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Death Machine Miyagi

We all like a good 'plot', apparently. So let's talk specifics.

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I'm not really sure what I would want from a game's story. There are so many things that contribute to my enjoyment of a story. There's enjoyable companions, a great plot, an engaging dilemma (moral or otherwise) that your character must face, a great setting, a great antagonist, fun dialogue options, a high level of reactivity, and probably other factors as well.

 

Plot twists can be good or bad, depending on the game. Jade Empire's plot twist was the thing that really made the game great for me. KotOR I's plot twist, on the other hand, sort of ruined the game for me. Maybe ruined is too harsh a term, but for a couple of reasons (one of which is brought up by Zez-Kai-El in TSL), its plot twist has made replaying the game unappealing to me.

 

I think the one thing that should unequivocally be remembered is that computer games are an interactive medium, and this should apply to the story as well. ME3 suffered from this since its writers seem to have forgotten that it was a game, not a movie; it was full of irritating cutscenes where your character suddenly becomes an incompetent halfwit so that a bad guy could look cool, preset reactions to most things (you don't get to choose how you feel about a number of plot events; the writers TELL you how YOUR character feels), and a general disregard for the player's choices (e.g. the Rachni, the "inevitable" conflict between synthetics and organics that may have already been resolved before meeting the RGK, everything else about the ending). The reversion from an interactive story to a predominately non-interactive one is the main reason why I disliked the game even before I got to its abysmal ending.

 

TL;DR

 

There are too many factors that contribute to a story to single any one out as critical. However, stories in CRPGs should be interactive and it should be up to the players to decide how their version of the protagonist responds to events. It's a game not a movie.

Edited by eimatshya

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Usually the ending is what ends up defining the story for me. There are plenty good stories out there, but the ones with the great endings are always the ones that burn brightest in my memory. My favorite endings are usually the ones are when something BAD happens. Something that makes you whisper "oh my god" and want to stop reading/playing/watching. Maybe good still wins out in the end, but at what cost? This could be the death of a major character that the player/reader has a strong emotional attachment to, or something catastrophic that the heroes couldn't quite prevent happens. Maybe the character the hero has been trying to save for the whole story dies right in front of them (or maybe the hero has to kill them his/herself). Or perhaps the hero just flat out loses?

 

Whatever it is, I like endings that elicit so much emotion that you're drained at the end.

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I'm not really sure what I would want from a game's story. There are so many things that contribute to my enjoyment of a story. There's enjoyable companions, a great plot, an engaging dilemma (moral or otherwise) that your character must face, a great setting, a great antagonist, fun dialogue options, a high level of reactivity, and probably other factors as well.

 

Plot twists can be good or bad, depending on the game. Jade Empire's plot twist was the thing that really made the game great for me. KotOR I's plot twist, on the other hand, sort of ruined the game for me. Maybe ruined is too harsh a term, but for a couple of reasons (one of which is brought up by Zez-Kai-El in TSL), its plot twist has made replaying the game unappealing to me.

 

As I recall, the main reason I didn't see the KOTOR twist coming was because I wasn't dumbing myself down enough for it. Revan was the savior of the galaxy, I reasoned, a galaxy which presumably has the equivalent of mass media. I was pretty sure that, when he/she was a Jedi, he didn't go around wearing the scary Sith mask and Sith robes. I was pretty sure plenty of people knew what the guy/gal looked like. Certainly the game never indicated to me, at any point, that no one outside of a very, very select few knew what the most famous Jedi in the Galaxy looked like.

 

So I considered the idea and discarded it because it was nonsensical. Silly me.

 

I forget. What is it that Zez-Kai-Eli says?

Edited by Death Machine Miyagi

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Speaking of KOTOR, the first game offers another moral: Snidley Whiplash villains suck in any story which is meant to be taken semi-seriously.

 

This feeds into the whole 'grey morality' thing, but is slightly separate from it. Its perfectly acceptable to have bad guys, people whose behavior is overtly villainous. Just don't turn them into caricatures. No matter how violent or cruel or barbaric a group is, it must have internal motivations that make some sort of sense.

 

For example, Caesar's Legion was cruel and barbaric, but its internal logic was that just as Rome forged the Pax Romana through being more ruthless than the next guy, so would Caesar's Legion unite the waste and prevent tragedies like the Great War by bringing a uniformity of culture and thought. Its methods were extreme, Caesar himself was a hypocritical douchebag, and the outcome it sought was probably chimerical...but internally, it had motivations which made sense.

 

By contrast, the Sith of KOTOR repeatedly struck me as complete idiots who shouldn't have been able to run the local McDonalds, much less a galactic empire composed of a thousand thousand worlds. Despite the occasional lip service to social darwinism, I never got the sense that there was anything to KOTOR Sith philosophy beyond 'be as much of a **** as possible to everyone you meet for no reason except that you can.' Even Darth Vader tried to justify his actions by claiming to 'bring order to the galaxy'; Darth Malak just seemed to enjoy moustache-twirling exercises in 'oooohhh look how evil I am.'

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I'm not a fan of most RPG plots. Which is fine; story is much less important to me than interesting characters and situations. Most games, even good ones, I'll forget the story a few days after I beat the game. Like the Baldur's Gate games: I really enjoyed them, but I couldn't tell you anything about the plot of either game, other than maybe dredging up the word "Bhaalspawn." I could tell you all about Imoen, or Minsc & Dynaheir, or Irenicus & Bodhi, though. I could tell you about going to the Underdark, or getting betrayed by Yoshimo. But the details of the plot escape me, and in any case were irrelevant to my enjoyment of the game.

 

The stories I do remember are the simple ones, the details of which are presented to you at the beginning of the game. Finding the Water Chip in Fallout. Learning the Nameless One's past in PS:T. Finding the GECK in Fallout 2. Defeat the Reapers in every Mass Effect game. That stuff sticks with me. Despite that, I probably enjoyed BG2 more than PS:T, because plot isn't that central to my enjoyment of the game.

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I forget. What is it that Zez-Kai-Eli says?

 

Knights of the Old Republic spoilers (in case someone reading has somehow managed not to learn about the plot twist over the last nine years):

 

 

When talking to Zez-kai-el on Nar-shaddaa, if you try to convince him that there is hope for the Jedi by pointing out that Revan was redeemed in the end, he will essentially counter with the fact that the Revan in the first game was only Revan in terms of his power. Since his mind had been destroyed and rebuilt by the Jedi, defeating Malak and sticking to the Light Side hardly counts as Revan returning to the Jedi teachings or atoning for his actions. It's a more-or-less entirely new person: a descendent of Revan, perhaps, but not Revan. It would be like if Luke had "redeemed" his father by not turning to the dark side himself, rather than through turning his father back. It isn't a proper redemption because the person who needs it isn't the person who attains it.

 

The point that really bothers me when replaying the first game, however, is that I, the player, know that I'm Revan. As such, I keep seeing all these really cool things that could have been done with that fact throughout the course of the story. It seems like it should be a minor issue, but the more I play the game, the more I find myself thinking about how cool it would have been to be able to slowly regain your memories and "become" Revan again. That way you would have had to come to terms with what you had done (or embrace it if you were dark side), and it would completely change your confrontations with Malak if he was your former friend instead of just some psychopathic Sith dude.

 

Anyway, I know that it's a very idiosyncratic complaint, but it makes it hard to enjoy the first game when I keep thinking "this could have been so much cooler without the twist."

 

On the plus side, the KotOR II gives us more-or-less that scenario, so I imagine that if the first game had taken that route, the second game would probably have taken a different one, and that would have been a shame because KotOR II is one of my favorite games of all time largely because of its story.

 

 

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