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The Decline of Fiction In Video Games

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night dept.

Games 197

Speaking to Eurogamer, art maestro (and visual design director of upcoming stealth/action game Dishonored) Victor Antonov put into words what many gamers have been feeling about the gaming industry of late: "It's been a poor, poor five years for fiction in the video game industry. There have been too many sequels, and too many established IPs that have been ruling the market. And a lot of them are war games. And they're great projects and great entertainment, but there's a lack of variety today. So, when you step out of this established genre, people cannot grasp it, or the press tries to find a match. ... We were always waiting for the next generation of great worlds or great graphics. Well, great graphics came; the worlds that came with these graphics are not up to the level of the graphics. ... Games should sort of split up and specialize and assume that there's such a thing as genre, and they shouldn't try to please everybody at the same time and try to make easy, diluted projects. Let's go for intensity and quality."

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197 comments

Indie games! (4, Informative)

wikthemighty (524325) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691531)

The last few years have been a boom for indie developers, especially on the PC: Humble Indie Bundle [slashdot.org] Indie Gala [slashdot.org] Indie Royale [slashdot.org] BeMine [slashdot.org] ...not to mention the Indie packs in the Steam Summer Sale!

Fixed URLs... (5, Informative)

wikthemighty (524325) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691571)

Humble Indie Bundle [humblebundle.com]
Indie Gala [indiegala.com]
Indie Royale [indieroyale.com]
Be Mine [groupees.com]

Re:Fixed URLs... (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692711)

While the indie games are pretty damned good one thing that bums the hell out of me is how badly they've taken a crap on the FPS genre. Remember when you'd get all these different takes on the FPS, like Redneck Rampage and Blood or No One Lives Forever? Or even Far Cry I with AI that would flank and lush jungles with nasty creatures in it?

Now it seems like everything is Call Of Modern Honor: Gears Of Killzone. hell even the ones I liked are getting crapped on by the Call Of Modern Honor effect, remember Fear? Fear I&2 were nice, dark and gritty with smart bad guys and great weapons, so what happened? Fear 3 is a 2 gun, wall kissing, lousy guns with no damned bullets co-op mess, that's what.

Sadly this is one genre where it is doubtful the indies will save us. there are a hell of a lot of guys like me that would be happy with Far Cry I or even No One Lives Forever II level graphics if you'd just give us a good story, new weapons, tough bad guys, bring back the fun to FPS. But instead every indie FPS I've ever seen is just another Quake III Arena ripoff, like we really need another MP only CTF and DM game...yawn.

Re:Indie games! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691575)

Absolutely. I've never seen so much variety in video games.

What might be true, is that big title war games get an unfair share of the dollars spent.

Re:Indie games! (5, Informative)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692017)

unfair share of the dollars spent.

Unfair is probably the wrong word. I can like a lot of different games, but I know what to expect if I buy a call of duty, fifa, the sims, wow expansions, Battlefield etc. I'm willing to shell out money for those, in many cases more money than I otherwise would, because even without playing them I have a fairly good sense of what I'm going to get. Some of those big titles make a lot of money because they have huge production quality. If you want 200 hours of voice acting (think Star Wars the Old Republic) that's going to cost an astronomical amount of money, or full motion capture, licensed images (vehicles items etc.). Going with that is huge advertising budgets, if you want to sell your game that you spent 60 -100 million dollars to make it's likely to pay off to spend 200 million on advertising because people need to know when your game is going to be out, you want them to buy it day 1 before they can pirate it etc. etc. etc.

Kingdoms of Amalaur, which I just finally, got around to finishing, was a new IP, with a relatively overall standard fantasy setting (partly because they hired people who have defined the fantasy genre lately). But it still only sold about 1.5 million copies. That would be a good title for some people, but not for the production quality and tools they had, and the business risk Shilling was taking, and so they're out of business and on the hook for significant debts. The game was well reviewed, it plays reasonably well, it has good production quality, in all respects it is objectively a decent game, but it still didn't make enough money.

If you want to innovate the place to do that is mobile. The barrier to entry is very very low, since apple and google don't have onerous rules like sony and nintendo, but even in the mobile space odds are good (really good, like 90% or more good) that you'll not make any money on a particular title. Indie PC titles are the next step up from that, but you have to be big enough to get listed on steam to have a chance, and then the next step up from that would be the PSN/XBLA type stores (where your sales may not be better than Steam, but you have to go through the Sony/MS certification process which is much more stringent than Steam).

