in whch you're immersed as you play.

My question to you guys is: What do you think that the genre needs to do to evolve as an effective medium of storytelling? What is wrong and what needs to change?

Sorry for the blog moment, but I thought this would be pertinent, since we're all RPG players here...

Hope you guys like it.
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Eusis
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2007, 06:33:03 PM »

I think one of the most important things is to take more chances. Don't be afraid of an unorthodox setting, doing ballsy things with characters/gameplay, etcetera. 95% of everything is crap, but I'd at least like it if more of these games pretended to be original, rather than simply pretending to be important.
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Dade
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2007, 06:38:01 PM »

Quote from: "Eusis"
95% of everything is crap, but I'd at least like it if more of these games pretended to be original, rather than simply pretending to be important.


Soooooooooo fucking true.

I think a little bit better focus on character development is in order. It seems over the past couple years we've had a lot of big named RPGs that were more concerned about telling a huge sprawling story rather than taking its core group and building them up. Final Fantasy XII and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time spring to mind immediately.

I dunno about you guys, but I watch Battlestar: Galactica and Doctor Who because of the characters, not necessarily the storyline.
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Lucid
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2007, 08:00:05 PM »

Need less reliance on anime cliches/designs, and lessening the adherance to the teen characters. The cartoonish anime look at least to the extent it's used now doesn't appeal to me. For example Xenosaga, while I appreciated the plot and character ideas themselves, the style they used for them was too cartoonish for me. Chaos and Kos Mos especially seemed quite absurd looking(especially for who they are revealed to be). I think I would have liked it much more if they used some more mature artistic designs. I feel like I've seen it all before when it comes to anime looking characters in these games. I don't mind anime style, just tone it down a bit. A little more simplicity would go a long way, instead of these elaborate, colorful, outwardly sexual, or otherwise immature aesthetics.
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2007, 09:41:57 PM »

I just want to start by saying that it's threads like these that make me very glad that I found this forum.

Firstly, on the topic of well constructed stories, I think Diablo's half right. RPGs have become very good at the dramatic side of story telling. Game producers have become very good at knowing how to push and pull at those emotional strings. The same is true with anime, which is a far more emotional and dramatic genre than standard american television (although there are signs of some shifting).

On the flipside, RPGs are highly underdeveloped in their ability to inspire us and force us to think about things. They're very unsophisticated in this regard, with fairly obvious central themes, most of the time very simplistic in nature, and varyingly few shades of grey. There are exceptions, but there are none that are able to do ALL of these things well.

In pretty much every case, I must overlook some huge, fatal flaws in the construction of a game to be able to enjoy it. Most of my favorite games have huge flaws, but I choose to simply ignore them. I don't think I've played a single game that didn't make me cringe, on some level, about some aspect of its narrative.

However, El Diablo, I'm going to have to disagree with you on your fundimental ideals of how games should develop. I, personally, have no interest in seeing a fully interactive narrative. My interest in interactivity goes as far as being free to explore the wonderful setting I've been given... but ends there. I feel a very strong sense of separation between creator and audience, and I'd like to keep it that way. I see games as interactive skulptures... but like most interactive skulptures, each one has a creator, a theme, and a concept built into it that can not be altered by the audience. I prefer to play from this perspective, and enjoy the thoughts and ideas the creator wants to share with me... as apposed to demanding that I take part in the overall construction of the narrative.

Bottom line: people need to learn how to listen to each other better. Constantly demanding control over the formation of ones narrative entertainment does not help this cause.
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Eusis
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2007, 11:47:51 PM »

Not that again... You have to consider something: You play the role of only one person, or at least one group. You only shape the world when it's a game like the Sims, but something like KotOR and Planescape Torment is still a world and setting created by the developers, and you can still only do so much in those circumstances. Hell, your character's past in both of those games is out of your hands, especially with the latter where the whole point is to discover who and what you truly are. Plus the advantage of interaction really should be used in whatever manner as being the advantage games have over other medium. There's several ways of handling that, getting to explore and experience the world like SoTC, giving you control to figure things out and get through situations like Planescape Torment, or perhaps purposely shoving you in a scenario where you have little actual freedom like Killer7.

