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Games That Advanced the Art of Storytelling

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the moving-on-up dept.


monikersi writes "In October 2006, the editors of Gamasutra asked its readership of game industry professionals to chime in and vote for which game brought storytelling forward in the biggest way, from any genre (text adventure through action title to RPG or sim and beyond) — there are plenty of picks, and some surprising winners." From the article: "Forcing the user to build the story piecemeal through personal logs and snippets of information throughout the game created a varied experience for each user. This drove the player to fill the holes in the story with the next log and their own assumptions and imagination. I remember playing System Shock 2 years after playing it for the first time and had a markedly different reaction due to changes in my own perspective. Phenomenal."

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First PLUGH (1, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709491)


Re:First PLUGH (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711383)

A hollow voice says, "Cretin!"

Re:First PLUGH (1)

menkhaura (103150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711987)

Nah, that would be if you said MCSE. XYZZY makes computers show pr0n.

Pacman (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709493)

Seriously, the bittersweet poignancy of the little guy, always eating but never turning into a lettuce dodger rarely fails to bring a tear to the old eye!

Re:Pacman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16709821)

Hmmm, you can mod my reply off-topic, but it's just too funny to let go:

Composition of Pac-Man pie chart: chartvi.html/ []

Re:Pacman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16709885)

> Hmmm, you can mod my reply off-topic, but it's just too funny to let go:
> Composition of Pac-Man pie chart:
> [] chartvi.html/

-1, Bad link.

Re:Pacman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16709961)


You can try to laugh at this one instead. The hopes of this post seeing the light of day, are, well, um, hmmmmmmmmmmmm. chartvi.html []

Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey should be in there.. (1)

Crasty (1019258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709537)

It was the first game to take a platformer and convince you to actually care what happens in the game. I .. I just couldn't let that little guy become meat.. could I?

While I certainly agree with Deus Ex... (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709557)

...I find it a little insulting that they only list Planescape: Torment as a "runner up", while Final Fantasy VII is in the top 3. Torment is easily the best presented story in any game past or present, while Final Fantasy VII did nothing to advance storytelling in the medium in any meaningful way.

Re:While I certainly agree with Deus Ex... (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710881)

FFVII was the first Final Fantasy game (and maybe first Japanese RPG, I'm not 100% certain) with an unreliable narrator. This is far more significant than the character development "innovation" (it certainly wasn't the first game to kill a major PC), and the reason why FFVII has had such lasting appeal. What's more, the story was not spoonfed, it's entirely possible to complete the game without seeing information critical for understanding the story. This makes the game confusing enough that the finer points of the story are debated even today, but it is well constructed enough that you can fit everything together to make a convincing and consistent explanation.

Re:While I certainly agree with Deus Ex... (1)

Mark J Tilford (186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711815)

What was the first? The earliest I can remember would be Planetfall.

Re:While I certainly agree with Deus Ex... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16716969)

It's been a while, but I don't know what part of the Planetfall narration could really be called unreliable, except for the joke if you look under the table in the cafeteria. Maybe some of the description of Blather and life aboard the spaceship qualifies, especially in the edition of the game with the builtin diary. Or I may have forgotten some other section. There are some notorious red herring puzzles in Planetfall, but that's different.

I guess my sense on this may be skewed, since 'unreliable narrator' always makes me think of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd... in which the narrator is not just unreliable, but deliberately concealing information from the reader.

FWIW, Infidel has a very biased and unsympathetic narrator.

Oh, and Sorcerer has that dream sequence in the beginning.

Final Fantasy? Hahahahahahahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16714017)

Obviously you and I didn't play the same game. I've played more than my fair share of RPGs, console & pc, including every main Final Fantasy outside 3 & 11, and am currently playing 12 right now. Final Fantasy is a reason for the RPG cliche list that many people see. I'm sorry, but no Final Fantasy has ever helped evolve the story. And I can't believe people who say they play it for the intricate story. Other games have had better developed stories. The Ultima's (primarily 6+, in which, during 7.5, a major character dies, years before 7 ever came out), Betrayal at Krondor, Fallout, Planescape, just to name a few. How any of them could lose out to Final Fantasy is a disgrace. Heck, even Chrono Trigger makes any Final Fantasy look childish.

Let's recap the story lines of a few of the Final Fantasy's.

1) Princess kidnapped. 4 Fiends which must be destroyed because they are causing damage to the elements. And a being named Chaos who is in the past causing it all. That's it. Anyone who attempts to go into a Wikipedia style entry on the plot should stop right now, and realize a few lines of text at the beginning of the game don't make a story. Heck, I could state the movie Story of Ricky has a plot because the prologue talks about corporations taking over prisons, but I'd just be fooling myself. Anyone who's ever watched it realizes they don't watch it for the plot.

2) An army invades and you join a resistance. You fight the resistance until the last boss, and you win the game.

4) This time, you start out with the empire before you decide to turn traitor. They're after crystals. You then decide to repent your sins and fight against the empire, learning that it's really being controlled by a guy from the moon.

5) A metorite falls to earth, and you're forced into a resistance against the X-Death. Once again, he's after the crystals.

