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Old 2010-01-24, 16:31   Link #1
synaesthetic
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Gaming and Plot: is a well written story important to you?

Borne from a comment in another unrelated thread, I would like to pose this question to the denizens of animesuki.

Is a well-written storyline important to you in gaming? Do you believe that games should strive to have more in-depth, immersive plots? Or, do you think that gameplay is of paramount importance and storyline is nothing more than useless window dressing?

Personally I am split on the matter as the level of importance I assign to a game's plot depends largely on the game's genre. I am a big fan of two genres that lend themselves very well to deep and overarching storylines--roleplaying games and space sims.

I believe that depending on the genre, the story can take a different level of importance. In arcade-style titles such as Touhou Project, the storyline is perfunctory at best--really it's just some mostly-nonsensical dialogue between your character and different boss characters you encounter. That's perfectly fine; the type of game it is doesn't really require much in the way of story. It's wholly built upon a different type of gaming experience than something like Deus Ex or Planescape: Torment.

For certain genres the plot becomes extremely important. For example, Planescape: Torment demonstrates rather effectively that excellent design, writing and dialogue can transcend poor gameplay and clunky combat mechanics. Most CRPG fans I know adore PS:T for this reason, and most are readily willing to admit that the combat system is absolutely awful. But the game is still considered by many fans to be one of the best CRPGs ever made.

Another example is comparing two very similar titles: Diablo 2 and Dungeon Siege. Both games are very similar--both are Gauntlet expies, hack-and-slash action fests that feature a minimal storyline at best. The difference here is Dungeon Siege is incredibly boring. I couldn't play that game for much longer than an hour before uninstalling it. But I played Diablo 2 for hours and hours... how is that possible? Both games have nearly identical gameplay--the factor that pushed Diablo 2 up over its competitor lay in the quality of the (albeit perfunctory) story and presentation.

So I ask you all... what is your take on the whole issue?
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Old 2010-01-24, 17:25   Link #2
RWBladewing
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I pretty much agree with that. Story is the main thing driving me when I play RPGs. In fact, so much so that I rarely play the "postgame content" in most JRPGs because the story has already ended and I don't really care about building my characters up to obscene levels to beat some random boss that has no plotline importance. If the story is linear like in most JPRGs I also am pretty unlikely to play it again while the story is still fresh in my mind. Whereas a game like Dragon Age I will start again immediately after beating it just because there are so many different choices and ways to influence the story.

I feel the gameplay itself takes a much larger role in other genres like FPS and fighting though and thus don't really mind if the story is weak in those, though even there I get pretty into the stories (though sometimes doing so is completely impossible, such as with Dead or Alive - I still have no idea what the story for that game is even supposed to be). I enjoyed Modern Warfare 2's story (and I think I'm the only one who did) but I also can waste a ton of time gunning down enemies in Special Ops which has no story just because I find the gameplay a lot more enjoyable than level grinding characters.
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Old 2010-01-24, 18:25   Link #3
DingoEnderZOE2
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While yes I feel gameplay is more important, the plot can also keep you entertained while you play. And as for me as long as the plot isn't overly stupid, poorly executed and make me want to shake my head, plot really isn't all that important to me.
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Old 2010-01-24, 18:50   Link #4
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While not all games require story/plots, the games I best remember and are most fond of have these elements. My opinion on story and plot strives from around 8 years ago when, I guess as part of growing up, I had lost interest in almost every form of entertainment. From music, to tv shows, to movies, to books and then finally to video games. I had only just got a ps2 around that time too, but I felt the games lacking and was bored to the point I thought I made a mistake getting a ps2.

Then I played a jrpg called Final Fantasy X. I was my first jrpg, but man I was awed by the amount of effort, content and story put in the game. I felt I was gaming at a whole new level, not just another mindless action/simple game. I think the biggest thing about the game I liked was the character interaction in the game. It became my favourite game, and still is to this day.

A lot of that had to do with story-telling and as important (if not more so), character interaction. Sure there will always be room for games with paper-thin stories, where focus is primarily on action/gameplay, but I will never remember those games as fondly. I will always remember MGS, some of the FF games, some of Biowares games a hell of a lot more than most if not all FPS, hack-and-slashers and action games with mediocre storytelling.

Nowadays I tend to think that if developers can include a good story/plot in a game, it elevates the game from merely a 'gaming' experience to 'entertainment'. I firmly believe that good storytelling could drastically improve traditional 'gameplay-centric' games like sports games, fighting games and racing games too.

