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  1. #1
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    How much story is too much story (mostly in MMOs)

    I've always been keen on MMOs but the last few I've tried haven't done anything for me at all.

    The last MMO I enjoyed was Rift (around it's conversion to F2P) so I got wondering why some of the recent games I've played - well - haven't done anything for me.

    Note: It can't be grind/level fatigue because I've done it far too many times for that to suddenly descend now!

    Trying FF XIV earlier (2 week free trial!) I think I might have found 1 reason for it tho

    Q How much information do you need to give someone before they play an MMO exactly???

    FF XIV's intro from 'create character' to 'accept first proper quest' must be 45 minutes of flannel - OK, it's FF and they have to lay-on the nonsense/moogles/chocobos and shit - but FORTY-FIVE MINUTES is the length of a TV program FFS!!

    Wildstar and Archeage also do this - tho not quite as much - and then there's the 'tutorial' itself...

    Q - Do you really have to explain how to talk/take a quest/wear a hat?

    We know this stuff - honestly, 95% of players have played these things before y'know?

    Q. Wouldn't it be better to tell me the story as I'm playing - once I've got the hang of it etc??

    Age of Conan, WoW and Rift just let me play and, whilst doing so, introduced as much story/lore/background and narrative as I wanted to hear - over the course of killing a million things and visiting 200 rocks.

    In WoW I could skim through the quest text to pick-out the tasks with only a bit of flavour for the world or I could talk-the-legs off the NPCs for as-much detail as I wanted (which just got richer and richer with the expansions).

    In AOC there's loads of backstory, but I think they realised we'd rather read the books (and do read them - they're excellent!) and so they kept the drone to a reasonable minimum (tho it's there all through he game if you look for it).

    Rift is interesting here - because it's an 'unknown world'. Most of us knew something about Warcraft, we knew something about Conan but Rift is novel and yet it avoided talking me to death (esp in it's later state - it was a BIT talky at first - but nowhere near Wildstar levels of it).

    So I guess my question is - are MMO developers force-feeding us too much flannel? Would be rather be washed-up on the shore and left to kill our way off the beach (AOC, PoE) or free ourselves from jail (every Elder Scrolls game) or go find Lazy peons ASAP? - or would we want a detailed breakdown of the history of Flannelovia and it's 20 races before we even kill a rat?
    Last edited by trjp; 02-08-2014 at 02:48 AM. Reason: Made it pretty ;0

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus rockman29's Avatar
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    It's too much story when I get tired of it and just want to shoot something in the face.

    Also sometimes I really do appreciate when the game doesn't tell me things and I figure it out on my own.

    They really ought to make tutorials optional in more games.

  3. #3
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    It's too much story when it doesn't describe what's happening in front of my own eyes-- which is always the case, I kill the big bad, and he just resurrects a second later for the next guy...

  4. #4
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    It's an age old debate, but I think the answer totally depends on the person. Some play for the story / adventure / characters and some play for the mechanics / loot / action. Everyone is at a different point on the scale.

    I can't imagine ever wanting to watch a 45 minute cinematic, but I do think that story can add a lot to a game. (Depending on the game, genre, story, etc..)
    A game with a great narrative or characters can disguise its flaws. A game without a great narrative needs to be flawless.

    I do find tutorials that teach us basic gameplay mechanics rather odd. Of course there must be some first time players, but they must be a very tiny minority. Optional tutorials sound good in theory, but you don't usually know if you need the tutorial until after you've played it.

    Introducing mechanics as you go along is a better idea (which is basically a tutorial, but much more integrated into the game). But it can be low paced, and most games don't implement it very smartly. If I've just crouched 3 times to go under pipes, you can skip the command about how to crouch.

    Actually, personally, what really annoys me is when games keep putting up command prompts all throughout the game. It started as a kind of tutorial thing, when you approached the bad guy it said "Press A for silent kill" the first 1-2 times. But recently it seems standard for that sort of thing to continue throughout the whole game... even if you've done it a hundred times before. I find it very immersion breaking to keep having messages about keys popping up in my medieval adventure.

    Don't MMOs allow you to skip dialogue or cutscenes? That said, I never skip dialogue as I'm more on the story end of the spectrum.

  5. #5
    Network Hub Skyturnedred's Avatar
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    I think the only reason I played WoW all those years is because I knew, and loved the world I was in. No other MMO has had the same effect. And I didn't really know anything about the lore of Warcraft when I started, so they must have done something right. The main reason I get bored with other MMOs is that I just don't care about the world at all.