Either way, as with the movie business, there's always some innovation in the games business, but a lot of those plans fail to make money unless you engage in the well oiled machine of hollywood accounting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_accounting). Tera online seems to managing to hold it together for the moment, but no one really wants to end up like 38 studios and Curt Schilling, so the only serious risks taken are in small titles where if you loose 90% of your investment you're out 20K and you aren't out everything for the rest of your life. It's a down economy, no one wants to risk large amounts of money when you can't make any good predictions on sales. SWTOR which is probably the biggest trainwreck financially in the games business lately still sold something like 2 million copies - they just can't seem to maintain big subscriber numbers, but they got good opening sales, which I'm sure they were reasonably able to predict based on the KOTOR franchise and so on.

If big publishers had more risky games on the side, where the big projects funded more risky ones it might appear more 'fair', but that would cost them a lot of money.

Re:Indie games! (2)

ravenshrike (808508) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692205)

If Curt had ditched the MMO idea beyond just future plans, it is unlikely that 38 studios would have crashed and burned. They should have put out multiple games with the same IP before even building any of the MMO assets or hiring a team for it.

Re:Indie games! (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692621)

Except that doing that they'd have been looking at an MMO in 2020. Depends on how much money you can borrow and from where. Clearly they thought they were going to sell a lot more than 1.5 million units of Kingdoms of Amalaur.

Re:Indie games! (1)

SolitaryMan (538416) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692225)

I'm not a hardcore gamer by any standard, but I do like sometime to get some beer and spend several hours (or the whole weekend :) ) playing a good game. The thing is, since I do this rarely, I really-really don't want to be disappointed. I want to be sure the game will be good, I don't want to experiment. So, I buy only well known established titles: Fallout, Call of Duty, Diablo. Again, since I do it only now and then, paying $60 for a game is no big deal.

What I really miss is the X-Com: UFO-style turn based strategies. I know there are some of the replicas (sort of) out there, but none of them even approaches the "X-Com: UFO Defence" in terms of gameplay. X-Com: Apocalypse was nice upgrade of the graphics and even had some gameplay improvements, but after that all sequels and clones kinda lost the point.

Re:Indie games! (3, Informative)

Jonathan_S (25407) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692455)

What I really miss is the X-Com: UFO-style turn based strategies. I know there are some of the replicas (sort of) out there, but none of them even approaches the "X-Com: UFO Defence" in terms of gameplay. X-Com: Apocalypse was nice upgrade of the graphics and even had some gameplay improvements, but after that all sequels and clones kinda lost the point.

Were you aware that there's a new X-Com: Enemy Unknown game coming out this October from Firaxis (Sid Meyer's company, the ones who make Civilization).

From what I've seen it looks pretty true to the original game's play. As a fan of the first couple X-com games I'm really looking forward to it.

Re:Indie games! (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692575)

Pretty true, except for the six squad member limit and the reduced map size. I liked the alien hunt where nothing happened for multiple rounds then suddenly your squaddies start dying because you got sloppy.

Re:Indie games! (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692607)

I think that's where a mix of real time and turn based works well. Turn based combat, but real time running around out of combat. It was tedious to move around 20 squad members looking for something while turn based.

E.G. See jagged alliance. (Which has a remake out at the moment).

Re:Indie games! (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692629)

There's a jagged alliance remake available, it's pretty decent. It's not quite Xcom (though you can buy that from GoG.com if you want it, or gamersgate, or steam).

Re:Indie games! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691655)

I was about to post something along those lines myself. The big AAA studios are in a rut, but the indie scene is kicking ass. Just not looking in the right places man :)

Re:Indie games! (4, Funny)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691687)

A lot of them don't have any killing or violence so they don't count

Real games you have to kill

There's indie, and then there's indie (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691887)

You appear to mean "indie" as in companies made up of alumni of major software houses, as opposed to "indie" as in small companies that are truly independent of the video game establishment. There's a difference [slashdot.org].

Re:There's indie, and then there's indie (2)

Onuma (947856) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691981)

I think "indie" merely refers to the practice of a single company both producing and publishing their game. Whether they're alumni of Blizz/Activision/EA/Ubisoft or they've never worked on any gaming projects before, the only difference may be the amount of capital invested in the project.

That's my $.02, but YMMV.

Re:There's indie, and then there's indie (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692129)

I think "indie" merely refers to the practice of a single company both producing and publishing their game.

If "indie" means the publisher owns the developer, then Nintendo is indie.

Whether they're alumni of Blizz/Activision/EA/Ubisoft or they've never worked on any gaming projects before, the only difference may be the amount of capital invested in the project.

That and establishment alumni have a lot easier time selling games in certain genres because establishment alumni have a lot easier time getting onto the consoles with which these genres are traditionally associated.

