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Ninja Theory: Story 'Most Important Part Of Game Experience'
Ninja Theory: Story 'Most Important Part Of Game Experience'
September 17, 2010 | By Staff

September 17, 2010 | By Staff
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    54 comments
More: Console/PC



Game makers and gamers alike have debated how story can best integrate with a video game, and the relevance of a story in relation to gameplay.

UK-based Ninja Theory's Tameem Antoniades, who is the chief designer on the upcoming Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game Enslaved, argued in a new Gamasutra feature interview that story is of the utmost importance.

"...What we are creating is a story adventure," he said. "Every element of the game should support that. So, I actually see story as -- and I'm not embarrassed to say it -- the most important part of the game experience."

But that doesn't mean that other elements of a video game can lag behind -- a story must permeate through all aspects of a creation. "Everything, including the gameplay, which has to be solid -- the sounds, the cinematics, the cameras, and the action -- all of those things are part of the story," he said.

"And if you manage to integrate all of those layers together, you get this kind of transcendental experiences that you remember from gaming yore that you get in games like Ico, Out of this World, the games that you hold dear to your heart and that you never forget."

Ninja Theory's Enslaved is a third-person action game penned by Alex Garland, writer for the zombie film 28 Days Later. The game adapts the Chinese Journey to the West folk tale into a contemporary game story for a Western audience.

"I would never have read Journey to the West if it wasn't for the fact that we were doing [the 2007 PS3 exclusive] Heavenly Sword and I was doing research and finding out about the mythical Chinese world," said Antoniades. "Yeah, I loved the fresh perspective."

Ninja Theory is at work adapting another much more contemporary work for Western audiences. At Tokyo Game Show this week, Osaka-based Capcom revealed that it commissioned the external studio to re-imagine the Devil May Cry action series.

For more from Antoniades on Enslaved, the state of the independent studio and adapting Eastern themes for Western audiences, read the full Gamasutra feature interview.


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Comments


Ujn Hunter
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I think they should maybe write books instead of make games if they believe that the most important part is "the story". Maybe this is why their "games" haven't reviewed well? I know I'm not looking forward to them working on DMC (or DmC as they so hipsterly call it) and perhaps this is why.

Jonathan Jennings
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I personally do play most games to experience the story , explore the world, unlock the mystery of whatever is occurring or otherwise. however I odn't play every game for story. batmak arkham asylum had a pretty good story but I played that because I wanted to be batman....Fightnight has never had a great storyline but I play that game because it's easily the best boxing game series ever and has the gameplay to show for it.



I will say that the story of enslaved interests me greatly though, the gameplay didn't seem like it would be too bad either when I played a demo. I definitely liked the typical puzzle/ platformer elements mixed with the more traditional combat using the man character ( sorry I forgot the names). a good story on top of that is just icing on the cake.

Jane Castle
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I always thought the most important part of a game was the gameplay.... ie. is it fun or not?

James May
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This is EXACTLY why Ninja theory should have not been given the DMC franchise.



This guy has no idea of what made the series successful.



If he is so enamoured with creating great storys, why mot move into making CGI movies?



If I want a riveting story, I'll watch a film or read a book. I play games for nonstop action.

Lance Shirley
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You can have a game with gameplay but no story. You can't have a game without gameplay and only story. At least to my knowledge.



BUT - in my opinion...



All aspects of a game are equally important and should be focused on as so...

Ben Lippincott
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Who played the Sims for the story? Pac-man? Wii Play? Video games shouldn't focus on the story and even this generation the best selling games rarely have a story worth writing home about. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 had a pretty good story but I would almost guarantee that the multiplayer experience was paramount to the story in terms of design focus. And even that game on two consoles sold less the New Super Mario Bros Wii, which has a slightly less than Shakespearean tale to tell.



Fun first, story later. Or maybe second if you must.

Lance Shirley
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You should get the best of both worlds right?

Rich Boss
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Traditional rhetorical narrative in this medium will never be able to hold the attention of an audience. The computer is a dramatically different medium than anything we have previously experienced, and it will necessitate a paradigm shift in our ideas concerning narrative before this narratology vs ludology argument can be resolved and this industry can move forward to dominate media. The biggest hurdle right now is most games tell the story to an 'audience' perspective, which is inherently passive and incapable of interaction. The game then gives control to the player and directs them to interact. This breaks the games entire argument in first five minutes. The book/TV/Movie industries MUST use this 'audience' perspective to deliver their messages, but the video game industry does not and should not if it wants to bring unique experiences to the table.

