Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ragnar Tornquist On Video Game Storytelling

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the once-upon-a-time dept.

PC Games (Games) 137

Ragnar Tornquist is respected as one of the best storytellers in today's game industry. He's done work on Anarchy: Online, Dreamfall, and upcoming MMO The Secret World. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a lengthy three-part interview with Tornquist about how good stories are crafted, how they interact with other aspects of the games, and what his preferences are for building a compelling character. "We had all these characters who were on a journey of faith, and we said how can we ensure that this theme is carried through, and have a clear view of how their journeys happen. So we said, every single major character had to fit into this model. Everybody starts out at the top. Faith can be anything — it can be religion, it can be a belief in yourself, in your abilities, in the work you do. As we face challenge, there's a process where we have loss of faith. It can be a minor thing: thinking one day, 'God, I suck at what I do. I can't do this.' And a lot of people after that point turn themselves around, face those problems, challenge them and they conquer them, and they say, 'Screw that, I am good at what I do.' I think most happy people live in this loop."

cancel ×

137 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (4, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682189)

Ragnar Tourqist was born Wilbur McDougal in Peoria, Illinois and developed his fantasy- writing skills as an excape from the beatings he suffered in high school at the hands of the elitist chess club. He enjoys painting figurines and staging epic battles with his Pez dispenser collection. Also, he likes ponies.

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (4, Funny)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682311)

Ragnar Tourqist (20 April 1889 - 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who led the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei NSDAP), more commonly known as the Nazi Party. He was Chancellor of Germany (1933-1945) and Führer of Germany (1934-1945).

Tourqist was a decorated veteran of World War I who achieved leadership of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany. Following his imprisonment after a failed coup, he gained support by promoting nationalism, antisemitism and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda. The Nazis executed or assassinated many of their opponents, restructured the state economy, rearmed the armed forces (Wehrmacht) and established a totalitarian and fascist dictatorship. Tourqist pursued a foreign policy with the declared goal of seizing Lebensraum ("living space"). The German invasion of Poland in 1939 caused the British and French Empires to declare war on Germany, leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

The Axis Powers occupied most of continental Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. Eventually the Allies defeated the Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS). By 1945, Germany was in ruins. Tourqist's bid for territorial conquest and racial subjugation caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, including the systematic genocide of an estimated six million Jews, not including various additional "undesirable" populations, in what is known as the Holocaust.

During the final days of the war in 1945, as Berlin was being invaded by the Red Army, Tourqist married Eva Braun. Less than 24 hours later, the two committed suicide in the Führerbunker.

Goodwin, eat your heart out!

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (2, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682347)

Now that's multitasking!

Wikipedia (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24684191)

Can I cite this comment as a source on Wikipedia?

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682363)

OMG!!! PONIES!!!

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (1)

bbagnall (608125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684683)

Isn't Ragnar a character from Atlas Shrugged?

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (1)

infaustus (936456) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684783)

That's the dread pirate Ragnar Danneskjold.

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (1)

AngryBacon (1094489) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685761)

Who is John Galt?

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24686213)

Ragnar Danneskjold. Ragnar is a somewhat common [ssb.no] Scandinavian name.

Re:Who is Ragnar Tournqist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24686911)

And from the TFA, he adds this piece of info about himself:
"I'm not a cross-dresser..."

Biff McLargehuge? (5, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682317)

This sounds like one of those made-up names the guys on MST3K would come up with. Ragnar Tornquist? If ring-wraiths were real and were active in the adult film industry, they would have names like this.

Are you sure? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682419)

Why not DeLaShAnTraWahn Mumblesumthin?

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682473)

No, Ragnar is real. His work on The Longest Journey has made him a legend in the adventure gaming community. He's sort of the Sid Meier of adventure games.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682837)

One game does not a Sid Meier make. What other adventure games has he worked on?

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (3, Informative)

EveLibertine (847955) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682921)

I guess you haven't played The Longest Journey?

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (0, Offtopic)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682975)

I have not, what's your point?

I've got a queue of games a mile long, it's on the list. I need to finish Resident Evil 0, Rayman 3, Super Mario 64, Golden Eye, Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative, Age of Mythology, Quake 4, Sonic Adventure 2, Xenogears, Panzer Dragoon, Solar Jetman and a few others before I start anything new.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

AndresCP (979913) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683023)

It's not new. Even the sequel is a few years old. And Super Mario 64? There comes a time in each gamer's life when his list become too long and some things have to go.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683333)

I meant, "new to me". And Super Mario 64 has been lots of fun so far. The levels are small enough and the rewards frequent enough that it never really feels like a chore to play. I've had more trouble sticking it out through Rayman 3 actually. I just got the N64 in May, and I've been really impressed by it. I'm looking forward to playing the Zelda's for sure. F-Zero X kicks ass, Rogue Squadron kicks ass, Star Fox 64 kicks ass, Mario Kart 64 kicks ass. Oh I've got Paper Mario too, but that's a little further down the queue. All in all it's a pretty sweet little system.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

blazer1024 (72405) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684351)

You must be young.

Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative was published WAY before SM64.

Way back in 1985. Yes, there were games in '85.

Games never get too old. They just get pushed further down the list... and the list never gets too long.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24683407)

I'll put it this way. The Longest Journey has a better story and was more fulfilling than all of the games that you listed.

If you haven't played TLJ, then you're not a real gamer.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683439)

Like I said, it's on the queue. But maybe I'll bump it up a few spots.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24684883)

It wasn't that good. An 'okay' adventure game at best, and an 'okay' story, perhaps looking more like it's been written by an inexperienced sci-fi/fantasy novel writer than by an experienced game scenario writer. Which may be your kind of thing.
There are lots of games that can make you a real gamer without ever touching this game, so please stop with the hyperbole.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686069)

That may be your opinion, but that doesn't make it fact. I'll list ten games with a better story than TLJ (no particular order)

Xenogears, Kings Quest III, Final Fantasy IV, The Witcher, Warcraft III, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Chrono Trigger

Heck, if you want me to list only PC games, then here's another 10 better than TLJ:

Max Payne, Kings Quest III, Planescape: Torment, The Witcher, Warcraft III, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Starcraft

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686463)

Heck, if you want me to list only PC games, then here's another 10 better than TLJ:

Max Payne, Kings Quest III, Planescape: Torment, The Witcher, Warcraft III, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Starcraft

Thanks for this list. I see a few I haven't played yet.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685987)

I played it, and his stuff doesn't hold a candle to the stuff that Sid Meier has put together.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24686903)

Agreed, it's on Steam and barely costs anything. I downloaded it for a quick go and was totally hooked on it from start to finish.

One game is enough to make him a legend in my eyes.

Made-up? Supersonic...elekhronic. (-1, Troll)

NRAdude (166969) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682629)

Only the best for the gr8 stories! Come on, have we even seen a good story in 30 years since the CIA let LSD spread around? It's all about advertising. Keep your mouth shut and eat shit-sandwitch: on TV everyone is enjoying the shit-sandwitch: keep smiling into the camera and TV as you swallow it down. You have to be nuts to make a story for even somthing remotely like Beauty and the Beast (Ron Perlman). [imdb.com] [uh-oh sarcasm cometh:] Do you think the writers are happy with their product, AFTER THEY PUNCH-OUT their TIMECARD? Hence, nowdays with the non-compete contracts from corporations, there is no longer a close-venue TIMECARD to punch-out! Nope, you gotta say to your spouse how much you liked eating shit-sandwitch at work, and to your distaste you will inspire her to buy shit-sandwitch at Costco the next day, because the employer will sue if you say anything of ill fame (aka devalue/negative-speculation on the stock of the company and product). Choose your jobs wisely, because this is how fast-food companies get around with their plastic-bacon Restaraunt burgers. Do you see SpongeBob SquarePants complaining? How about Squidward? Shit-sandwitch is gr8(tm). without prejudice, M. Gregory Thomas(tm)

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (2, Funny)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683057)

For some reason I thought he was a Supreme Court Justice.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24684053)

For some reason I thought he was a video game character.

Re:Biff McLargehuge? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687303)

Ragnar Tornquist: Ace Attorney?

Be like the squirrel (2, Funny)

Cycon (11899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682351)

Faith can be anything -- it can be religion, it can be a belief in yourself, in your abilities, in the work you do. As we face challenge, there's a process where we have loss of faith. It can be a minor thing: thinking one day, 'God, I suck at what I do. I can't do this.' And a lot of people after that point turn themselves around, face those problems, challenge them and they conquer them, and they say, 'Screw that, I am good at what I do.'

When problems overwhelm us and sadness smothers us, where do we find the will and the courage to countinue?
well the answer may come in the caring voice of a friend a chance encounter with a book or from a personal faith.
for Ragnar, help came from her faith but it also came from a squirrel.

...he thought, "If that squirrel can take care of himself with the harsh winter coming on so can I."
"Once i broke my problems into small pieces I was able to carry them, just like those acorns, one at a time."

Re:Be like the squirrel (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682493)

wat

Re:Be like the squirrel (2, Informative)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683107)

It's a reference to The White Stripes song "Little Acorns".

Yes, but does it run on lennix? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682355)

It would be better if it run on Lennix or at least Ubunti/.

Turn it around! (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682359)

God, I suck at what I do. I can't do this.

But then I hit 'submit' and my post is modded +1 Funny.
All is well again.

Compelling characters? (3, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682515)

Lessee. Anarchy Online's 'story' was yet another rehash of plucky underdogs vs. evil overlords. Plus aliens after a while, when people got bored of fighting corporate lackeys.

Dreamfall's three primary characters were a washed-up, gothy 'heroine' from the previous game, a generically plucky artist, and a generically honorable warrior who discovers that his government is corrupt. They inhabit a story that wanders at best, is never resolved in any way, and cuts off at not just one, but three separate cliffhangers.

