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-   -   Skyrim - Telling Tales: Skyrim and Dark Souls (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15624)

Dhruin December 7th, 2011 23:57

Skyrim - Telling Tales: Skyrim and Dark Souls
 
Eurogamer has a piece that contrasts the story-telling methods in Skyrim and Dark Souls. The upshot is author Rich Stanton considers the Skyrim methods "stale", "banal" and have "little narrative sophistication":
Quote:

It's a stale template, a thought that solidified as I picked up and threw down book after book without reading any just to see if I'd bag a skill point. Such an undercooked attempt at incentivising suggests Bethesda's designers weren't quite sure what to do about all these tomes either. It's not that the books are terribly written - some are, some aren't - but that they're a symptom of Skyrim's biggest narrative flaw. The banal attention to detail in its world building is boring. This is a universe that's constantly being fleshed-out, and one where I skip nearly every conversation.
But perhaps you don't - and are doubtless salivating at the prospect of reading Waughin Jarth's A Dance in Fire (Chapter 4). The problem is that Skyrim is a videogame, and when it's in narrative mode it stops being one. This passive delivery is the rock on which Skyrim's lore founders - flicking through virtual pages or skipping through conversations counts as interaction, just, but it's of a rather dull variety.
More information.

Sergorn December 7th, 2011 23:57

The "banal attention" to details (including all these books you can read - or not) , is a great part of the reason the world of Skyrim is so delightful to explore, because it feels like a living breathing virtual, much like Ultima back in the day.

That's not to say Skyrim doesn't have narrative issues, but this aspect of the game is clearly not one of them.

-Sergorn

Nerevarine December 8th, 2011 00:04

Judging from that snippet, I'm guessing this guy doesn't like lore-driven settings very much, and I strongly disagree that "The banal attention to detail in its world building is boring." I personally find the lore and the continued building of the universe easily the best part of The Elder Scrolls "story;" the lore and history makes the universe truly feel alive and meaningful, and I think this is due to the attention to detail and consistency in the lore-building. Just about everything in this universe exists for a reason, not just to serve as a gameplay mechanic.

While it's unfortunate that the story the player experiences in the actual game doesn't have the quality of the lore that serves as the set-up for the player's adventure, the rich history and detailed background really helps immensely in the all-important immersion and "world believability" aspects. Just as The Elder Scrolls would benefit from better story-telling methods with meaningful, fleshed-out characters with more interaction/conversation/relationship depth, I believe other fantasy settings would greatly benefit from similar attention to lore development.

DArtagnan December 8th, 2011 00:09

He seems to think Skyrim is trying to deliver the narrative through books, rather than providing them as underpinning and optional lore for people who're into it.

Most of all, he seems to be a really big fan of Dark Souls and would like Skyrim to be the same kind of game.

Sometimes, I think it helps if you accept that games set out to accomplish different things, and to speak convincingly about quality of a narrative in an overtly objective fashion - you need to appreciate something other than exclusively your own subjective dislike.

BillSeurer December 8th, 2011 00:22

Quote:

Originally Posted by DArtagnan (Post 1061111217)
Sometimes, I think it helps if you accept that games set out to accomplish different things, and to speak convincingly about quality of a narrative in an overtly objective fashion - you need to appreciate something other than exclusively your own subjective dislike.

I have enjoyed playing PC game much more since I stopped grinding my teeth over all that each game wasn't and instead enjoying what each game was. That doesn't mean I am happy with every game but there have been quite I few that I thoroughly enjoyed that got panned by many people.

jhwisner December 8th, 2011 01:07

I always liked that the Elder Scrolls (and Ultima VII as well) had more to the world than could be expressed through a natural narrative. I also very much liked that they tended to avoid ramming this down your throat as natural feeling exposition injected into conversations and into the narrative.