Dan Felder
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Is it at all possible that there are games that make use of stories and those that don't?



I'd like to think so.



Frankly, just because you can have a game without a story doesn't make the story any less important to create an incredible experience. You can have a movie without dialogue, but most people would agree that - while you can certainly have a movie, and even a good one, without dialogue - excellent dialogue can increase the experience in many cases.





Also, citing games with no story that were commercially successful doesn't really do much of anything but explain that games can be successful without a story. Lots of popular, even blockbuster, books and movies have terrible stories with massive plot holes - and "popcorn movies" have become an established subset. Shall we argue "explosions first, stories second"? If so, where then do us story artists have to turn? Every venue open to us has successful titles with low story quality.

Carlo Delallana
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This is why i'm really interested in the game Bastion (demoed @ PAX). One of the game's key features is the active narration system. A "voice of the narrator" type weaves all your actions into a story, at least that is the intent of the design. Your actions are not some abstract set of button pushes, the narration intends to contextualize your gameplay in realtime.



http://kotaku.com/5633815/bastion-was-the-other-buzz-game-of-penn
y-arcade-expo-for-good-reasons

Peter Park
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Personally, I got tired of the narration while watching the short gameplay trailer. If the narration got so annoyed within that short time... I'm scared to even think about what it'll be like after hours and hours of playing.

Aaron Truehitt
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I certainly see his reasoning behind it. I think to often game developers fall short of presenting and telling a story. I firmly believe that even though the hero saving the princess is a cliche story, depending on how a game presents itself if can be a wonderful story regardless. So for his team, this may hold true. But in the grand scheme of games, It's the gameplay that needs to be nailed first, then everything else enhances the experience.

Tadhg Kelly
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As I wrote in the thread with the full feature in it (PS, gama, splitting stories across two posts like that smacks of clickjacking and is annoying for discussion purposes)...



While I admire the creative spirit of Tameem and the crew at Ninja Theory, and respect that as one of the last independent studios in the UK they have to act as standard bearers, this idea that story is all that matters is very dangerous if it actually interferes with whether the game is playable and fun or not. Time will tell, and I look forward to seeing the results, but - as I have said several times recently throughout this site - it is a mistake to pin your game on that story donkey.



Because games are not a storytelling medium. I know some of the regular posters on here may roll their eyes at this because I say it verbatim each time, and it appears dogmatic, but I'm just being blunt. Alex Garland is an awesome writer and good film producer. Ninja Theory is an interesting studio that produces interesting games. Both of these things are true.



But games are not a storytelling medium. This means that while the fiction of the game is extremely important in setting the scene and delivering the artistic mise en scene of the piece, the actual story/quest/hero arc and etc don't matter that much. Telling Alex to write a story like that for the game doesn't really matter either. Sorry guys, but players play as themselves and respond to whether the gameplay interaction of the game is fun/rewarding or not. See God of War and numerous other successful action adventure games for reference. The combat is largely the point.



Because games are not a storytelling medium.

Luke Skywalker
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I respectfully disagree with you on that (see Bioware, a little CN game studio doing big things with story).



I agree that Games live and die on Gameplay and that the statement that story is the most important part of the experience is laughable. I think what he was trying to convey is that story is very important to them and if you asked him to explain he would back track a bit.



However looking back at the history of videogames, the overwhelming majority of them are based on a narrative premise. The action unfolds, in varying degrees of relevance/importance, against the backdrop of this premise.



One of the things I have always enjoyed about gaming is the ability to project myself into situations I will never (and would never want to for that matter) experience.

Thomas Wilson
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Games are 100% a story-telling medium. Sure,the potential hasn't been fully tapped, and maybe story isn't always what makes a game fun, but games are entirely about story.



And you know why?



Because human beings make games, and human beings play games.

Tadhg Kelly
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This is a nonsense point (sorry, not having a go at you personally, just your point).



Human beings make a wide variety of things. Most of them are not stories.