Re:Compelling characters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682683)

In the least, I thought the Shadowlands expansion storyline was fairly decent. A little tried and true, but still with a decent twist at the end... which fits in perfectly with the Alien Invasion expansion, if you've played it. Won't spoil it if you haven't.

The thing is that Shadowlands came out about 5 years ago and it wasn't only until the _MOST RECENT PATCH CYCLES_ this year that they've finally implemented some of the quests and NPC's that you talk to to find out about the story in some of the later areas. Even one of the lower-level middle areas was largely incomplete for about 4 years.

The story is actually decent and if you were to play Shadowlands through (and it's associated side quests on RubiKa) now... well, sorry to say, you're still finding big gaps in the storyline. Most of the time one can fill in the gaps with what they observe, but having a major expansion being left incomplete for 5 years is actually pretty disappointing.

Now, while AI did extend the story slightly (it concluded Shadowlands without a finality), Lost Eden pretty much didn't do much at all beyond expanding PvP and a long forgotten RP storyline from when the game first launched. Effectively, a storyline was turned into bite sized nuggets of quests as endgame content. (The "story" within the Dust Brigade questline still took about 7 months to fully patch in, the majority of the lag in between patches didn't do anything to extend the story, but made you revisit locations you had visited previously... More like a "Uhhhhh. We ran out of ideas, so go to these 6 places again and you get another item. How's that?")

If there's even going to be any expansions left, can we make them story based again? And complete this time? I like AO, it has more to offer as an MMO (richly complex and lots of different ways to do things)... but it'd be nice if they could finish what they started before moving onto some other ideas that will launch half-implemented.

Re:Compelling characters? (3, Insightful)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682827)

Sweet. Next time we need someone to be flippant and dismissive, we'll be sure to look you up!

There's a saying where all stories ever written can be summed up as man versus man, man versus environment, or man versus himself. And while this is true, it doesn't make all stories worthless.

I personally enjoyed Anarchy Online's story quite a bit and found it a unique telling with much depth, mystery and imagination even though it was a "rehash."

Re:Compelling characters? (2, Interesting)

Groggnrath (1089073) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683685)

You forgot "Man vs. Unknown".

There is one other one too. I'm scraping my worthless memory for High School English class remnants, but all I can find is used bong water and empty beer cans.

Re:Compelling characters? (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684589)

In which category do you include High School Musical?

Re:Compelling characters? (5, Funny)

Plaid Phantom (818438) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685731)

We don't talk about High School Musical here.

Re:Compelling characters? (1)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685855)

Crap vs. Audience

Re:Compelling characters? (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686089)

OMG, if I had not already posted in this discussion, I'd mod you +10: Awesomeness!

Re:Compelling characters? (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686079)

You also forgot "Man vs. Weighted Companion Cube"

Re:Compelling characters? (2, Funny)

AndresCP (979913) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682971)

I can't think of a single game I've ever played with a "generically plucky artist." Perhaps you're thinking of Photoshop Hero, a game which is in fact fictional?

Re:Compelling characters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24687045)

FFVI (Relm)? Not wildly generic, I admit...

Re:Compelling characters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24687667)

Reference [penny-arcade.com] .

Re:Compelling characters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24683079)

Do better. Go ahead, I'll wait.

CAN you do better, or are you, in fact, just a gamer?

Re:Compelling characters? (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683915)

I cannot fucking believe people are still trying to pull this shit. How about you go and tell all the film, music, book, game and art critics in the world that they have to drop everything they're doing because they can't do any better? Of course, in a sane world (population: not you) it doesn't take a game designer to point out that, say, a quest is broken or that the voice acting is horrendous.

Re:Compelling characters? (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685149)

Not every story can be "Dune", my friend.

An Example For Our Children +1, Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682541)

'God, I suck at what I do. I can't do this.'

George W. Bush et al. said "We are good at nothing. We can continue the biggest theft of the U.S. federal budget by relying on my parents' associates to pull our collective ass out of every fire we light but cannot extinguish".

Examples include Iraq, Afghanistan, the collapsed U.S. economy, and U.S. provocation of Georgia's losing battle with Russia.

Unfortunately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682571)

I think most happy people live in this loop.

Unfortunately, 99.9999...% of happy people are dumbfucks.

Taggart Transdimensional Incorported... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682589)

Ragnar was the CEO of TTI.

Best MMO name ever. (5, Funny)

jbsooter (1222994) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682737)

I misread and got excited because I thought the upcoming MMO was called "The Secret World: Rock, Paper, Shotgun." I have no idea what a game named that would be like but I'd probably pay money to find out.

Re:Best MMO name ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24683381)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun

That would make a cool name for a band.

That reminds me... (2)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682753)

From the intro to the latest Pure Pwnage [purepwnage.com] :

If I wanted a compelling story, I'd read a book. There's only a few million of them already in exsistence, the majority of which were written by people whose talents compare to the best video game writers the same way Kobe Bryant's penis might compare to that of a poorly endowed tit mouse. If enduring 90 minutes of CGI cut scenes dubbed with pornography grade voice acting sounds exciting to you, I suggest you immediately navigate your web browser to the neighborhood torrent site and start downloading something called a movie. Any of them really, because apparently you're very easily satisfied.