6) Take a guess. Yes, once again, you join a resistance against an empire. They're doing experiments on espers and stealing their power. Kefka betrays the emperor, and changes the world. Keep resisting until you win.

7) This time, we get a unique story. You join a resistance against not an empire, but a corporation! Sephiroth betrays the corporation and decides to destroy the world. Resist against Sephiroth! Sure, you can read the wikipedia article on Final Fantasy 7, but you're going to be reading a story once again by fanboys who includes every little miscillaneous detail short of the hair colour of people and figures someway it can enhance the actual story.

I can go on about the rest of the games, but I think you should see the point. I've always joked that you can play any Japanese RPG with very little knowledge of Japanese. Just know the basic elements from the RPG cliche list, and 99% of the games will make sense. That's no different with Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy didn't sell because of it's intricate and wonderful stories (which don't actually exist). And obviously it didn't sell for the wonderful gameplay in which you get an amazing choice of tactical stratagies of either attacking, using an item, using magic, or summons/etc, which basically are just using magic, but with bigger, better, and longer animations.

It's a game with poor gameplay, a poor story, but ever since 7, it sold well. Why? Because Sony decided to put a ton of money in advertising the game, and advertized smartly by showing video's of the game, which, I will admit. Final Fantasy did help increase the FMV cutscenes between dungeon crawls. But it's the advertising. That's why games which are much better games in gameplay and story, and other factors, are barely known, while many people since the 1997 Final Fantasy advertising blitz, think it's the second coming.

Re:While I certainly agree with Deus Ex... (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711897)

Not only did FF VII do nothing to advance storytelling in gaming, it set back the genre at the same time. It shifted the emphasis from imagination and open ended interpretation to tunnel visioned fmv popcorn flicks. One of the appeals of RPGs to many early players was that the story could be interepreted as they wanted. Most present RPG's play out like a movie and try to hard to explain things that should be left to the imagination. I think there's a place for both types but, unforutnately the old skool RPG is all but dead. I have to play games such as Oblivion to get my fix these days.

A short list... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16709563)

I can only think of 3 that fit the bill:
Planescape: Torment
The Longest Journey

If you haven't played any of those, you are part of the problem.

Re:A short list... (1)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710377)

Well, I've played bits of The Longest Journey, but couldn't quite reconcile being in a moving, epic story with McGyvering objects out of rubber ducks, band aids, corkscrews, spit, hairballs, duct tape and a puppy... I have no mind for that. And I began to dread those endless conversations! You ended up going through every possible branch of them anyway instead of pursuing whatever it was that interested you. In short, it turned the characters into information terminals rather than people. A shame, because the overall atmosphere was pretty good. For once a game that managed to be serious (although it certainly didn't seem very original or deep) without simply overwhelming you with grit and cynicism.

Re:A short list... (2, Insightful)

Ignignot (782335) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710435)

Arcanum was awesome. You could play as an imbecile or an evil character and the game would be very very different.

Indigo Prophecy? Load of arse more like. (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709597)

Farenheit/IP was touted as being a step forward but actual fact it was cobblers. Your actual actions had very little effect, the storyline was utterly linear, and characters appeared from nowhere. Oh, and the entire thing turned into the Matrix halfway through.

As for Facade, I have to confess I've never been so moved by a story as when Trip finally opened the door to his flat, my character said 'Hello Trip, you colossal faggot' and he silently slammed the door in my face. Sheer artistry. I'd say this list is very much a mixed bag - half of these seem to be just be the best of their genre, rather than games that actually expanded their genre.

Re:Indigo Prophecy? Load of arse more like. (1)

Datasage (214357) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710313)

Farenheit/IP was more experimental than most adventure games. Instead of giving you just cut scenes to sit there and watch, it tried to make the interactive. I don't think it was very successful, but at least they tried.

Re:Indigo Prophecy? Load of arse more like. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16711521)

Fahrenheit/IP did a lot of interesting things, but as far as I could see, the gameplay didn't offer anything that fans of text-based adventures haven't had for two decades - if you don't count the button mashing. The first thing it reminded me of was an old game called "Deja Vu" that I used to play on my Amiga. Good times.

It seems like the designers behing Fahrenheit had just caught on to the magic of being able to control the character in a story. The problem - and the reason a lot of seasoned gamers are calling BS on their game - is that they're arrogant enough to pretend that they somehow invented interactive storytelling, when it's almost as old as computing itself. But I'm confident they'll catch up to the rest of us as they go, just like all good newbs do.

Come on. (2, Insightful)

Who235 (959706) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709601)

All those games are so new.

What about Zork [] ?

And what about all the Sierra games from the 80's? (King's Quest, Space Quest,

Re:Come on. (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709929)

And what about all the Sierra games from the 80's? (King's Quest, Space Quest,

Agreed. Although I'm not a fan of King's Quest 1-4, I did love Kings Quest 5, 6, and 7.

Surprisingly, how could they leave off Leisure Suite Larry?

Re:Come on. (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710211)

Quest For Glory, Day of the Tentacle, and Police Quest as well. Or even earlier- The Black Cauldron. Played that on my Tandy 1000.

