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March 22nd, 2010, 21:36
Mass Effect 2's Subjective Story at Next Gen actually should have been titled the Objective Story. Reporting on a GDC panel, BioWare's Armando Troisi explains that Shepard is less like a traditional RPG avatar and more like Kratos in God of War:
In attempt to fix these problems, or at least tackle interactive narrative from a different direction, Bioware chose to create something “really counter to the traditional roleplaying form."
“You are not Shepard. He has his own reasons and motivations for doing things; he’s more like God of War’s Kratos than he is the avatar of Dragon’s Age.”
As a result, the player fills a “voyeuristic” role—watching scenes and trying to influence them, not control them. Troisi considered that this had “almost completely” removed temporal distortion, offering a “real time narrative environment.”
More information.
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March 22nd, 2010, 21:36
Not sure how these two statements are consistent:

"You are not Shepard. He has his own reasons and motivations for doing things […] As a result, the player fills a “voyeuristic” role—watching scenes and trying to influence them, not control them."

and

“This interactivity is a potent narrative device,” concluded Troisi, “but it really depends on iterating with the writers to make sure you give the players the choice they want. In the end, it’s the player’s story […].”

How can this be "the player's story" if we have already established and accepted that the player's interactivity is almost entirely passive with the exception of slight differences resulting from "a" or "b" choices. If so it's not the player's story, but your story in which you are giving the player a chance to take a ride.

Regardless, this seems to be the wave of the future in terms of interactivity. Games are becoming more like interactive movies where the "interactivity" only occurs within a very defined and limited space. It may be like roleplaying in the sense you are passively inserted in someone's consciousness and just along for the ride in a Being John Malkovich sorta way. But, you are really inhabiting a role rather than playing one.

People seem pretty happy with this and to the point that they often seem willing to give up complexity and interactivity of other game elements as well. This is evident everywhere in AAA gaming and can be seen in trend toward games becoming more like Heavy Rain.

I am sure this has something to do with the state of technology in that you can create an environment and story with AAA production value, but you can't both do that and allow true interactivity. Frankly, I would be more than willing to give up production value in return for complexity, but that doesn't seem to be the trend. It just seems to me that alot of this philosophizing about game evolution and eliminating stuff like "temporal distortion" is a bit disingenuous and really more rationalization than mission statement.
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March 22nd, 2010, 23:40
I wanted to reply but the person above pretty much said it all. It also went a long way (the article) in explaining why ME2 really isn't an RPG. You don't really play a role as much as you try to influence a role written for you.

People seem to like it … but I know I would prefer more interactivity even if it meant giving up some of the eye-candy or movie like qualities. I prefer to play games to try out many roles (not just direct one) and interact with it. It can be a tough thing to balance the sandbox versus story … and some games have done it but it seems to happen less these days.
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March 23rd, 2010, 00:54
Originally Posted by dagoo7 View Post
People seem pretty happy with this and to the point that they often seem willing to give up complexity and interactivity of other game elements as well. This is evident everywhere in AAA gaming and can be seen in trend toward games becoming more like Heavy Rain.
I agree, but I still hold out hope that this is nothing more than a phase or cycle… At present AAA "RPGs" are at the mercy of the majority despite the fact that RPGs have, historically speaking, been niche… Perhaps this new consumer base the devs are flirting with will crave more complexity, depth, moral ambiguity/dilemmas and interactivity/reactivity as they grow up and/or their gaming tastes evolve?
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March 23rd, 2010, 01:32
It isn't true that production value equates to less interactivity since there are games right now that have high production values and high interactivity. What it is about is the companies wanting to lower costs so they make more money. If they don't have to put much resources into making the gameplay they save money so then they get more of the profit. If they really cared about the gameplay they would put more resources into the game to make it better. The other way around is the same way where game developers make a game based on the gameplay but put little resources into the story and characters. Pretty much the only games that have both of these are German games.
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March 23rd, 2010, 01:43
In my view choosing one of three dialog options (as in Baldur's Gate 2) or choosing one of three directions for the conversation (as in Mass Effect 2) are the same in terms of role-playing. Yes ME2 has many interactive movie portions but so did Baldur's Gate 2 and most other good rpgs. I don't think the way ME2 handled conversations in any way reduced the rpg-ness of the game and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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March 23rd, 2010, 02:21
Originally Posted by NFLed View Post
In my view choosing one of three dialog options (as in Baldur's Gate 2) or choosing one of three directions for the conversation (as in Mass Effect 2) are the same in terms of role-playing. Yes ME2 has many interactive movie portions but so did Baldur's Gate 2 and most other good rpgs. I don't think the way ME2 handled conversations in any way reduced the rpg-ness of the game and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Fair enough, but BG2 had alot more going on in terms of character development, party choices, tactical combat, and open world than ME2. Storyline/narrative choices are only one form of complexity or interactivity. In ME2 thats about all there is, and other than basic shooter gameplay, everything is subservient to story. So IMO its failings here are more noticeable and telling.
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March 23rd, 2010, 09:55
How can you say that not knowing what you are going to say and potentially going against what your character would say is equal in rpg terms to knowing what you are going to say and staying and it being something that your character would say. I guess if none of the options would be something your character would would say then it wouldn't matter but if that isn't the case then the former doesn't equal the later. I guess if you don't care about roleplaying then it doesn't matter.
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March 23rd, 2010, 11:01
I've not played ME2 yet but it's nice to see the amount of high level conceptual thinking that's gone into their design decisions, I might not agree with all of them but it's still nice to see a AAA developer ready to experiment with new directions and break some genre boundaries.
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March 23rd, 2010, 18:29
Originally Posted by dagoo7 View Post
Fair enough, but BG2 had alot more going on in terms of character development, party choices, tactical combat, and open world than ME2. Storyline/narrative choices are only one form of complexity or interactivity. In ME2 thats about all there is, and other than basic shooter gameplay, everything is subservient to story. So IMO its failings here are more noticeable and telling.
BG2 was not an open world. Chapter two sorta made it look that way but you could only go to places they let you and the plot was still on rails. Most of BG2 (and, frankly, all cRPGs) was combat as well.
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March 23rd, 2010, 19:14
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
BG2 was not an open world. Chapter two sorta made it look that way but you could only go to places they let you and the plot was still on rails. Most of BG2 (and, frankly, all cRPGs) was combat as well.
Well, that's relative. When you play something like Icewind Dale, a game like BG2 will seem very combat 'light'.
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March 23rd, 2010, 19:20
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
BG2 was not an open world. Chapter two sorta made it look that way but you could only go to places they let you and the plot was still on rails. Most of BG2 (and, frankly, all cRPGs) was combat as well.
That was the least of the points on which I was basing my argument. But compared to ME2 where you are so clearly on rails and basically only have the occasional limited option to determine which setpiece you see next, BG2 is in a relative sense very much "open".
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