:D Confession: I really liked the Xenosaga series :O

Re:That reminds me... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24682935)

That all ignores the fact that the interactivity of a game leads to a greater immersion, and a better experience than passively watching a movie or reading a book.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683775)

That all ignores the fact that the interactivity of a game leads to a greater immersion

Well it should lead to greater immersion, but in my years of playing MMOs it is rarely true. I've felt immersed in the action of a good battle, but almost never the storyline. The one exception is in EVE Online, and the story wasn't something written by the dev team, it was the fact that my character there has an actual story and that story actually effected the world of the game. Being involved in a war between two alliances in 0.0 space, even though I was mostly hauling supplies to our player owned station, was far more immersing a game experience than anything I've found in WoW, LotRO, GW, CoH, DDO, or EQ. What I did in EVE actually mattered in the world of the game. By contrast, when absolutely nothing in the larger game world changes when I do or do not complete an epic quest, then I don't feel immersed, I feel dismissed.

Re:That reminds me... (3, Insightful)

achenaar (934663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683991)

MMO != Adventure Game
The kicks you get from good storytelling in an adventure game are very different indeed from those acquired while devising a backstory for your MMO character.
I love EVE and I love devising backstory for my character, but when you find the treasure of Big Whoop, all bets are off ;)
Ach.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684259)

MMO != Adventure Game

I'm sorry I thought we were talking about MMOs. The first link in the article was discussing MMOs but the second and third were discussing adventure games. I find that an odd grouping because, as you point out, the kinds of story telling in the two genres is very different. Even in Slashdot blurb the genres are mixed.

Ragnar Tornquist is respected as one of the best storytellers in today's game industry. He's done work on Anarchy: Online, Dreamfall, and upcoming MMO The Secret World.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686553)

Well it should lead to greater immersion, but in my years of playing MMOs it is rarely true. I've felt immersed in the action of a good battle, but almost never the storyline.

Perhaps because MMOs are generally not about storyline.

The one exception is in EVE Online, and the story wasn't something written by the dev team, it was the fact that my character there has an actual story and that story actually effected the world of the game. Being involved in a war between two alliances in 0.0 space, even though I was mostly hauling supplies to our player owned station, was far more immersing a game experience than anything I've found in WoW, LotRO, GW, CoH, DDO, or EQ. What I did in EVE actually mattered in the world of the game. By contrast, when absolutely nothing in the larger game world changes when I do or do not complete an epic quest, then I don't feel immersed, I feel dismissed.

That's a common failing in many games: the world is in stasis waiting for you to arrive to do quests, and beyond that, nothing ever changes, nothing has consequences. This makes most games feel very fake, and it breaks immersion.

This is even somewhat true in Planescape: Torment (the best storyline in a game ever), but that game hides it so well that you don't notice, and that works. And in Torment, some of your choices really do matter. It's more interactive than most games, and interactivity does lead to greater immersion, whether you're playing EVE or Torment.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687253)

That's a common failing in many games: the world is in stasis waiting for you to arrive to do quests, and beyond that, nothing ever changes, nothing has consequences. This makes most games feel very fake, and it breaks immersion.

I believe this comes from not wanting any subscriber to miss out on an event. The only way I can think that this might work is if you have time travel as an inherant part of the story in such that as you complete events. Areas of the game open up that are diffrent that previous areas. If you want to go back to the starting areas, you "time warp" back. Otherwise the world has to be static so that new players can experiance what you did at first. If you started WoW now and it had changed from what it was at launch, you would be a level 1 sourounded by level 70's and be able to survive.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684463)

That all ignores the fact that the interactivity of a game leads to a greater immersion, and a better experience than passively watching a movie or reading a book.

Depends, in by far the most games interaction is what ruins the immersion instead of creating it. Simple example: a character dies in a movie, you cry or feel sad, a character dies in a videogame, you feel annoyed and hit reload and try again. Not exactly very immersive. That is also why by far most games these days tell all their plot points in precreated cutscenes, sometimes these days you get a little bit of interaction like in Half Life 2, but its still a precreated cutscene.

Now there are of course exceptions, games are great at creating frustration and anger, but those are most often directed at the game mechanics. Games also can be good at giving a feeling of accomplishment, but then thats also not really the classic emotion that you want to evoke with storytelling.

There are of course also a few exceptions of the different kind that actually create emotions such as a movie or a book, adventure games being the most easy ones, since their storytelling isn't all that different from a movie or a book. And since they are basically one big long cutscene with a few puzzles mixed in, they have it relatively easy to avoid immersion-breaking save/reload cycles or other distracting events. The other exception is actually the interesting one: simulations. Some games give the player enough freedom and persistence to create feelings right out of the gameplay, with no predefined tricks. I consider Operation Flashpoint for example pretty much the thing about the war ever created, better then any movie or book I have watched or read. It does that because it gives you a realistic an intimidating feeling for the chaos and cruelty of war, the interaction part is important here because it makes the events feel authentic, the prescripting is kept at a minimum and pretty much all events play out dynamically and different each time, which removes the fakeness feeling that movies can invoke quite easily. Some RPGs also go into that direction, the freedom they give can be used by the player to create his own stories inside the gameworld, without being forced on a predefined path. Sadly however few games these days, especially on consoles, try actually give the player the freedom necessary to create emotions from gameplay alone, most fall back to simple predefined cutscenes, which while sometimes nice, are most often far to disconnected from the actually gameplay.

