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March 31st, 2007, 03:49
RPG Codex's Role-player has written a lengthy but fascinating piece on contemporary narrative techniques in RPGs:
Developers have been looking outside the medium and at others like cinema as a model to present immersive, "cinematic" experiences that try to tell a story - for this, they assume a game needs to emulate a movie in order to present a sense of narrative. However, including a cinematic sequence angle is akin to shoving a round peg inside a square hole; developers believe these non-interactive cutscenes played out by virtual actors are not only great simulacrums of movies, but that they are also doing a proper job of conveying characterization and plot advancement. The problem is that these cutscenes are taken out of their original context and lose the same sequential meaning they originally have in cinema; whereas a movie is composed of such segments to narrate a story, in a videogame these scenes often fail to narrate the main character’s exploits or expose the consequences of their actions and are presented in a way that actually breaks up the pace of gameplay and the flow of the story itself.
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March 31st, 2007, 03:49
The last person who called it fascinating was greeted with pantless demons dual-wielding pitchforks.

Jus' saying.


PS: It's not that good.
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March 31st, 2007, 04:14
I don't entirely agree but I thought it was a good read. I broadly agree with the thrust but I don't think simulation is the way forward, other than as a way of making the gameworld more interesting and occasionally providing an interesting random AI interaction.

I also think many of the old classics are little more than dungeon crawlers and the move to linear narratives is not inherently worse than a crappy narrative and a whole pile of combat (assuming the linear model still has reasonable interaction).

Branching and multiple paths, such as in Fallout, is the best model to my mind. Choices are only interesting in the context of the gameworld and story, so a suitable narrative makes it much more compelling. Interactions other than combat are difficult to simulate, so too much simulation tends toward Oblivion with an open space to wander and not much more than combat to fill it. That doesn't mean that model can't be improved a long way and can't be an interesting game (or part of an overall game) but I still like some specific narrative design.

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March 31st, 2007, 04:31
I agree on the overemphasis on using cinematic formulae to drive a game, to me the most disruptive "innovation" the genre has had to swallow lately. If all I'm going to get in the way of a story is a sketchy skeleton of predigested material, let it lurk in the background, not catch my character up in a tsunami of irrelevance. In a combat heavy game, often the cutscenes remind me of nothing more than a commercial break on tv—a time to pause the game and do something else.

An article with a lot of food for thought, RP.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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March 31st, 2007, 06:58
Good article. I especially liked the conclusion and agree completely with these tidbits:

"…go for a game that disregards a main overarching story at first and build a gameworld…Let story elements become secondary in face of giving the player a world he can explore and advance in, a gameworld where he can build his own narrative…."

Here's my two cents. Stories are entertaining, but only if they're good stories, and then only if they're well told. Clever simulation is often the very best part of the experience, whether it's portrayed in film, live theatre, or even when it's just read out loud (I like it when the reader makes faces and uses funny voices).

CRPGs need to strive for both pleasing simulation and a wonderful story. Those aren't things that are normally set in opposition (but it's possible to sacrifice one for the sake of the other — don't do that). The gaming world is the key. Put it all in there and challenge the player to go out and quest for it.
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March 31st, 2007, 07:37
If you played the steaming pile that was Jade Empire you would have to agree with this. The game is over 6 gigabyte including movies and about 1 gig without them and that doesn't even take into account the "movies" that use the in-game engine.

Favourite RPGs of all time: Wizardry 6, Ultima 7/7.2, Fallout2, Planescape Torment, Baldurs Gate 2+TOB, Jagged Alliance 2, Ravenloft: The stone prophet, Gothic 2, Realms of Arkania:Blade of destiny (not the HD version!!) and Secret of the Silver Blades.
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March 31st, 2007, 19:20
Jade Empire is a very fun game.
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March 31st, 2007, 19:41
I agree that some recent RPG's have gone overboard with the story. NWN2 in particular is one that I can think of. The game has long, long cutscenes and the story isn't that good anyways. 0
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April 5th, 2007, 21:16
An interesting simulated game is a flawed philosophy that seems to go through the head of every aspiring developer before they grow more experienced and scrap the idea. Truth is; you cannot create a simulated world and make it interesting. The world you create will be just as generic and repetitive as the developers limited AI.

