When Stories in Games Work

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by EnDevero, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    Then again, we'll most likely never really prove that.

    Nevertheless, I'll try to add an argument from a slightly different point of view.

    Isn't it kind of "unnatural" for games to have stories or even be ABOUT story?
    Some elaboration on this thought: This whole discussion mostly comes down to three forms of art: novels, movies, games. Now what are the smallest or rather core parts these forms consist of? Novels consist of words, movies of pictures and games of mechanics.

    If you put a number of words together (in some reasonable way obviously), then sentences and finally a story emerges. Put some pictures of a situation in a row and a story will emerge from those, too. Therefore it seems quite natural for novels and movies to be all about stories.
    Now, put a couple of interactive mechanics together and they form a game. No story, not even theme. Adding a theme though, is not unnatural at all, because it can SUPPORT and help explain/remember the mechanics. Adding a linear story on the other hand to an extent HAS to feel tacked on. Probably the same way the game is tacked on to a "gamebook" (I read quite a few and personally always felt annoyed at best by the game part, especially when the story was kind of good).

    Then again, one could just call that (natural) evolution of the media, but to me other reasons (e.g. game shame) seem much more plausible.

    Edit: On the "Uncharted problem" (i.e. liking it more as a movie):
    The conflict is quite obvious in this case. Watching it as a whole as a movie, the author of the story knows exactly what we've just seen. He can explicitely use the context of the story at all times to make it better. In interactive systems that's not possible. The "solution" seems to be to cut down on the interactivity, often trivialising it (QTE). Why do we have to cut one down to strengthen the other? Because there's probably an inherent conflict.

    Game players and designers need to come to the realization, that games are a totally different animal. Why do games need to convey some "deep emotional meaning"? Why should the central qualities of games (i.e. provoking thought, learning a system etc.) be of lesser value to human beings?
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  2. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Now, I am very sympathetic to the argument that games (in Keith's strong definition of the term) don't need to be embedded with stories, but story shouldn't be confused with narrative. The idea that interactivity is incompatible with story comes from this confusion, and frankly it leads to some pretty silly and counterfactual conclusions. The notion that any interactive system that tries to tell a story is worse than the noninteractive version of the same platonic form of that story (sorry, I can't even retype this without it sounding ridiculous) is just pure stuff and nonsense. I highly recommend dropping that whole line of argument if you want to try to persuade anyone.

    Nachtfischer's argument sounds a whole lot more plausible to me. My own way of thinking about it is that the main problem is really about interaction modalities: Video game makers haven't really figured out very good ways to tell a story using the same modes of interaction that make up the gameplay (or execution puzzles or whatever). If the game is about running around and shooting and hitting things, then the only germane way to move the story forward is to run around hitting and shooting things. But the stories people want to tell usually demand more than that, so you have to break out of the gameplay with cutscenes, QTEs, multiple choice menus, etc. But how could that stuff not feel like distractions from the main event?

    Interactive fiction--the kind with a parser--does so much better at twining story and puzzles through interactivity precisely because there is almost never a need for a shift in input modality. The "player" (these aren't games, so the word player is just a loose equivalent) does exactly the same type of thing to move around as he does to talk to someone or dodge a boulder: he types simple commands like GO NORTH or TALK TO AURO or DODGE. Of course, this mode of interaction isn't something that most people want to do anymore, so the whole form is pretty much a fringe thing. My main purpose in bringing it in here is to show how it makes such a strong counterpoint to the fragmented interfaces that (graphical) games get tangled up in when they try to bring in stories.

    AAA games also have a big problem, in that neither gameplay or story is actually the main factor in deciding what goes into the game. Marketing-driven content quantity is the main factor--22 hours of gameplay! 750 equippable items! Cramming in the quantity often means that story is the thing that gets used to plug the gaps. Look at the "story" in Arkham Asylum--Batman knocks around this tiny island like a pinball, dealing with tons of distractions and never even getting a shot at the main villain. What a putz! If Batman is this bad at catching the bad guy, you'd never want him saving your town. Anyway, as a player you get tired of the minor variations in gameplay long before you get to the end of the story--at least I did. Luckily, the story is so transparently a way to link together various fights and missions that you don't feel like you missed anything.
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  3. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    You're right. We'll never prove it, but we can reach a place where the majority believes it's probably true, and we start making fewer story-based games. There will always be some. But it's kinda like, we can't prove that linear, act based novels are better than choose your own adventure novels. In fact, most people would be afraid to even make such a statement, even though most people implicitly kind of understand that it's the case. So I think we can get there with games.