Re:That reminds me... (3, Insightful)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686117)

Your point about a character dying in a video game isn't 100% accurate. Just ask any old school PSOne players how they felt (or still feel) about Aeris (Aerith) dying.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686671)

That's a cutscene. I want a game where plot-important characters can die, and it A) doesn't invoke game over and B) matters. Suppose if Alyx Vance were to get killed in the parking garage with all the zombies in Ep. 1. As it is, you get game over, and you reload. I want games where Alyx Vance can die in the parking garage, and that changes the story. Of course, in Episode 1, she doesn't actually do much for the story. Maybe a better version is if she got killed in the Antlion Tunnels in Ep. 2. Now, when you make it to Whiteforest Base, you don't get a joyous reunion between her and Dog, or between her and Eli. You get something else entirely.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687341)

That's a cutscene. I want a game where plot-important characters can die, and it A) doesn't invoke game over and B) matters.

Mass Effect, to some extent, does just that. Won't say anything else in case you actually want to try it.

Re:That reminds me... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687357)

Plotline deaths can't really be fixed with save & reload. However, they also don't let the player affect anything, when the writer decides to kill a character for drama the player can't save the character though any means, when the writer decides a character is important later on the player can't kill him (or if he can the game script usually breaks). Even worse when the player is of the oppinion that he could have averted that death had the game not taken control from him (or required him to do something to progress).

Re:That reminds me... (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683945)

What a load of shit. There's no reason why a video game can't have a story as good as those found in literature and film, and no reason why we should, apparently, reject such games whenever they appear. As a medium, video games are perfectly suited to storytelling, and even enable things that are flat out impossible in literature and film.

Re:That reminds me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24685529)

Well said. But it should be noted that the game that almost everyone cites when they talk about having a game with writing as good as in movies or literature was a major flop and only sold half a million copies (Planescape: Torment).

Re:That reminds me... (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686111)

Agreed. The Wheel of Time > story of any game I've ever played. Now, if they could do justice to that series in a game, then I'll pluck down my $49.99US

Re:That reminds me... (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686981)

You might be interested in The Sims: Sit Around and Whine For Six Books.

did he write deus ex 1? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24682817)

nope? don't care what he's got to say about story then.

Mixed feelings (5, Interesting)

Selanit (192811) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683019)

I have mixed feelings about Tornquist. He created The Longest Journey [longestjourney.com] which was absolutely amazing, particularly for its story. My favorite game ever. Vivid, detailed characterization, intricate world-building, compelling plot. The tech wasn't impressive (3D figures superimposed on 2D backdrops), but the story was so great that I didn't care.

Then came the sequel, Dreamfall. Oh. My. God. The game was a lot prettier, a good deal more tech glitz. But the UI was atrocious (horrible camera control, unplayable on PC without a USB controller), gratuitous fighting scenes built in (complete with lousy combat controls), and the puzzles (such as they were) didn't make sense. Worse, the plot was incoherent at many crucial points, and the main character (Chloe) completely failed to engage my sympathy or even interest. I got to the end and was sorry she hadn't died permanently somewhere along the way.

Dreamfall had the most severe case of sequel-itis I've ever seen. The original was amazing, astounding, wonderful, and sold a bazillion copies. Then the corporate types took over and threw a ton of cash at the sequel, and it sucked hard. The only comparable thing I can think of? Indiana Jones -- Raiders of the Lost Ark was terrific, and Temple of Doom sucked so hard that nobody ever plays it on TV, not even at 4 AM to fill up time. That's how Dreamfall was.

I have hopes for the third TLJ installment -- after all, The Last Crusade rescued Indiana Jones from one-hit wonder status. It could happen again. But then I think of how the Matrix series went downhill, and fear.

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24683815)

You mean Zoe, not Chloe.

My feelings are mixed when it comes to Dreamfall. There were some really beautiful and emotional scenes that nearly brought tears to my eyes, but I have to agree that the story felt disjointed. I also didn't like that nearly everyone important ended up dead in the end with absolutely no resolution. The ending made the entire game feel redundant, as if the entire adventure was all for nothing.

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Insightful)

Selanit (192811) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684639)

You mean Zoe, not Chloe.

Yeah, that's the one. Well, I said she failed to engage my interest. See? I didn't even remember her name right. ^_^;

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684193)

Unplanned sequels usually suck. The originals usually work for reasons that are difficult to pin down or quantify. But people try to recreate this success by guessing what the magic ingredients were, and it fails badly. Especially when you get different people involved. So if you get the ingredients wrong and try to recreate the cake...