Re:There's indie, and then there's indie (1)

Onuma (947856) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692571)

Partially correct. Nintendo is also a huge corporation with over a hundred years of business. They develop and produce their own hardware and software, as well as license out to 3rd parties for massive amounts of money. At one point, there may have been considered "indie", but not any longer.

Regardless of their levels of experience, it takes money to make money. Veteran industry people usually have a nice nest egg to utilize, whereas someone just breaking into the industry may not have that luxury.

Indeed (1)

miknix (1047580) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691533)

now where is my THEME HOSPITAL 2?

What we need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692347)

Is Tribes: Ascend meets Eve Online, with Guild Wars 2's level of "player respect" shaping every design element.

I will PvP in space or on the ground when I want to, and when I don't want to, the entire galaxy is mine.

WOOHOO! I'd pay 15 a month for the rest of my life.

(I realize that both Star Trek Online and Star Wars The Old Republic attempted this, but they both failed on all fronts).

BS (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691565)

there have been many great stories. And there is no reason a sequel can't also be a great story.
Skyrim, Uncharted, Max Payne, Portal, Portal 2, Half-life EP 2, Dragon Age. ON and on.

Re:BS (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691635)

Stories in video games suck, at least when the game tries to make me care about them. When I'm playing a video game, I don't need to know why the bad guys are the bad guys, I just need to know where they are.

Re:BS (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691773)

Some people are chess players, yet others play checkers.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691847)

Some people are chess players, yet others play checkers.

What's the story in chess? What's the story in checkers?

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692603)

Chess is probably the oldest war game ever made. It's an epic battle between the armies of the white and the armies of the black. If you have enough imagination you can even imagine what's really going on.

Not sure about checkers though.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691985)

No, story in games alwasy sucks. Its either grind, grind,grind ... small piece of info ... grind grind grind ... more info, or kill, kill, kill, cut scene, kill kill, kill, cut scene. There is no way to kill or grind as you develop the story, which means the story part takes away from the game part and vice versa.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692271)

Not all games are about killing, and not all story is conveyed in cut scenes; and anyway, there absolutely is a way to kill as you develop the story (for instance, characters can talk to you...). You sound like you think all games are FPSes (or with the grind thing, possibly MMORPGs), which I don't really like in part because they are typically really bad at storytelling.

A game without a good story is, for me, not a good game by definition. The closest thing to a storyless game I have ever really enjoyed would be the Civilization and Galactic Civilizations games and some mods thereof.

I will say that anything I describe as a grind is neither a game nor a story as far as I'm concerned (yes, others have different opinions).

Re:BS (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692095)

And some people play checkers with chess pieces so they look smarter.

(this is paraphrased from @MrGeorgeWallace)

BS-First Person Porn. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692039)

Of course just like people watch porn...for the story.

Re:BS (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691743)

Sensational story is sensational. Just to add to the list Batman Arkham Asylum/City, Star Wars TOR (first truly story based MMO), Fallout 3/NV. Those are all established IPs sure, but they are still pretty damn strong. For new IPs you have Mass Effect (2007), Left 4 Dead (2008), Dragon Age (2009), Heavy Rain (2010), LA Noire (2011), Spec Ops The Line (2012) Ok, a LOT of games were sequels or part of established IPs, but good IPs aren't really something you can force out. When you try to, it generally doesn't end well.

Re:BS (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692519)

Exactly. If he was talking about the early 2000s, where everything was a lame first-person shooter, then he might have a point. But the Lego series, Portal series and games like the Arkham series are changing all that.

Re:BS (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691781)

I haven't played any of these, but my kids/wife have. I've watched bits here and there.

Skyrim, Fable and Dragon Age and one you didn't mention, Kingdoms of Amulor (sp) are all similar and formulaic.

I would prefer (if I played the games) Mass Effect series because it is a space shooter game, with RPG bits tossed in. And at least the RPG bits carry over from one game to the next.

I loved Witcher and Witcher 2 (2)

kubusja (581677) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691617)

I loved Witcher and Witcher 2. The fiction/story in the first one was great. World with shadows of gray.

Re:I loved Witcher and Witcher 2 (2)

pjtp (533932) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691719)

Yes, both are fantastic games. I love that they are aimed at a mature audience. It is nice to see that there are game developers that still take risks.

