Jump to content

Recommended Posts

There was an interview with Eric Wolpaw (writer of Portal 1 and 2) that I as reading recently where he talked about the problem with creating multiple endings to a game. Paraphrased, he said that coming up with just one good ending was hard enough. Coming up five or seven or ten would be impossible. So as a writer, you wind up with a percentage of your audience (and likely the larger percentage) walking away feeling unsatisfied, or even betrayed, by their experience, if you write a game with multiple endings.

 

I'm one of those gamers that other gamers find really annoying, because I care about story more than just about anything else in a game (I may not be so unique on this forum, I imagine, but when talking to a larger, non-RPG specific group, I often find I'm very much in the minority). I have played all the way through games with terrible gameplay, simply because the story was good enough to suck me in. And, I've given up on some critically acclaimed, very popular games with finely tuned, awesome gameplay, simply because there was no story there to keep me interested.

 

And when I think about the games that I love the most, all of them have been games that locked me into a story. Planescape: Torment forced me to play as the Nameless One. Half-Life 2 is more of an interactive movie than any of the awful full motion video games that called themselves "interactive movies" back in to 90s. In fact, the interactive nature of games makes them a better medium in which to tell stories than most others. The immersion factor is orders of magnitude greater than you can get sitting passively in a cinema or turning the pages of a book. Unfortunately, there's a bare handful of games that actually do tell good stories.

 

The point I'm getting to here is that RPGs represent a pretty big dichotomy between storytelling and gameplay. On the one hand, it's pretty clear that what players really want is choice. They want to be able to customise every aspect of their character, and they want a game that allows them to make meaningful decisions throughout their playtime. But at the same time, with RPGs there is an expectation of storytelling that does not really exist in other genres. And I think most of the time where RPGs fail is when these two elements conflict to one another's detriment.

 

The ones that succeed usually do so by favouring one or the other. PS:T had choices, yes, but not so many that the player could derail the story (although it does have more choice than you'd think would be possible while telling such a robust tale - one of the many things that makes it such a classic). Fallout 1 favours choice more, but it does so by compartmentalising the story into relatively discrete sections (divided mostly by location). It does so masterfully, and the epilogue at the end describing the outcomes of your actions in each area was (in my opinion) one of the greatest gifts to RPG storytelling in history. But it doesn't have the enormous sense of personal history that you got with playing as the Nameless One; you were never more than Vault Dweller #n.

 

You can probably infer that I would prefer to play as a character whose place in the world is important to the plot, rather than a random victim of circumstance. But with this post I'm not intending to push that particular agenda with regards to Project Eternity. Although I actually suspect the mechanics are already in place for PE to do both. The cycle of souls concept lends itself to the idea of the player character having a past life rich with backstory, even while their current life has been completely constructed by the player. However, the purpose of this post was really to provide some food for thought, and to see what other backers thought.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm on the side of choice within the story. Give the world interesting lore, with interesting characters and an over arching plot with branching paths and let the player tell his story.

 

The best quote I can use, are from Warren Specter:

 

Sharing authorship with the player is the 'sweet spot'
  • Like 1
cylon_basestar_eye.gif
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thie "problem" with choices vs story can easily be fixed. Most choices big or small, should take effect within the story, some instantly, some later and only the most important take effect on the over arching plot and ending(s). After that, the problem comes if you want a story that expands through multiple games; due to variables pilling up. At that point you have to choose which ones are important enough to show up and at what extent.

 

I personally like fixed characters(Nameless One, Mike Thorton, Gerald), thus giving more focus on the story and meaningfull choices(if few) within the plot, as long as the writters and game designers are up to it. But I like creating my own characters as well, though that seems to drop the quality of the plot and choices in the later years, NV excluded, and hopefully/thankfully that won't be the case with PE.

 

And going half way(Shepard, Hawke) with the current technology doesn't seem to be a good Idea.

Edited by kenup
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And going half way(Shepard, Hawke) with the current technology doesn't seem to be a good Idea.

 

Seconded.

 

I'm okay with either way (preset character OR make your own character) as long as the game knows that's what it is giving you.

 

I prefer to make my own character, but can and do have tons of fun with guiding presets.