Re:Come on. (1)

ereshiere (945922) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710849)

Ha, I played Tentacle and Police Quest (I & II) on two Tandy 1000s. The joys of playing games via floppy... especially with that Police Quest II copy protection. Ouch.

Re:Come on. (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710261)

I also left off Oregon Trail, Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, Loom. 'Everybody' from my generation seems to remember playing Oregon trail on Apple ]['s at school- and Indiana Jones was pretty spectacular for its time. There were plenty of great games at the dawn of personal computing- though there were quite a lot more in the very early 90's.

Re:Come on. (1)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711517)

Surprisingly, how could they leave off Leisure Suite Larry?

Well, I know there's middle age spread and all, but I doubt he's turned into a three-piece couch set. /sorry

Re:Come on. (1)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710263)

Heh. I RTFA only to find out if they'd mention Zork, as everyone else always does, or a text adventure that actually has a developed story - such as A Mind Forever Voyaging! Whew.

What about Zork, then? It's fun, even atmospheric - but the prose is only so-so, and there isn't much of a story, is there? It's more of an intricate, geeky puzzlebox than an interactive fiction, and overshadowed (in that respect) by more or less every other text adventure Infocom ever released. A Mind Forever Voyaging is no random pick.

Zork does of course have immense historical significance, but if you want to go with the game that started it all, there's always Colossal Cave/ADVENT...

Re:Come on. (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712177)

They mentioned A Mind Forever Voyaging, a game with a story about 3 orders of magnitude greater than Zork-anything. Sorry, but it's true... the commentary was true as well, even the INTRO to the game almost put me in tears, but the ending was so amazing that it was the only thing I could think about for weeks. A Mind Forever Voyaging is probably the greatest work in interactive fiction. (Trinity had almost the same effect on me, as well.)

But hey, the list actually mentioned Marathon although I think it should have been numbered. I mean, hell, EVERY list has Final Fantasy XII in it, let's take a break once in a lifetime and get some original games on the list.

Re:Come on. (1)

Placebo Messiah (895157) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713133)

holycrap that was exactly what I was gonna post I'm old :(

Final Fantasy IV (2) didn't make the list?!? (1)

the Gray Mouser (1013773) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709621)

For pure storytelling, I still think that was the best in breed for the Final Fantasy's up to and including X-2. X was close though, that was another good story.

Planescape: Torment was great, one of the first games to not have obvious "right" and "wrong" dialogue choices.

Baldur's Gate 2 was another solid choice.

I would have put Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in their as well, but I suppose they went with Jade Empire instead. Now, if only LA had wanted to actually build a game instead of just market for their movies, they could have had Star Wars Galaxies set during the Old Republic era where lots of jedi made some sense...

Re:Final Fantasy IV (2) didn't make the list?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16710609)

It's the eternal dilemma, are we looking at telling the player a story, or are we looking at the player building the story themselves? Final Fantasy games are very good at telling the player a story, whether they wanted that story or not. I think X2 was the first Final Fantasy game that gave the player any serious choice at all in the game's progression (whether to work with the churchy thingy or not) and in the end the plotlines merge regardless of your choice. A lot of creative people who want to create a story themselves resent the story-on-rails approach that Final Fantasy takes.

The flip side is, if you're going to abandon linearity and let the player create the story themselves, you just have to accept that some players just aren't going to be good story builders, and they aren't going to have fun. They're going to wander around endlessly wondering why they haven't gotten the next cutscene and the plot hasn't advanced, looking for that NPC that's supposed to be telling them what to do next.

I was fairly content with this. (2, Insightful)

nathan s (719490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709793)

I do think Baldur's Gate and Planescape could have been higher, but I have consistently told my friends that the Half Life and Deus Ex games felt like reading a great novel or watching a good movie as much as they did playing games. Those are the only two games I find myself going back to repeatedly, apart from Civilization. Sheer, utter brilliance. I only wish there were more games like those two.

Re:I was fairly content with this. (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712199)

The list did have games like that, though. Marathon and System Shock II, specifically. A little more primitive than Deux Ex's nice Unreal-based graphics, but story-wise they're great.

The Thief Series (1)

cliveholloway (132299) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709801)

I can't believe they omitted that. The original scared the shit out of me first time through.

Re:The Thief Series (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709975)

Awesome series. Great gameplay, but I don't know about advancing the art of storytelling.

Mind you, I'd easily rank all 3 somewhere in my top-20, desert-island list of the best games of all time... but the storytelling part of them wasn't exactly revolutionary. Still images with a voiceover before each mission, and some text to read. Meh.

Maybe the best ending to a game trilogy ever, though. Damn satisfying.

Re:The Thief Series (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16709987)

Thief III is freakier. Try playing the Cradle level with the lights out and a good pair of headphones, then force yourself to play in first person mode the whole way through.

Re:The Thief Series (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16711767)

Fuck yeah.

The Thief trilogy is the only video game I have ever played with a plot so awesome it gave me goosebumps.

Kickass gameplay, too.