Best example of a simulated RPG without cutscenes would be Oblivion. A simulated gameworld that just couldnt tell a story and make things you do feel important. Every randomly created dungeon give you a "meh" feeling, since after just 2-3 days into the game, every corner looks the same, and still, Oblivion is the best RPG of that kind ever made, still it's dreadfully boring.

Cutscenes is a form of narrative, that helps to increase a sense of urgency and importance, or increase emotion. Without thoose feelings, the game gets repetitive and boring because computers can never simulate a compelling story. Neither can a such game bring forth interesting NPC's, only generic generated ones that feels as important to you as cardboard dolls.

And I enjoyed both NWN2 and Jade Empire.
Last edited by JemyM; April 5th, 2007 at 21:36.
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April 6th, 2007, 02:29
Are you saying that cutscenes are necessary to create interesting NPC's??? That's how I read your comment, and if so, I disagree!! Could you please clarify.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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April 6th, 2007, 10:07
To introduce interesting NPC's that seems to have their own personality and their own will, they will need to be able to take attention temporarily, showing you who they are. One way to do this is to confront you with forced dialogue. Allowing free will there so you can ignore them or ask them to shut up every time is something that would require a huge amount of developing time just for that simple feature, developing time that could have been spent elsewhere.

Cutscenes is a way to bring a NPC into spotlight temporary, showing off their skills, some specific behavior or something that is important to bring the plot forward. Without cutscenes, you are unlikely to ever see what the NPC is up to, which will make you loose a large amount of narrative options to deliver your story.

If there are alternatives to Forced Dialogue and Cutscenes that still manages to introduce an NPC's unique personality to you and make you like/love/hate them, then I do not know about it. I have never seen a game that made me like/love/hate an NPC that use neither forced dialogue and cutscenes.

I also cannot tell a single game with a good storyline that did not use cutscenes.
Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid, KOTOR, Fallout, Gothic, Deus Ex… they all use them.
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April 6th, 2007, 12:55
I'll mention but 2: BG and PS-T!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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April 6th, 2007, 14:59
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I also cannot tell a single game with a good storyline that did not use cutscenes.
Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid, KOTOR, Fallout, Gothic, Deus Ex… they all use them.
Uhm…Fallout doesn't use cutscenes. Fallout 2 had one: the tanker cutscene. And that wasn't used to introduce any NPCs.

Funny how all your examples are from the era when cutscenes are obligatory for games.

I also find it amusing how you seem to feel that the better way to introduce someone to an NPC is to force him to watch a bit of footage, rather than the engage in actual simulated conversation with him. You honestly believe a conversation in which the PC has some input and can explore facets of the NPC's personal philosophy by asking the right questions is a wasteful way of introducing NPCs.
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April 6th, 2007, 16:27
I think the problem lies deeper :

What do we want ?

- a role playing in a simulation of a world
- a role playing in a world that is not an simulation but instead let's say a pure dungeon (crawl) ?

I think, it's a matter of the principles used. The principles used for the player to make a world for him/her to do actual "role-playing".

And movies are just one side of the cristal.

Edit : By the way, I still love Adventure Games. They are not too different from RPGs in the respect that they too want to tell a story with the gamer involved …

2nd edit : I liked that passage :

Characters must fight hordes of enemies for no good reason other than attaining a reasonable power level to challenge an enemy who will produce the next movie-like segment when vanquished.
Reminds me of Summoner.

3rd edit : I liked that comment, too :
http://www.rpgcodex.com/phpBB/viewto…=348170#348170
Last edited by Alrik Fassbauer; April 6th, 2007 at 16:34.
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April 6th, 2007, 19:42
Originally Posted by Kharn View Post
Uhm…Fallout doesn't use cutscenes. Fallout 2 had one: the tanker cutscene. And that wasn't used to introduce any NPCs.

Funny how all your examples are from the era when cutscenes are obligatory for games.
Im talking about moments in which the game play by it'self, not prerendered videos. Fallout did have quite a few cases where the game "took over".

