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[Editorial] General: Games and Story - The Third Paradigm

BillMurphyBillMurphy Managing EditorBerea, OHPosts: 2,364MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

As game makers, we have a very powerful storytelling tool, completely unique to our medium, that we have barely exploited. Instead of exploring the strength of interactivity in games for story, we’ve been distracted for years trying to emulate the story-telling technique of books and movies.

Read on for the rest of Mark Kern's: Games and Story - The Third Paradigm

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Comments

  • zellmerzellmer Fakesville, WIPosts: 442Member
    Thanks Mark, good article and breaks up the wildstar stuff that has been polluting the front page lately.

     

  • BladestromBladestrom edinburghPosts: 4,946Member Uncommon
    One of the challenges of mmorgs is that you have to consider multiple players within the same virtual environment at the same time - a very particular problem that neither films or single player games face - requiring more isolated story telling mechanisms. To give an example, the intro scenes in HL2 would be shockingly bad if it had to deal with dozens of players rattling through at the same time - when you speak to the guard, do you queue with the other players and wait for your response ?(a response you have just heard repeating in front of you). Or do you phase - in which case you've turned a single mmorg temporarily into a single player, or do you cut to a face to face dialogue etc etc. one of the problems facing modern mmo is that people think a game should play like a state of the art single player game, but do not think of this impossible contradiction that nothing but far-in-the-future true ai would solve I suspect where that guard above reacts to the crowd of players, instantly changing behaviour to react to the combination of player actions moment to moment - while also ensuring the thread of story still plays out.

    rpg/mmorg history: Dun Darach>Bloodwych>Bards Tale 1-3>Eye of the beholder > Might and Magic 2,3,5 > FFVII> Baldur's Gate 1, 2 > Planescape Torment >Morrowind > WOW > oblivion > LOTR > Guild Wars (1900hrs elementalist) Vanguard. > GW2(1000 elementalist), Wildstar

    Now playing GW2, AOW 3, ESO, LOTR, Elite D

  • jesteralwaysjesteralways ChittagongPosts: 1,037Member Uncommon
    So Mr. Kern; the purpose of this article is to let us know that you are now working for valve and/or involved in development of a game that resembles half life 2? you always had a way of trying to sell your product through articles of mmorpg.com; like the time you ushered ANet with praise and tried to use GW2 hype to sell Firefall. We all know how it turned out so don't you think you should stop doing that?

    i want an open world, no phasing, no instancing.i want meaningful owpvp.i want player driven economy.i want meaningful crafting.i want awesome exploration, a sense of thrill.i want ow housing with a meaningful effect on my entire gameplay experience, not just some instanced crap.i want all of these free of cost, i don't wanna pay you a cent, game devs can eat grass and continue developing game for me.
    Seems like that is the current consensus of western mmo players.

  • NephaeriusNephaerius Baltimore, MDPosts: 1,539Member Uncommon
    I love how I read all this and then remembered Firefall opened with a cinematic lol

    Steam: Neph

  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Nephaerius
    I love how I read all this and then remembered Firefall opened with a cinematic lol

    haha I forgot about that.

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  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,058Member Uncommon

    Story is the purview of the player.  Let the player create his own story.  Developers spend entirely too much time and money crafting story when all anyone wants is an open virtual world for them to create their own destiny.

     

    Creating story lines inevitably leads to a game where it tells you are the "Chosen One" and a game with tens of thousands of chosen ones does not a great story make.  Focus on story arches in the vein of Asheron's Call.  Let the players themselves choose what, how or if they choose to assist but don't force them too.

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

    image

  • describabledescribable EdinburghPosts: 406Member

    i remember tabula rasa's opening cinematic... it was far better story than the game. (whereas auto assault etc opening trailer had no story whatsoever)

     

    Secret world does a good job merging fiction into an interactive story in some cases. (not all)

     

    WoW is possibly the worst story telling since the last Naruto filler episode. Guild Wars kinda struggles along now as well...