Marathon (2, Insightful)

telbij (465356) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709829)

I gotta give this award to Bungie for the Marathon series. It didn't feature fancy cut scenes or voiceovers, but in the Doom era of FPS, having a plot was unheard of. The story was told through a series of terminals where you would communicate with one of several AIs or other people. The plot was central to the gameplay, and was very twisted, so your enemies and friends changed frequently. The level design was also quite a bit more varied and inspired by the story, then say, Doom where the levels are basically just designed around gameplay.

Although modern FPS stories are more cinematic, Marathon did more with less.

Re:Marathon (1)

scott_karana (841914) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712503)

You didn't notice the Honorable Mention for Marathon, did you.

Zelda 2?? (1)

Jormundgard (260749) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709831)

I liked Zelda 2 a lot more than most people did, and still enjoy it today. But these people are nuts if they think it motivated storytelling.

Re:Zelda 2?? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710245)

In terms of 1980s gaming, it actually may have. Remember, this is back when "fight some monsters to kill a bad guy!" was considered a plot line. Zelda 2 had sub-plots, side quests, and NPCs. Limited, yes, but still a new idea.

I'd have to look at it relative to other games such as FF, release dates and such, to really justify it though.

Re:Zelda 2?? (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711599)

Zelda 2 and Ultima 5 were released in the US the same year. Ultima 4 predates all Zelda games. Am I really suposed to believe there is something innovative about Zelda's story telling? The total omission of Adventure/Colossal Cave (for the genre) or Zork (for the advanced parser) is pretty unbelievable, too.

Pretty good list (1)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709855)

I would have put FF-VII above Half Life, but otherwise a pretty good list. One of the commenters nailed it right on the head for FF-VII: When a particular series of tones on a dialed-in phone number immediately cause me to think of a video game half a decade after I last picked it up, that's a helluvva good story.

Re:Pretty good list (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710197)

While FF7 may have had a good story, it was told horribly. It was almost impossible to follow, with large parts of the game not making any sense. I think the writer of the final draft was drunk when they put pen to paper.

Re:Pretty good list (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710493)

FF VII had a terrible translation. Most wrote off the story towards the end as "just being japanese". But I thought it made sense after reading some translations and the writtin addendums square released.

List is fine. (1)

deathsquirrel (956752) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709985)

...but the placement of some of those games is just nuts. Planescape should be much, much higher. It's the best storytelling in an RPG to date.

Panzer Dragoon Saga (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16710151)

Panzer Dragoon Saga.

It had some very interesting character interactions and development, and the ending totally floored me the first time.

Syberia (1)

Steve Fuller (727327) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710169)

Syberia [] and Syberia II should be on that list. A truly moving story.

Chrono Trigger!!! (1)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710235)

I can't believe that Chrono Trigger didn't make this list at all. Like Final Fantasy 7, I found myself incredibly endeared to the game's characters. Interspersing the game's locales throughout the past, present, and future meant your actions in one time could drastically affect the world in later times. You felt like your small group of characters were shaping the history of an entire world.

One of the very best selling SNES games, and a blurring of the line between linear and non-linear storytelling.

Re:Chrono Trigger!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16710469)

I agree. When I read the first quote used to justify Final Fantasy VII,
Final Fantasy VII is the first game I can remember that had a main character die as part of the unavoidable main story path... Wonderful, simple storyline that manages to develop [the characters] to such a degree that you are truly able to describe individual and subtle nuances of their personalities. Side-quests and exploration leading to advances in characters' backstory, highly developed emotional attachment through narrative alone and the ability to really immerse a player deeply in every aspect of the world were features that I really hadn't seen before.
I had to think that the guy just hadn't played Chrono Trigger. It had all the same things, but came two years before Final Fantasy VII. Moreover, Chrono Trigger gave the player a degree of choice in how the story was completed, with a dozen endings possible.

Re:Chrono Trigger!!! (1)

maeltor (679257) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711119)

I completely agree. At the very LEAST it should have an honorable mention. I still play that game constantly on my SNES. That and EARTHBOUND!!!!! If either of those games broke or my SNES broke I'd buy new copies or a new system on EBAY that night. My original SNES is still going strong.

Metroid Prime (1)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710363)

I really appreciated the way the backstory was presented in Metroid Prime, scanning Space Pirate logs and looking at recent environmental damage to see what happened. All completely and safely ignorable, but everything you scan adds a little touch of detail to the world, and it really makes you appreciate the deliberation put into its development.

Re:Metroid Prime (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711107)

It actually made me ignore all that effort. Spreading a story by placing a ton of post-its all over the levels that connect in no way whatsoever to the actually gameplay is probally the worst way to tell a story. Scanning logs and reading email is very fine to add detail to the story, but as the only element to tell the story I found it absolutly aweful. Having enemies that always respawn in the same spots was another thing that ruined any immersion into that little bit of story that there was.

Re:Metroid Prime (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712251)

Yes, but it's nothing that Marathon hadn't already done almost a decade before, and Marathon *is* on the list. Personally, I thought Metroid Prime was kind of lame, but part of that was probably the strange controls that I never could get used to.

