The Elements of a Good Story
  • I'm a bit of a fan of professional wrestling. Not so much the wrestling, but rather the ability that the wrestlers have to manipulate the crowd and tell a story.

    I REALLY enjoy watching shoot interviews (interviews where the wrestlers talk out of character), and I recently saw one that got me thinking about the story lines in games. A young wrestler approaches an old pro about doing a move during their match. The rookie wants to get the old guy outside of the ring and come flying over the top rope at him.

    The old wrestler asks, "why would you want to do that?"

    "Because it will be a good spot. The crowd will love it."

    "Yeah, they'll love it...for about 5 seconds."

    He then explains to the novice that doing a big move is good, but making it part of a story makes it great. Instead of just doing the move, he should create a motivation behind the move.

    For example, let's say that they start the match tying up in the middle of the ring. The younger wrestler throws his opponent into the ropes and sets up to do a devastating move. Rather than bounce off of the ropes, though, the old wrestler slides outside of the ring and taunts him from the outside.

    When they get back into the ring they tie up again and throw a few blows. Just when the younger wrestler is about the hit him with a big move, the older wrestler once again slips out of the ring. This time he points to his head and taunts the younger wrestler, shouting how much smarter he is than his younger foe.

    They meet again in the ring, and the same thing happens a third time. This time, after sliding out of the ring, he turns to taunt the audience and taps his temple, pleased with his own ability to outsmart his opponent. Then he turns back to the ring...only to see his opponent flying over the top rope and onto him! The crowd now goes wild because their baby-face finally showed the heel that he wasn't as smart as he thought.

    These guys have now turned a 3 second move into a 3 minute story.

    There seem to be a lot of games out there that go for the "flying over the top rope spot," with graphics, sound, or cool looking weapons, they leave out the story elements necessary to transform the spots from just "cool" to "amazing." The good ones do what the old pro-wrestler was describing: build up the story, give the characters a reason to commit, incite the audience into a frenzy, and make the climax of the story one that gives the audience satisfaction.

    With that in mind, what additional story-telling characteristics do you like to see in your games?

    thebgbb
  • At first, I approached this thread thinking it would be a simple, quick answer thread, but after reading your post, it is so much deeper than that. Because you've mixed my perception of what this thread is supposed to be, I doubt my answers will be as good as I want them to be.

    First of all, I love exposition in games, I love long drawn out explanations of the world the game takes place in. These details help flesh out the story of the game without actually having any direct effect on the events that take place during the game. I am often berated for this by my friends, being told to read a book if I want exposition, but I don't see why I can't get exposition in both. The setting is almost as important as the story of the main character in my eyes.

    I also like stories that include characters that are very helpful without being an Alyx and following you around the whole game. It helps make them likable characters without turning them into a sort of tool. Suspension of disbelief, you ignore the fact that they were programmed by the devs to save you in favor of just being thankful they did. When a game can make you feel affinity for a character the same way you would for a fellow human being, it's just amazing.

    Just another quick one. I like it when the story is so rich, or just so well devised that, rather than being forced to continue down a specific path, you find yourself heading down that path because you want to. Whether this be just keeping the story moving, or literally having your character go where the game needs you to go. When the story is made in such a way that you feel like you are making decisions without actually having any real choice in the matter, it succeeds in my eyes.
  • Maxim said:
    At first, I approached this thread thinking it would be a simple, quick answer thread, but after reading your post, it is so much deeper than that. ...I doubt my answers will be as good as I want them to be..


    Don't sell yourself short. These are excellent points.


    Maxim said:
    First of all, I love exposition in games.....I am often berated for this by my friends, being told to read a book if I want exposition, but I don't see why I can't get exposition in both.


    I agree, and I think this is a big reason why so many movie games are bad; they often leave out necessary exposition because they are working under the assumption that you already know the story.

    Maxim said:

    I like it when the story is so rich, or just so well devised that, rather than being forced to continue down a specific path, you find yourself heading down that path because you want to.


    YES! And so few games do that part well. This is where I think a lot of playtesters and playtest formats are lacking. I think QA people should ask that question of their playtesters: did you do what you did because you knew it was the next step, or because you wanted to achieve that goal?

    thebgbb
  • I find history sometimes more appealing than gameplay. It may sound weird but if the plot is taken in the correct way so that I feel I need to know the end...it´s just fantastic. I specially love plot twists, although some games exaggerate. I´ll definitely play a game with an amazing story rather than a cake mania 2, whose strength is in the gameplay
  • I like games that put alot of emphasis on character development. Because if I don't care about the characters then the whole story will just be an annoyance to me. Like in Crisis Core we slowly see Zack's feelings about Shinra change from damn near worship to mistrust and ending with them being an enemy instead of him just listening to someone saying they're evil at the start. Also I liked the scenes ar Destiny Island in Kingdom Hearts because they took the time to show us the relationship between Sora, Riku, and Kairi so we can understand why Sora continues looking for Riku instead of just going at the end.

    I also like feeling as if theres more to the world then is shown. I think Ratchet & Clank does a good job of this with the different races and planets and the constant references to species we never see.
  • I really liked the wrestler analogy, partly because the story that was created in that example is for the most part infered from the action. Its a simple set up of pride before the fall and a juxtoposition of youth versus experience, but what's most important is still the action. Its not so much a deep exposition as just some simple motivational setup that gets the crowd into it.

    Some video games, especially high action games, I think would benefit from some of this type of story telling. The action is most important. I feel like many action games seem to think the answer is long drawn out (unskipable) cutscenes and convoluted plot twists. At the same time, give me some simple motivation at least. In so many games, you load up the game and some person you don't care about starts ordering you around. Go here, kill that guy, slog through hundreds of bad guys, solve puzzles and avoid traps and save the world. Why? Why me? You know what, why don't you do it, since you already know everything that needs to be done anyways. Oh, that's right, you're an npc....

    At the same time, video games differ from watching a competition, be it wrestling or a sport or a conflict in a movie. In games, its interactive. You need a passive action like watching a wrestling match to give you some motivation to root for one guy or the other. The underdog. Single elimination tournaments. The cinderella story. In games, you always root for yourself. Sometimes, all you need is the challenge of beating the level. What's my motivation? To get to the next level. To defeat this game. I don't give two licks if Mario saves the princess, I'm concerned about getting past a tricky jump or unlocking a level I've never seen before. My motivation as a player of the game to win is enough to keep me into the game.

    So which games need better stories and which don't? I think that's a point open to debate and preference. I do think many games try to be in the first category and end up falling somewhere in between in a no man's land.
  • Personaly i love a story that has background. If yyou start playing from the bening of the complication you don't feel like your a part of things yet more like your some perfect hero. Personaly this adds to the idea that the world existed before and the world exist after.

    Then in the story you have to create change, or have a chopice which effects how ythe game turns out.

    Also the story has to have at least one ireversible event. Somthing that has tochange the way you play the game. Either by adding or removing somthing big. Best example i can think off is when they kill off Aeiris in FFVII, Personaly she was my healer and when i lost her i had to rethink my whole stratergy.

    PErsonaly i think for a good story you have to make the game intergrated with it. you have too make the story affect the game and visa versa.

    just my thoughts

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