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The Evolution of RPGs, Storytelling

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the trying-new-things dept.

Role Playing (Games) 64

Sessions held yesterday and today touched on the future of games and story in this new generation of games. Yesterday Microsoft held a panel with RPG veterans Hironobu Sakaguchi (currently working on Blue Planet), Peter Molyneux(Fable 2), and Dr. Ray Muzkya(Mass Effect). Between the three of them, these well known designers offered a view of the next step in RPGs. Sakaguchi in particular was vocal about his love of online RPGs, and there was some talk of differing player experiences the content-heavy titles genre. Meanwhile, on the heels of Phil Harrison's keynote, Warren Spector took the stage in a conference room to discuss next-gen storytelling. His biggest complaint was the linear nature of games today, and the sameness of experiences. Different talks, with insightful and similar conclusions.

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finally (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18269256)

With the fluid dialogue model in Mass Effect, finally we're approaching the "interactive movies" that have been promised ever since the days of wing commander III.

Re:finally (5, Funny)

Joe Random (777564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18269508)

You mean no more of this?:

Hero: "Hello, bartender."
Bartender: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "Wow, that sucks. Can I get a beer?"
B: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "Yeah, I know. But cats do that sometimes. Who knows, maybe it'll come back. Now, how about that beer?"
B: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "We've gone over that already. Beer? Please?"
B: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "What the Hell?! Just do your job and get me a damned beer!"
B: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "I KNOW that you want me to find the damned cat already! Fine! I'll find your cat! Never mind that I'm busy hunting down an evil sorcerer who intends on enslaving the entire kingdom. Cats take priority, right? If it's a cat you want, it's a cat you'll get. Okay? Satisfied? Now how about one for the road . . . the road I'm taking to find your cat?"
B: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "That DOES IT! I'm just going to kill you and TAKE the damned beer. How's THAT sound, huh?!"
B: "*sigh* I've been so depressed since my cat ran away".

H: "Gaaaaaaahhhhhhh" *hack* *slash* *chop*
[Your reputation for evil has increased by 200. Townsfolk will no longer trade with you (yes, that includes beer)]

H: "Oh Krom-dammit."

Re:finally (2, Informative)

Khanstant (1049112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270742)

*sigh* Times are tough. Ooold RPGWorld reference. http://rpgworldcomic.com/d/20001021.html [rpgworldcomic.com]

Re:finally (1)

Frigga's Ring (1044024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275056)

Heh. I was thinking the same thing.

Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18271056)

I guess Vista really was designed for games, huh?

You are attempting to post to Slashdot.
[ Allow ] [ Deny ]

Resident Evil, etc. (1)

Otis2222222 (581406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275602)

Along those same lines, another of my favorites is in "Resident Evil" style games:

NPC: "I really need some Medicine to clear up this infection, I can't go with you while I'm injured. I think there is some in the infirmary down the hall."

Player: [walks down hall, opens door to infirmary, then sees Locked Cabinet]
Game: "You need the Blue Key to open this cabinet."

Player: [Tries to chop cabinet open using fire axe]
Game: "You need the Blue Key to open this cabinet."

Player: [Fires shotgun at lock on cabinet from point blank range]
Game: "You need the Blue Key to open this cabinet."

Player: [Points shotgun at own head and fires]

*sigh*

Re:Resident Evil, etc. (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#18293392)

You can actually break open containers (lockers, chests, etc) in the fallout series, but you risk damaging the contents. Fun stuff. :)

Re:finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18275926)

So, why are you drinking when there is an evil sorcerer who intends on enslaving the entire kingdom running around?

How About Three People Who Actually Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18269320)

Fable was an overhyped turd of a game. Molyneux is still managing to fool the gaming press that he is still relevant.

Mass Effect is just another crappy Unreal Engine 3 game. Oh look shiny armor with bright lights on it! Every game that is stuck with the UE3 engine has that same ridiculous look that low poly highly normal mapped models end up looking like. And the game itself sounds dreadfully boring. Bioware has really gone downhill since BG and BG2.

There are people to speak about the history and future of RPGs. None of these guys are one of them.

Re:How About Three People Who Actually Matter? (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18269456)

Fable was an overhyped turd of a game. Molyneux is still managing to fool the gaming press that he is still relevant.

Mass Effect is just another crappy Unreal Engine 3 game. Oh look shiny armor with bright lights on it! Every game that is stuck with the UE3 engine has that same ridiculous look that low poly highly normal mapped models end up looking like. And the game itself sounds dreadfully boring. Bioware has really gone downhill since BG and BG2.

There are people to speak about the history and future of RPGs. None of these guys are one of them.


Fable was overhyped (Molyneux said he was going to produce the "Best RPG Ever") but was actually a pretty good RPG on both the XBox and PC ...

The fact is that every one of these developers is producing anticipated RPGs (for the XBox 360 which is why this talk was produced by Microsoft) and their input is of value to many small developers who are working on RPG games ...

Re:How About Three People Who Actually Matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18269960)

Feeble^WFable was Molyneaux's take on a JRPG, down to the "one linear path through the wilderness, as shown on your mini-map".