Like I pointed out elsewhere, you can say the same thing about the linear games not letting people think for themselves and decide what and what not to do, leaving them to be content with following what someone else has laid out for them to do. American RPGs like my earlier examples are really just in the middle anyway, it's games like the Sim* titles and all where you have absolute control over the world, characters, and what ultimately happens to them.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2007, 02:33:51 AM »

Quote
It seems over the past couple years we've had a lot of big named RPGs that were more concerned about telling a huge sprawling story rather than taking its core group and building them up. Final Fantasy XII and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time spring to mind immediately.


Fans want this sort of stuff. Anyway, I have an immense amount to say about this, actually, but I'm a bit too, er, on Robitussin to really say what I want to.

In brief, though, in a game like X-Com, none of your squaddies have set personalities (As opposed to, say, Jagged Alliance 2, where there aren't ANY generic soldiers). However, they do have individual stats, which increase depending on what you have them do and what 'level' they are (Squaddies have more 'points' in stats than rookies do, I believe. Likewise, if you want the strength stat to go up, have a soldier trug some heavy crap around for awhile).

anyway, there's sort of this emergent personification thing that goes on. Lets say that Gunther Bremke just has a really high natural strength stat, meaning he can actual lug aroun the rocket launcher and a few spare rockets. So you basically set him up the same way every mission. He becomes your demolitions expert. And then whatever sort of personality you associate with demolitions guys, Gunther Bremke there starts to take it on.

You can't have this going on with characters that have pre-defined, fully written-out personalities. Ergo, if they're not well developed, they're not going to get their own 'emergent' development going on. They're just going to remain underdeveloped, because the player can't internalize them, and apparently the writer couldn't either.

However, as I said, the trend of having sprawling, epic stories with poor character development isn't anything new. That IS what the majority of roleplaying gamers want (or wanted until recently) -- really intricate storylines with lots of twists.

Besides. It's not like Star Ocean 2 had particularly memorable characters either.

Quote
On the flipside, RPGs are highly underdeveloped in their ability to inspire us and force us to think about things.


True. But they're also games. I know I'm probably alone here, but I'm not looking at RPGs or games at all as a source of massive social change or artistic inspiration. I like games being games. If games have to stop being games to focus on narrative, than I really, really want nothing to do with gaming anymore.

In general, my idea of a game is something that involves playing. I'm not the sort of elitist gamer that believes that games should be gamerly and for nerds and confusing and require a lot of though. I just act like that in various places because it's funny and gets people going.

When I say 'involves playing,' I mean involves the player on some level more than just responding vaguely to stimuli (which a lot of console and PC RPG battle systems basically are). In an RPG or a strategy game, decision making is a good way of doing this. "I want to go and explore that mountain, just because it's there and I can," or "What happens if I try to bounce this grenade off of the wall, into an invariably enemy infested room? Will I still have enough movement points left to get clear?"

I've noticed that as narratives get more central to gaming, the player isn't allowed to do stuff "wrong" or experiment or whatever as much. And at this point I'm probably inadvertantly paraphrasing some ex-Lucas Arts employee wrote in the late 80s about Maniac Mansion. Anyway. If the narrative gets so central that the devs want nothing more than for the player to experience there carefully laid out narrative, I believe that they WILL limit the gameplay choices to, ultimately, boil down to a very basic form of responding to occasional stimuli.

Anyway, the things I find memorable in games are the things I do myself. Games can have memorable narratives, but that's not the *game* portion of the game. From Xenogears, the most memorable part for me, really, is how I finished it with massively, massively underpowered characters.