 

The attempted middle is annoying as frak, however.

Edited by Merin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The way the Fallouts and Dragon Age: Origins handled the ending was good. Having one real endgame, but with blurbs afterwards that outlined how your choices affected people and places in the near future.

The area between the balls and the butt is a hotbed of terrorist activity.

Devastatorsig.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i think that endings should be varied and depend heavily upon your choices...that said, if Obsidian plans to use this campaign setting for future games and they aren't willing or able to carry over important choices made from previous games then they should make it clear from the start that they intend a canon ending in order to further the history of their world in a particular direction.

 

it will help minimize fanbase bitching in the future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is possible to craft a game with a very personal story and the player has minimal impact on the world. It doesn't stroke the character's ego though, so it is not a popular route to take. People love psychological masturbation.

 

Since the world is extremely difficult to explore, due to big nasty critters, any sequels can be fairly insulated as long as they focus on differnt provinces. I guess that would be sort of like the Elder Scrolls... except they don't need to do the retarded 200 year jump between each game. I am thinking that is probably what the plan is. It would allow them to insert 'rumors' about events in prior games and cameos.

Grandiose statements, cryptic warnings, blind fanboyisim and an opinion that leaves no room for argument and will never be dissuaded. Welcome to the forums, you'll go far in this place my boy, you'll go far!

 

The people who are a part of the "Fallout Community" have been refined and distilled over time into glittering gems of hatred.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A good story is one which has been designed and the players carefully herded through that experience. If we are to go for true choice where say the PC can slay the good folks and then lord over all for example, I would imagine the outcome of the adventure would be radically altered. To allow for radical variations and still maintain quality storytelling, will surely be too time consuming. A good story in itself is a great incentive to replay a game. It's like a good book, you go back and read it again after some time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reality of the matter is that there is no comparrison or vs. when talking about story and choice....they compliment each other to the extent that neither means much without the other. A story that you have no choice in or very minimal choice or fake choices(***cough*** BioWare ***cough***) you are far less likely to care as much about as opposed to a truly epic story that is largely determined by your choices. In games like Alpha Protocol and Fallout New Vegas, Obsidian proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that no story can be more epic than one that is shaped by the player and that nobody other than Obsidian has ever mastered the skills of epic storytelling and grand choices.

1zq6793.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its all about the illusion of choice.

Baldur's (1+2), Planescape and yes, Fallout, all gave you the illusion of choice.

 

The player felt that their choices mattered and THAT IS WHAT REALLY counts.

The story itself can be rail-roaded but as long as the player doesn't feel that he or she is forced into a choice, didn't feel that choice taken away from him or her like that "game which should not be mentioned" the player will leave feeling satisfied.

 

Obsidian has done it before.

Just don't kill our companions by droping a mountain on top of them and leaving the player in a "left for dead" state for an ending.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its all about the illusion of choice.

Baldur's (1+2), Planescape and yes, Fallout, all gave you the illusion of choice.

 

The player felt that their choices mattered and THAT IS WHAT REALLY counts.

The story itself can be rail-roaded but as long as the player doesn't feel that he or she is forced into a choice, didn't feel that choice taken away from him or her like that "game which should not be mentioned" the player will leave feeling satisfied.

 

Obsidian has done it before.

Just don't kill our companions by droping a mountain on top of them and leaving the player in a "left for dead" state for an ending.

 

Just don't make the illusion easy to disbelieve like Bioware does.

The area between the balls and the butt is a hotbed of terrorist activity.

Devastatorsig.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't manage to track down the interview, but judging by his pedigree, I imagine Wolpaw's coming at the idea of choice from the angle of a mostly linear game, with a compact cast of characters, and a multiple-choice ending where running down a corridor or choosing a particular option causes NPC X to die or the PC to shoot their own mother by mistake, etc, etc. From this angle, I think he's completely right - the game's narrative is so strict that it becomes difficult to invent different ways for it to conclude plausibly and satisfyingly.