Dan Felder
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That's a very solid point Thomas, even if some people might write it off at first. Naturally, not of what people make is story-based (architecture, for one) but in games - we are trafficking in player experiences - there isn't many other ways to look at it. Whether this takes the form of a narrative or an antiplot (a form of story that games excel at, though few people seem to make the connection between that genre and games) - most games tell stories, or allow the players to experience them in some way.



So long as we can avoid the strange assumption that Tom Bissell notes in "Extra Lives" that games seem to be under the impression that the more exposition they explain, the more story has been generated. I prefer the minimalism of Portal's story to the overwrought confusion that is FFX (though admittedly, FFX could have had an excellent story if they didn't present the information so awkwardly... Which, in a way, solidifies my point even more - as their use of exposition crippled an otherwise compelling tale).

Tadhg Kelly
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The other thing that I keep saying in regard to this argument (which never gets a satisfactory answer) is that if games ARE a storytelling medium then how come there are no great game stories?



The "games = storytelling" argument is one of beauty seducing on the way to truth. It sounds aspirational and is logically consistent in and of itself. It just doesn't actually seem to exist however.



Someone will no doubt invoke Techthulu in a second.

Thomas Wilson
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No, but humans created story and make stories of everything. My point is in no way nonsense. I would agree that play came before stories, but humans will always make a story of ANYTHING. That is why it isn't nonsense. You can in no way say that games are separate from story, it just isn't true.



I just don't see how you can think that games aren't a story-telling medium. Everything about them lends to story, whether it be deliberate or not. Gameplay is just a new way of informing plot/character/tension.



Games use interactivity to make their stories. Games are ENTIRELY about story.

Thomas Wilson
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It isn't nonsense, because humans make stories of anything. Games involve the player, and so the potential for a story to emerge is greatly increased. If you concentrate on story and temper everything towards it (gameplay, art, programming...) it will aid the story.

Merc Hoffner
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Tetris

Peter Park
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Wow, another person with like mind as myself. I'm absolutely siding with you, on the point that games are NOT a storytelling medium.



Basically, games are systems in which players act, bounded only by rules and goals. It's a bit like living. You--as a player in your life--think, make decisions, and act accordingly on your own, bounded by laws. You don't read or take in your own life. (Well, one could, I guess. But I'd argue that that's a pretty sad life to lead. :P)



Someone here mentioned Bastion. That game is like having a narrator follow you around everywhere, and narrate stuff immediately after you do them. It's like you drink a coffee, and have someone say "You drink a coffee, musing over how rich the taste in your mouth awakes your soul." This is a bit like the movie "Stranger Than Fiction" where this guy's everyday life is actually being narrated in his head, by someone else. He goes nuts. I would, too, while playing Bastion.



And also RPG games, esp. Bioware's? They're great games first, then story second. No matter how strongly they stress the story over gameplay, we all know that those games have great gameplay, and then the story. Actually, I'm not a big fan of their stories, but of the world they created--Mass Effect's stories tanked very badly, but the gameplay held it all together.

Pablo Mera
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For some games the story will be the focus of the design. Why couldn't it be?

There are games in which the focus is technology, in others is rules or art... why can't the focus be story?



Now that doesn't mean "neglect gameplay, neglect art, neglect technology and everything else". Every element should be treated as it's needed for the purpose of the game. Personally I don't believe gameplay is the most important thing, nor story, but the relationship that develops between all elements.

Tadhg Kelly
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...Why couldn't it be?...



Oh by all means it can be: Developers can do whatever they like.



Its just that when it comes to the players, it doesn't work out in reality. Massive story-ish games have poor completion rates, are often tedious and - in the worst cases - players actively hate on the results to a massive degree.



"Story" is often an interesting sales point for a game, much as the music video is for music, and it can help to push units. But, like the music video, it is usually only a supporting act to the main event: the music. Or the gameplay in games' case.



The games industry is often somewhat like pop music. Propped up by the sales machine of the industry and heavily advertised, star games seem to be successful, but they are quickly forgotten and end up in the discount bin quickly because the value of the game is pretty poor. Such games have chronically missed the point of why players have bought their disc in the first place, with all too predictable results.



Such games have confused glitz with substance.

Pablo Mera
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I disagree. Japanese RPGs sell because of their stories. The whole Metal Gear series of games have sold amazingly well because of their stories. The problem I have with your argument is that you make many unsupported claims (like completion rates, "often tedious" is pretty subjective, "players hate the results" comes from nowhere). If you have studies and data (worldwide), I'll gladly look at it, but in the meantime I must look at the evidence shown by these games and their sales.