Contrast to Oblivion: I used a mod to turn off the compass, and after a fight where I found myself running in terror, I found myself alone in a very dark forest, nearly dead, and lost.

Re:How About Three People Who Actually Matter? (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271230)

Any adventurer that drops his compass, regardless of what they're fighting, deserves to be lost in the forest.

well (2, Insightful)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18269434)

His biggest complaint was the linear nature of games today, and the sameness of experiences.

Its kinda hard to totally remove the linear nature of any game. Even MMORGP. If a game is good enough you wont even notice (Final Fantasy 3, 7)

Re:well (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270096)

With enough content contributors and developers, you can certainly make a world filled with endless stories and plot-lines. What bores me about ALL current MMORPGs is that they're all just a bunch of cookie-cutter stories and missions dished out to people who largely ignore them on their quest to level quickly and then roll a new character.

Same with most RPGs. They are just too bland and unoriginal. Can we have something besides a wizard, warrior and ranger dwarf, human, elf fighting orcs, dragons, demons to safe the princess, land, people from some evil magic?

Re:well (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271746)

Can we have something besides a wizard, warrior and ranger dwarf, human, elf fighting orcs, dragons, demons to safe the princess, land, people from some evil magic?

Planescape. I know, I know, it's how many years old now... but it still deserves playing now and again.

Obviously, we need more Modrons.

Dream well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18273122)

Linear isn't all bad. [wikipedia.org]

Re:well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276594)

If a game is good enough you wont even notice (Final Fantasy 3, 7)
Very, very bad examples. Try the Black Isle games instead.

Linearity is cost-effective (5, Insightful)

omnilynx (961400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18269628)

The problem with non-linearity is that then you're paying to produce content that any single player is probably not going to experience. Sure, he can play the story over again to explore the different branches, but who except hardcore fans wants to do that? The challenge, rather, is to create mainly linear story lines that seem non-linear, by giving the illusion of choice, such as giving several choices that funnel back into the main thread. Another possibility is to give the player control over chronology: he chooses which parts of the story he wishes to advance when he wants. Both of these have applicability limited by the dictates of the story, of course.

The only place true non-linearity fits is when it's the primary selling point of the game. Sandbox games like the GTA series or world-based MMORPGs require non-linearity by their very nature (Of course, they also have storylines but those clearly aren't the main selling points). RPGs, though, are meant to be story-driven, and a story is primarily linear, since that's the way we humans experience time.

Re:Linearity is cost-effective (1)

cluke (30394) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274160)

Well, the shift in thinking required here is that not every player will experience all the content. If you have 3 main paths through the story, then you figure on 1/3 of players experiencing each, all things being equal. The downside of this freedom is you have to produce 3 times the content for the divergent bits. But if you sell enough copies, that may become cost effective.

This is pretty much what MMORPGs do already, after all. I doubt that all the players (or even the majority) are going to see the inside of the 40-man raid instances in WoW, for example.

Re:Linearity is cost-effective (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274590)

The only place true non-linearity fits is when it's the primary selling point of the game. Sandbox games like the GTA series or world-based MMORPGs require non-linearity by their very nature (Of course, they also have storylines but those clearly aren't the main selling points). RPGs, though, are meant to be story-driven, and a story is primarily linear, since that's the way we humans experience time.

I have always learned that RPGs are not about blindly following a story, but about "what would you (or actually the character you're playing) do in that situation?". In a linear story, there's only a right way and a wrong way, not a different way. There's no way to make the story really mine. It's just interactive fiction, not a real RPG.

By the way, there are ways to give players choice while still having everybody visit the same places. Planescape:Torment allows you to run loose in Sigil before arriving at all the vital points you'll eventually end up at, and if I recall correctly, you'll make some deep, philosophical choices during the course of the game. The end is very linear (apart from some choice at the end, I believe?), but even at the start, everybody still mostly visits the same places and follows the same story, but they do so in their very own way.

Knights of the Old Republic had something somewhat similar: firstly you can choose in what order to visit the various planets, and secondly you'll have to choose between the light side and the dark side at some point, which has a profound effect on some encounters and on the ending, but you still visit the same places. The outdoor locations and the various cities are still infinitely more limited than a really open CRPG like Morrowind (or Oblivion I assume), though. There you can really go anywhere, and to what extend you follow the actual story, which factions you join, and how you eventually resolve the verious plot lines is entirely your own responsibility. The stories are still there, but you have the freedom to ignore them.

Morrowind (and Oblivion?) are pretty extreme in their openness, but I think Torment and KotOR are pretty close to the goldilocks zone. Ofcourse despite Torment's brilliant writing, they're still not quite real RPGs.

Re:Linearity is cost-effective (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276354)

Sure, he can play the story over again to explore the different branches, but who except hardcore fans wants to do that?

Maybe it's just me, but I would consider it perfectly reasonable to expect to play a game more than once, and I'm certainly no hardcore gamer.

In fact, I would say the opposite, that a linear game increases the problem of paying for development that a single player doesn't experience - since with a linear game, I have less desire to play the game more than once, in which case I will miss out on any alternative choices I could have made (most commonly in RPGs, there's the choice of character - so for example, I play as a warrior-type person, and then all the development of an extensive magic system goes to waste).