  6. #6
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    I think it's less how much story is too much, and how well it's delivered? For me, I don't play MMOs for their mechanics so much as I play it to explore a huge world at my own pace - but I'm less a mountainside explorer and more a library one (better yet if they coincide, of course.) But I think I'd be pretty vexed if that meant I had to endure 45 mins + of fluff before I actually got to play. It's always best if the storytelling is weaved through the gameplay, in an art known to some as 'pacing', instead of infodumped upfront. I think that's why I stuck with warcraft so long, really. The gameplay was undemanding, the lore was plentiful, but you were actually playing the moment you created your character.

  7. #7
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    Depends of game, but I don't have enough patience for long cutscenes anymore.
    ESPECIALLY when game goes like: 10 minutes of cinematic intro -> 10 seconds of gameplay -> 15 minutes in-game cutscene etc.

    Souls series are doing fantastic job with plot. Aside of 2-4 minutes of exposition in cinematic intro and occassionally 30 seconds long cutscenes (without single spoken or written word!) or quick conversations with NPCs you are totally free to move around and PLAY.
    And yet it have much more memorable plot, characters and antagonists than most of so called classic RPGs.

    I think that since last few years I've played only one RPG with long cutscenes that I've enjoyed - it was Persona 3 Portable, but there's some characters to really care for and very nice voice-acting.

    Get your goddamn books and movies out of my games!

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Drake Sigar's Avatar
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    Any is usually too much, especially when I've been booted out of the party yet again because I insisted on wasting time reading the quest text and delaying the entire group.

    It sounds like your issue was more with uninspired tutorials that just throw out text bubbles though.

  9. #9
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    By way of a test - I threw myself into the latest F2P on Steam - Royal Quest - to see how long I lasted.

    It's from the Kings Bounty developers I think (it certainly looks like it) and it's a sorta-Diablo-ish thing (with a moveable camera) - heavy on the FF-style (including Chocobo-like things) and it's - erm - it's a cash grab of course (more quests than you can take - more items than you can carry and when you buy money you get 'Premium Membership' for a period which adds more XP and loot)

    That said - I managed longer in it than I think I did in Wildstar! Perhaps because it makes almost no attempt to tell you the history of the world (tho there's some lore and waffle in if you want it) - it just points you into the world and says "find this, kill that, do the other" and it throws a shitload of items/spells and other stuff at you to keep you smiling.

    Someone put it quite well earlier - we don't need to know anything which isn't RIGHT in-front of us. That a monster wiped-out the world last week is interesting perhaps but I don't it's entire family history - if it's still around I guess I'll be dealing with it much later - but right now, tell me where the rats are, eh?

  10. #10
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    I just wanted to highlight that, having gotten past the 30+ mins of talking which is the start of FF XIV, I just did the 90 mins of "idiot-level tutorial" missions - including about 20 mins of walking.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the atmos and the style and I might even enjoy the game (tho I'm already thinking that Lancer was a mistake!) but even tho I expected a lot of flannel and patronisation - I've never spent the big-end of THREE HOURS on what amounts to the intro and tutorial (and, frankly, I'm not sure I'm done with it yet!!)

    I did do a FATE called 'Breaking Bud' tho - jokes I wasn't expecting ;0

    My point tho - it's not put-me-off the game yet - tho that might be because I've not really played it yet - not really?! :)

  11. #11
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    It's too much story if you wouldn't play it if the story part was removed.

    Age of Wonders 3 has a well thought-out storyline, but you'd still enjoy it if all story references were removed.
    pass

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gwathdring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    It's too much story if you wouldn't play it if the story part was removed.

    Age of Wonders 3 has a well thought-out storyline, but you'd still enjoy it if all story references were removed.
    Why on Earth is a game that genuinely compels you with story a problem? Surely it's only "too much story" if the story elements intrude on the gameplay elements in a way that negatively impacts the experience. If the experience is positive and the mechanical-narrative interactions are positive, why does it matter if the narrative experience is the star of the show?

    Also what if it goes both ways? What if the game neither works without the narrative nor the story without the mechanics?
    Last edited by gwathdring; 03-08-2014 at 10:13 AM.
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  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Because if it starts pushing a story down my throat I'd rather read a book. They are the superior storytelling medium as far as I'm concerned. I've only enjoyed a handful of movies, which is why I generally don't watch them (because I find it too much hassle to filter movies I like from the boring ones). I really liked Blade Runner.