    Agree with your whole breakdown Nacht.

    Really the whole game-story thing, I've always found insulting to games in general. Like there is this implicit assumption that games on their own, just mechanical games, aren't "enough". They'll never "be art" if that's "all they can be". Very gross.
  4. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Senator: I like to use the word PLOT for what I'm talking about; specifically, authored plot. Other narrative elements, such as character and setting aren't inherently a problem.

    Knowing that I'm specifically making a statement like that about authored plot, can you go into more detail on the mistake you think I'm making?
  5. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    Right. These people fail to ackowledge that the purely mechanical game itself is a form of art. They must think "Chess is not art" (I mean the game as a system in this case, not actively playing Chess, which even less people would ever call art). Which to me sounds quite offensive.
    It's kind of funny how guys like Jonathan Blow actually make totally correct observations about modern digital games (i.e. story causing an inherent conflict, skinner-box addiction enforcement, spectacle dominating gameplay etc.), but then run into obscure directions, drawing very strange conclusions. It's like: "Hey, story and games don't work together." You might say, then make games without stories. But no. "Stories are important to people!" So the conclusion is: Make completely over the top ART GAMES (that again insult all games as not being art and then mostly aren't even games anymore) and run around screaming "This is ART! I respect my incredibly intelligent PLAYERS by giving them CLEVER puzzles to solve!"

    I know, I'm exaggerating (and hey, I actually did find the ending of Braid, which is NOT a game, quite clever), but it's all so insulting. The solution to the crappy state modern digital games are in is NOT make games at all? Well, I guess they just completely fail to understand what games are in the first place. So, they make puzzles and call them "art games", right?
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  6. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Actually I think more people call playing chess an art than the actual design itself. Like, people call people who are pro sports people artists somewhat frequently.
  7. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Keith, I don't think I can answer your question succinctly since I'm not sure exactly what you're arguing. You seem to argue two very different things in this thread ("stories and puzzles actually work decently well together, since they're both linear and about completion" vs "all interactive systems getting paired with storytelling is basically bad"), and I've seen you take other stances.

    So, I'll try to stay closer to the kinds of statements you've made most recently. First, most people make a distinction between story and plot (google "story vs plot" to see what I mean), so if you're referring plot you should probably use the word. Now, I would include plot in the narrative category--it's one of the tools you use to tell a story. You can rearrange the hell out of a plot and still be telling the same story (e.g. Pulp Fiction, which wouldn't really be that affected by arranging the stories in chronological order). When you start to think of all of the ways in which writers make hay out of the difference between story and narrative, from unreliable narrators to puzzle books like Pale Fire to Rashomon-type narratives, it just becomes ridiculous to select this one idea of the linear plot and call it the essence of storytelling. Many, many people would say that the linear plot you're talking about isn't even very interesting! (I'm one of them, Martin Scorsese is another.)

    So I just don't accept that linear plot is the apotheosis of storytelling. You have a long, long row to hoe in making that argument. When you say that "most people would be afraid to even [say that linear, act based novels are better than choose your own adventure novels], even though most people implicitly kind of understand that it's the case", you get it exactly backward. Most people don't even think it's a legitimate question, of course a novel is better than those cheap choose-your-own-adventure books--weren't they a fad for kids that died out 30 years ago? But that's an issue of traditionalism: it's a social judgment, grounded in 200 years or more of literary production and book sales. It has nothing to do with actually being able to say that one is better that the other (what would that even mean, by the way?), so your sly attempt to say that this absolutely conventional social opinion reveals an intuitive understanding of true quality reads as sleight of hand at best, grasping at straws at worst.