Games which have non-linear gameplay I will play again and again, and in doing so, experience every possible choice that is available.

This applies to other types of games, e.g., consider Civilization: if I only ever played one game, then I'd only play as one race, but since the game is varied enough to play again and again, I explore out every possible option.

In summary, I'd say the optimal cases for minimising development waste are either being highly non-linear, or being entirely linear, since a mostly-linear-with-some-non-linear tends to cause all the non-linear elements to be missed.

An entirely linear game is not what I would call a game, more a story.

RPGs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18269974)

In Soviet Russia, RPG plays you.

A lot has changed (4, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270026)

I think quite a lot changed in RPGs since the beginning. For example, now you have to kill 50 fully 3D goblins to collect their fully 3D noses, instead of boring 2D goblins or, worse yet, ASCII characters that look nothing like goblins.

Re:A lot has changed (2, Funny)

Potato Battery (872080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270522)

Actually, while the goblins themselves have reached true 3D, I am still dissatisfied with the depth of goblin noses. I'm looking forward to the next generation of processors that can render the noses the way they really were meant to be. I think there is still a lot of room for growth in games with essential enhancements like this.

Re:A lot has changed (2)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270620)

"The funny thing is, for me, the graphics have changed. The actual structure of RPGs hasn't really changed that much. I think there's some opportunities there."

Exactly nothing has really changed. Give me an RPG with no leveling up, a storyline that is actually effected by my character, and a goal more creative than "kill the big evil thing"

Re:A lot has changed (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 7 years ago | (#18279352)

Give me an RPG with no leveling up, a storyline that is actually effected by my character, and a goal more creative than "kill the big evil thing"


An RPG with no levelling up is equivalant to Commander Keen - a fixed charater throughout the game. Not a problem by itself, but such games are stereotyped to be "mindless action" with no plot.

A storyline affected by your character does appear from time to time - but there's ultimatly one main storyline which has slight variations. More often than not, "Alternate plots" are either discarded when a sequel gets released, or somehow forcefully merged into the storyline - which tends to have a worse effect than intended.

The standard "defeat evil big thing", however, cannot be easily avoided. More often than not, these stories generally require an antagonist (which usually is a variation on the theme.) While some games managed to avoid this concept (e.g. Rouge and Earth 2150: Escape from the Blue Planet are scavenger hunts), it's still a major obstacle to overcome.

As much as we'd like to shake off those cliches, they are here to stay. Almost nothing can be done to prevent them as there's always an underlying concept that requires them to begin with.

Re:A lot has changed (1)

Cristofori42 (1001206) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271254)

You forget the fact that only 1 in 10 fully 3D goblins has a fully 3D nose, so you actually have to kill something like 300 fully 3D goblins to get 30 fully 3D goblin noses.

Four groups of 99 berzerkers (1)

owlman17 (871857) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271364)

Yes, so just imagine six adventurers fight off four groups of 99 berzerkers in full 3D!!! In Bard's Tale, all you had to do was press 'F'. Wouldn't be fun to look at if you remade this in a modern engine.

Re: Maybe 99 groups of 99 berzerkers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18274964)

As I recall it was 99 groups of 99 beserkers

Re:A lot has changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18277330)

Computer RPGs forked around the time of Ultima 3. The path followed by especially Japanese developers have kept the game elements pretty much exactly the same, and have instead focused efforts on graphics and music (oh, and increasingly incomprehensible rules). The games center around level grinding with the occasional cut-scene and the player's actions have little or no effect.

The other path has emphasized the role-playing aspects, and usually offers far more and deeper interaction and the player's actions often have a directly visible effect on at least the gameworld if not the overall plot. The player character also affects which ways you can complete quests and so on.

Ignoring the past (3, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270072)

The reason why RPGs seem linear is because they are. The industry fails to learn from RPGs at the pinnacle of storytelling [wikipedia.org] , instead churning out more and more Final Fantasy clones for easy sales with brand name recognition and marketting. As the consumer base and budgets grow bigger and bigger the video game industry resembles Hollywood more and more. Too much risk deviating from the tried and true rehash.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270120)

> The reason why RPGs seem linear is because they are. The industry fails to learn from RPGs at the pinnacle of storytelling,

Maybe it's just me, but pretty much all the stories I've ever read were linear. Well, except for those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270162)

You can't compare the non-interactive storylines of a book or movie to a video game, which is by its very nature meant to involve the player.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272154)

Sure you can. After all, unless you are playing Nethack eventually you will kill the monster and go home to live happily ever after. With any RPG I have ever played it was never a question of whether or not I would win, but how long it would take, and how many twists and turns would I encounter on the way. Seriously, how is that different from a book?

Nethack is only different because you are essentially guaranteed to lose.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274760)

Sure you can. After all, unless you are playing Nethack eventually you will kill the monster and go home to live happily ever after. With any RPG I have ever played it was never a question of whether or not I would win, but how long it would take, and how many twists and turns would I encounter on the way. Seriously, how is that different from a book?