     

    It's a shame, since most games do have this notion as you as this 'saviour' but in an MMORPG; you're just a meat shield.... you're an upgraded NPC.

    there's still to be that mix in the game cycle, even ESO (the latest MMORPG on the market)  failed... it started having loads of vestiges... but at the end of the day within the story, you are just that "chosen one" without a soul. (explains why you can die all the time).

     I doubt they'll let us have the tools to create our own stories to share with people (hey it's pretty much how KOTOR 2 was built; it was badly built and the story sucked but it used biowares engine and toolset... just by a third company).

     

     

     In an MMO, if they ever let the players create their own stories... it would be a jumbled mess of crap and good.... and less money for them. It's why novels, manga, light novels and other form of media haven't died a death since MMORPGS came to life all those decades ago (almost two now right) ;) and we haven't really gone that much further... quite disappointing if you think of it like that

     
     
     
     
     
     

    "nothing actually matters, we're just slightly evolved monkeys clinging to a dying piece of rock hurtling through space waiting for our eventual death." - Frankie Boyle, Mock The Week

  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,718Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by describable

    In an MMO, if they ever let the players create their own stories... it would be a jumbled mess of crap and good.... and less money for them.

    Hmm... Architect in CoH many years ago? Foundry in STO since (I think) 2011? Also in Neverwinter since launch.

    "if they ever let the players create their own stories"  The concept is among us quite a while now... :)

  • wormedwormed Calgary, ABPosts: 374Member Uncommon
    I think Mark is assuming we're all forgetful neanderthals. Anything he's apart of, or writes about, has no credence or validity whatsoever.
  • Yoda_CloneYoda_Clone Harker Heights, TXPosts: 219Member

    For a moment, just for the purpose of comparison, let's contrast PNP role-playing games and single player computer RPG.  I'm going to use original D&D and BioWare's implementations of those rule sets (since everyone considers them to be the epitome of computer RPG makers) as an example.  And, since I'm an old fart, let's go way back in time and bring in those articles of antiquity known as books and early movies and TV (pre-reality TV days, back when actors really acted instead of relying on millions of dollars of computer-generated visual effects projected onto a blue screen).

    Before TV, we had to rely on our imaginations to visualize the worlds around the characters in books.  Their personalities were somewhat dictated by the authors' descriptions of the characters and the world, as were the detailing of motivations and behavior, but largely we could imagine things however we wanted.  We could not, however, change the events in the story because they were written in black ink on white paper... although where there was an ending like "...and they all lived happily ever after..." we could imagine for ourselves what that meant.

    Then movies and TV (all three channels worth) came around and much of our imagination was set aside and supplanted by whatever was on the boob-tube (which, back in those days, rarely actually contained boobs, unlike today).  We saw what the directors of the movies and TV shows wanted us to see; we heard what they wanted us to hear; and the actors conveyed the motivations and behavior of the characters quite well for us (excluding very bad movies).

    Then PNP games like D&D showed up and we were given the rights to use our imagination again.  Before PNP was translated into CRPG, the players lived in a world created by a DM or GM and the story evolved as the players made choices for the characters' actions.  While some players and DMs might draw pictures to help players' imaginations, mostly it was whatever individuals wanted to see and hear in their minds.

    THEN we came full circle... with BioWare-style CRPG games, we were reduced to once more seeing what the directors/producers of the game wanted us to see, hearing what the sound engineers wanted us to hear, and dealing with the motivations and behaviors of the characters as built into the game.

    That is, the ROLE PLAYING went out the window.  Because the medium for the story -- a computer program -- is fairly inflexible, the human behind the keyboard is reduced to making a bare minimum of choices, mostly mundane choices, because the story tellers can't allow the human being to interfere with the flow of the story.