    But even if we do accept the idea that linear, act-based storytelling is the "good" way to tell stories, the idea that it's incompatible with interactivity is also very questionable. You certainly can't use it as an axiom as you're trying to do. My god, it's what everyone you're going after is trying to achieve. You can't just shrug and say it's self-evidently impossible--at least not if you want to be taken seriously. Anyway, here's a quick counterexample: The new interactive retelling of Frankenstein doesn't let you change the story, but it exploits the gap between story and narrative by having your choices make minor changes to the plot and--more often--to more subtle things: characterization, tone, etc. This degree of interactivity convinced a number of literary critics that interactivity can have great value for narrative. Here's a review from one (whose beliefs about linear narrative seem very similar to yours): http://www.salon.com/2012/04/30/frankenstein_remixed_salpart/

    Basically, though, I'm saying that you're setting yourself to climb Everest when you try to say something essential about the nature of stories. The only way you can possibly get away with it is if there are no literary types listening. But the argument doesn't require you to pontificate about stories. Just talk about video games. The arguments that Nachtfischer and I laid out sound a lot more compelling to my ear. There are probably other arguments to be made as well.

    This isn't my favorite kind of discussion to have (I'm much more interested in fixing problems than in dry argument that makes no mark on the world), so I'll more than likely bow out here.
  8. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    Wait, he doesn't "just shrug". Have you read this? It's mainly about the logical argument, but I think that might actually be the core problem. I just went at it from another direction.

    Btw, I "played" or rather read this "new" Frankenstein and thought it was pretty bad (i.e. annoying) in terms of interactivity. From a technical standpoint Inkle's apps are among the best, though.
  9. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    This is a great conversation, because it really strikes at the heart of not just how I believe stories work, but also how I think games and really everything else human beings interact with works.

    Let's use the word Plots instead of stories since it's more specific. Stories and plots are less offensive to each other, but they still really only work when you do the "alternating" system, where it's like "OK first do a puzzle, then watch a movie, repeat". Portal has the "novel" idea of playing an audio book to you while you do puzzles.

    So my argument is this: the best marriage of interactivity and plot is keeping them apart. Trying to blend them damages or destroys one or both.

    I watched that Scorsese thing, and it struck me as thinking about it the wrong way. Obviously what we're most interested in when we watch a film is stuff like performances, nuance, cinematography, etc. We're not actively interested by the "bare bones plot points". However, without really good bare-bones plot points, all of that higher level stuff can't really be effective. It is from these bare bones plot points that each nuanced performance derives its meaning. Specifically, the climax of a narrative is the object around which all other events get their meaning.

    It's similar to the "goal" in a game. Is "getting a point" in any game interesting in and of itself? Of course not, and it's ludicrous to think that it should be. However, if your goal - your scoring system - isn't central, strong, well-designed, then again, all of the high level stuff just won't work - they won't have meaning, because they should be getting that from the goal (climax), and they aren't.

    So this argument that "linear plot isn't that interesting" is totally just mis-understanding what plot is supposed to do and why it's important.

    Just so we're clear, Pulp Fiction still has a linear plot IMO. What I mean by linear is not that the film-timeline matches up with the chronology of diegetic events (fuck you spellcheck, that is a word), but rather that a set amount of information is presented in a set order.

    Unless we aren't on the same page about what a "linear plot" is, I think my claim that "a linear plot is the apotheosis of storytelling" is already basically accepted by almost all screen-writers, by almost all novelists, almost all playwrights, and almost all other kinds of story tellers except maybe "digital game story tellers of the last 25 years".

    One is better than the other, because they're two different approaches to doing the same thing - telling, ultimately, "a linear story", by which I mean that the reader is going to go through this thing and end up with a completed story in his mind.

    A non-linear CYOA thing has maybe three or four different pathways you can go down (or worse: more), several different climaxes, and numerous endings. Some of these are going to be better than others, in that they support each other more and they support the climax more. Some of these are actually going to be terrible and somewhat undermine the controlling idea of the entire novel.