If I want to read a book, I'd really much rather read a book than play a video game. Books are better written, tend to have more complex and interesting storylines, unexpected twists, and don't involve so much tedious hack and slash as filler. The whole point of a RPG is that it's not like a book. What it does have in common, though, is that it's not about winning. You don't win a story, you experience it. Perhaps you finish it. But winning and RPGs? Those two concepts don't belong together. It not about reaching the goal, it's about how you get there. And simply getting there by following the yellow brick road and not thinking about it isn't too exciting.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18279018)

I agree with you that RPGs should be less like a book, but that's hardly the case. When you talk to your friends about whatever RPG you happen to be playing they invariably will ask things like, "ave you made it past foo, yet?" or "have you killed bar?" Why is that? The answer is patently simple just like a book every RPG is ridiculously linear. At best in some RPGs you can skip over subplots, but you can do that in a book too.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18279326)

They are linear, but they shouldn't be. When we talk about real RPGs, we don't say "we've made it past foo", we say "we're still looking for the library of Cara Fahd, to get rid of that curse. We think we know where it is, but it's flooded and we can't get in, but a couple of sessions ago we found this magical pump, which we hope can be used to get the water out. Unfortunately we got a bit derailed by a siege, and now we have to travel to the other side of Barsaive to escort an invisible army of Orcs. Oh well, the library isn't going anywhere, but I hope it's going to be our next stop." (This is from a real campaign.) See, real RPGs aren't linear. They're a tangled mess, and you didn't make it past foo, you've been to foo, bar and baz and now you're working on something completely different but... etc.

And a few CRPGs are like that too. Not the otherwise brilliant Torment, unfortunately, but I'm currently playing Morrowind, and it is sort of true there. See, I joined house Hlaalu, and not any of the other houses, and I'm trying to help the Thieves' Guild get the Camonna Tong out of the Fighters' Guild, instead of blindly obeying the boss of the Fighter's Guild. And I just visited a Daedra Shrine, but got out after my first fight because it's clearly a bit too dangerous for me. I do plan to finish my quests for the Blades, but at the moment I'm a bit too busy with other stuff, and the old skooma addict can afford to wait.

See? That's not linear at all. Problem is, I have to create my own story, since there's no GM to do it for me, it's not hard wired into the game. What would be really cool is a clever AI module that keeps track of what you're doing, what you have done and what you plan to do, and creates a nice story around you. Unfortunately that's not anywhere within the capabilities of current AI yet. Even human GMs have a hard enough time to get this right.

Re:Ignoring the past (1)

syrion (744778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271564)

I've actually never enjoyed the Infinity Engine games. PST seemed to have a good plot, but it was so damn ponderous to play. It felt like a chore. This was more of a function of the engine and game mechanics than the writing, however.

That's Not His Name (2, Informative)

TychoCelchuuu (835690) | more than 7 years ago | (#18270150)

It's "Ray Muzyka," not "Ray Muzkya."

Just give me a worthy Fallout 3! (1)

tdelaney (458893) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271168)

That's all I ask. Forget about any other game ... I just want a Fallout 3 that is worthy of the title.

Arcanum 2 would be nice too ... but that's never going to happen :(

nonlinearity does not imply quality (4, Insightful)

Astarica (986098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271170)

The reason why most plots are linear is because nonlinearity simply does not make much sense in the context of most games. Take your typical Square infinite loop choices, i.e. an example from Chrono Trigger:

Marle: Crono, let's save the world! Yes/No?
While answer = no, repeat question until answer = yes

Now really, what kind of additional experience do you get by being able to say no? Do you see Lavos blow up the world and then the game telling you sorry, that was the wrong choice? Does that even add anything? In Breath of Fire 3, you can choose to either fight the Goddess or get locked up in a box for the rest of your life. Here you're allowed to make that choice and the game basically tells you 'whoa that was dumb, you lose!' and then you get to go through the same 30 minutes unskippable sequence again if you want to answer differently. If the choice is so dumb that no one would possibly ever want to go on the other path, then it might as well be a single choice.

Now if in Chrono Trigger when you choose to not save the world, the story shifts to Magus, who continues his plan to summon Lavos to 600 AD and now his plan won't be messed up by the heroes because they quit. Then it might make sense to have the choice to give up. If you give people the choice to branch, there has to be meaningful content on either side of the branch.

And even if there is content, it's hard to balance it so that they're at least both attractive. Let's say you're on your generic journey to stop the world from being destroyed, and some random town asks you fix their bridge and put your world saving quest on hold. So you want to make this nonlinear and actually a choice. So what's the drawback for not saving the town? Maybe another town gets nuked while you're doing this? Maybe some guy on your party decide you're a fool and leave the party forever? Maybe the boss actually becomes more powerful since you're slacking and the final fight is now twice as hard?

But then what do you get back for giving that up? More insight on a character's past? A piece of inexplicably powerful item? No matter how careful you are, you'll usually end up with one choice that is still better than the other, so that choice will get picked as the 'right' one anyway.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (2, Interesting)

JFMulder (59706) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271570)

you'll usually end up with one choice that is still better than the other, so that choice will get picked as the 'right' one anyway.

