In your opinion, what's the best game genre for telling a story or building a world?

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Offline Wrenbot

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Ever since Maniac Mansion on the Commodore 64 and then Sierra's King's Quest series I've always felt that point-&-click adventures were the best medium for storytelling in games.

Nowadays people of course believe 3D games like Skyrim, The Witcher, Amnesia, and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft are the best way to explore a world and experience a story...

BUT when I played Knytt Underground I was amazed at how much could be done with a simple 2D platformer. The music and scenery drew me in as well as the best of the best 3D games, and the freedom of movement in varied environments created the feeling of being in a realistic world.

Best of all, it's something a solo indie developer can make on their own.

I'm curious if any other devs here feel the same. Which game genre gives you the most freedom to express the kind of world you want? Has Nifflas inspired you to try creating a adventure-platformer of your own? ;)
« Last Edit: October 06, 2014, 21:20:20 by Wrenbot »
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Offline sergiocornaga

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Have you played much interactive fiction?

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Offline Wrenbot

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Have you played much interactive fiction?

I was gonna say, "besides text adventures" :P2

Yes I've played em since Zork etc. but never managed to finish one..
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Offline LPChip

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Myst series is one of the best games when it comes to story telling, but you can't really point it to a genre. Any game that wants can tell an awesome story successfully.

Even a First Person Shooter can do so, though their story telling will be different, and usually action paced. A great example is Metro Last Light, which was made after a book.

Another game worth mentioning is Halo. I really loved how this game had a plot twist in the middle of the game.
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Offline Salmoneous

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Stories in games I felt have always been horribly executed. Even exceptions of what I consider good stories in games don't come close to good film and literature. I would love to hear though which games people here think have the best stories.
Anyway there is several reasons why so I'm just gonna share few thoughts on it.
1) themes
blockbuster movies usually have famous actors be action heroes and have that be the base for the movie. Most games follow this formula, doesn't even have to be action games. There's little to no themes in games. Even games that have a more demanding and heavy story fail to fully incorporate themes successfully. I think it is when games follow a path most comfortable for a larger consumer group. It needs the 'right' elements. Monsters/enemies, levels, music, visual with a sterile but cool design. I don't think they want to risk it with a story that is too wild or unfamiliar.

2) dialogue and characters
bad dialogue can make a decent movie worse or a good movie decent. Like when I watched  sphere a few weeks ago I imagined it would have been a decent movie if this was accomplished. Games never seem to have good dialogue. it's extremely bland, predictable and lack writing imagination. This is partially due to a lack of theme, that there is nothing to discuss beyond the goals the players character. It's also due to the lack of characters that can handle anything story-wise since they are subdued into their static roles. Perhaps it is because of the character and story implementation. All is written to accompany the game objective first, everything else usually becomes filler. When this is the case I can't help but feel that my time is being wasted on a story that is only underlining this. Make it short so I can continue shooting bad guys.

I can talk about this for hours but it mostly falls on the parallel between the mediums games and movies. Games harbor much potential as they can be interactive but the interaction that is present between a movie and the viewer is still not present in games. Partly due to limitations, a game character can't reach the same results as an actor.

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Offline Wrenbot

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you can't really point it to a genre. Any game that wants can tell an awesome story successfully.

Ah I should've worded my question better: As a developer which genre have you found to be the easiest to tell your stories in?

I mean, I have tons of ideas in my head but the KU-style 2D platformer genre seems to be the most convenient way of putting them on the computer screen: It seems relatively easy to implement, with simple enough mechanics and graphics that a single person can make on their own, yet it can be very beautiful and immersive for the players as Nifflas has proved.
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Offline sergiocornaga

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Have you played much interactive fiction?

I was gonna say, "besides text adventures" :P2

Yes I've played em since Zork etc. but never managed to finish one..

Hey, don't go discounting a whole genre just because it's mostly text, or seems somehow separate from the rest of games, or whatever it is! I'll try to leap to its defence, even though I'm not particularly savvy about the genre, having failed to complete many IF games myself. Maybe Healy will pop into this thread with some further points, as I believe she's more IF-aware than me.

Text adventures, especially early ones like Zork that are filled with obscure puzzles, can be quite inaccessible and hard to complete. A lot of more recent independent IF is much easier to traverse, and has done much more interesting things with interactive storytelling.