    A linear novel has one of each thing. This means that an author has the control to be able to find THE OPTIMAL - or as close to optimal as he can - way to present his rising action, his climaxes, how to build the tension, and most importantly, how to make sure that everything in the novel helps support the controlling idea and nothing is there that doesn't have to be.

    Linear novels have the potential to be more efficient, more focused, more powerful - BETTER. They are better, everyone knows it. It's not just some unfair cultural bias like that which faces comic books and videogames.

    Why not? It's possible to combine interactivity and story, it's just that by doing so you damage one or both. That's my claim.

    From that FRANKENSTEIN piece. I haven't bought the app because it's $5 and I'm skeptical, but:

    My counter-point: One of those choices is actually better for the story. I don't know which because I'm not the author and it's been years since I've read the novel. Figuring out which is optimal is the author's job. That's what we pay authors to do.

    And besides, how exactly am I, the reader, supposed to choose this anyway? "Hey, do you want mournful and reflective, or action packed?" Uhhh... I guess I want both, I have no idea... "which one is more appropriate?", I might find myself asking. So basically in this moment I'm asked to do the author's job.

    It's almost exactly like "customizable" games that force the players to design their games for them. "Do you want +1 HP or +1 Magic?" Uhhh, I don't know, I want both... is one better? Which makes for a more interesting game?

    I want game designers to design games for me, and I want authors to write books for me. I don't want to have to stop in the middle and become the author for a minute, even to a small degree.
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  10. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    EDIT: This is a reply to Nachfischer, above.

    The self-evidently comes in the definition of stories, or in the definition of which are the "best stories." And Keith is certainly saying in this thread that this is a proposition we can begin from. None of the logic that follows matters if the proposition isn't one that we're willing to share. Again, I agree about games not needing stories. But there are different ways to get to that--but arguing from the essential nature of stories is a loser.

    And I read Frankenstein numerous times and thought it was great, though of course it's very different from standard CYOAs. Lots of people who like CYOAs/gamebooks don't like it, from what I've seen.

    So, again, be wary of arguments that are about preferences being cloaked as being about logic and principles.
  11. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    There's no "preference" issue here.

    Are you presenting a list of events to a user, resulting in a climax, that ultimately illustrates some controlling idea? That's what a plot is, in my view. Every bit of interactive fiction I've ever messed with does not break away from this apparent design goal, they just do it less-well than a linear work of fiction would.

    It's kind of like if people were using large spherical objects to bang nails down into wood. Yes, you can do it, but we've already discovered better mechanisms for doing that job. The fact that I know that and the guy bouncing a sphere on the end of a nail doesn't doesn't mean that I have some pro-hammer bias, and I'm exposing my "preference".
  12. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    This should help explain the issue:

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  13. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    I think the Frankenstein app is actually better than any CYOA/gamebook I have read. It strips away the crappy pseudo-game and the story is much stronger anyways. Still, the interactivity hurts. There are basically three cases for your choices from what I remember:
    1) The story is more compelling with another choice, which is obviously bad.
    2) The story isn't affected by your choice at all or in very minor ways. Then the process of choice is a waste of time actually.
    3) The story is most compelling if you read the outcome of multiple choices. Now that is a huge problem. Am I supposed to go back after each choice, which breaks the tension, or should I read the whole thing over again after having finished it? The latter might seem viable but then again I am to a large extent going to see familiar content because of 2). That's boring. Their new Sorcery app has this problem at many points, too.

    Well, of course you might also pick the best choice for the story sometimes. But I don't want a good story because I got lucky, but because I threw money at a story-guy who knows what he is doing.
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  14. blakereynolds

    blakereynolds Administrator Staff Member

    I'll try to come at this issue in a bit of a different way to illustrate how silly this "bias" claim is.

    Writing an authored story is a delicate, fragile process. The finished plot is an engine. A high-performance machine which, instead of horsepower, produces emotionally compelling, enriching experiences, whether they be joy, sadness, laughter, etc. Any even halfway competent writer knows that every line, nay, every word, and ever microsecond of screentime counts towards the ultimate impact and quality of the story.