That's because you play RPGs to win. Personally, I play them to experience a story. In that case, any path you choose is valid.

Mod parent up! (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274814)

That's because you play RPGs to win. Personally, I play them to experience a story. In that case, any path you choose is valid.

Exactly! I'd mod you up if I could.

To expand on the grandparent's example, suppose you're on your way to save the world and a village asks you for help with some unrelated problem. The choice here isn't about what gets you the biggest advantage later in the game, it's about what kind of character you're playing. Are you playing someone who only cares about the final goal, or are you someone who helps people because that's the right thing to do? Even if it risks your final goal?

In the end, roleplaying isn't just adventuring and overcoming obstacles, it's also about exploring the role you're playing. That's why Torment was so brilliant, while the protagonist of Baldur's Gate 1 was little more than a collection of stats that the rest of the party gathered around.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (1)

nazsco (695026) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276204)

every eletronic rpg is linear.

and the story is dull.

in fact, a non-rpg with linear history i played some time ago was what most ressembled "experiencing a history" to me. Wing Commander II.
You could get emotive responses from you wing man, no matter that it was linear, it realisticly affected the game play in a cool way.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (1)

JFMulder (59706) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276470)

every eletronic rpg is linear.
and the story is dull.


Dealing in absolutes will get you nowhere and only shows your ignorance of the medium.

It's true that a lot of RPGs are pretty straighforward and extra quests are only meant to make your character a lot stronger toward the end of the game.

But take a game like KOTOR for example. There were a lot of optional side quests that helped define your character better (by leaning him or her more toward light or dark side) and by furthering the side-story of many people part of your group.

A game like the Elder Scroll series has very little main narrative (what I mean by this is that the main story isn't too complicated and pretty short) but have a lot of optional side quests that are compelling and define what you are in this universe.

I haven't played Fable but I think it also had a somewhat non-linear gameplay that encouraged you to experience different ways to do things and rewarded the player with a different view of the world.

Generally, I'd say that western RPGs are more based around choice while Japanese RPGs are more about a single strong narrative, tough I'm sure there are some very interresting exceptions each side of the pond.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276858)

That's because you play RPGs to win. Personally, I play them to experience a story. In that case, any path you choose is valid.
That's not a role-playing game, that's a (barely-interactive) movie. Why aren't you allowed to set the objective and determine when you win? If I want to play as the bad guy and destroy the world, why am I not allowed to?

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (1)

Astarica (986098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18278756)

There's nothing to experience when the choices are so stupid that it doesn't add anything. I don't know of a single person who thought choosing the 'get lock up in a box forever' choice in Breath of Fire 3 was a good idea.

Let's say you have a choice of losing character A or character B. This means both characters have be at least comparablely important, and the loss of either is felt throughout the rest of the game in non gameplay terms. Offhand, I can't even remember a RPG where the loss of any character has an impact beyond the first 5 minutes after the said character died. The classic example of an important character death would be Aeris in FF7, and it's not clear the heroes even remembered she ever existed once Cloud dropped her into the water. And if the choice was between losing Tifa or Aeris for the rest of the game, the only difference would be who gets dropped in the water in the CG. At this point you might as well treat your nonlinear choices as a matter of gameplay. Here Aeris would win out over Tifa every time because her limit breaks infinitely more useful.

Nonlinearity implies all paths needs to have significant consequences. It is not clear to me most RPGs even have significant consequences for your actions when there's only one path to choose, let alone two or more.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272682)

While I agree that the "Yes, No" questions, where only one is a real answer and the other a dead-end are pretty stupid, I don't think that a branch need to have meaningful content, I think a lot of interactivity and immersion actually comes from not having meaningful choices. By that I don't mean the "Yes, No" type answers, but answers that both fit the situation equally without really having much impact on the overall story.

Fahrenheit/Indigo Prohpecy was great in that aspect, while the overall story was almost completly linear, the gameplay and the dialog still gave the player a lot of freedom on what exactly he wants to do or say, it all were rather simple things, you might at one point take a taxi or a subway, you might hide a knife in the trashcan or just throw it away, you might answer the phone or just leave it ringing. None of those things were game-breakers, taking the taxi instead of the subway wouldn't kill you, it simply was a different thing to do and both accomplished the same thing, just as they would do in the real world.

In contrast for example Jade Empire had very meaningful choices, choices that mattered, but I found them extremely annoying, since they simply didn't fit. You always had a good, bad and neutral dialog choice and whenever choosing one I thought much more about what the right one would be then what my character would say. The dialog simply felt extremely forced since it was clear that some story-writer had to sad down and write good, bad and neutral questions/answers for each and every thing.

Now I don't mind having meaningful choices, but they have to be implemented in such a way that there is no right and wrong choice, since as soon as it gets obvious that there is a right and a wrong answer the player ends up trying to out-guess the storywriters intention instead of just interaction with the game world. Answers should also not just be black or white, since that similarly destroys the immersion by automatically leading to dialog that feels out of character. All that said, good dialog is of course easier to write in an linear adventure game then in a non-linear RPG, but for a better story I wouldn't mind to much giving up a bit of gaming freedom.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (1)

franksands (938435) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272762)

Chrono Trigger is one of the greatest console RPGs, in my book at least. It has story, great characters and time travel. Final Fantasy 6 was great too, but I only got half of the game. And before anyone tells me, yes I know this games are from decades ago.