I stand by the idea that the main event is the combination of the different elements of the game, not any element in particular (no, not even gameplay). Players can take what they want from the game: I've seen players who only play the campaign in Modern Warfare 2 and others who only play online, and that's ok... everyone is looking for something different and there are games for everybody.

Tadhg Kelly
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RPGs sell because of their gameplay, just like every other kind of game. (See above, I answered this point in ref to another poster).

Adam Bishop
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@ Tadgh



I'm not sure how we would know what games have good or bad completion rates unless the developers keep track through achievements or some such and tell us. Bioware recently revealed that Mass Effect 2 has a completion rate of around half of all players, which sounds like a pretty strong rate to me. They've also said that "millions" of people completed the first Mass Effect though I don't know what that works out to as a percentage.



On a more anecdotal level, everyone I know who plays the Metal Gear Solid games completes them, often multiple times. While this is only a personal feeling and so should be taken with a grain of salt, I would actually guess that story-centric games are *more* likely to be completed because players want to see what happens next and how the story is resolved.

Tadhg Kelly
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There are stats available. Gama ran an article about this not too long ago in fact.

Adam Bishop
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Do you have a link to the article (or any other relevant data)? I tried a variety of searches, but the only thing I could turn up over the past year or two was the article I mentioned about Mass Effect 2.

[User Banned]
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Mark Venturelli
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Dan, that wasn't a very positive contribution to this interesting argument, don't you agree?

Pablo Mera
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I think every person who played and loved Final Fantasy VII, Tactics and the rest, Xenogears, the Xenosaga games, Vagrant Story, Chrono Trigger and Cross and many more disagree with you. I am part of that group and let me tell you that some of those games are really not that interesting in regards to their mechanics... but many, many gamers are willing to sacrifice some gameplay for an *experience* which is mainly plot. Saying that people play Final Fantasy VII for its gameplay would make anybody laugh... it helps that it's not completely horrible, but in reality millions of people have finished and loved that game because of the plot, characters, world, mythology, etc.



What you said to Bob Stevens seems to apply to western RPGs mainly, but again, japanese RPGs work in a different way. When you get one of those games you don't buy a set of game mechanics with a wrapper of plot; you buy a fun interesting story experience in which the gameplay doesn't get too much in the way.



You didn't address the problem of your unsupported claims. I know you think you did by vaguely stating that someone sometime somewhere made a study, but it can't be found, we don't know if it's real, if it's just about people in the US (which is really important) and so on...

[User Banned]
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[User Banned]
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Mark Venturelli
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Game stories and games are totally different mediums.

Peter Park
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@Mark Venturelli: Just as OST is completely different medium than movie itself? I think saying that is going a wee bit too far.

BobbyK Richardson
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I watched the trailer for Enslaved awhile ago... I used to make bad B movies for a living (Transmorphers, Mega Shark vs Giant Squid etc..) and the Enslaved dialogue reminded me of something our screenwriters would write.

Aaron Casillas
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Story is more than just text. Every single thing in this Universe has a story, if it has a start, it has a middle and an end. From visual narrative of objects in a scene, to a minor game mechanic, to sytems in a major meta compulsion loop. They all have a transformative aspect.



"People fight wars over stories all the time."

Peter Park
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That's a generalization of the word "story". Everything in this world can tell a story... yes, but that's when that story is delivered by someone to another entity. You don't think your present action is a story, do you? Your experience in the present time can be told as a story later as you recount the experience, but the act of doing thing are not story.



It's like history vs story. History is made of plots (in a general sense). Story is re-enacting the history plot by plot, filled with characters and their interactions.

Dan Felder
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Tadhg, I'm afraid I have to disagree with you too. I can see why you'd think that, and in fact I even agree with you technically - but not in the way you intend. The thing is, story-TELLING itself is an artifice. We've told stories through remembered time as entertainment because people want to live vicariously through another person's journey. However, in games we can bypass the separation of the "telling" entirely if we want - and go to story-LIVING.



Games have at least as much power to create amazing story experiences as film, play or book. They just do it in different, unfamiliar ways.