    Basically, we're reduced to defining our "build", but our character build itself is constrained.  Otherwise, we flow along in the game per the predefined events in the computer code, and we can only do that which the code is prepared to accommodate.

    Bethesda managed to change that to a large extent with Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim (although ESO has certainly taken a major step backwards), but in general STORY IS NOT NECESSARILY A GOOD THING.

    Right now, your "third paradigm" runs like this:

    If A = B and B = C, then A = C

    If A = B and B = D, then A IS STILL = C  because the computer program, the pre-arranged dialog choices, and the voice-overs can't accommodate anything else.

    If I want events dictated to me, I'll read a book.  If I want to play a game, I want the freedom to make real choices; not have them made for me.

     
     
     
  • BTrayaLBTrayaL BucharestPosts: 595Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by wormed
    I think Mark is assuming we're all forgetful neanderthals. Anything he's apart of, or writes about, has no credence or validity whatsoever.

    Can't help but agree. Sorry Mr. Kern, but a pretty damn cool game (Firefall) is now nothing like it was once upon a time. And the people that loved it hold you sole responsible.

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  • AlverantAlverant Wheaton, ILPosts: 528Member Uncommon

    "show don’t tell"

     

    Probably the most important thing anyone creating a story (regardless of medium) can do. I wish more creators would follow that advice.

  • DalanoDalano missoula, MTPosts: 116Member

    Writing is hard. It takes a different sort of talent than most game devs have. Unfortunately, their egos tell them differently.

    There are hundreds of mid-list sf/fantasy authors that could write rings around what passes for writing in most games these days. Until narrative designer becomes a serious, well-paying position that attracts more talented people, the overall quality of writing in games will continue to suffer.

    Playing: FFXIV, EVE

  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaPosts: 8,449Member Uncommon

    Actually the whole point of a role playing is missed,the STORY is what the players can make of their adventure in the game ,NOT what the developer lays out in a designed path to follow.

    I could be wrong but i think gamer's want to enjoy their own story.I realize MANY people enjoy reading books which are someone else's story but role playing is not reading a book it is an action of playing out the role of a character.

    The story inside of a MMOrpg should be realized through the game itself without having to make it point blank in your face.It should be like a NA going to live in a new Asian country,they wouldn't have someone read them a book but instead would realize the culture and way of life by living it and that is in essence what rpg players are looking for.

    So waht is really missing is lively environments and ECO systems that bring the world to life.

    Instead we get static NPC's with yellow markers over their head and laid out paths that have zero variation,EVERY player lives out the exact same story.

    This trend we see in game design right now is just TOO easy and cost effective,i don't see it getting any better because devs are actually looking to cut even more corners instead of improving the games.


    Samoan Diamond

  • ThornrageThornrage Eastern North CarolinaPosts: 592Member Uncommon

    I consider Half-Life 2 one of my favorite single-player games ever. 

    Great article.

    "I don't give a sh*t what other people say. I play what I like and I'll pay to do it too!" - SerialMMOist

  • WraithoneWraithone Salt Lake City, UTPosts: 3,593Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by BTrayaL
    Originally posted by wormed
    I think Mark is assuming we're all forgetful neanderthals. Anything he's apart of, or writes about, has no credence or validity whatsoever.

    Can't help but agree. Sorry Mr. Kern, but a pretty damn cool game (Firefall) is now nothing like it was once upon a time. And the people that loved it hold you sole responsible.

    Do they? You may, but some of us know more about the complexities of the studio and business politics.  There is no doubt plenty of blame to go around.  The creation of an MMO is one of the most complex software/hardware projects that exist.  Miss any of hundreds (if not thousands...) of variables, and Bad Things happen.

    I spent more than two and a half years in Firefall.  I know first hand of its initial promise and potential.  Thats what kept me in the game for so long.  But over time, it drifted from being a shooter, with MMO elements, to being a crafting/economy focused MMO, with some shooter elements.