Tales of Symphonia semi non linear style (1)

Wescotte (732385) | more than 7 years ago | (#18273338)

The game has a system where all the party members in your group have a stat based on how they like you. There are tons of question spots where you get to choose what to say/do that add/subtract to this stat. At the end of the game these values decide who sticks around in the party at the end, who dies, who betrays you. So even though your choices don't really have any immediate direct effect on how the game is played in the end it does change the outcome for your characters.

Re:nonlinearity does not imply quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18276256)

You should be able to choose No and have it show Marle and Chrono retired on a farm with the world blowing up in the background and "End" appearing.

Sessions held... where? (0, Flamebait)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271444)

Sessions held yesterday and today touched on the future of games and story in this new generation of games

Where were these sessions?

Zonk, can you at least get the journalism questions answered in the summaries, if you're not going to bother with typos and mispellings? The critical one here is "where?" (I think we got the "who?" and "what?" ok.)

Re:Sessions held... where? (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272180)

Presumably at the Game Developers Conference that every game site and their mom has been talking about.

Re:Sessions held... where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18279526)

yuo spelt it rong its "misspellings" moran

Think for yourself instead of being another anti-Zonk sheeptroll

The most recent generation of games... (1)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | more than 7 years ago | (#18271672)

The most recent generation of games has been fantastic. The last few years has seen a revolution in RPG design, and has opened up a whole new line of story oriented games. We have games that are designed to be truely player driven now, not just slightly influenced by the players, or even only given the illusion of influence in the story.

RPGs have massively broken out of the old mold in the last few years. No longer do we have something that's just a step above a computer game on paper in terms of narrative control of story.

CRPGs? They're still stuck in the old model, as far as story is concerned... the only way to fix that is to have real AIs. You need imagination and creativity for it.

Psychic detective (1)

DebateG (1001165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18272494)

I remember a game called Psychic Detective [wikipedia.org] . The premise is that you were investigating a crime, but could jump into other people's minds and watch things unfold from their point of view. As you played through the game, you would only see a certain part of plot unfold the entire way, because the game progressed linearly and following one storyline prevented you from following another that happened concurrently. Moreover, the choices you made would influence the ending. If you replayed the game, you could view the game from other people's point of view and other aspects of the plot would unfold.

I always found this concept to be pretty brilliant, but I can't think of any other game that utilizes it. It showed that you can have a linear plot but allow the player to make choices that influence the ending. Why have other games like this not been developed?

yeah, well, excuse me for not being excited (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#18274614)

The problem is that computers are still computers, dumb as shit, and that coding is still coding, an amazingly labor intensive task requiring a high degree of skill and a proffesion were throwing more people at it don't help.

Coding is expensive, if you want a dozen armour models/textures you can put a dozen artists on it. A dozen coders working on the same code just does not work.

Computers are dumb. Well they are. Comic/manga readers might be familiar with CBZ/CBR archives, nothing more then zip/rar files renamed. Yet most downloads still come with the zip or rar extensions meaning YOU have to tell the computer to open it with a comic reader rather then your regular archive reader. It don't matter wich OS or file explorer you use. NONE of them can tell a image archive from a regular archive. Humans on the other hand can do it in an instant just by the name alone.

Amazing!

This matters in games. There is NO magic that allows NPC's to adress you as female/male. Someone somewhere has spend a lot of time writing a lot of if(x) then Y else Z statements to deal with the fact that you were given a choice of sex. What sex to play, geez. Don't get your hopes up, you are still a CRPG player.

The more choices the more IF statements and it goes up in the way one of those curves go up that go up faster then the other value increases. Logo something (and people say playing computer games improves your brain)

NWN2 suffers from this in a bad way. You have so many choices that even the main story can't cope and you end up with the ultimate weapon being a sword. Nice, my monk sure could use that. Your wizard didn't like it much either?

It is even worse, in all the talks about the dwarf becoming a monk never once was the fact mentioned that I was one. Or did the thiefling mention I was a thiefling.

For that matter as you gained more potential party members the interaction between them in the game became less and less. Not because it wasn't designed, simply because at location X where A and B were to have a discussion you had A and C in your party so it never triggered.

Free, non-linear play doesn't make it any easier, playing a monk I offcourse build the monestary. I kept checking back to see if that dude was finally going to offer me some training. No deal, told to come back later.

Yeah great, was there something there after I got fed up? More linear play would have prevented a dozen checks and lots of frustration.

I wonder what could then be done in NWN2 had axed half the choices and instead fleshed out the remaining content more. Say that you had only first party members. Would they then have been able to get a lot more interaction. Might you have been able to influence anyone else then the dwarf to change proffesions.

A gameboy game solved that nicely, despite a HUGE party from wich you had to select a cast for battle ALL characters were present during cut scenes even if they had been critically wounded in a previous fight (not killed just not available for future combat missions). The game still had the problem that certain paths could only be opened in combat with the right character but that was usually hinted at in the briefing.