I'll leave it at that for now.
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Old 2010-01-24, 19:04   Link #5
Keroko
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Yes, story is important to me. It's what drives me to continue a game, to do the same things again and again until I succeed. The story is my goal, my reward. I remember a certain game rant saying "do you really need a backstory to play donkey kong?" Yes, therefore I have never touched games like donkey kong, pac-man or whatever other do-the-same-thing-for-100-levels games longer than it took me to clear the first three levels. I may agree with many of the other points in said video, but story is one of the things I disagree with. I need story in a game. Without story, boredom strikes quickly. The only exception is in multiplayer games, friends easily replace story in that case.
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Old 2010-01-24, 19:19   Link #6
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Depends on the type of game. With RPG's I refuse to play if it doesn't have a good story. With pure action games, racers, sportgames, shooters, beat'em ups,etc. Honestly a bad story won't stop me from giving them a perfect ten if they are only lacking in the story department.
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Old 2010-01-24, 19:27   Link #7
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Not really, even in RPGs I don't care much if the game is good enough (King's Field and Shadow Tower > every other jrpg). I agree with the noob effect video; if I wanted a story I'd indulge in a book or visual novel or movie.
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Old 2010-01-24, 19:45   Link #8
HayashiTakara
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A game needs to have story for me to enjoy. Only type of game I'll make an exception for are puzzle games.
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Old 2010-01-24, 19:52   Link #9
FlareKnight
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Yeah I'd say the story is really important for me. Yes the game needs to be fun and gameplay is huge. But I do stick with RPGs mostly for the stories. Finding out what will happen and staying with those characters is appealing. If they develop and grow from whatever is happening all the better. The best ones leave me caring what happens and makes finishing the game more enjoyable. Not to mention it's handy for replay since if I don't care about the story I'm not usually going to come back, while the ones with a good story keep me coming back to experience it again.

I think a good example for me is Wild Arms for the original playstation. Maybe it's nothing amazing now since the graphics are really dated, but the story keeps me coming back to replay every year or so. You could just get into that world and care about the developments as they happened.

Just believe that story can change a game from something you play once and forget to something you can remember fondly and come back to. Though Keroko has a point where with multiplayer games your friends can replace the story. At the same time playing through Diablo II with my best friend was plenty of fun since there was multiplayer there and story.

I've never really agreed with going to a book or some other medium if you want story. I can certainly read a good story, but I can't really feel part of it. RPGs especially give you the opportunity to feel part of events while you are being told a great story. Not that I don't read books, but if I can get a game with a story then I'll choose that over most other mediums.
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Old 2010-01-24, 20:47   Link #10
SilverSyko
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The only games that actually REQUIRE a story to enjoy are RPG's. Pretty much any other genre could go without one and the game could still be incredibly fun if it's done right.

Nowadays it's pretty tough to find games that don't have at least some kind of a plot behind them. Retro games back from the NES/SNES/Genesis days didn't require an increcibly fleshed out story to be enjoyable, they still had a plot yes but it was really only explained in the game's instruction booklet, and if you didn't read that then it'd be like the games had no story at all.

FPS's may be the only exception that don't require a story in the 1st player option to be enjoyable, but then again the stories aren't always shoved in your face with cutscenes and usually play out while you're still in control of the character so you could pretty much ignore it all if you wanted to. Half Life would be good example of that.

But yeah. Story isn't all that important when it comes to most genres.
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Old 2010-01-24, 20:53   Link #11
Nosauz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HayashiTakara View Post
A game needs to have story for me to enjoy. Only type of game I'll make an exception for are puzzle games.
sports games? there is no real "story" no "drama" like that which we see on sport center. Simulators, like Flight simulator, Ace Combat series, need for speed, and actually for the most part fps's tend to not have stories, look at Ut2k4 there was no story, well the story was it's a tournament, even fighting games have no stories, or minimalist amounts of stories, consider street fighter 4, it's just a paragraph under a still. Stories aren't required, when games are more about immersing you in the game world and not the story, but when rpg's focus on story since the gameplay isn't too complex then yes story is vital.

in multipalyer settings, gameplay is king, and so for me gameplay has always been king, maybe console gamers don't get this but as a pc gamer with titles like d2, sc, wc3, dota(wc3 mod), cs, css, dods, tf2, ra2, cod4 all had either no story or very mediorcre stories, and in fact cod 4 in the past the single player campaign was just a way to feature the mp maps in a more wide range than just a team deathmatch setting. Hell Unreal Black is mp only. And games such as tf2 do have a meta story that the gameplay doesn't really reflect besides the taunts so in the end story depending on what the game is really is important, if it is a game that focuses on mp and interconnectivity story usually is sacrificed. Even games like Demigod have zero story.
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Old 2010-01-24, 21:44   Link #12
synaesthetic
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Half-Life 2 is a great example of a first-person shooter where story and setpieces is what elevate the game above its competitors.