Kanon (1)

LainTouko (926420) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710367)

Any such list without Kanon on it isn't worth the...platterspace it's written on.

Another World (1)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710393)

Another World, aka Out of This World [] really deserves to be on the list.

You're dropped onto an alien planet. There's absolutely no dialog (except that between aliens which is incomprehensible), but the emotional content is huge.

There's also an updated version that runs fine under XP if you want to experience it for the first time.

Re:Another World (1)

dolson (634094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16715893)

Ma tu va!

(At least that's the dialog I heard in the second level when the big guy smacks you on the shoulder or whatever those blocky characters are doing...) Ah, the good ol' SNES.

Sony??? (1)

thryllkill (52874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710397)

I hate them as much as the next guy. But what of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus?

#2 (1)

suparjerk (784861) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710611)

Half-Life gets my vote.

I dunno about HL1 (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710679)

But HL2 was pretty decent. Yes, it was an FPS, but as far as a storyline in FPS's go it did a pretty good job of mixing plot with action.

Re:I dunno about HL1 (1)

suparjerk (784861) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713755)

HL2 was a spectacular single player FPS experience, no doubt. And in comparison with most other shooters that have ever been made, HL2 stands far above them all regarding storyline. I feel that HL1 did a better job with the story, though. There was just more awe and mystery and speculation surrounding the entire ordeal and all the events that were going on within the game. My gripe with HL2 is that certain parts of the game just felt like they went on too long without being interesting or showing the player anything new. In particular, I thought the entire "revolution" part of the game, including the entire part in the citadel, just wasn't very interesting.

Are you saying "I dunno about HL1" because you actually don't know about it (haven't played it?), or are you just politely disagreeing?

I vote for.... (1)

rubberbando (784342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710615)

Earthbound for the SNES

The Golden Sun Series for the GBA

The Ninja Gaiden Series for the NES

Both Legend of Zelda games for the N64.

Beneath a Steel Sky for the PC/Amiga

Re:I vote for.... (1)

SoapDish (971052) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711057)

I love Earthbound with a passion, but it wasn't really revolutionary. It had a great story, very entertaining elements, and pop-culture references, but the plot was linear (not a bad thing, just already done) and apparently the whole story in modern times thing was already done.

Still in my top 5 RPG list, though.

Re:I vote for.... (1)

schweini (607711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711265)

Beneath a Steel Sky was excellent - and is available as freeware and runs perfectly under ScummVM [] .

Half-Life (1)

hodagacz (948570) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710697)

Half-Life 1 and Deus Ex would be my two top choices. I still have Half-Life installed on all my machines just cause I love that story. I am also really fond of Max Payne's story, the nightmare and drug OD sequences are awesome.

Ultima (1)

Number14 (168707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710723)

Ultima IV, for taking that step away from "hack 'n' slash". It wasn't the first, but it was important. Ultima V had the same virtue they gave Zelda 2- a living world, where people had schedules and interacted. They came out the same year, though, so I'm not inclined to take props away from Zelda. :)

It's interesting. (1)

Jurrasic (940901) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710767)

So many of those games especially the so-called 'honorable mentions' are among my all time favourites. I do have a beef with some of the listings however. STARCRAFT the RTS that everyone skips the cutscenes on and the inferior-story-but-first-3D-FF-game FF7 get in the top 5 but Xenogears, possibly the richest and most intricate storyline ever developed for the limited genre that is the console RPG only gets an HR? That's just wrong. Xenogears is the game that completely turned around my opinion of the "level and follow this narrow path like a pig in the slaughterhouse chute" console RPG to realize just how compelling a story could be told, if the writers dare to tell it. The writers of Xenogears told an epic and moving (and controversial) tale of the origins of man and the nature of God that rivalled any DaVinci Code for it's thought-provoking nature, and frankly belongs in a strong #2 position behind Deus Ex, which i agree firmly should be #1. Another game that deserved at least an HR was Neuromancer for it's novel method of interaction using first BBS-style forums and e-mail systems of deepening sophistication until your neural link was upgraded enough for you to enter 'cyberspace' itself and interact in a VR environment with artificial intelligences. Considering it came out on 8-bit C-64 and Atari machines with their inherent limitations made the game even more amazing.

Re:It's interesting. (1)

fishmasta (827305) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712171)

Agreed. Xenogears is by far the most detailed and rich RPG I have ever played. I couldn't get into Xenosaga though, they had way too many cutscenes in the beginning.

Ok list marred by obvious biased (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710813)

I'll start from the top and work down. It's true that Deus Ex deserves at least one of the top five, and Half life deserves points also, but Final Fantasy 7? IV and VI did more with less, FFVII was a turning point for long time fans as it seemed that Square started pushing graphics over story (a move that is finally being reversed). Just because a game is graphically impressive didn't make the story telling better, it just made it easier to get away with less. I feel FFVII is one of the Final fantasy that gets over rated by graphics, and this is a sign of it. It was a good game, yet there are other games in the series that did more for story telling, and other games on the list that did more for the art. How about the Tales series that had completely fleshed out characters since the SNES oh right... they don't count because they only recently came to America?