NWN2 totally did that in the wrong way. It FORCED you to take certain characters while at the same time punishing you (by not showing interactions) for not choosing the magic combo. I am not talking about the female that became a fixed member of your group, that worked, but those quests you had to take for instance bishop with you.

What about freedom to roam then? Well that was what Oblivion had. But in order to prevent you to be killed to easily OR find nothing a challenge things had to scale. So in the beginning even remote areas were a cakewalk and later on you would face thugs on imperial roads in million dollar outfits demanding loose chance.

Now compare this to the far more linear, less freedom, Planescape Torment. Areas were locked off, stopping you from going to far too fast, you couldn't pick your sex, species or even your own name. You were the nameless one, male, with a skin condition.

Party members? Only a handfull, for most of the game you didn't really have a choice either, the only "spare" was the burning man until the end game.

But boy did it manage to tell a story.

Now imagine the same game but if you had been given a choice as to what sex to play. Even if you then turned it into a lesbian experience you still have to add a shitload of coding, (if(male) then "he" else "she"), ad an extra CD for the pre-rendered movies showing the nameless one in both sexes.

Choice HURTS storytelling. The hero walks into a tavern, it is a trap, the baddy tells the hero to drop his weapons, the monk looks non-plussed. The ultimate weapon is a sword, the monk looks non-plussed. The final fight is a straight brawl, the thief hero gets slaughtered in seconds.

If I know the endboss is going to be killed by a snipershot because I forced you to become a sniper and gave you a sniper rifle and the only path in the game is to a high position several hundred meters away from the end boss then I can tell you a story. If I put the same endboss in the same position and then give you the freedom of any weapon you choose, well, then the story line is going to be a bit thinner.

Not that I hate choice, I just hate it when for the entire rest of the game it just doesn't seem to matter.

A game that got it right to a point was Vampire: Bloodlines (or masqurade, the last one anyway). There choosing your race did influence the interaction with other NPC's especially choosing the crazies. Still even here the game might have been even better if they had axed some of the similar races and spend more time fleshing out the remaining ones.

Fable is a bad example of choice, there were a lot of weapons in the game except they ALL worked the same, even having the same animation. So what would you have preffeed, JUST a sword but more animations or a sword and a katana (wich was WAY to thick in any case) but the same animation for both?

None of this is going to chance unless someone comes up with a new way of easily creating content. Speech synthesis would be nice, so that you only have to write new dialogue, not record (and find space on the install medium) it. Easier ways to do animation (so not all combat classes have the exact same poses). But most importantly a better system for keeping tracks of the story. To do the story.

Just try it youreselve, NWN1 and 2 come with tools, try to make a RPG were you truly respect the players choice (no useless rewards that the player and/or his/her party can't use) and has the game universe reflect those choices (he/she evil/good/neutral etc/etc/etc) and still tell a full rich involving story were the played IS part of the game.

Next generation story telling won't happen as long as we marrying choice with story telling means some poor smuck has to handcode a labyrinth of IF statements.

Just imagine a simple greeting. It would chance obviously on sex, but should it not also change on how I appear. A decked out warrior and a monk may have the same fighting strength but the monk will look for more peacefull (if he/she/it washed the blood of their hands). A barbarian will be adressed in a more cautious voice then a paladin. Nobody will talk down to a wizard even if they are an orc.

To do even that with todays tools requires a shit load of coding (and even more testing) and a lot of voice recording.

Change that,and then you will get next-generation RPG's.

Until then, choice will mean less depth.

Re:yeah, well, excuse me for not being excited (1)

KingEomer (795285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276500)

To be fair, the final weapon was "universal." That is, anybody could wield it as though they were proficient. Also, you could use it to cast those spells... Not sure how well that worked (I just used Sand, Elanee and the Gith to blow stuff up). They may have been able to attack what you needed to attack from a range if you couldn't take hits. Still, it is a legendary artifact; I expected it to be the most powerful weapon in the game. However, you can craft items better than it.

One solution I can see to help tailor it to the player is give it a shape-shifting ability. Heck, allow it to be gloves for monks.

Re:yeah, well, excuse me for not being excited (1)

Joelfabulous (1045392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18277668)

I guess this is the same dilemma that faces those weird (and awful) "choose your own adventure" books that seemed popular around the time of the Goosebumps phenomenon when I was a kid. They didn't tell much of a story at all, because it was so fragmented, and I was only interested in seeing the brutal death scenes half the time anyways. It was like reading a poorly written story grafted onto rails... Whenever I came to a fork in the adventure where I died, I'd just hold my finger in the previous "hub" section, and go back to it so I didn't have to start all over again.

The fact is that choice in this context is infinitely improbable. (No, I don't have hard science to back this up, I'm speaking purely from a philosophical perspective). As with life, one single choice can change *years* of experience. Something as simple as having never taken a certain class in my final year of high school would mean that I wouldn't be dating my best friend right now. That sort of thing has a huge effect on life, in general. I don't know if this is truly "chaos theory" or the "butterfly effect", posited off of the pop culture sense, but that seems to be what they've coined it.