    Anyone who is interested, take 11 minutes and watch this silent animated short.

    The way misdirection, tension, cinematography, is used. How every shot needs to be fresh, needs to stimulate the eye. how certain climactic moments are savory, and pay off the SECOND the author, the entire team of thoughtful producers and writers, intended them to. It may seem like a frivolous little gag cartoon, but this is, by any account, very effective visual storytelling.

    The ONLY thing adding interaction could do to this would be to hurt it. Picture a "cool, cinematic" move Sonic does at any given time. Now imagine it an iterative scripted event. You press X to initiate it, and then watch him do the "cool move" like 300 times. Why do we not think this is utterly stupid practice? Picture the plot unfolding, moving, creating momentum and tension and weight, and then YOU have to walk down a corridor. And you can like, loop the walk animation against the wall for an hour if you want. Or you can turn around to look at the front of the character model for a few minutes. Imagine that was a movie. You're witnessing a player destroying the concept of pacing and timing...and the counter-argument is that, navigating a 3d model with a stick is..."immersive?" Give me a fucking break.

    Adding interaction, on any level, to this carefully woven web of events, timed to the microsecond, will necessarily begin to undermine its impact. It's just a matter of damage control after that point.

    Conversely, any amount of authored story you add to a system designed to be interactive necessarily hurts IT. Imagine having to watch a cutscene every 10 moves in GO. Would that harm go, or make it "more immersive?"

    Can we please at least attempt to look at these taken-for-granted video game traditions objectively for one second? And have the maturity to say "ok. This is really, really stupid and was always a bad idea."

    As an aside, there's nothing inherently WRONG with fantasy simulation, i.e. tying interaction and narrative to a heavily-themed interactive toy. Go ahead, but focus on that. Don't insult me with all these "game-y" things that get between me and the fantasy simulation. Like health bars, stats, collecting, leveling, and "hit points" in software like Skyrim.
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  15. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Nacht, that's a great breakdown of EXACTLY what I expected it to be. Actually, I feel so confident that that's exactly what it is that if I found it were not true, it would be similar to a meteor landing on my front lawn or something. Neither of which is impossible of course and I keep the possibility of both open; just saying, I have that level of certainty that that's what these systems will ever be capable of providing.

    This whole "Oh, um, you have to go through the story MANY TIMES and get ALL of the chocolates in each box of the advent calendar... and, and THEN it will be good!" argument is SUPER weak. First of all, it sucks to actually have to do. It's horribly inefficient. And finally, I don't think that seeing all of the other, worse ways that Breaking Bad *could* have gone would improve the quality of the show.
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  16. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Actually, I think it's not really much of a conversation, but I feel obligated to reply, even though you guys seem to have spun totally out of control...? :confused:

    Except when you say in your first few posts in this thread that plots and puzzles work well together. Kind of confusing!

    Again, this strikes me as a rather naive view of plot. Scorsese would say the same, so would Nabokov, so would many others. Why do so many writers emphasize that they "let their characters tell them what would happen", and try to build novels out of character arcs, etc.? Why do the plots of so many movies have gaping holes in them? Because plot's just not that important, compared to all of the other elements that go into telling a story.

    Climax is another thing: A climactic scene is de rigeur for any piece of genre fiction, including video games that are trying to tell a story. But is it really that important what that climax is, as long as it's in the right family of climaxes? Sometimes, maybe you come up with a genius climax. In that case, does it really matter what the steps leading up to it are? They just need the right family resemblence.

    Example from a video game: Only three things that happen in Halo really need to happen for it to remain the same basic story: the human ship crashes, the zombies are unleashed, and some kind of climax allows the hero to destroy the ring-world and escape. Does it really matter how the ship crashes? Do any of the events in the middle matter? (Hell no, you spend the whole game running around after the moronic captain even though the AI you're carrying is far more valuable to the cause!) Does it matter what the climax is? Nah, the climax was just de rigeur anyway--you've got to have one. So you could write the same basic story, using the same characters & atmosphere, but with a totally different succession of events, and it would probably be a better plot.