Frankly, when you look at games and cut out all the fluff... What are they? They're about a person sitting down and being challenged against a game's obstacles in pursuit of an objective. This is completely in line with the character in a book or film or play struggling to achieve something. The main differences are in how the challenge and information is presented to the player. It's hard to imagine an interactive medium that is better-suited for stories.



Also Tadhg, bringing up fun non-story-heavy games as an argument that games can't tell good stories is just silly and seems beneath your obvious intelligence. Shall I cite Bioshock's compelling exploration of Ayn Rand's objectivism as an argument that games are primarily a tool for philosophical exploration? After all, it's successful game. Or how about Monkey Island and say that games are primarily a tool of comedy? We can go to movies and say that the Transformers blockbuster is the ultimate incarnation of movies. Why? Because it was successful! And lots of other movies like it are as well.



Obviously that looks a little silly, and it's beneath your obvious intelligence. It's also not an entirely fair comparison - considering that there are far fewer examples of well-written stories in games than there are popcorn ones. But if you strip games down to the bare essentials, it's about a person, the player, struggling to achieve their goals in a game world. This is the very foundation of stories, both good and bad.



The thing is, we're a young industry - and we've built ourselves up out of passion, sweat and sheer enthusiasm. Most of the technology we use, we've invented ourselves - and we've only been at it a few decades. Playwriting has had more than 2000 years to get its theory solid, the novel's had centuries and screenwriting has had a good while as well, not to mention the fact it could draw almost directly from all playwriting theory. But games? We're the youngest of all, in unfamiliar territory that is the interactive medium and built mostly on the passion of computer scientists - not trained artists. Is it any wonder that we have a lot left to explore in story?



I, for one, find this to be the most exciting dramatic medium I've ever come across - and the fact it's mostly unexplored and so very young just makes it all the sweeter.



Have a great day.



-Dan

Peter Park
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"when you look at games and cut out all the fluff... What are they? They're about a person sitting down and being challenged against a game's obstacles in pursuit of an objective. This is completely in line with the character in a book or film or play struggling to achieve something"



.... How does this make any sense? With games, it's the players--the audience--that face challenges, and search for solutions. They ARE the characters. In books/films/plays, audience are 3rd person, passively taking in what characters are doing.



These are completely different experience. One is like living your life, while the other is like reading about another person's life.



Game is indeed very young. And so it's natural that we're not seeing what is it's real potential, and try to cover the knowledge gap with other, well-known medium. And so we're seeing many Frankenstein-games with identity-crisis.

Charles Forbin
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What was the theory behind opening Heavenly Sword with a good initial battle, and then forcing me into a some clunky first-person bow and arrow sequence that simply exuded hate for the player? That was the game that made me join Gamefly. I love how these industry guys have all their Unified Theories Of Whatever, and yet the same mistakes (cameras from hell, non-invertible axes, vindictive checkpoints, and on and on) keep showing up over and over.



"Shall I cite Bioshock's compelling exploration of Ayn Rand's objectivism"



Compelling? I have no use for Rand, but even I could tell how Bioshock misrepresented Objectivism. It's like they were using the summary page from a Cliff note's version they half read while drunk. And just to play Devil's Advocate, the real world with its religion and kings (or career politicians) is currently cratering even without disruptive magic technology.



And if you throw plasmid tech into a pure Socialist State or Democracy or Whatevertopia, you'd probably wind up with the same result. It's like dropping an atom bomb on a city and then blaming the city zoning laws for the destruction.



And, hey, I loved the game (even liked the sequel and I want Bioshock Infinite right now, dammit), but as a deep, compelling and *fair* analysis on Objectivism... wow, really? Compared to what? An SNL sketch?

Dan Felder
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It's a compelling exploration of extremes, much the same way that art often increases the stakes to explore the extremes of human nature. If you're interested in reading a calm, objective analysis of objectivism - there are many excellent essays out there. However, the game is a representation of the designers' view of the particular brand of philosophy Andrew Ryan expresses - and it's enthralling. It's an exploration for the consequences of that philosophy in the world we're given to explore. This isn't meant to be a reasoned, theoretical argument - at least, I hope it isn't. It's meant to be an exploration of the consequences inherent in this other-world governed by this strange philosophy. Playing it made me, and many other players, think about the meaning of what we'd experienced and question the philosophies I usually wouldn't think twice about. I thought about it for days, and still do occasionally. That seems to be the very definition of a compelling exploration of a philosophical topic. The fact that it doesn't necessarily conform to Ayn Rand's version of objectivism itself doesn't change that. It's an exploration of Andrew Ryan's objectivism - whom is a caricature of Ayn Rand... Made a megalomaniacal super-villain.