The flip side of the issue is that story-telling is inherently linear. A good yarn has a certain amount of linearity, or else it turns into a mass of spaghetti, plot-threads hacked together as badly as a Mad-Lib or that weird art game "The Exquisite Corpse." (Check Wikipedia for both examples.)

I agree with what you said, and lament the nonsensical rants about "next-gen" gaming. Storytelling *is* truly next-gen, not all the graphical nonsense, by all accounts -- whenever the question of turning gaming into a legitimate form of art (or media) for those who do not understand how amazing a well-crafted in-game storyline can be. Perhaps this is why the lament of "games don't evoke emotion" comes up concerning why (apparently) only males play games, or some such line of reasoning like that. This is why, every now and again, I go back and dust off what is possibly the best game I have ever played -- Deus Ex. And why was it so amazing? Well, yes, I do love sci-fi, and it has that wonderful RPG twist, but there are also some issues that would be unforgiveable in other games, such as screwy AI. Where it wins, hands downs, is story. It tells a fantastic yarn, and there is some measure of choice woven into the overall linearity -- for example, if you manage to save Paul Denton in his apartment, or leave him to defend himself, either leaving out the window or hiding in the closet. The entire game was rife with choice -- even in how it was played. Sure, there probably wouldn't be vents everywhere to sneak around in -- but I was willing to suspend my disbelief simply because it gave me a choice in how I wished to play the game, which tied into the plot twists and small (yet important) forks in conversation and choices that the player could make. Whatever measure of control I had is still unclear to me... All I know is that I *felt* like I had a choice, and it was meaningful -- I saw the consequences of my actions, and it drew me in deeper.

I have yet to play Planescape: Torment (it's on my to-do list), and there are a number of other games on my list which I shall play through eventually. If you haven't played Deus Ex (the original, I never played the sequel, so I can't say), do so... It's an excellent game. You might be able to find a copy of System Shock 2 on eBay somewhere too -- another excellent game where the palpable feeling of tension and anxiety gave the game an atmosphere that turned it from a game into not only a great story, but an experience. Arguably, that is what all the greatest stories do.

Re:yeah, well, excuse me for not being excited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18279876)

NWN2 suffers from this in a bad way. You have so many choices that even the main story can't cope and you end up with the ultimate weapon being a sword. Nice, my monk sure could use that. Your wizard didn't like it much either?
Yeah, but that's because the AD&D rules suck donkey balls.

R-P-G (1)

Meccanica (980734) | more than 7 years ago | (#18275546)

Stands for 'Role Playing Game', right? Not 'Rocket Propelled Game'? Not 'Really Pompous Game'? Meaning, you play a role somehow. Processing tactial decisions is not really role playing, I contend, and such games should not be called RPGs (but what can I do? They are).



*Warning: I don't have any specific message in mind, and I'm just trying to include whatever responses occur to me. My thoughts may be a bit disjointed.*



IMHO, the neccessary quality would be that the presence of you, the player, creates a unique game experience- this is totally impossible, of course, when someone has to code it all ahead of time. This is the reason people play tabletop RPGs, of the D&D variety.



I notice a lot of discussion about "linear" games, or a "linear" story, or "linear" whatever else. I have to say this: "linear" means following a straight line, right? Time is more or less linear. That is not really an issue in games. The talk is about gameplay, where calling it linear is a little more ambiguous- do you mean you progress at a steady pace towards your goal? Do you mean that you have no real choices within the storyline? Do you mean that the game is literally a straight line, ala Crash Bandicoot? I guess what I mean is: please find another word to express your idea- "linear" is currently fully booked for the rest of the discussion.



I have to go now, so I've forgotten my other random points.

Dynamically Generated Stories (2, Insightful)

dj_tla (1048764) | more than 7 years ago | (#18276322)

It's great to hear that game makers are taking story more seriously than in the past. Personally, I've never been satisfied by a 'branching' storyline; too often, it's just the illusion of choice. I remember reading in Nintendo Power a year or so before Final Fantasy 6 (then dubbed 3) came out that there were "3 separate storylines to explore!" with a screenshot of a black backdrop with 3 characters to choose from (I think it was Terra, Locke and Edgar? I'm not positive about that though). When I got to that point in the game, I was so excited to choose something in a game and have my choice matter. I was excited by the prospect of getting to play the game three times and have three different stories. When I discovered you only got to choose the order in which you played those sections of the game, I was quite disappointed. It's still one of my favourite games of all time, and perhaps in retrospect, as an adult, I might not want to play the game three times through to feel as if I've 'beaten' it. Still, that was the one criticism I had on the game as a kid.

There will always be a market for the linear game model, but I believe that the future of RPG's (and other genre of game) includes dynamically generated storylines. Research into interactive storytelling [wikipedia.org] has been going on for a long time. A research project at the University of Alberta [ualberta.ca] that I will be working on this summer deals with player-specific storylines in an RPG domain. I believe these games have great potential to be incredibly immersive and fun, and fun is what it's all about!

Re:Dynamically Generated Stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18278010)

Dewprism (although I guess I am the only one who likes it) is the way you wanted. There are more games that have branched storylines (hmm, Saga Frontier?) but I can't remember right now though.
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