Sometimes part of what made something work wasn't the writer, but the editors. So on the sequel the writer who now has a lot more respect and clout gets away with less editing and ends up with a mess. Sometimes the editing isn't overt, but a case of budget overruns, limited technology, time limits, and so forth.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684569)

Not the case for Dreamfall. I've RTFA, and Ragnar explains that TLJ was unedited (as he was his own boss then), allowing things like swearing and full frontal male nudity, while Dreamfall was edited/censored. He mentions that time limits affected the gameplay, but not the major elements of the story.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

indiechild (541156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685235)

Dreamfall wasn't an unplanned sequel. Tornquist plans to make 3 parts, with the 3rd part available in episodic format apparently.

He also says that he feels Dreamfall had the better story, which I agree with. TLJ was a lot more disjointed than Dreamfall.

Re:Mixed feelings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24685825)

Sometimes part of what made something work wasn't the writer, but the editors. So on the sequel the writer who now has a lot more respect and clout gets away with less editing and ends up with a mess.

I worked on the Dreamfall team, and I can tell you that the lousy combat, useless PC controls and far too easy puzzles were heavily disagreed upon by the entire team, but management had given Ragnar final say in every design question, and wouldn't buckle despite being criticised in meeting after meeting. Of course, a huge amount of talented people quit because of this.

TLJ, the game's prequel, had received a lot of criticism for its exceedingly hard "rubber duck puzzle" (you had to look at a walkthrough to do it), so every puzzle in Dreamfall was made so easy that noone would fail. Furthermore, since only about one in five ever completed TLJ, Dreamfall was made so short that anyone could finish it in a day.

Re:Mixed feelings (3, Interesting)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684411)

Wow, I thought Dreamfall was great. The combat was unnecessary, but other than that it was a wonderful game. Normally, when you describe a game as an interactive movie, it's an insult; but this was an example of one done right, with depth, story, and characterization. I thought the story held together quite well and really liked the main character. The longest Journey was excellent also, but I like the sequel better.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684573)

The problem with Dreamfall was that the story as a whole simply made very little sense, maybe things will be cleared up in Dreamfall:Chapters, but Dreamfall taken by itself is really weird. The Faith subplot itself gets resolved ok, but the whole April subplot feels very out of place, half the game you spend to find her and then you find her and nothing happens, the whole visit to Acadia doesn't really accomplishes a thing and is more a tour-guide through nice places that you already new from TLJ then something that makes much sense in terms of the story. And there are a ton of other subplots that don't go anywhere either.

Dreamfall is a fun ride while it lasts and I enjoyed it a lot, but when one looks back at the plot as a whole it just doesn't feel exactly very complete, it feels like half the game is missing.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

GrievousMistake (880829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684801)

I actually thought the story in Dreamfall was told rather more coherently that TLJ. With large questions left unanswered, and clearly leading up to a sequel, yes, (half of the game is, as you say, missing,) but what they showed you was fairly interesting and fleshed out. Now for all I know they'll proceed to pull a Fahrenheit on the story, but I'll certainly try to get around to checking out the next game when it comes.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

indiechild (541156) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685037)

I played Dreamfall before I played TLJ. Strangely enough, I couldn't understand what people loved so much about TLJ. To me, Dreamfall was a much better game, despite the crappy UI. And I didn't even have to know the background story to enjoy Dreamfall -- the game explains itself quite nicely.

I'm looking forward to Part 3.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

Squeeself (729802) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687019)

100% agree with you on Dreamfall. It started out with so much potential...and kept stumbling...and then just failed miserably. Also, looking at the other games to his credit...Anarchy Online? We'll ignore all the serious issues in that game that aren't writer-related, and we still come up with...WTF? Admittedly, my time in AO was limited to a couple months, but I would not call any of the world there particularly great. Supposedly a bunch of stories outside the game though, and those might be better. Maybe it's just personal taste, but AO is definitely NOT one of the better MMOs out there. Don't know anything about the other titles he's got to his credit, but given that they were based on movies...Well, we all know how those turn out usually. I may or may not be a good writer, but starting out saying, "I want to have this spiritual tale with so many levels of deep meaning and analogies to the real world" isn't the way to achieve what you want. In fact, it usually just ends up being a shallow, confusing tale...Just like Dreamfall. Hearing him talk about the Dreamfall stories in such an abstract way...*shudder* The guy seems to be trying to hard. Sounds like way too many bad writers...He should relax and let things flow a bit more, and then maybe we can have another TLJ, which to be completely fair to him, was superbly done.

Ragnar tells a sweet story, but he is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24683327)

The idea that all you need is belief in yourself to succeed makes for a great feel-good fantasy experience, but it's as true as the age-old myth that you'll get ahead if you pray hard enough and bring God on your side.

Success requires a combination of intelligence, effort and good fortune, where fortune is the sum of events over which you have little control. The man born dense can believe in himself to his grave, but he is unlikely to get very far. The most successful man is merely (and I use that word to indicate that it was due to a sequence of logical events, not supernatural or otherwise faith-induced) the result of the three properties listed. Life's really not that fair, I'm afraid.