Grim Fandango itself is worthy of being mentioned, but what about interactive fiction in general, we have a couple on the list, but there's a lot missing, Monkey's island (showing us story telling doesn't have to be dry), the Quest series including Quest for Glory (you don't need to tell only one story) Adventure, Zork, there's so many Interactive fiction that I wonder why Sims is mentioned when there's no story (if you want to make up a story, any game is good for that) and IF as a whole is pretty much ignored, though putting AMFV (a mind forever voyaging) on the list is good, I don't think it's the top of the IF list, maybe Bureaucracy or Hitchhikers guide

From the sound of it he also didn't play System shock (my personal favorite) and only played 2. 2 was a good game, System shock was an exceptional game in every way at a time when people were wrapped up in Doom. But at least it got a mention, though I believe it should be in the top 5. Shodan = fear.

On the other hand they didn't act like Halo created a First Person story, and for that I'm thankful. But how about Quake 2, the first FPS that actually had a real story. HL came later and was better, but Quake 2 deserves props.

I have to disagree with their list, and their style of getting a list, random voting doesn't seem to work, especially when it's supposed to be people in the industry, yet one guy's quote is from a college student, and many are Anonymous

Re:Ok list marred by obvious biased (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712287)

On the other hand they didn't act like Halo created a First Person story, and for that I'm thankful. But how about Quake 2, the first FPS that actually had a real story. HL came later and was better, but Quake 2 deserves props.

Uh, did you not see Marathon on the list? Marathon came out ages before Quake 2, and has a story better than Half-Life's. (At least in my opinion.)

I get the impression that you didn't read the list all the way through.

Re:Ok list marred by obvious biased (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713603)

Or I like almost everyone else never played Marathon. Sorry I didn't spend 2000 dollars back then to get a mac just to play that one game, I was too busy playing the shareware Apogee put out, that I just didn't have time to play that one game.

From the little I saw of the game I saw no story, but maybe. Then again the perfect game wouldn't be perfect if no one played it, and that's one of the flaws of Marathon.

Chronotrigger? (2, Insightful)

SoapDish (971052) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710819)

This quote from the FF7 page made me laugh:

Final Fantasy VII is the first game I can remember that had a main character die as part of the unavoidable main story path, and the first game that truly moved me to think of games as a medium for creative expression in terms of the storyline's divergence from a linear path.

Chronotrigger had both a main character unavoidably die, and a divergent story line. In fact when THE main character died, you could choose whether or not to resurrect him. There were many side quests, and about 16 different endings depending on what you did with them.

How does FF7 even get mentioned, when Chronotrigger doesn't?

Re:Chronotrigger? (1)

Mishotaki (957104) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711795)

Maybe because so many people wanted to revive aeris (with so many rumors of ways to do it) and still couldn't compared to someone that you can fairly easily "revive" in the storyline and that there isn't a cult following of people who wants to revive him?

Killing Aeris was unexpected and heartbreaking...
Killing Chrono and replacing with a doll later on made lots of people forget he even "died" in the story...

Re:Chronotrigger? (1)

Number14 (168707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712153)

Nor did Ultima VII, which also had a main character die.

Re:Chronotrigger? (2)

CelticWhisper (601755) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712435)

Either way, Phantasy Star 2 and 4 had heartrending character deaths years before FFVII did. Granted, the impact of the death in PS2 wasn't as great due to the limits of technology on the ability to play out a drama, but PS4 hit me a thousand times harder than FF7 ever did. It was actually a likable, strong, 3-dimensional character that died rather than the usual "magic-using anime princess sweetheart" that too many RPGs opt to include.

Before Aerith (1)

indigozeal (1000795) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713511)

Thank you for remembering the Phantasy Star series. I praise the PS4 death for the same reasons you do, but the PS2 one hit me more - for console RPG players, this *was* the first big midgame playable chara death. And it's not just a "oh, what a cute, adowwable character" sympathy ploy - it's a horribly unjust death from a moral and ethical standpoint, so it's a double whammy. Not that it doesn't pull on the heartstrings - from the dying character's plea that no "mistake" like them be ever born again to "***** calls ****'s name once again. But his plaintive cry merely echoes and reechoes" - this was a punch to the gut.

I actually remembering calling up Sega as a kid and asking if the death was avoidable. After hearing a reasoned "no" explanation from a game counselor, I decided to call right back up to get a second opinion. Unbeknownst to me, I got got the same guy - and got: "NO! You CAN'T SAVE *****! You CAN'T CHANGE IT! It's LIKE A MOVIE!!!"

I'll also remember the meetings of the Let ******* Live Society for Phantasmagoria - the desperate phantom search for alternate cut scenes in the CD data that had the character surviving.

Tex Murphey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16710943)

Under a Killing Moon and Pandora's Box (didn't get to play Overseer); two great games that deserve an honorable mention. It's December 2042 where you, as Tex Murphy, must stop the forces of evil before they destroy mankind and rob you of your next unemployment check, what could be better! Anyone remember that green entity ?