Epic final bosses are a dime a dozen. That time you got polymorphed into a succubus in Nethack and accidentally died by seducing a cockatrice, on the other hand, isn't.
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o/` I do not feel joy o/`
o/` I do not dream o/`
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Alisha
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2007, 02:58:39 AM »

good golly miss molly that is a massive wall of text.

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On the flipside, RPGs are highly underdeveloped in their ability to inspire us and force us to think about things.


i dont want them too last time i checked video games werent al gore's medium of choice. i wanna be like ZOMG did you see that damage! i doubt a videogame is gonna convince someone that racism is bad or that being a homophobe is wrong though i dont think any rrpg has even attempted anything on that front. you know there was this point in xenosaga 3 where i was asking myself. do i really need to know about kevin and shions past?
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2007, 03:08:05 AM »

http://grumpygamer.com/2152210

This is the link I was talking about. Mostly the article from 1989. Not so much the comments at the end which are probably written by ???s and drunks.
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o/` I do not feel joy o/`
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Eusis
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2007, 03:20:16 AM »

Damn, didn't realize you meant to link to Ron Gilbert's blog. I think I heard that mentioned before, and read a bit, I'll have to read more later. However, I think I'll likely agree with him.
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Alisha
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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2007, 04:01:22 AM »

i just read the first paragraph and lol'ed so he likes slow skill'less games with story?

edit while i didnt like the first paragraph the rules were quite good.
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Eusis
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« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2007, 04:10:10 AM »

Alright, read through it. I think I read that before, the save game thing is familiar, but whatever. While obviously some things can't really apply to games, a lot of it can and has effectively become an unwritten rule, namely not letting people permanently miss essential items. Heck, at least one of those, making games that can be beaten quickly and without saving, have paradoxically become relevant again thanks to episodic gaming... Namely Sam & Max. And it's definitely worth reading the Old Man Murray link, it's mind blowing how absolutely FUCKING RETARDED the example puzzle is.

Oh, and Alisha? You literally have no clue here. He's talking about graphic adventures with the original article, if you've played the games you will understand the context of this. I suppose, errr, you're technically right though, as it's not skill that's important for most graphic adventures, but rather good puzzle solving skills and being able to piece things together. He has admitted he learned better thanks to developing the two Monkey Island games and disagrees with some of what he wrote before.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2007, 04:16:26 AM »

Anyway, I wasn't focusing on the entire post. It's mostly the back-half of those points he listing and explaining. I wannt try and relate some of those more to RPGs. Tomorrow.
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Alisha
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« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2007, 04:22:37 AM »

yeah i posted that after only reading the first paragraph. i think the last adventure game i played was full throttle many years ago when i had a mac.
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Hidoshi
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« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2007, 04:23:25 AM »

Quote from: "Alisha"
good golly miss molly that is a massive wall of text.

Quote
On the flipside, RPGs are highly underdeveloped in their ability to inspire us and force us to think about things.


i dont want them too last time i checked video games werent al gore's medium of choice. i wanna be like ZOMG did you see that damage! i doubt a videogame is gonna convince someone that racism is bad or that being a homophobe is wrong though i dont think any rrpg has even attempted anything on that front. you know there was this point in xenosaga 3 where i was asking myself. do i really need to know about kevin and shions past?


That's not making you think tho', that's just plain tedium. Xenosaga as a whole fails because it doesn't ask much of us in the way of ethical or philosophical questions. It just asks us to unravel its pseudoscientific bullshit. It's a vanilla product because of that. Xenogears on the other hand was a much stronger drama because it did things we didn't expect. Case in point: Citan and his entire...

Code:
betrayal of Fei, and subsequent repentance, etc. Things like that at least have some effect on the player's morality. Citan is with you for so long, as such a good friend and advisor, that to suddenly find out he's been using you? If we participate in egoistic castle-building as most people indulging in a fiction will, it has an effect on us.


But then you strike me as wholly unliterary in every sense of the word.
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