Personally, what I liked least about The Longest Journey was how seriously the writer seemed to take the idea that one woman should out of nowhere be selected by the fates for some inevitable world-saving mission, lifting her to glory through duty; it's so very religious. Once I broke the fourth wall, as it were, attempting to wrench from the story the lingering message that it was somehow reflecting real life, it became a very enjoyable game.

Re:Ragnar tells a sweet story, but he is wrong (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#24684479)

The idea that all you need is belief in yourself to succeed makes for a great feel-good fantasy experience, but it's as true as the age-old myth that you'll get ahead if you pray hard enough and bring God on your side.

I think the idea is good, but misstated. It would be better to say that not believing in yourself will lead to failure. I.E., confidence is necessary for success, but it alone won't be enough. It's a catalyst that helps skill, determination, and talent act more effectively.

Re:Ragnar tells a sweet story, but he is wrong (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685493)

Hope is not necessary for success.

Re:Ragnar tells a sweet story, but he is wrong (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685623)

Hope is not necessary for success.

But lack of hope is an impediment.

Who? (1)

duckInferno (1275100) | more than 6 years ago | (#24683809)

He didn't make the Baldur's Gate series. Move along.

Actually, Dreamfall was pretty cool.

Re:Who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24685147)

To be fair, mere humans couldn't have created the Baldur's Gate series. It must have been handed down by the gods. The same applies to Planescape: Torment. I'd be surprised if RPGs of this caliber were ever created again.

Anyways, Ragnar is an adventure game writer. I give him props for making games as fun as the old LucasArts games. I just roll my eyes at the rest of the current adventure game writers (though I should note that David Cage came ever so close to awesomeness with Fahrenheit).

You insensitiVe clod.u. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24684525)

Odd interviewer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24684877)

Maybe it's because I just came from reading the Bill Roper interview [slashdot.org] , but this John Walker interviewer sure didn't leave a big impression on me.

Several of his little kinks like: "RPS: For years I've been trying to write this book for teenagers. I've got three chapters into it so many times, but never got any further.","RPS: Itâ(TM)s more Buffy season 7 than Buffy season 1." and so on frankly drew my attention off the interview to a point where I had to reread parts of it.

Hey, Ragnar (4, Insightful)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24685781)

You know what's an important part of storytelling?

FINISHING THE FREAKING STORY

Like, when you've gotten through the backstory and the character development, and you get to the first big climax, the cliffhanger where you have the audience wondering which of their heroes will live and which will die?

That is NOT the right time to roll the credits. And if there are a half dozen important subplots that haven't even reached their climax yet? Then it is DEFINITELY NOT the right time to roll the credits.

Oh, who am I kidding. I could turn this rant into a treatise, but I know I'm still going to buy The Longest Journey 3 (or Dreamfall: Chapters, or whatever it gets called), even if it doesn't come out for another five years. And he knows people like me are still going to buy it, even if it's only sold for two hundred dollars with an uncrackable installer EULA which can only be accepted by submitting a video recording of the prospective customer saying "Please, Mr. Tornquist, I humbly beg for permission to play your sequel."

FUNCOM (1)

Detaer (562863) | more than 6 years ago | (#24686239)

Yeah this guy works for funcom, what the hell does he know about making a game that is compelling or playable? Age of Conan and Anarchy online were and are crap. This upcoming MMO of his will suffer the same fate as both of these games, good initial sales with absolutely horrid customer retention.

Plenty of good video-game storytelling around (3, Insightful)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687179)

There have been decent game stories around for years now - going back at least as far as Ultima IV. We've also been seeing them much more frequently recently. I must confess, though, I wouldn't have ranked this guy or the games he's put out right up there at the top of the list. As others have said, the Longest Journey was great, Dreamfell was weak and Anarchy Online... oh come on, is that really the best you can do? I'm not sure about individuals, but there are plenty of developers around in the industry who can do it better.

Bioware are obviously very good at crafting stories, but I think Planescape Torment is their only real masterpiece, from a story point of view. Their other games have had stories ranging from the great to the truly excellent (KOTOR and BG2 in particular), but PST was the only one to really go beyond the category of "fantastically well-done, but nevertheless formulaic fantasy/sci-fi fare".

Square-Enix are, if anything, even better. Their heavily cutscene-based style isn't to all tastes (though it is to mine), but they've gone beyond the point of just writing good stories and to the kind of level where, when they're on form, their games have well developed structures and themes. Look at Final Fantasy IX (not my favorite installment) and note how the game has theatre scenes at the beginning, the intermission, and the end. Also note how the two little jester guys act as a chorus throughout most of the game. Again, in Final Fantasy X, there's a consistent theme of "death" running throughout the entire game. Yes, it has bright and colourful graphics and a few irritating characters (yes, Wakka, I'm looking at you), but almost every character back-story, side-quest and main plot element in the game revolves around death.