    Its sad, but these types of things happen.  Inexperienced management (all levels) production bottle necks, frequent changes in direction, and finally investor panic.  Its all happened all too many times before.  But as always I wish Jazz Hands and the good folks at Red5 all the best of luck.

  • DaessarDaessar Chino, CAPosts: 204Member
    Originally posted by Po_gg

    Hmm... Architect in CoH many years ago? Foundry in STO since (I think) 2011? Also in Neverwinter since launch.

    "if they ever let the players create their own stories"  The concept is among us quite a while now... :)

    I believe both of those are F2P games with cash shops that sell power. So the question is, are those 2 games immensely successful? and if yes, then is the success attributed to the Foundries, or something else.

    Would Foundries be hugely popular in AAA MMO's, or would they be seen as just another type of daily "chore/grind"?

    Originally posted by Wizardry

    Actually the whole point of a role playing is missed,the STORY is what the players can make of their adventure in the game.

    So is this referring to RP'ers? as in, a game shouldn't have story from devs, it should only come from the RP crowd making up things in game and on the forums?

     
  • DamonVileDamonVile Vancouver, BCPosts: 4,818Member

    Does this really have to be about his past ? He brings up a very good point, that doesn't really need to be turned into a mud slinging trailer park. All too often people complain about quest hubs, limited content that players consume too quickly, lack of story or just down right bad story.

    All of these things fall under how the story is being told. Maybe it goes beyond what he specifically wrote about but that doesn't mean people shouldn't for once take the higher road here.

  • grummzgrummz Aliso Viejo, CAPosts: 56Member
    Author here. Just wanted to say thank you for all the thoughtful comments on the topic of story for games. I write these articles to stimulate conversation. I think we are all a little jaded on MMO design and its fun to discuss what areas could really change and grow in the genre.
  • GorweGorwe Ald'RuhnPosts: 2,473Member Uncommon
    I just want a good story. Am not sure if the MMO genre is the right one for it though:

    MMORPGs should be rich on the LORE
    S/CRPGs should be rich on either the LORE or the STORY(or BOTH if the devs can pull it off)

    I mean, imagine Kotor, HL 1/2, Morrowind etc in the MMO genre.
    Now imagine various MMO wanna bees in the single player genre: TOR, ESO etc.

    What a massive waste of potential. /sigh
  • Snippet60Snippet60 Pueblo, COPosts: 19Member
    Can we just not have articles by Mark Kern?  I know the reputation of this site is really hurting, but it's not Mark Kern bad.
  • grummzgrummz Aliso Viejo, CAPosts: 56Member

    I'm really talking about the HOW to tell a story in games rather than saying that we need more or less in any genre.

    For example, in an MMO, rather than being told by some questgiver that "crystals generate power that keeps the city lit at night." I'd rather have a quest that sent me on a mission to bring the town's magical light supply online by getting the right crystal and using it in the right way on the town's lighting system.

    This way I will never forget how it works and why these crystals are important to the town. If it was just quest text and then collect three crystals and turn them in, I would forget it immediately. By making me actually use the crystals and go through the motions of inserting it into the magic furnace or other device, its much more immersive and would require much less lengthy quest text (that nobody reads) to "get it."

  • yaminsuxyaminsux KajangPosts: 812Member Uncommon

    Sadly....current MMO cword just want PVP.

    If no PVP, that mmo will fail.

    If no FFA PVP...it's not a sandbox....

    LOL.

  • trancefatetrancefate zionsville, INPosts: 134Member
    Expertly written
  • jesadjesad Posts: 753Member Uncommon

    Good article but I worry that in the currently Ultra-Fast Paced environment of the MMORPG if this style of storytelling will actually be met with praise or if the kneejerk reaction to having to actually think about what is happening won't be to immediately run to the boards and post /fail strings ad-nauseum.

    Seems to be the trend these days.

    Also you guys in the first couple of responses are hardcore LOL.  Brutal.

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