    Totally specious analogy. In a game, the player knows and understands the goal in advance. Everything he does works toward the goal--otherwise he wouldn't be playing a game. The experiencer of a plot is not aware of the plot in advance. It's a scaffold for the author, not the watcher/reader/player.

    That's fine, but it's pretty much the opposite of how people who study these things use the terms. ("Plot" is the actual succession of events, "story" is the chronological ordering.)

    Wrong. It's accepted as the way to tell money-making stories. Many filmmakers, writers, and playwrights have toyed with all kinds of aspects of plot, including eschewing "action" altogether. Others hold things back and force the reader to look for it (Pale Fire, for example, has a secret story that the reader has to work out from the plotted story), or show you the same sequence of events from multiple viewpoints. And then you have the perfectly valid idea that stories can go different directions (i.e., don't have to be linear), that they can be experienced as life is experienced (i.e., a succession of events).

    This is an ideological argument, not an empirical or even a verifiable one.

    Again, ideology. This is a very romantic view. Movies are put together as a succession of compromises. Books often come out that way too. Video games tend to be the same.

    Again, this is an ideological response. You haven't read the damn thing, and you have no empirical basis for saying it. This will only convince people who already agree with you.

    People seem to misunderstand what I'm saying. I AGREE WITH YOU THAT GAMES AND STORIES DON'T NEED ONE ANOTHER (the all caps are for Blake, who seems to have decided I was saying something...I don't know what!) I don't agree that interactivity and stories don't have anything to offer one another, and I think that the arguments presented here against that are purely based on preference. I think it is the nature of games, not the nature of stories, that makes them difficult to reconcile. I think you should not try to talk about the essential nature of storytelling as you make that argument. Frankly, I just think the argument is pretty unsophisticated.

    OK, I really am hanging up my hat now. Argument for argument's sake is pretty boring. Make a game that puts your ideas into action and I'll gladly help test it!
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  17. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    If this isn't a good conversation then I have never participated in a good conversation.

    Yeah, sorry, I mis-spoke. I only meant that they work SLIGHTLY better than games since both puzzles and stories are about "completion" of some sort and are both generally meant to be taken in somewhere around 1 time.

    I really don't understand what your point is here actually. A climax is only as genius as is it exactly the climax that the story needs; it can also be judged, like a core mechanism, by how many ties it has to all the rest of the content in the work. If it's this out-of-nowhere weird thing, then it's probably not a good climax. If it's surprising yet inevitable, and brings everything together making its controlling idea clear, then that's probably a good climax.

    Viewers should actually have a general sense of where a plot is going. From the first episode of Breaking Bad I had a sense of where it was going, so it was just a matter of how it got there. So, same deal with the goal. I know I need to get this ball into that net, I just don't know how it's going to happen yet. The how is everything, of course, but it can't exist without the basic, hard, cold goal/climax.

    OK, story, then. I usually use the word story, but people were objecting to it saying that it also involved character and such, which is why I switched over to plot.

    How is that not just logically clear as day? If you write 10 endings to Breaking Bad, isn't one going to be the best ending, given whatever the controlling idea (purpose) of the thing is? If I create 10 different rulesets for how Brutes work in AURO, isn't one of them optimal, given the purpose of this machine we call AURO?

    Even when a compromise is made, it's the best compromise that can be made. The author's job is to find the best compromise, always.
  18. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Yeah, I'm just not much of an argument for argument's sake kind of guy. If I spend time on a discussion, I want it to result in something. I can tell you that you would probably get a very good discussion if you posted about this on intfiction.org--there are folks there who would probably love to talk about this!

    Anyway, I call it ideological because it's based on the faith that there's One Right Answer to any given question in putting together a creative work. I guarantee you that a lot of the stuff that ended up on Breaking Bad's cutting room floor is as good as what went into the show. I also guarantee that they agonized over what to use, because they had a hard time deciding which was best. And I also guarantee that sometimes the one that was picked was not the one that everyone involved thought was best! But it still came off pretty fine.