 

But conversely, the more effort you put into placing the game's narrative into the player's hands, into making the narrative rise out of and react to their actions in-game, the more likely it is that it's going to satisfy them no matter what they choose, because it's their choice. (Will it satisfy the player if the game ends with an assassin murdering King Bumfluff in a cutscene and the courtiers crowning the player as successor? Perhaps not. Will it satisfy the player if they can end the game by murdering Bumfluff and taking the throne for themselves? Hell, yeah - they chose to do it, didn't they?) It's far harder work, obviously, and it requires a deft but gentle touch on the writer's part, but it's definitely worth it, and it seems to be something Avellone and Sawyer have been thinking about as an approach to their storytelling, with their oft-quoted discussions about J.E. making enemies of two factions in New Vegas and then setting them upon each other.

 

Obviously there can't be an infinite number of choices in-game, but I think it comes down to developer philosophy above all. Game writers shouldn't really be telling the story; they're setting up the chess pieces so that the story can function once the player boots up a new game, they're building a framework and pre-empting what the player's most reasonably likely to want to do in the situation the writer's placed them in, and the 'satisfying' endings will rise naturally up out of those. That way it doesn't come down so much to 'Okay, endings, endings...er...the player finds themselves in front of a console. If they press button one, Megatron escapes but they get to save Princess Penelope, if they press button two, the Death Star explodes but they can never return home to Kansas' because the game can reach an organic conclusion once the player's achieved whatever task they've settled on, whether that's leading faction X to victory or ascending to godhood. (And almost as importantly from the developer's perspective, you don't then become immensely over-confident, start declaring that the game's narrative is 'your' story and not the player's, so you'll bring back minor characters from the dead on a pointless whim if you want to, before forcing the player into a state of absolute impotence for the next twenty hours because you can't have them making choices that would ruin the 'awesome' twist you've set up ten minutes before the end, *cough*, Bioware, *cough*.)

Edited by grotbag
Link to comment
Share on other sites

MotB managed to create 4 great endings so I believe Obsidian can do the same once again.

Besides, endings of the story are not the same thing than endings of the quests. If Obs is using a system similar to what was seen in Fallout New Vegas or NWN2, we should be fine.

I want my choices to have consequences and that's Obs motto. It would be sad to see them try something else.

When the Portal dude says it's impossible to create 5 satisfying endings, I just believe he didn't try hard enough.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, acknowledging what the player did all along his path, even (especially ?) small things that didn't really influence the grand scheme in the end in a great way to establish and maintain that illusion of liberty.

There was also the Witcher 1 technique, where some choices earlier in the game had direct and unexpected consequences later (with a flashback from the choice you made when it kicked in). It was nice because it helped making the illusion of a dynamic world, but somehow it seemed a bit random too. Definitely something to consider though, throwing the player a bit of surprises from what he did before can be a fun way to imply him even more...

Mascot of the Obsidian Order of Eternity

Come on and join the Order or no petting for you !

 

 

~~ What can change the nature of a Man ? ~~

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The way I see it, an RPG is about taking control of a uniquely defined character or characters who can progress, and interact with the gameworld in a meaningful way (i.e. the gameworld should respond to them, and they should respond to the gameworld)

 

Having a good story told to you (the player) might make the game more entertaining, but it's really not what an RPG is supposed to be about. Story alone is not a defining feature of an RPG. It's just another means (through choices) for the player to use their character(s) to interact meaningfully with the gameworld, and to express and define who their character(s) is/are.

 

If you start taking away storyline choices and just railroad the player through a linear storyline (regardless of how entertaining that storyline may be) then the game is much less of an RPG as a result. In fact, i'd argue that it's better to have no main storyline at all in an RPG than one without choices and consequences.

Edited by Piccolo
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't remember the reference of it, but there is a good writing of MCA about writing in general and writing for RPGs. Having writers that came at the origin from the PnP RPG world makes a bit difference : when you are story telling in a RPG, especially in PnP, you have to open the story to the choices of the players. For a novel writer, it can create frustration and the wish to drive back the player on the story you want to achieve. On the contrary, a PnP storyteller will use the choices of the player to shape the story. And if for that he/she has to dump most of what he/she thought about before, then that's the game.

Thus, having different endings and multiple choices is not opposed to great storytelling. The main constraint is that you have to give an effort deployed for all the different choices and endings. That means a lot of writing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...