Originally Posted by Kharn View Post
I also find it amusing how you seem to feel that the better way to introduce someone to an NPC is to force him to watch a bit of footage, rather than the engage in actual simulated conversation with him. You honestly believe a conversation in which the PC has some input and can explore facets of the NPC's personal philosophy by asking the right questions is a wasteful way of introducing NPCs.
I think you misunderstood what I meant with "forced dialogue". Im talking about the cases in which a NPC demands a response from you, you have a number of possible answers but none of them is [end conversation]
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April 6th, 2007, 19:50
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
- a role playing in a simulation of a world
Got any examples of a game like that? I have yet to find a game in which simulated AI is better than prewritten guided dialogue.

Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I think, it's a matter of the principles used. The principles used for the player to make a world for him/her to do actual "role-playing".
I have always felt that moral conflict is an important part of roleplaying. If you are not demanded to react to something based on your opinion/morals, then you just do what gives the highest reward. Simulated sandbox games often come without consequences for your actions. At best you can have "infamy" or "faction", but characters all act upon an unified AI rather than personal opinions/agendas, so at best you get to roleplay in a world of pixelated zombies.
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April 6th, 2007, 20:36
Betrayal at Krondor made good use of cutscenes, though they have certainly been used excessively by developers in the last decade or so. I remember when the idea of having real "movies" in games first started appearing, people were blown away more by the idea than the actual content. I recall being in my college dorm room and showing of a MPEG 1 movie file running off my cd-rom drive (cd rom drives had just come out at the time) and everyone was blown away by the fact that a computer could actually show "movies". The old 2d cutscenes in Wing Commander 2 were quickly replaced by mpeg movies in Wing Commander 3, no-one seemed to notice the actual story was no better (arguably it was even worse) they were too busy drooling over the pretty "movies".

It always makes me scoff when I see reviews praising games like KotOR as literary masterpieces, some people really must not read books at all or if they do read books they probably read Robert Jordan or the Dragonlance books, quality writing there indeed I wish more actual writers would get involved with the production of games, I was reading on Raymond E Feist's mailing list a few months ago that he has been approached a few times in the past couple of years by various development companies but nothing has come of it.

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April 6th, 2007, 20:41
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Im talking about moments in which the game play by it'self, not prerendered videos. Fallout did have quite a few cases where the game "took over".
No it didn't. Fallout 2 had the forced Frank Horrigan vs. the farmers "cutscene", I can't remember a single event in which the game took over in Fallout 1.

Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I think you misunderstood what I meant with "forced dialogue". Im talking about the cases in which a NPC demands a response from you, you have a number of possible answers but none of them is [end conversation]
Then you're just pulling it into the wider question. My preference goes out to choice and consequence, and that extends into dialogue. Your preference fits into the general predeliction we've seen in cRPGs lately to hold the player by the hand and just guide him everywhere so he won't make any stupid mistakes, like ignoring key PCs. Sorry, not my preference.
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April 6th, 2007, 20:49
"The moral thing" is … okay, an essential part of role-playing (2which trap pof the three do you want to disarm ?"), but since I'm an "Explorer"-type player, I don't regard these things as too important - at least not for my own gaming style.

There are always several factions of gamers - even within a given genre. For example explorers (like me) and the dungeon crawlers.
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April 6th, 2007, 21:02
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
"The moral thing" is … okay, an essential part of role-playing (2which trap pof the three do you want to disarm ?"), but since I'm an "Explorer"-type player, I don't regard these things as too important - at least not for my own gaming style.

There are always several factions of gamers - even within a given genre. For example explorers (like me) and the dungeon crawlers.
cRPG's have never been defined by the actual meaning of the words in the acronym. They are defined by their predecessors. If you followed the strict meaning of the words then every single game in the history of computing would be a "role-playing game" except for perhaps Pong. It's best just to go with your gut feeling.

To me a cRPG is something like Wizardry/Bards tale or Wasteland. Story is not essential to me although it helps if there is a bit of a story to help define what the overall goal of the game is. Games like Gothic blur the lines but ultimately each individual gamer probably has to make the decision whether a particular game is an cRPG to them or not.

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