The narratives of Skyrim and Morrowind do quite a bit to develop the world and its history without resorting to one of the classic fallbacks of underdeveloped or immature authors. Oblivion did include more exposition in places where it seemed a little unnatural but was still far better about that than most setting or story driven games. Perhaps the writer of the article was out of his comfort zone since most titles skew towards more node and path dependent story driven elements. They're easier to create such that the experience can be more tightly crafted but they also tend to feel more like a universe whose geometry looks like the old windows pipes screen save.

Elder Scrolls games are some of the more setting-driven games out there with story-diven sub sections that tend to be less structured or carefully paced, but also feel like guided rides in an amusement park where the "keep off the grass signs" not just suggestions but physical and fundamental law. Yes the characters could certainly do with some of the old black isle magic and they shouldn't have treated plot-pacing like it was a four letter word. It's clearly two words and hyphenated and there's 10 letters so that's just bad math and reading and… I forgot my point.

Right so not having characters who run up to you and decide to include short history lessons and fictional-world dictionary excerpts in between getting your attention and asking you to save their friends/family/prized cow from immenent harm is not a bad thing. If the world was falling apart and you wanted to know why those black or well tanned individuals with the distinctive clothing don't quite see eye to eye with the locals - they're probably not going to interject randomly to lament about the political state of the Empire. They might give you a brief explanation if you ask, but if you want to get the full details that's not something that should nescessarily be fully elaborated on through dialog or events that quest. That might be something you'd have to look into on your own if you were curious. If not then its not something the game should feel like it has to force you to be fully educated on. A place which does not allow a certain degree of ignorance by choice is not a believable setting for a setting-driven game.

The game could have done a lot of things better - partly because it does so much things and partly because the game is an Elder Scrolls game and so some things are just not the primary thrust of the effort behind it. The framing and subject of this complaint though is not one of those things. It seems a bit contrived and perhaps it is a disingenous attempt to milk the equally contrived seeming Elder Scrolls vs Dark Souls crap.

Maybe these game journalists playing-troll will go with a Minecraft vs Creation Kit rendition of this annoyingly long lived "Apple Pies vs Orange Juice" comparison craze come January. Its gone on too long and they need to move on to the next two things to make inappropriately shallow and direct comparison articles about. Heh so we have one more reason to wish the kit were out sooner I guess.

Is this sort of trolling by professional game journalism sites a new thing or have I just not noticed it before? I might just have caught on that stoking and becoming part of what looks a lot more like a meme than an actual presistent debate was the newest way to perform the role of a journalist or editor. It seems more like something bored college students in a message board would do.

rune_74 December 8th, 2011 01:15

I have played both games…not a lot of dark souls yet. I don't think I have seen any books so far in dark souls, it doesn't seem to be that kind of game. As for skyrim, the books are great if you want, but you definately don't need to read them. I would never say they are a negative because they are available.

Thrasher December 8th, 2011 01:34

This article is just plain bad. After reading some paragraphs and finding a couple of blatant falsehoods, I stopped reading. This trash belongs on in the garbage bin.

sakichop December 8th, 2011 01:51

So he's saying it's better to tell a very vague story and let the player fill in the rest on their own.He likes that he can talk to someone or not talk to them and they can disappear forever and he can pretend they are on a great adventure of their own. Instead of thinking the developer just didn't want to have to tell anymore about that person. To each his own I guess.

I haven't played dark or demon souls but have friends that think they are the best games ever. Funny thing though, even they say the story's very weak but it has the best combat ever made.

Now where did I put that skyrim and dark souls merging machine?

SpoonFULL December 8th, 2011 02:15

I have enjoyed reading this article and I don't think that the author is stating that Dark Souls is better than Skyrim - he is just comparing the narrative aspects and world mechanics and expressings his view. I have never played Dark Souls as I am a PC gamer, but I totally agree that the hero centred formula that is inherent in Bethesda and many rpg games makes the world boring and quasi-dynamic (triggered only by the user) and therefore dull. Bethesda in this case focused on making the world large and filled it with bells and whistles to enhance replayability and threw in the lore through books. There is nothing wrong with that and this is a design decision by Bethesda following their previous iterations.