Looks like someone... (5, Interesting)

xavdeman (946931) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691619)

hasn't played enough games outside of the best-sellers. There's lot's of games with well written stories and intriguing worlds that were all new IPs. From the top of my head:
-Bioshock
-Bastion
-Portal
-Braid
-Alan Wake
-The Secret World (just released!)
And that's just the big, well-known titles. I'm sure if you start reading a quality gaming blog like Rock Paper Shotgun you'll be up-to-date on some great indie titles as well in no time at all, sir. (also take a look at things like the Humble Indie Bundle, sometimes these bundles contain really well written adventure games (and they always contain games with Linux support)

We've also seen the resurrection of franchises like Fallout, and Deus Ex, while not having extremely well written dialogue (with the possible exception of Fallout: New Vegas, which was made by Obsidian instead of Bethesda), they are still worth playing for the world and the story the players themselves can write through their actions.

Re:Looks like someone... (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691965)

Is Portal especially a new IP? I thought Portal's story [members.shaw.ca] was set in the Half-Life universe, as a gaiden game [tvtropes.org] of sorts.

Re:Looks like someone... (4, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692161)

Portal is set in the same universe as HL, but you can only tell by small references here and there (like in the Still Alive song). It could set it in a completely different universe without changing almost anything: all the characters, sets and gameplay are original.

Re:Looks like someone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692203)

Portal is basically a new IP. The universe is the same, but so distantly related that they're essentially different. Fans within both communities have a difficult time figuring out how they're related other than Portal includes X which is referenced in HL, and HL includes Y which is referenced in Portal.

Someone who is really paying attention will get references in Portal (or probably more so, Portal 2) to HL, and vice versa, but they're more like easter eggs than core elements of the storyline.

With reference to the target article, though: I do think Portal and Portal 2 provide good narratives (they may be my favorite games of all time). However, there is this nagging feeling to me at least that the narrative feels built around the portal game mechanic, rather than the other way around. I think Valve succeeded wildly in telling a story with Portal as well as Portal 2, but it's clear where they started.

I agree with the grandparent's posted list of games, to the extent I'm familiar with them. I also agree with the target article, though, in that the narrative emphasis of older games has been deemphasized recently in general. Games with strong narratives are certainly still around, but I don't think it represents the same share of games that it used to.

Re:Looks like someone... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692423)

However, there is this nagging feeling to me at least that the narrative feels built around the portal game mechanic, rather than the other way around. I think Valve succeeded wildly in telling a story with Portal as well as Portal 2, but it's clear where they started.

But that's how it should be! It's what makes it feel a game with a great story rather than a movie with annoying interactive interludes.

Re:Looks like someone... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692301)

They might be set in the same universe but they are pretty disjoint story-wise. Much as a comedy set in modern-day Italy and a thriller set in modern-day Japan might be set in the same universe but pretty much unrelated.

Re:Looks like someone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692157)

Good lord, if you actually think Braid's story was well written, you need to read more fiction.

Re:Looks like someone... (2)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692377)

some other games, inside and outside of the best sellers, that had stories somewhere between decent/pretty good and awesome/tell your mom:
-Batman: Arkham Asylum/City
-Mass Effect
-Dead Space
-I Am Alive
-Red Dead Redemption
-Assassin's Creed
-Uncharted
-and many more

a lot of people will disagree with me, but i also enjoyed the stories in the Hitman series, Splinter Cell series (Double Agent and Conviction were good, almost great, imo) and Max Payne series. even God of War and Darksiders had enough story to make the hack-and-slash more interesting. Gears of War wasn't bad either once you look past all the macho tropes. **spoiler** it had a cliche "you created your enemies and never knew it" ending **spoiler** but it was enough to keep me from asking why bother playing it. it was meant to be over the top. Resident Evil is a good example of enjoyable, over-the-top storytelling.

there's a common misconception that story = character development. but with the interactive medium, there's value in leaving a void in the protagonist for the player to fill with themselves. in a written story, the story isn't about an alternate you having a crazy exhilarating experience. in a gaming story, it's perfectly ok for the story to be about a series of events with you providing the character aspect by playing it.

there are basically 4 types of story subjects: a concept, a character, a place, and an event. any one of these 4 can be the main subject of the story. it doesn't always have to be a character. most video game stories are concept or event stories. Dead Space is a concept story. it doesn't matter who's doing the plasma cutting, the big draw is what the fuck is up with the marker, and what's this shit about humans created it? Darksiders is about the environment. the purpose is to explore this strange version of reality while your character tries to make it right. the story is over when the place changes or the character leaves it. Fallout was about events. in Fallout 3 there's all kinds of sub-plots like the character's father and exploring the wasteland after coming out of a vault. but since the outcomes of the game change based on your choices and actions, the most important thing about the ending is what set of events did your choices manifest? the story ends when you've exhausted your ability to affect new events.

some games work really well partly because the story is so cheesy, cliche and predictable, like Driver: San Francisco. some games are nothing but story, whether literally (e.g.,The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain) or figuratively (e.g., Final Fantasy or Fallout 3/New Vegas). in those kinds of games you either can't go off on your own outside the story, or you don't really want to. there was an appeal to riding horses aimlessly around the old west shooting sheriffs and wolves in RDD. i never really felt like taking on super mutants or deathclaws for the fun of it in Fallout. if i have spare time in a game like Fallout, i want to see alternate outcomes to the massive story they provide. for some games, a deep story can just get in the way of having fun. for other games, it's the only way to have it. i don't think there's a dearth of storytelling in games, but people like david jaffe don't help when they try to speak for the whole game developer community.