At the time of release, HL2 had wonderful graphics and effects, but what really drew me in was the setpieces--a sort of scripted mishmash of both gameplay and story. They're just so wonderfully set up.

My favorite setpiece from HL2 is in Nova Prospekt, where you're waiting for Alyx to pick you up and you're barricaded in a Combine guard post while dozens upon dozens of Combine soldiers swarm your position. The part is damn difficult, even on the easiest difficulty setting, and it really got my adrenaline pumping. It reminded me very heavily of scenes from sci-fi action flicks, and I think this was Valve's intent.

The story, the scripting, the dialogue and the setpieces of HL2 really make the game play in a very cinematic fashion--much the same tactic that Kojima uses in the Metal Gear Solid series. And it's played to exceptional effect. Setpieces are the best method of storytelling in an action game, in my opinion.

When it comes to RPGs and survival-horror, story, presentation and ambience is what makes the game. In my opinion, the Resident Evil series is not even half as scary as the first three Silent Hill games, largely due to the fact that RE's scares are wholly gameplay in nature ("monster closets" as they're called), while SH uses setpieces, music, aural cues, visual styling in addition to scary monsters and monster closets to seriously mindfuck the player.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosauz View Post
Simulators, like Flight simulator, Ace Combat series...
Ace Combat isn't really a flight sim; it's more of an arcade game, so obviously it's going to have a very thin storyline. Microsoft Flight Simulator is typically a Beige Prose flight sim--not much need for story there.

But older hardcore military flight sims usually did have fairly involved storylines with mission briefings, the setting and conflict in question well-established through gameplay (mission objectives) and radio chatter.

Sci-fi sims (such as space sims, 4X games and Humongous Mecha sims) on the other hand tend to have very rich storylines with a lot of atmosphere and flavor. The storyline of the Freespace series is a huge part of the experience, and the same goes for 4X games like Wing Commander: Privateer, the X series and Freelancer.

As for FPS games, most of them have fairly involved stories these days. While DOOM may not have much of a plot, games that skirt the edges of the genre, like the Half-Life and Thief series, are very much story-dependent. Thief especially relies heavily on immersion and story, through readables, overheard scraps of dialogue, NPC conversations and Garrett's own internal monologue.
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Old 2010-01-24, 21:54   Link #13
Vexx
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Depends on the type of game... a lousy story in an RPG is death... but may be less of an issue in an excellent FPS. However.... for me personally, a ridiculous or lousy story tends to ruin any game.

I'm defining "story" to include any background or lore data as well as the plot. So for a WW2 flying simulator, it would include attention to historical detail (what was available and when, mission scenarios, etc).
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Old 2010-01-24, 22:27   Link #14
Nosauz
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Again Theif skirted the story/fps genre because it was based on stealth and the main focus wasn't run and gun, and for the most part half-life has a terrible story, and even half life 2 at times is cheesy and chocked full of your favorite cliches. Although the non descript and silent stoic freedman plays a lot to the love of the story, overall it's complexities and sheer story telling is very limited due to it's linear and limited gameplay type, which is first person shooter.

MGS is a third person stealth title, and these tend to have more story since your not just running around shooting shit for the sake of shooting. Don't get me wrong games do have narratives but the problem is most of them are not very good, even at what many consider a great well written game, Call of Jaurez, it's still mediocre in terms of "good" story. And even if M$ flight sim is a a w/e u call it it's a still a game. Actually my favorite arcadey airial combat game is Crimson Skies which actually has some great writing even though the game play is mostly the same mixtures of dogfights, bombardments, and races. The point is certain genres tend to have more reason to focus on story than others, and FPS tend to feature weapons and actually gameplay as their most important feature.

And as vexx pointed story depends on what you consider story. For the most part stories may be medoicre but the background information for units and weapons also plays a great role in whether a game is good or not. So story doesn't really define everything that gamers look for when it comes to games.
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Old 2010-01-24, 23:52   Link #15
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For me the biggest thing in this 'argument' is that I don't see it as gameplay vs story. A lot of anti-story comments tend to point out they'd rather play a game, and read a book/watch a movie if they wanted a story.