The author is saying that Skyrim did nothing new compared to this other game. I agree and I have felt that strongly by comparing Skyrim and many other so called 'open world' games with Mount & Blade: Warband. In Mount & Blade people trade, farmers work, kings are created and destroyed, people die, get captured, get married .. etc. while you are roaming around in this big world. You feel that you are just a dot in this big dynamic world that you can make contribution if you want, but that does not stop the world around you from moving (or at least this is how Mount and Blade made you feel). I think that this is where the true innovation is and this is what this article is all about - highlighting this aspect and not criticizing or trolling. Ofcourse Skyrim is superior to Mount in Blade in many technical aspects (which ofcourse is understandable from the development resources available to each), but Bethesda with all their might have not introduced anything innovative.

skavenhorde December 8th, 2011 02:26

Two will enter!! One will leave!!

I always find it interesting that people have to rip apart any game that is similar to the one they love. It's not always the case, but you'll see these kinds of articles and/or forum posts all the time from the fanboys. God forbid that any other game out there be almost as popular as your beloved game….pfffttt

You see it with every genre out there. Currently BF3 and MW3 fans are enjoying ripping each other to pieces. Why not enjoy both of them for what they are?

People are strange.

RPGFool December 8th, 2011 02:41

Great thread this. With so many detailed and insightful comments. Reminded me why I enjoy visiting RPGWatch.com.

In my experience EuroGamer articles are usually pretty balanced, objective and well supported. This one's a different story entirely. The author writes about what makes quality stories and games, "showing rather than telling…", but fails to take his own advice.

For example, the sentence; "The banal attention to detail in [Skyrim's] world building is boring.", is simply put, classically bad writing. "Banal" and "boring", both in the same sentence? From the very same author who promotes showing over telling?

A corollary to the showing over telling rule is facts trump adjectives. So what are the bad facts about Skyrim? Too many books? How is that a banal boring flaw when the game doesn't force looking at or using the books, and when the player doesn't need to read the books to understand the story?

Since when is attention to detail a flaw? Hello? Attention to detail is a strength. Indeed a few details supporting the author's adjective-laden conclusion leaps would have helped his own writing a great deal.

Skyrim isn't without problems. The EuroGamer article, however, failed to actually spot and identify any such actual problems. Moreover, Skyrim has so many good things going in its massive world that any fair analysis demands a balancing of the good against the shortcomings.

My two cents.

Dajjer December 8th, 2011 07:17

Quote:

Originally Posted by RPGFool (Post 1061111259)
Great thread this. With so many detailed and insightful comments. Reminded me why I enjoy visiting RPGWatch.com.

In my experience EuroGamer articles are usually pretty balanced, objective and well supported. This one's a different story entirely. The author writes about what makes quality stories and games, "showing rather than telling…", but fails to take his own advice.

For example, the sentence; "The banal attention to detail in [Skyrim's] world building is boring.", is simply put, classically bad writing. "Banal" and "boring", both in the same sentence? From the very same author who promotes showing over telling?

A corollary to the showing over telling rule is facts trump adjectives. So what are the bad facts about Skyrim? Too many books? How is that a banal boring flaw when the game doesn't force looking at or using the books, and when the player doesn't need to read the books to understand the story?

Since when is attention to detail a flaw? Hello? Attention to detail is a strength. Indeed a few details supporting the author's adjective-laden conclusion leaps would have helped his own writing a great deal.

Skyrim isn't without problems. The EuroGamer article, however, failed to actually spot and identify any such actual problems. Moreover, Skyrim has so many good things going in its massive world that any fair analysis demands a balancing of the good against the shortcomings.