    More often than not, story in a game really hurts replayability. A game with a story is usually a one time affair, and soon starts collecting dust on a shelf. An already played "story" game is as much fun as an expired movie ticket.

    I can count on fingers of one hand games which are good at storytelling and wouldn't work better as a book, comic or movie. Half-life 1 is a job very well done, for instance.

    A game can be very enjoyable with zero story or even annoying story, if its mechanics are good. A game doesn't need story. This is not to say a well-executed theme can't do wonders.
    pass

  14. #14
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    A game can be very enjoyable with zero story or even annoying story, if its mechanics are good. A game doesn't need story. This is not to say a well-executed theme can't do wonders.
    It reminds me of The 3rd Birthday (aka Parasite Eve 3) which had awesome and challenging gameplay but story was totally like really bad fanfiction. It's one of these games where you can skip all cutscenes (you will miss beautiful CGI cinematics, though) and ENCHANCE the experience that way.

    Because if it starts pushing a story down my throat I'd rather read a book.
    Totally agree.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    I can count on fingers of one hand games which are good at storytelling and wouldn't work better as a book, comic or movie. Half-life 1 is a job very well done, for instance.
    Half-Life is/Valve are not especially good at storytelling.

    It's always helpful when anyone supporting the "Eh, I'd rather read a book" argument does a nice, quick job of confirming I can safely ignore them, though.

  16. #16
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    It's always helpful when anyone supporting the "Eh, I'd rather read a book" argument does a nice, quick job of confirming I can safely ignore them, though.
    Why?
    I play games mostly for, surprise, gameplay. Unless it's a visual novel, text or point & click adventure the more non-interactive cutscenes it have, the more it's pissing me off. With few exceptions where these scenes are really good* and there are NPC characters that I care for.

    *Honestly, as I love games, most of them have medicore stories at best. If games stories were books I would throw them away after few pages. I love running through Venice rooftops that ends with dive jump into canal in Asscreed 2. I sometimes like to see which historical character will pop-up next. I cringe everytime when assassins vs templars conspiracy theories and that fucking sci-fi crap are showing up.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by GameCat View Post
    Why?
    I play games mostly for, surprise, gameplay. Unless it's a visual novel, text or point & click adventure the more non-interactive cutscenes it have, the more it's pissing me off. With few exceptions where these scenes are really good* and there are NPC characters that I care for.
    Because if you say "Story in games is pointless, blah blah blah, but one of the few good examples is... (something not very good at all)" then chances are I can safely dismiss your opinion in future. Valve are not good storytellers. All the Half-Life games so far are simply bug hunts with some reasonably decent characterisation and a couple of good monologues. There isn't anything more to them than that. It just seems like there is, even now, because of how good Valve's artists and animators were, and as you say, how dire most games are.

    Story can benefit games. If you have a good story in the most basic, formulaic game going, you'll like it more than you would otherwise. Or someone will. I will. I'm pretty sure I'm not unique. And to say story is automatically superfluous because you're just playing stuff for the mechanics is nonsense. You could strip everything down to geometric shapes moving around - you could turn every FPS going into Lazerquest, but it doesn't automatically prove that the genre boils down to nothing more than running through a maze, moving a crosshair over a series of targets etc., etc. I'd never play a shooter again if that was all they were ever going to be - and no, they're really, really not. There was an old Edge review, I think, saying Half-Life was so good because you could set it in a cartoon jungle and it'd still be recognisably the same game. Utter rubbish.

    And the old "Oh, if it's all about the story you'll only ever play it once" - yawn. You might. I re-read books, I re-watch films and I replay linear, story-centric games if I think they're worth it. Lots of them aren't: that's not proof that they can't be. If you put better words in, you will get better games, and people will think they're worth going back to for the words, not for the high score or the achievements or the alternate endings or whatever. End of discussion.