My view is that a good story can only enrich the gameplay experience. I personally don't get why rpgs are so associated with being story-centric. I could very well play an rpg with a bad/lacking story, so long as the gameplay is good (great example would be Grandia 3). And by the way, RPGs are complex from a gameplay perspective. It just would have been so much better with a good story. My view is stories can at least be implemented well in any genre. Some FPSs have already shown this.

Even sport games. Now while I don't mean to necessarily make it the main package, but surely since we're getting more features that allow you to control a single player throughout multiple seasons, some sort of story might actually be good. Heck it's almost embarrassing the level of interaction you get off the field in these sections (you know, the Be A Pro type of stuff) in sport games nowadays. So very artificial and a turn-off really.

I like synaesthetic's point about atmosphere too. Games like Silent Hill, Ico, Shadow of the Collossus and Demon's Souls rely on atmosphere a lot more than story. And I think that is a viable alternative if you really don't want a story. However I still believe incorporating both properly can only be better.

And I do note the point about multiplayer gaming. It's why I don't like online games really, unless with friends and not complete strangers. Too repetitive and no real motivational substance to keep me going personally. However I am interested to see how Bioware's future MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic turns out. It's supposed to be story/plot heavy as well as online. Interesting to say the least.
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Old 2010-01-25, 00:36   Link #16
Xion Valkyrie
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I sort of see it this way: In a game, both story and gameplay will factor into how much I'm enjoying the game and how much time I'm willing to spend with it. If the gameplay is incredible, I'm willing to forgive the story if it's poorly done (SO4, VP2). If the story is incredible, I'm willing to forgive bad gameplay (to a certain extent). I use this criteria for pretty much all games.
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Old 2010-01-25, 00:46   Link #17
HayashiTakara
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosauz View Post
sports games? there is no real "story" no "drama" like that which we see on sport center. Simulators, like Flight simulator, Ace Combat series, need for speed, and actually for the most part fps's tend to not have stories, look at Ut2k4 there was no story, well the story was it's a tournament, even fighting games have no stories, or minimalist amounts of stories, consider street fighter 4, it's just a paragraph under a still. Stories aren't required, when games are more about immersing you in the game world and not the story, but when rpg's focus on story since the gameplay isn't too complex then yes story is vital.

in multipalyer settings, gameplay is king, and so for me gameplay has always been king, maybe console gamers don't get this but as a pc gamer with titles like d2, sc, wc3, dota(wc3 mod), cs, css, dods, tf2, ra2, cod4 all had either no story or very mediorcre stories, and in fact cod 4 in the past the single player campaign was just a way to feature the mp maps in a more wide range than just a team deathmatch setting. Hell Unreal Black is mp only. And games such as tf2 do have a meta story that the gameplay doesn't really reflect besides the taunts so in the end story depending on what the game is really is important, if it is a game that focuses on mp and interconnectivity story usually is sacrificed. Even games like Demigod have zero story.
I don't play any of those games, the closest thing to a sports/simulator game I'll play is a multiplayer game on the Wii. Or Mario Kart.
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Old 2010-01-25, 01:19   Link #18
DragoonKain3
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Story really is pretty much a non-factor to me, despite me being a 90% RPG player. Mainly because I used to be a bookworm, and stories in RPGs don't wow me because they really can't match up to what I've been exposed to. If I wanted good stories, I would've sticked to books, or even Visual Novels before trying to look for it in a video game, even RPGs.

So yeah, I play RPGs mainly for its gameplay elements. As long as the gameplay is fun, tough, and challenging, I will play it all the way through the end. I've been known to play through Izuna, the SaGa series, The Last Remnant, and Demon's Souls despite the stories in those being almost non-existent, just to name a few.
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Old 2010-01-25, 01:21   Link #19
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To me, gameplay comes first. I can forgive bad stories as long as the gameplay is fun and enjoyable (example of that is Star Ocean 3). But playing a game with a good story and terrible gameplay, it gets really frustrating and loses its fun.
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Old 2010-01-25, 01:58   Link #20
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Come to think of it, the above just happened recently with me. Sands of Destruction had a decent story from what I've played of it, but I couldn't stand its battle system so I dropped it.

Glory of Heracles though is so much fun with me customizing the characters and the semi-tactical battles, that I can forgive its rather cliched amnesiac hero and the typical plot of finding his previous memories lol.
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