"Why the fuck would you choose the medium that has historically, continually, been the worst medium to express philosophy and story and narrative? Why wouldn't you write a book? Why wouldn't you make a movie? Why wouldn't you go on a blog? Why wouldn't you run for fucking office? Instead, to me, it's the equivalent of being one of the world's best chefs and instead of working at a four or five-star restaurant, you choose to ply your trade at McDonald's. It doesn't make any sense." -- david jaffe

if you have to ask, you'll never know...

Secret world will flop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692469)

The Secret World will be free to play in one year.

Nothing about it can justify the monthly subscription when just-as-awesome MMOs that don't have a monthly subscription (like Guild Wars 2) are available.

How about gameplay? (5, Insightful)

heptapod (243146) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691673)

One of the bad aspects of modern gaming is games becoming interactive DVDs. Press X, beat the bad guy and earn the privilege of watching a half-hour cutscene that tells you to press O to defeat the next boss to watch the next cutscene.

Create games that are engrossing with gameplay and don't require much of an investment on the behalf of the player.

Re:How about gameplay? (4, Interesting)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691789)

You can blame that model on JRPGs -- freedom of choice is taken away because like to pretend their narrative is supposed to the focused -- but they forgot the first rule -- you are making a fucking game, NOT a movie.

As Chris Hecker recently said
  "It annoys me when people focus on the linear content in games, rather than the gameplay. We are always going to be shitty movies if we keep emphasizing that direction."

http://kotaku.com/5923134/weve-got--jonathan-blow-the-witness-braid-and-chris-hecker-spy-party-here-to-answer-your-best-questions [kotaku.com]

Re:How about gameplay? (2)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692167)

While I agree with you on the point that games are headed in that direction (focusing more on linear content), I would argue you shouldn't "blame JRPGs." The older games (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, etc...) had GREAT gameplay as well as a good (albeit linear) storyline. They are not mutually exclusive.

If there is linear content, I'd personally prefer that both it AND the gameplay be good =)

Re:How about gameplay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692317)

And yet the games I've played which felt the most free and had the most believable and fantastic worlds were almost all JRPGs, mostly SNES era but newer ones also. The main ones outside the JRPG category being the Zelda games (which are fun, but not RPGs in my opinion) and Morrowind, both of which made me feel "there" in a sense that games very rarely achieve.

Re:How about gameplay? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692349)

Actually, the japanese make games that are essentially visual novels, and those games are very good if you accept them for what they are.

Re:How about gameplay? (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691805)

Pretty much. That seems to be the problem with this generation, at least for me. Either a game requires very little input of the player (Final Fantasy XIII anyone?) or it is such a vast world and requires lots of time to fully enjoy it (like Skyrim, and Minecraft to a lesser extent).

All I really want is a fun game that is:

A) challenging

B) doesn't require much investment

C) Is rewarding

D) has enough content to justify its price

Today it seems like the focus is either on the (really) hardcore gamer or casual non-gamers.

Re:How about gameplay? (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691879)

The real shame is the decline of the adventure genre, which derived from interactive fiction, which was all about story. The best adventure games told stories through their gameplay, with puzzles making sense within the plot, and advancing the plot through the solving of puzzles. If you want to see how to tell a story though a game, go back and look at games like Secret of Monkey Island, Loom, Quest for Glory, or Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.

Re:How about gameplay? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692215)

I heard the Walking Dead video game series (released as episodes) is a good recent example of interactive fiction, with the story being shaped by your decisions.

I've only played a couple of minutes, but it seemed decent.

Re:How about gameplay? (3, Insightful)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692255)

Agreed. That's why I ended up snagging the Quest for Glory and Space Quest series games over at gog.com [gog.com]. It's dirt cheap to get the older games - definitely worth the money if you aren't particularly stuck on state-of-the-art graphics.

Re:How about gameplay? (1)

Onuma (947856) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691999)

I see you've played MGS4!

Fantastic game, but holy SHIT it wasted a lot of time with cutscenes...