For all his many eccentricities, I doubt Ayn Rand owned an underwater city. The comparisons between him and Andrew Ryan are sensationalism at its core - and the same can be said for their philosophies.



Ultimately, Bioshock was a compelling philosophical experience for me because it made me think about and question things I usually leave unnoticed in my daily life, things of a philosophical nature. If you didn't experience this, then that's absolutely fine - it's an exciting game regardless. Either way, I still found the experience wonderfully compelling and its paved the way for game ideas of my own as exploration of social consequences. While being fun of course. *smiles*



But, no matter whether you find Bioshock compelling or not, there is no question that it is considered an excellent and successful game. And that was my point for referencing it above. Whether you think it satire or compelling exploration, its success does not mean that there are no room for games other than those cloning bioshock - or that games like SSM can't succeed as well. Games can be many things, and story is certainly one of them.

Peter Park
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That's all good, but really, what does *game* part has to do with anything? What did you do in the game as a result of that? "Nothing" should be the answer. All you did in the game is exactly the same thing as any other mindless shooter games: shoot, kill, and kill more. Sure you could save a few girls, but really, that was some trivial throw-away feature that didn't have almost no affect on game itself, but just which movie was played at the end.



Had it created a virtual world where it was built upon the said Objectivism, and let loose the players to do their own thing, it would've been a great game. But boiling everything down to a shooter game... it wasn't a great game.

Prash Nelson-Smythe
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Even if you take the word "story" as "setting, world, characters, mood" as opposed to "plot", the statement that story is the most important part of the game experience is just not defensible.



My issue with spending lots of resources on story elements is that it assumes that developers have already perfected the gameplay. That is so far from the truth. Go and perfect your gameplay, even if it takes years to make a tiny improvement, it is worth it. All the time and energy it takes to create the "story" side of the game drains attention from the core gameplay. Good gameplay is *very hard* to get right and takes a lot of time and attention. Very few games are able to do it well. Once you've done that you can implement your stories in a way that doesn't detract from gameplay. Many games these days provide a long convoluted plot but play like slop.



As an example, note that an integral part of gameplay is level design. Forcing a game to fit a plot tends to work against good level design. In more and more modern games we have realistic looking environments that are boring to play in.



Story = plot

Story does not equal world, characters, mood, feel etc.



Ico actually has about the same amount of plot/story as a mario game. That is one of the reasons it is compelling. People thought they liked the story but they actually liked everything else.

Dan Felder
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As a writer, I have to disagree Prash. In fact, Aristotle himself spent years contemplating the questions you so succinctly resolve in a single web post. It seems a little arrogant to claim that story is plot alone in such a few short sentences. However, we may have different definitions for what we think of as story.

Prash Nelson-Smythe
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I was just going on the common definition of story, which most dictionaries agree upon. Sure I was simplifying, but I think the simplification is more useful than it is obstructive for the purposes of the discussion.



I'm not sure how the fact that you are a writer is relevant. I said nothing about writing. Sometimes writing involves telling a story. Sometimes writing has nothing to do with story. A piece of writing with only story and no other elements is usually boring.



It may seem that I'm nit-picking but I think it's important, because there is the danger of game makers cramming a game with plot because they think that people loved the plot, when they actually loved the world etc. and these non-plot elements are a lot less conflicting with gameplay than plot is.

Mark Venturelli
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Modern electronic games are much more like theme parks than movies. Our job as developers is to "theme" the experience, but the real "stories" that arise from it should come from the players' interaction with our systems and with one another.



"Story-based" games like Heavenly Sword are inherently conflicted works in my opinion, constantly struggling against the main experience of the player (like a Rockstar game).

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Mark Venturelli
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Like I said before, games are not a storytelling medium per se. They can incite imagination and create experiences that people will later remember and tell their friends about, just like any good human-crafted experience, but that's it. There is dialogue between the designer and the players, and between the individual players, but that is not a proper story.



Going to work is not a medium of expression in my opinion, but *when you tell someone that you went to work, you have a story*. The storytelling is not in work, it is in you.