    I mean I really don't know how to put it any more delicately than that. I know this thread wasn't originally supposed to be about that specific issue - God knows lots of developers certainly do obsess over throwing words at their playerbase when they're not warranted and they're not very good. There should always be lots and lots of games that throw two fingers up at the idea of telling a story - it isn't something games need to do by any means, and it's perfectly fine to take the piss out of developers who try to do it and do a terrible job. But simply saying "Can games tell good stories? Should some games try and tell good stories?" It's like the whole "Can a game be a good game if it isn't 'fun'?" debate. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. If you think any different, you're wrong. Simple as that. I see the same tired arguments dragged out to argue against these things again, and again, and again, and all they ever boil down to is "I don't like it/that's not what I play games for". Tough. Go away and don't play them, and let the people who appreciate good writing and enjoy games for more than just escapism and competition play them instead.

  18. #18
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    The "i'd rather read a book" comment always strikes me as odd (tactful word).

    Ignoring that it's a very blanket statement with regard to quality, it also seems rather illogical. Even if we assume that books have better stories than games, why does that preclude games from having stories? Are you really saying that only the premiere type of any artform is allowed? That tv shows, movies, comics, plays, etc... can't have stories because they're not as good as books?

    I can't imagine anyone (sane) saying: "I'd rather look at a painting - get your art out of my game!" or "I'd rather listen to a cd - get your music out of my game!" or any other remotely comparable thing.

    For me, most pure "games" with little story or presentation are totally unengaging. They might have replayability, but I wouldn't know because they get boring well before I get to that stage.

    The genre can be imoportant, of course, but for many games the story is a large part of what makes it what it is. Adventure games without stories would all be basically the same game, as would FPS games.

  19. #19
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    Sigh...

    I didn't said that I don't want stories in games. :x
    I just want them to be delivered in form that can be only done in gaming medium.
    So, I don't want to read much text in games (except if I'm actually playing visual novel and similiar games), same as I don't want to read much in movies (subtitles doesn't count, think more of Star Wars where half of the movie's great oldchool special effects are replaced with wall of text like in intro).

    That's why I PREFER Dark Souls enigmatic plot over Baldur's Gate dialogues that combined have more words than typical novel (at least that's what I've heard).

    And the old "Oh, if it's all about the story you'll only ever play it once" - yawn.
    Stop putting words in my mouth, lol.


    Quick summary - it's not about story in games per se, it's about HOW the game story is delivered to a player.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by GameCat View Post
    Sigh...

    I didn't said that I don't want stories in games. :x
    I just want them to be delivered in form that can be only done in gaming medium.
    So, I don't want to read much text in games (except if I'm actually playing visual novel and similiar games), same as I don't want to read much in movies (subtitles doesn't count, think more of Star Wars where half of the movie's great oldchool special effects are replaced with wall of text like in intro).

    That's why I PREFER Dark Souls enigmatic plot over Baldur's Gate dialogues that combined have more words than typical novel (at least that's what I've heard).


    Stop putting words in my mouth, lol.


    Quick summary - it's not about story in games per se, it's about HOW the game story is delivered to a player.
    Most of that post was meant as a response to b0rsuk, not you.

    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    More often than not, story in a game really hurts replayability. A game with a story is usually a one time affair, and soon starts collecting dust on a shelf. An already played "story" game is as much fun as an expired movie ticket.
    And yes, the idea that we should only have stories in games when they meet this mysterious nebulous standard - that they couldn't be told any other way - is dumb. There are plenty of films adapted from books or from plays which arguably don't add much beyond a free-roaming camera and faster transitions from scene to scene, if that. Should they all not have been made? Of course people should be trying to work out how to tell stories only games can tell, but the idea these will be automatically better than any other story is stupid. I can't stand the majority of games that talk about letting the players tell their own stories. I think the majority of "stories" that come out of these games are tedious, repetitive and uninteresting, and not worth anything of note to anyone in the long run. Does that mean I think developers should stop trying to make them? Not in the slightest, as long as they continue to give me authored, tailored stories that I enjoy as well.

    And GameCat, you may not have used the same phrasing as b0rsuk, but you're still saying many of the same things that piss me off. It's always about the story, for me. Better words make everything better. I'd praise a choose-your-own-adventure to the god damned stars if I thought it was really well written. Or a visual novel, even. Hell, I have done - Juniper's Knot was one of my favourite "games" from last year (EDIT: Okay, it was 2012) and it features no interactivity whatsoever and can be finished in about fifteen minutes. Does that mean developers should stop trying to work with anything other than simple dialogue trees and linear progression? Of course it doesn't. But it doesn't mean anyone gets to say "Eh, there's no point in making something like that - it could just as easily be a book" either.
    Last edited by Eight Rooks; 03-08-2014 at 05:22 PM.

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