Re:Tex Murphey (1)

mjtaylor24601 (820998) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712945)

I was wondering if anyone was going to mention the Tex Murphy games. Truly a series that deserved a better fate.
I've got Overseer and I loved it. I don't think it was quite as good as the Pandora Directive but still an excellent game. My only complaint is that it was originally designed to be the first game in a trilogy but they never did make the other two games, so you kind of get left hanging at the end. Still I think those three are my favorite games of all time.

Some games missing... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711039)

As with all lists, there is always some stuff that is missing, while I am very happy that Dreamfall made it in there I missed. First "The Last Express", which I think was the first (almost) realtime-adventure/game out there. Secondly the classic "Another World", which had an amazing story told with almost no word of dialog: "Good moring professor. I have seen you have driven here in your Ferrari", thats all the dialog you ever get in the whole game. It also was the game that broke virtually every rule of the genre.

Speaking about Jade Empire, I don't really feel that Jade Empire perfected the good/evil stuff, in fact not even close, since it felt far to forced and out of character most of the time. Instead of real dialog choices, you where basically left with something very obvious evil, something very obvious good and some thing neutral, it felt very artificial and unrealistic.

Re:Some games missing... (1)

Bob Gelumph (715872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711819)

What about Battletech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception and Battletech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge? Then there was the first MechWarrior game. Three games in a series that were all completely different and all had fantastic story lines. I know that even for Slashdoot, I am setting myself up for being called a nerd, but I used to spend hours just reading the manuals for those games, trying to decide which Mechs were better for the current situation and memorising the starmaps and history...

Max Payne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16711175)

Sorry, but I think this list is bunk. Max Payne should be at the top, period!

I can't believe they myssed (1)

pinkfalcon (215531) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711231)

I think Myst was the first ever 'storyline' type game that completely sucked me in. No mention of it anywhere...

Star Control 2... (1)

Exsam (768226) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711421)

Anyone? Also, Fallout an honerable mention, bah, I should learn never to read these top x lists.

Re:Star Control 2... (1)

Bob Gelumph (715872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711785)

I was thinking StarCon2 as well.
Also, there might not be characters as such, but the story of empires rising and falling throughout the Civ series should have gotten a mention. Who here hasn't had to warm their hands over a toaster at 4am because they want to see their city with just another wonder in it?

Interesting but a bit light (1)

cr_nucleus (518205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711463)

I really like to see someone talking about storytelling in video games since I've thought for a long while that it's still horribly lacking. I'm a bit disappointed though, not only because it's one of those "X things that ...", but also because the author doesn't even take time to define what he's talking about, like it's a given. And i feel that sometimes, storytelling is mixed/confused with just story.

Story is about what you say, storytelling is about how you say it. What happens at the end of Fallout is pure story, but the way you live the events in half-life is storytelling. Giving a meaning to what the player do is obviously a good technique, even if it's only about getting your ass out of this crazy lab!

The author could have mentioned ICO, almost without standard narrative process, almost without music, and with only a few phrases pronounced in the whole game, and still, the simple fact of helping this girl, Yorda, and even feeling her through the pad while you hold her hand creates some kind of attachment (i know it did that to me :) that shows toward the end of the game. Man, THAT is something.

I'd say that good storytelling in video game is all about player's involvement in the game, making it want to see what's next, and not just navigate through gameplay mechanics. It's about emotions. Something that i often found lacking in (story based) games i've seen (but that is also true for a lot of movies).

I can only hope that more people will tackle the subject.

Metal Gear Solid (1)

towaz (445789) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711487)

Nothing even comes close to Metal gear solid 1 and 2, talk about an immersive film!

I remember buying a ps2 just for the MGS2 demo.

Xenogears only gets HM? (1)

shnozhb (978802) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711749)

I have never played Deus Ex, but I have played almost all of the rest of those games to completion...without a doubt Xenogears is the most thought-provoking, intricate, and truly awesome story of all time. I really wish they had given it more than just an honorable mention.

Re:Xenogears only gets HM? (1)

dl107227 (632747) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712323)

You need to play Deus Ex. It has got to be one of the best games I have ever played. I have replayed it about a dozen times because it has real replayability. In addition it has great cheats that makes playing it even more fun. When friends ask for game reccomendations it is always the first one I mention. Plus it is old enough that most computer systems can handle the computer requirements quite easily

How dare they not mention... (1)

Stu L Tissimus (873928) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712701)

...Majora's Mask? An amazing game, and a genius way of telling a story. It's like Groundhog Day, except you're Bill Murray....with a sword. And transformation. Okay, nevermind.

FFVI (III) (1)

ET_Fleshy (829048) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713013)

I honestly don't understand why Final Fantasy VII is almost universally considered to be better than VI. IMHO the characters in VI were developed far better, the storyline was more in depth and intriguing, and even the music (gasp) was better!

