10 February 2011

Finally, the Perfect way to deal with the Dreaded Plot - by Nilson Carroll

      Posted 02/08/11 09:05:00 pm  

It's popular to complain about video game narratives.

"Final Fantasy 13 sucked because there was too much story and not enough game!" cries the boy.

"My favorite Final Fantasy was 8 because I loved the characters and how they developed by the end," explains the girl, reminiscing about when she was thirteen.

"I love/hate Half-Life 2 because of its immersion/narrative/lack of main character," screams everyone all at once in the crowded room.

We want good narrative (well, some argue that we don't need ANY story, but I really don't like that), but we also say that cutscenes (you know, when you have to sit there for thirty seconds to thirty minutes and watch a movie instead of actual gameplay) are obsolete. Although technology has gotten to the point that we can depict games as actual life, narratives haven't changed much. We still have the same cutscenes in Final Fantasy 13 that we did in Final Fantasy 4 and we still like our Zelda protagonists to be silent.

BUT WE NEED TO GET RID OF THESE DARN CUTSCENES. IT'S MY GAME AND I WANT IT NOW!

So, what do we do?

I was sitting in Literary Crit today, arguing about St. Augustine and it hit me (no, not St. Augustine): why not just play the cutscenes while gameplay is still going on? Yeah, Half-Life 2 did that (and I feel they did it well), but you still find yourself sitting around for a minute while some jerk has to tell you something. My favorite part of that game was when the player goes through the cemetery with that nut in chapter 6; you really get to know the NPC while you are shooting monsters. It works. 

So, here's my groundbreaking idea (oh boy, here we go AGAIN): why don't they just make games like Tetris with a radio drama being played in the background? We have the perfect example of what a game is and then we just put a story over it...seems good? What about Bejeweled, which is fun, but add in RPG elements and an epic space opera story? As the clock ticks downward, the player sweats to solve the puzzles as the is he bad is he good villain speaks about saving the universe a la Xenogears III. It's a boss battle. The game does nothing for the player (no gambits). Maybe some dating sim elements after the battle, something like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

What's wrong with this game? The action is fast-paced and can be strategic, getting more difficult as the player progresses. We have a great plot here that the player can care about (maybe even have the "cutscene" progress differently is the player is struggling during the "battle"?) without ever having to stop playing the game. Adding in RPG elements or dating sim branching plots will add replayability and give something for the fans to discuss...

Or...

The perfect video game must be impossible to make. We can't please everyone. I GUESS I'll just keep making 8-bit RPGs -_-

    Comments
Dolgion Chuluunbaatar
8 Feb 2011 at 7:37 pm PST

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