That is why I am very jaded with "story" games. Most of them are puzzle/animation hybrids that want too hard to be taken seriously, and seriously suck at the "game" part of "story game".



And by the way, saying a definition of story is "invalid" is a little arrogant and deterministic.

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Dan Felder
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Well, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree then Mark. I can completely see where you're coming from and fully agree with your position of the stories arising from the players' experiences, that is the core of my own approaches to story games. However, the idea of story being at conflict with the player experience doesn't seem to fit, in my own opinion. In fact - I feel that they fully support each other.



That said, what most games seem to mistake for story really is just a large amount of backstory that gets thrown at us. It's like most games feel the more they explain what's going on, the more story has been generated. To look at the difference between a powerful game approach to story and a powerful film approach - the idea of the main character is at the center of it. In a game, you don't have the need to watch the main character do things in cut scenes - you ARE the main character. The idea of getting the audience to empathize with a protagonist is a technique to get the audience to root for the protagonist... But when you ARE the protagonist in your own story (games) this step can be avoided completely. In fact, it often feels as awkward and strange as an out-of-body experience to watch your 'character' act out a cutscene. This mode is at conflict with games, with certain exceptions of course - but they're too technical to go into on an article-comment.



However, crafting opposing forces for the player in ways that create exciting adventures - letting them live the story rather than hand them the cliff notes - that's fully in line with what games are best at. Simply look at narrative theory! In film, we craft a character and then confront them with suitable events and enemies that provoke them to rise above themselves and overcome challenges in a climactic journey. In games all we have to do is create a series of events, enemies and obstacles and turn the player loose confronting them - challenging them in a climactic journey (though open-world games don't have as clear-cut a climactic progression, of course, and each adventure is more like an individual episode).



If you don't want to call that 'story' then that's fine. Dramatic experience, perhaps? Either way, that's what I'm referring to when I speak of 'story' in games. Naturally, there may well be obstacles that I don't yet foresee, but I'll run into those when they come. For now, I feel that it's much more interesting to work on how to create amazing stories that utilize the power of games - not a watered down film version - rather than simply write the mission off as impossible. After all, if it wasn't a challenge, it wouldn't be very exciting. And I like it when my work's exciting.



Best,



Dan

Eric Geer
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Am I missing something or does everyone that has heartburn over the statements made that the story is the most important not read the article:

"...What we are creating is a story adventure," he said. "Every element of the game should support that. So, I actually see story as -- and I'm not embarrassed to say it -- the most important part of the game experience."



But that doesn't mean that other elements of a video game can lag behind -- a story must permeate through all aspects of a creation. "Everything, including the gameplay, which has to be solid -- the sounds, the cinematics, the cameras, and the action -- all of those things are part of the story," he said."



He's just saying that they have considered the story in all aspects of the game--including gameplay "which has to be solid" I'm not sure where the disconnet is or whether everyone disagreeing has read just the title--but it seems to me that the cheif designer would like to try something a bit different and actually has a great writer/author at hand to help to design and create the world for Enslaved.



I read another article on this game and the designer said that Alex Garland was extremely picky and aware about everything going on the game: and he was always asking the question of "why?" ie why is he using that weapon? Why is that robot doing that? Why is...etc? So its not so much making story the headline and only reason for making the game--but its a matter of making all aspects of the game coherent.



Anyway..this game looks like its going to be awesome--just a shame that its going to have to compete with Castelvania---Probably gonna pick up both..but I know most won't.

Peter Park
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let me just say that I consider EVE Online to be the best realization of video games in the world. Yes, that boring, grind-fest EVE Online.



Why?



It's simple: It doesn't hold a carrot on a stick for you to chase. It sets up a world, has certain rules and a macro-objective, and off you go. Do your own thing. Define your experience. PLAY the game. You can call it "sandbox" game, but I say this IS the game. Players are in the driver seat, not the passenger seat. You can go anywhere you want, play however you want it, and write your OWN story, not that of the developers.



And I think that is the key: players acting according to their thoughts, not that of developers. Too many games today have these directions to follow, one-way path to follow, and say that players are writing their own story. Um, I'm pretty sure players didn't have any other choice but to do exactly as told.



Games should set up a system where players can interact in meaningful, engaging way, and let them loose. Don't hold them by their hand every step of the way, and the only one way.


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