Re:FFVI (III) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16713957)

I like FF6 a lot myself (and I do think it does have the most memorable music of all FF games to date), but to claim it had better character development and storyline is taking it a bit far. Just off the top of my head...
  • The way Celes the ironhearted general turns to Celes the maiden in love is abrupt and jarring. There's that opera performance, and then BOOM, Celes melts like butter. True, a girl in love can change quickly, but it's hard to tell what's happening in the game--a rather major flaw for a game's heroine (possibly even the game's protagonist, depending on how you look at it). In contrast, Aeris and Tifa's motives are well-explained throughout FF7.
  • We never learn why Kefka acts like a madman, or why he seems a bit fixated on Celes. Sources outside the gmae says he grew up with Celes in Dr. Cid's lab, and when Celes was selected for a risky magick experiemnt, Kefka volunteered to take her place--and became insane as a side effect of that experiment. That makes Kefka an interesting character, but since it's not explained in the game, Kefka looks like just another stereotypical sex-deprived mad jester. Compare this to Sephiroth's story, where we get to watch him turn from a hero into a villain.
  • In FF6, there is almost no development of non-player characters. FF7 is full of attractive villains, from Shinra's executives to the Turks, and even side characters like Yuffie's father and Red XIII's grandpa are memorable.
  • Dr. Cid sides with the player for no particularly understandable reason. Why did he change his mind now?
  • Characters with long featured episodes like Terra, Locke, Edgar and Cyan are quite well developed. Less can be said of other characters--it's much harder to identify with the likes of Setzer, Strago, and Relm. (I'll forgive Mog, Gogo and the bigfoot since they're mostly bonus characters.) FF7 had fewer player characters, but we get to know so much about all of them that FF7DC, a sequel about the most minor player character (Vincent), actually sold 500,000 copies despite being a terrible game.

I've been there (1)

DrWily (660114) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713039)

The last game I played that I felt truly immensed in the story was the Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. It kept me on the story so much that the gameplay was as natural as turning pages of a book. The only other game to effect me like that was Chrono Trigger, of course. The Mega Man series and all its different branchings has kept me quite involved over the years as well.

One pick of mine... (1)

ucaledek (887701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713213)

I always liked the degree of differences in the dialog trees in Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Your character's attributes really changed the way people would talk to you and interact with you, game quests and how to complete them. And playing the Nosferatu and moving about in the sewers all the time was like playing a totally different game. I easily played this game 5-6 times, which I never do just to see the different ways the game would react to different characters and scenarios. Sure the story was the same, but it still felt rather different each time.

Re:One pick of mine... (1)

mbeedee (1022699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16716453)

VTMB is one of my all time favourite games (despite its extreme buginess and bad performance) and while I do think it has one of the best storylines of any game (and one of the best twists), I don't think it actually did much for furthering the way stories are told in games. It did much the same things with character interactions that RPGs have been using for a while. Although the extra insights you'd get as a Malkavian were quite interesting.

Subjective and Pointless (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16713547)

Sad that so many "newer" games get touted as being so good when there were lots of momentous storyline games 10, 20 years ago. Games like Quest For Glory IV (and various other Sierra Quest games). Hell even new amazing storytelling games like KotoR aren't even mentioned, but SIMS is? What story is there to Sims!? It's just the minutiae of real life turned into a video game! (And it was rather addictive until I realized I could clean up my actual house instead of a virtual one and have a far greater reward) but I'd hardly consider it good for "storytelling".

Re:Subjective and Pointless (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16715007)

KotoR is mentioned in combination with Jades Empire. In terms of Serria adventures they have Gabriel Knight. About the Sims, keep in mind that the article is about storytelling, not story. In terms of storytelling The Sims is quite interesting, since it doesn't have a predefined story, but instead the storys emerge from its gamemechanics, like in few other games. Sure, you never get more deep of the story then random soup opera stuff, but its still a huge leap in terms of storytelling.

starcraft on the list? (1)

skam240 (789197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16714367)

now don't get me wrong. i'm a huge starcraft fan and have probably spent hundreds of hours playing the game (if not thousands). it is most deffinitly one of the most well balanced rts games ever.

but really, was the campaign that much more compelling than any other rts of the period? all the story was, was an excuse to build a base and go blow up your opponent's base. sure there was the occasional non base building mission that seemed to show up in alot of rts games of the period but this certainly wasnt done first or better in starcraft (and to be honest i always hated these missions). As far as the campaign goes (and the campaign only) i really dont see how starcraft did anything that any other rts hadnt already done.

Re:starcraft on the list? (1)

silvergoose (807387) | more than 7 years ago | (#16715733)

Uh, yes, actually. Starcraft had actual writers, plot, compelling characters, and the *way* it was told was a huge leap over anything else of the time.

AMFV (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16715567)

I'm glad to see that A Mind Forever Voyaging made it onto their honorable mentions list. I remember getting sucked into that game around sixth grade or so. It was truly an experience to sit there at the computer reading the screen and seeing how the authors made civilization change from decade to decade. Parks and streets came and went. Businesses transformed themselves. Honestly, it really did open my eyes to the types of changes I could expect to see over my lifetime (not the sort of thing a typical 13 year old thinks about). I should sit down and play through it again one of these days.

Hahah final fantasy (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16716481)

I wanted to enjoy the story in Final Fantasy anything, but the realization that the "storytelling" was about as competent as "Days of our Lives" made me stop before I turned stupid.
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