Where was the rise of fiction? (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691715)

Where was the rise of fiction in video games? We look at the previous generation with rose-tinted glasses by ignoring all the crap games and just looking at the gems.

Every generation complains about the same thing: too many sequels, not enough original properties. I mean, 5 years later we will be looking back and looking at this generation with longing.

Re:Where was the rise of fiction? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691799)

We look at the previous generation with rose-tinted glasses

Seriously. Ms Pac Man? Donkey Kong Junior? Asteroids Deluxe?! Race Drivin'? Quit rehashing the same old mythoses over and over again! We've already seen those worlds|universes, new PoVs or not.

Re:Where was the rise of fiction? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691929)

Where was the rise of fiction in video games?

Colossal Cave. had its limitations, but it begat Zork, which begat a bunch of really good offshoots from those. All story and puzzle solving, no graphics at all.

A ton of others were based on the pioneering work of those.

The myth of the story. (5, Funny)

senorpoco (1396603) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691723)

Games today have abandoned story and character development for fancy graphics. Gone are the rich and nuanced tapestries of MarioKart and Gradius. The complex character development of super punchout and the beautifully crafted narrative of Earthworm Jim.

Re:The myth of the story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691855)

Quit complaining! At least we haven't lost the sophisticated graphics technology of Zork.

Re:The myth of the story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691955)

You jest, but also gone are the gameplay of:

      Dungeon Master
      Baldur's Gate I/II
      etc

Well, there are a few indie studitos trying to keep something alive, so I guess "gone" isn't quite right. But "gone from AA studios", better to say. And even among indie games, many aren't very good at all. There are a few exceptional ones that are wonderful.

Re:The myth of the story. (2, Insightful)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691987)

While I *do* get the joke, (no whooshes please, it's lame.) This is a false comparison.

You are compairing "superfiscial plot with sparkly graphics: then" with "superfiscial plot and sparkly graphics:now".

You should compare "text mode story adventure game" against "pac man", and "massively open ended plot games, like daggerfall (mid 90s, has different, but related endings)" against "doom and duke nukem".

As the article points out, there aren't many of the "story focused" games out there. He pines for "text adventure" narrative depth, but with "wow, the boobies jiggle when she walks!" Hyper-realistic art assets of the gutless shooters and flat fantasy titles.

He is lamenting that you don't see both together.

Re:The myth of the story. (2)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692043)

Games today have abandoned story and character development for fancy graphics. Gone are the rich and nuanced tapestries of MarioKart and Gradius. The complex character development of super punchout and the beautifully crafted narrative of Earthworm Jim.

I strongly disagree. Games like Angry Birds with it's Romeo and Juliet story, without the Juliet, explore very deep themes like how to I angle this shot to take out the pig in the back. The birds and pigs are obviously the Capulets and Montague fighting a feud that can only end in tragedy, and a lot of bruised pigs.

Re:The myth of the story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692113)

Earthworm Jim wasn't exactly Crime And Punishment, but it was more than just gameplay and graphics.

This is cyclical.. (4, Insightful)

ArcadeNut (85398) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691791)

Happens to every platform of gaming. Arcade Games, Consoles, PC's, etc...

In the early days of Arcade Games, every game was unique (Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Robotron). As games stood out as top money makers, they started emulating them. Why risk a new idea, when an existing one is close to a sure thing? The longer the platform is around the less unique the games will become. Go into any modern Arcade (that is still open), and you're going to find that 90% of the games fall into Drivers, Fighters, Shooters. With maybe a couple games outside of that.

Arcade genres (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691925)

Go into any modern Arcade (that is still open), and you're going to find that 90% of the games fall into Drivers, Fighters, Shooters.

I see redemption games taking over. But driving, light gun shooting, and dancing are popular because they use input devices that a lot of people don't have, and fighting is popular because of the dynamics of in-person competition that anonymous online multiplayer can't match.

I can't agree, Victor (4, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691853)

"It's been a poor, poor five years for fiction in the video game industry...."

Nonsense, Victor. Gaming magazine reviews have raised High Fantasy to an unprecedented new art form, and DRM has been more gruesome and compelling than the best Horror gaming.

This has been perpetually argued since 3d (2)

sick_uf_u (515976) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691883)

Well, great graphics came; the worlds that came with these graphics are not up to the level of the graphics.

It doesn't make any sense that game stories should suddenly get more complicated because graphics got better.
It used to be that games with the best/most original gameplay and story would be the gems that stood out in review and among peers. Now that graphics came into its own as a factor of quality, there are other games that stand out without necessarily having the best gameplay. Which means you might have to look for games you want to play instead of just taking the highest-rated games. But they're there.