My two cents.

you nailed it - excellent analysis. Thanks for posting

JonNik December 8th, 2011 08:58

Quote:

Originally Posted by skavenhorde (Post 1061111257)
I always find it interesting that people have to rip apart any game that is similar to the one they love. It's not always the case, but you'll see these kinds of articles and/or forum posts all the time from the fanboys. God forbid that any other game out there be almost as popular as your beloved game….pfffttt

+1 Pretty annoying isn't it. It seems so much more natural to like different things (games, movies, Books) for the different (slightly or more significantly) things they bring to the table than turn everything in some sort of my team vs your team contest….

P.S: The article is obviously attention seeking drivel…

Zephyr December 8th, 2011 17:56

I'm willing to give most games a chance to engross me on their own terms. At the same time I have a few basic principles that they must satisfy. I want a good, plausible story, characters with whom I can identify, combat and a world that is accessible without being stupidly simple or crushingly difficult. It can be SF, fantasy, medieval, post-apocalyptic or whatever.

Thiraury December 8th, 2011 18:50

Quote:

Originally Posted by skavenhorde (Post 1061111257)
Two will enter!! One will leave!!

I always find it interesting that people have to rip apart any game that is similar to the one they love. It's not always the case, but you'll see these kinds of articles and/or forum posts all the time from the fanboys. God forbid that any other game out there be almost as popular as your beloved game….pfffttt

You see it with every genre out there. Currently BF3 and MW3 fans are enjoying ripping each other to pieces. Why not enjoy both of them for what they are?

People are strange.

Couldn't agree more!

Thoth December 8th, 2011 20:20

I haven't played Dark Souls (I WANT A PC PORT!!!) but I do agree with a few points the article makes about Skyrim. Like the article says, it's a big world, but hearing several voice actors delivering the same exact lines is ridiculous. I agree, I normally skip whatever an NPC is saying after sitting through some of the early dialogues. As the article states, the game stops and a movie begins and unfortunately, it's a pretty bad movie. I wish we could go back to a dialogue box. I know we never will, but it'd be nice.

Ball_Breaker December 8th, 2011 21:21

I've finished Dark Souls (70+ hours and just began the New Game +) and currently I'm playing Skyrim, and I find them both really enjoying, even for different reasons of course ;).
I appreciate the article's topic, but I don't see why the writer had to make Dark Souls won over Skyrim. I mean, is it really SO important? Couldn't he just enjoy both for what they are, just videogames that want to tell a story? Skyrim has thousands of semi-useless books, I agree, but fortunately they stand if you want to know more about the lore. Maybe it could have been done better, but I don't think it's a so great flaw in the game.
About Dark Souls, one can object the total lack of motivation in doing something, and that's because you have absolutely no idea of what's going on in Lordran, and even at the end, questions are far more than answers… Play it and you'll see.
Anyway, both are for me two of the best games in 2011, and the only thing where Dark Souls is really, really superior than Skyrim (and every other modern action/adventure game) is the fighting system: the rest, I think it's a matter of personal tastes.
My 0,02 €.

Thrasher December 8th, 2011 22:03

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ball_Breaker (Post 1061111419)
Skyrim has thousands of semi-useless books, I agree, but fortunately they stand if you want to know more about the lore. Maybe it could have been done better, but I don't think it's a so great flaw in the game.

In the modern world, where almost every child is diagnosed with ADD if you give a psychologist the chance, there isn't time to read books. ;)

Anarchosyn December 8th, 2011 23:50

Quote:

Originally Posted by skavenhorde (Post 1061111257)
Two will enter!! One will leave!!

I always find it interesting that people have to rip apart any game that is similar to the one they love. It's not always the case, but you'll see these kinds of articles and/or forum posts all the time from the fanboys. God forbid that any other game out there be almost as popular as your beloved game….pfffttt

You see it with every genre out there. Currently BF3 and MW3 fans are enjoying ripping each other to pieces. Why not enjoy both of them for what they are?

People are strange.

I think comparative analysis can be a very useful tool, especially as a springboard to deeper thoughts on matters only tacitly related to either title (the evolution of the genre, where the industry is going, etc). The acrimony is where the problems arise, and on this I think we both agree.

It's not the tool but the use of said tool that you should be calling into question.


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