Persona 3 really impressed me from the story point of view. Not because its "go to school and save the world in your spare time" plot is new or exciting, but because it structured itself so as to do a really good job of capturing the feel and structure of a 26 episode anime series (Shakugan no Shana was the one that leaped to mind for me, but other parallels are equally valid) in the format of a game.

I didn't rate Valve's storytelling in Half-Life 2 or its expansion - I just can't buy into the mute Gordon Freeman as a protagonist in that setting. Portal, however, had an absolutely fantastic minimalist story, told through some really clever techniques.

Finally, after a really, really dodgy start with Blue Dragon, I was really impressed with the level of the storytelling in Lost Odyssey. I'm not talking about the main plot here, which is a fairly standard steampunk affair (with heavy inspiration from Final Fantasy VIII). Rather, I'm talking about the dreams you unlocked throughout the game. These were nothing more than animated text, on a lightly illustrated background, with a couple of minimalist sound-effects, yet they did a fantastic job at bringing the game world alive and building up Kaim's character far more effectively than any traditional device would have.

Re:Plenty of good video-game storytelling around (2, Insightful)

Icarium (1109647) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687395)

Bioware are obviously very good at crafting stories, but I think Planescape Torment is their only real masterpiece, from a story point of view. Their other games have had stories ranging from the great to the truly excellent (KOTOR and BG2 in particular), but PST was the only one to really go beyond the category of "fantastically well-done, but nevertheless formulaic fantasy/sci-fi fare".

I feel compelled to point out that in every single example you've cited of Bioware crafting a good story, the underlying framework was already in place. The Planescape, Forgotten Realms and Star Wars 'worlds' in which these stories unfold were all well established long before Bioware came to the party.

You also appear to judge a story by how well it's presented. Given the medium, fair enough, but bear in mind that there can be a large disconnect between the person(s) responsible for the storyline and those that actually produce the game. If Peter Jackson had made a balls up of the LoTR movies, would you critisise Tolkein for writing a poor story?

It doesn't detract from the quality of the stories, but there's a vast difference between creating a believable world from scratch and simply telling a story within an already existing one.

Re:Plenty of good video-game storytelling around (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687759)

You miss my point entirely. Yes, Bioware has, in many cases (with the notable exceptions of Jade Empire and Mass Effect) taken existing universes and just developed stories within them. As I said, most of the stories they have written range from the good to the fantastic. They fit extremely well within their settings. KOTOR was the best Star Wars story we'd seen since Empire Strikes Back. However, Planescape Torment was the only game they did which took an existing setting and then went completely outside of the expected bounds with the story. The setting of PST was pretty much irrelevant - the character work and the wit and intellect of the dialogue made the game truly exceptional.

Also, presentation matters in storytelling in any medium. Even (in fact, some might say especially) in the printed word. No matter how good the story in the author's mind might be, it won't be a good story unless he can find the right words to tell it in. How often have you seen a cracking story ruined because the author doesn't have the talent to realise it properly and falls back on cliche and repetition? Even looking at Tolkein (who I have enjoyed reading immensely over the years), the strength of his story is occasionally let down by what is, in a few places, some rather leaden prose. And as for the verse... well... let's not even go there.

Re:Plenty of good video-game storytelling around (1)

Icarium (1109647) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687959)

What point did I miss? I didn't dissagree about the quality of Bioware's offerings, merely aired my opinion that creating a story and a setting deserves more credit than creating a story within a pre existing setting.

As to you're second point, you've missed mine: An author such as Tolkein is responsible not only for the story but also it's presentation, therefore it is reasonable to critisise the author for the presentation. When the medium is a video game, there is a distinct seperation between the author of the story and the team that presents it. In this case, if you can recognise the 'cracking story' but feel that the presentation was poor, the author of the story has done his job even if the development team have not. I wouldn't critisise the author of the story around which a video game is placed for poor presentation any more than I would critisise Tolkein if I didn't like Peter jackson's presentation of his works.

As to Tolkein's verse... I've tried, but failed. I simply cannot stand his writing style, even if I like the story.

Who cars about this guy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24687589)

Anybody else stop caring about this guys opinion about storytelling in video games after they found out he only had MMO's and a Casper game to his name?
Let me know when you interview someone like Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) or a writer of one of the Final Fantasy games.

Regarding Dreamfall's story (2, Interesting)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 6 years ago | (#24687601)

I played DF (and TLJ) for the first time over the last week, and the story - especially in Dreamfall - was one of the most impressive qualities.

However, I have one serious criticism: for every minute of cutscene, there were maybe two minutes of gameplay - and this high level of hand-holding increased towards the end. Pretty much the entire last 20-30 minutes of the game was cut-scene, and I quickly lost the sense of immersion and attachment I'd tried to build up.

Seriously, there was a small handful of creative problem-solving set pieces, and most of the rest was either cut-scene or entirely prescriptive "gameplay". Given that it wasn't a long game, it ended up feeling as though someone had written a script for a film, and then tried to cram a game in the edges. Which was a shame, because the engine and dynamics were superb.

So while I won't criticise Tornquist's ability to tell a good story or create a compelling character, I would seriously question his authority on having the story "interact with other aspects of the game".

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?