Besides that, it's yet another thing in life that seems to have gotten worse since the better years which by no coincidence always happen to be the same time for everyone -when we were young and had all the time in the world to play every game exhaustively and repetitively to a mastery of every move, path, and secret.
We're gettin' old. Cure that and you'll cure Video-Games-are-Getting-Worse Syndrome.

Re:This has been perpetually argued since 3d (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692065)

which by no coincidence always happen to be the same time for everyone

Disagree. The golden era of PC gaming was the mid 80's to mid/late 90's. Before that, the hardware wasn't there, although some text-only games like Zork were great. But the richness of gaming worlds reached its peak in the 80's and 90's. After that, game play got dumbed down in the search for bigger and bigger audiences. Graphics got better, and the games got worse. Now, you have handholdy shit like Skyrim trying to pass for an RPG.

The 80's and 90's were definitely not "all the time in the world to play" age for many of us. They were "grinding away at work and unwinding to some gaming in the evening" age.

Re:This has been perpetually argued since 3d (1)

sick_uf_u (515976) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692337)

which by no coincidence always happen to be the same time for everyone

Disagree. The golden era of PC gaming was the mid 80's to mid/late 90's. Before that, the hardware wasn't there, although some text-only games like Zork were great. But the richness of gaming worlds reached its peak in the 80's and 90's. After that, game play got dumbed down in the search for bigger and bigger audiences. Graphics got better, and the games got worse. Now, you have handholdy shit like Skyrim trying to pass for an RPG.

The 80's and 90's were definitely not "all the time in the world to play" age for many of us. They were "grinding away at work and unwinding to some gaming in the evening" age.

If you make as much time to play games as a child would, the concept still applies. That would explain why your golden era of gaming is nearly 2 decades, which is like 4 video game eras.
And Skyrim doesn't have a rich gaming world because its gameplay is too "handholdy" for you? O...k... thoughts starting to seem a little crossed there.

Re:This has been perpetually argued since 3d (1)

sick_uf_u (515976) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692427)

As well, I actually already covered that games in that era won acclaim more for their story and world. Now that graphics is also a factor, you can't just judge gaming as a whole by looking at which games are winning the most acclaim and then only considering story and world and condemning it. Now that graphics is a factor, if you want to find games that have good story and world *look* for those games, but they won't dominate the top-rated lists anymore because graphics is now also a serious factor.
Having to actually look doesn't mean good games are no longer being created, you babies (and by "you babies" I mean the whole complaining world).

Non-fiction Art Games (4, Informative)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691891)

Three games that blew me away that are non-fiction and novel are Flower, Limbo and Journey. All three are more imagination, dream and a reflection of life.

Re:Non-fiction Art Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692239)

Limbo was non-fiction?

That's the scariest thing I've heard all day, and I've heard some pretty scary stuff lately.

Re:Non-fiction Art Games (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692713)

Haven't played Journey yet, but the other two are awesome!

You may want to also check out:

Nihilumbra (blend between Limbo and Portal 2)
Portal 2
Sleep is Death
The Binding of Isaac

Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691895)

I was kind of thinking that we have the best video writing ever. Star Wars The Old Republic has some of the best writing I have seen in a video game. All the Dragon Age games are good. The Assasin's Creed games are also very good. There is no reason why a sequal ruling the market is a bad thing. Why would he assume that a sequal doesn't have good writing?

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692385)

All the dragon age games?

I'm of the opinion that it took a nose dive after awakening.

I probably sound like I have ADD... but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691903)

Who cares about fiction in games, if I wanted to watch a movie or read a book, I would watch a movie or read a book.
I just want to blow things up or shoot imaginary people or fly planes or drive race cars or plan and manage beautiful cities without having to pay attention to a plot.
Oh and make it look and run great. More time/money needs to go into graphics and game optimization not some boring plot that 99% of the time gets skipped over in favor of getting back into action.

Re:I probably sound like I have ADD... but (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692115)

Because a good story can make the game a lot better, it can't make a crap game good, but it can turn a solid game into a legendary game.

Look at Final Fantasy VII, the storyline is what really made it all fit together.

Some games need no storyline to make it fun, for example, no one really questions why blocks are falling from the Soviet skies in Tetris, they just are. Same with Team Fortress 2. On the other hand, take away the story from most RPGs and adventure games and you are just some guy running around the world. Its a lot better to feel like you've just saved the world than it is that you just mowed down a bunch of enemies.

Re:I probably sound like I have ADD... but (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692163)

Its a lot better to feel like you've just saved the world than it is that you just mowed down a bunch of enemies.