    I also think it's pretty obvious that you could indeed write alternative rules for Brute that would work just as well (maybe better!--I don't think he's the best of the heavies, though he is probably the coolest looking). You could also go even more whole-hog and write an alternative set of rules for Ice, say, that were just as good (or better) than the current rules. The goal is not to get the optimal design--how would you know you had found it, anyway?!--but a darn good design.

    None of this absolves the writer(s) or the game designer(s) from doing the hard work of writing or designing. If you write new rules for the Brute, you'll have to test them rigorously, maybe tweak something else somewhere else, etc. Similarly, just because multiple different scenes would fulfill a function in a story as well as another doesn't mean you can therefore just type whatever. You still have to write the damn thing, and make hard choices, prep your mind to receive inspiration, etc etc. But the idea that there's One Right Answer--fiddlesticks. Show me the empirical proof. I don't in the least buy it as a priori truth.

    Story vs. plot: Plot is generally considered to be the actual construction of events as presented in the work, while story is the summary you would provide a friend. Something like Instance of the Fingerpost could be said to have four different plots, one story, and a whole bunch of conjectural stories that the reader is trying to piece together as he reads. (But I think the "authored plot" you mentioned before sounds a lot more like "plot" here--not like "story". When people are using this concept of story, they generally mean a rough sketch of events, not the kind of thing you seem to mean. Scorsese's definition of "story" is pretty much everything but the plot, which obviously makes it more inclusive. Put another way: I think you're working against your own argument if you consider Pulp Fiction to have a linear plot.)

    Sorry, but a plot you can guess at based on genre expectations is not remotely the same as understanding the goals and rules of a game which necessarily must be laid out in advance. That's just a bad analogy. (And I didn't have any idea how Breaking Bad would end after 5 seasons after I watched the first episode, much less any of the plotting, so I don't find the example compelling either. I've watched 3 1/2 seasons of Breaking Bad and I'd only be willing to guess at one aspect of the story that's coming.)
  19. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    One quick little side note... I'm trying to make logical arguments for my case. I never said anything about "One True Something" or whatever. I'm talking about the way that story works. If you disagree that the way I've explained it matches reality, then you can just say so. I think saying "ideology!" is sort of unfair, because it could be leveled at anyone who makes a positive claim of any kind.

    I mean the optimal design that you can get, not some kind of ultimate, absolute optimal-ness. The best thing you can figure out.

    Right now, Auro's ruleset IS optimal in this sense. If someone, including myself, can figure out a way to make things better (and I, the "author", am convinced of it, of course!), then we will do that.
  20. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    For one creative work there surely is.

    That is the point. If you decide that the Brute is your core mechanic, you have to tweak everything else to support that. There are best choices for all the other elements on how to do that. But then you obviously will create a whole different creative work. But for Auro the core is a different one and the Brute should support that.
    The same is true for a story where the core is not a mechanic but the controlling idea.

    Just because you can come up with multiple choices that are good doesn't mean there is no best answer. Like, let Frankenstein's monster kill someone and then do a happy dance in celebration. Who wouldn't agree that would hurt the Frankenstein story we know? It just doesn't fit. Now, that sounds silly, but any more sophisticated choices will also have good, bad and a best alternative.

    And though you might not be sure to have picked the best for your creative work, you have to try the hardest you can. If you come close, that is what makes you a good artist.

    On a sidenote: We all agree that getting your story right is extremely hard. Isn't it kind of offensive to expect your audience to pick what's best then? It's like "Well, I don't know what would be the best for my story. You decide!" And then that is supposed to be good? A "feature"?

    Edit: Just saw the article Keith linked on Twitter. Story-less games are "stuck" and "primitive"? They just "showcase [...] gameplay"? What the...?! He really seems to think gameplay is only there to support the story. Games are "movies deluxe" or something.
    "Peter is a Microsoft Contributor at Ars. He also covers programming and software development, Web technology and browsers, and security. He is based in London, UK." Peter has no clue what games are all about, but writes about them nonetheless.
    keithburgun likes this.

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