Not when you had to sit through fifteen hours of tedious, poorly-written, poorly-acted cut scenes to get to the ten minutes of actual gameplay along the way.

Re:I probably sound like I have ADD... but (2)

Calydor (739835) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692559)

That's ... kinda the point. That there needs to be a BETTER story TOGETHER with the good graphics.

Re:I probably sound like I have ADD... but (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692137)

A video game that's trying to cram bad fiction down your throat is worse than a movie or book, because there's no editor saying that it needs to be cut for time or size constraints. The horrible authors are free to do whatever they like, and they do.

Is it any wonder? (5, Interesting)

bearded_yak (457170) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691911)

I'm not surprised by the state of the industry. The decline began a few years ago when a new generation of players chose war/battle/FPS games over First Person Action games (What's FPA? Think Myst, kids. If you don't know what that is, you know where to look).

In my opinion, war-like gaming appeals to a base survival and agression instinct and can indeed be involving, but eventually becomes numbing and the player is unsatisfied until another game provides a stronger instinctual reaction, which becomes more and more difficult to achieve. As this happens, interest falls off. I've seen it happen to people time and time again.

Storyline-based gaming based primarily on a world and interactions within that world activates more of the creative portion of the mind, digging out the player's imagination from under the clutter that schooling and obsessive parenting buried it under. The abilities of the imagination are endless and a properly planned First Person Action game uses as much of the player's imagination as it does game mechanics, ensuring that the user is partially responsible for creating their own experience.

For the most part, I think the folks at Frictional Games [frictionalgames.com] might understand how to use the best of both better than anybody. While their games may not appeal to today's most vehement FPS gamers, once those same people reach an insurmountable numbness with their own genre, those who try the kind of product Frictional puts out could find some comfort, as Frictional builds on a mix of both survival instinct and imagination.

Re:Is it any wonder? (1)

bearded_yak (457170) | about a year and a half ago | (#40691953)

Actually, I was meaning to say First Person ADVENTURE not Action... sorry for the slip there...

Re:Is it any wonder? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692399)

Meanwhile, the original Counter-Strike (released in 1999) is still the 4th most played game on Steam nowadays. So much for interest falling off.

does this not count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691923)

Mass Effect has been a fantastic example of a solid fiction storyline game.

Re:does this not count? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692189)

Mass Effect, with its repetitive, unskippable cut-scenes, is the most boring game I've played in years. It's a bad ScyFy B-movie with a few interactive sections which try to pretend that you're not playing on rails (yes, you will go here and you will do something fscking stupid that you as a player would never choose to do, because that's THE STORY, you see).

**Yawn** (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40691943)

could anything matter less?

I just want some more of (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692007)

Half-Life dammit.

Just like movies. (2)

nebular (76369) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692097)

Right now the cost of game development makes it hard to play to a smaller market. The major distributors and studios are loath to invest in something that won't appeal to the largest market possible. Indie games are starting to get some traction but it's a long way off. The games industry is the same boat the movie industry was in the 50s. The big studios control and squeeze every last dime out of the product, and they don't take chances on anything.

What we need are a few star developers to step in and push for a larger piece of the pie and then spread that around to indie stuff. Just like the bigwigs in hollywood do right now. Those multi-million dollar pay-cheques the stars get don't all go into their pockets, a lot goes to niche projects

Re:Just like movies. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692413)

What we need are a few star developers to step in and push for a larger piece of the pie and then spread that around to indie stuff.

I don't know if that will work. The major asset the game companies have isn't their 'star' developers (who is a star developer now?), it's their libraries. All of the major game companies have a good set of 3D game libraries that lets lesser programmers create a game, that a non-programmer designs. So if one programmer decides to become John Romero, he will probably end up like John Romero.

Wing Commander (1)

DMJC (682799) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692101)

Bring Back Wing Commander, Story, plot, character development, Drama, and Death, all on the highest resolution screen at the time... I miss that series more than any other. I'm fedup with half assed attempts at games. Bring Back the Confederation's war against the Kilrathi, the great space Crusade :(

Hear, hear! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40692209)

Meanwhile, we should teach the producers of Triple-A titles the error of their ways - that big-budget entertainment shouldn't rely on mass-market appeal just to recoup their staggering costs.

Or we can accept that there are plenty of games out there which cater to an ever-expanding variety of niches and you're ungrateful.

Case in point: Skyrim (1)

OldSport (2677879) | about a year and a half ago | (#40692543)

Unbearably repetitive dragons that are too easy to beat interspersed with mundane quest after mundane quest to get some stupid artifact. The graphics are amazing but the gameplay is just so damn conventional and predictable it ruins the experience.
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