Photopia and Rameses are a couple of well-liked IF games that create convincing/relatable places/characters/moods, and both are easily completed. I would be interested in knowing if this is the sort of storytelling you're talking about.

Make It Good may also be worth checking out. I've never completed it, but I was floored by the degree of interaction possible with the world.

Twine games, consisting of browser-based hypertext, are even easier to play. Porpentine is a writer working primarily with Twine who I feel creates particularly convincing worlds. howling dogs is an early game of hers that I like.

Let me know how you fare with these!

Myst series is one of the best games when it comes to story telling

Gosh! I'm not sure I agree with this at all, but I think I can at least see where you're coming from... do you like it because you find out about events/history pseudo-organically through exploring the environment and its various objects? Or is it something else?

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Offline LPChip

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As developer, the easiest genre to tell a story in, is an adventure game. This can be as broad and as easy as you want. It can feature a person that you control and move around (think of Kings Quest, Space Quest, etc., or it can view from the eye's perspective (no person in it) and you navigate by clicking at places (such as 11th hour, safe cracker, Myst, etc.

Telling a story will often be the easiest using cut-scenes, but if you want a more interactive story, you'll need a person you can control which can meet other persons and can have certain (scripted) events happen to it.

Quote from: LPChip on Today at 11:50:50Myst series is one of the best games when it comes to story tellingGosh! I'm not sure I agree with this at all, but I think I can at least see where you're coming from... do you like it because you find out about events/history pseudo-organically through exploring the environment and its various objects? Or is it something else?
Yes that, and the atmosphere which really brings you into the game.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2014, 00:08:12 by LPChip »
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Offline Wrenbot

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Hey, don't go discounting a whole genre just because it's mostly text

I'm not discounting it, I'm just excluding it because my question was about which genre indie developers found to be the easiest to implement their idea for a story or world in, otherwise text adventures would obviously be the answer for everyone.

Also, you can't convey some things through text alone: like "You are a bouncing ball" in WaDF. "You can now become a glass ball which is very brittle." Things like that just need a bare minimum of graphical representation and real-time control for the player to properly "feel" it. :P2

I love text adventures and interaction fiction. They're just not pertinent to what I wanted to ask.
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Offline Wrenbot

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2) dialogue and characters
bad dialogue can make a decent movie worse or a good movie decent. Like when I watched  sphere a few weeks ago I imagined it would have been a decent movie if this was accomplished. Games never seem to have good dialogue. it's extremely bland, predictable and lack writing imagination.

You should definitely, definitely try Planescape: Torment. It is probably the game with the single most extensive dialog and narration ever, with what's regarded as one of the best storylines of all time.

(just be careful not to read any spoilers)

Here are some other games with great characters, dialog, and player freedom in directing the story:

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Offline sergiocornaga

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Also, you can't convey some things through text alone: like "You are a bouncing ball" in WaDF. "You can now become a glass ball which is very brittle."

I swear you just conveyed those ideas through text alone! Haha, no, I get what you mean. It's just hard for me to not take it as a challenge to make a Twine adaptation of WaDF, but I know I haven't got the time.

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Offline AA

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If we're going by the easiest game genre for indie (or otherwise budget-constrained) game developers to tell a story, today it's probably either side-scrolling platformers or top-down adventure games (RPG too, maybe, but they're usually less accessible). That's mainly because there's a wealth of tools to make them that are also easy to use, and there's no need to work a lot on stuff like 3D modeling; it's just so the medium doesn't get in the way of your story-telling (as long as it fits your story, of course).

Problem is, these two categories are probably overused nowadays, so standing out among all the indie games with just the story and/or world is hard, even if you find a unique way of making the player interact with it. Still, I suppose it's better than not getting to tell your story at all because of all the work and money you'd need to build the rest of the game and creating adequate artwork for it.

But I'm not really a game developer, so my opinion isn't very relevant.
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Offline Salmoneous

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2) dialogue and characters
bad dialogue can make a decent movie worse or a good movie decent. Like when I watched  sphere a few weeks ago I imagined it would have been a decent movie if this was accomplished. Games never seem to have good dialogue. it's extremely bland, predictable and lack writing imagination.

You should definitely, definitely try Planescape: Torment. It is probably the game with the single most extensive dialog and narration ever, with what's regarded as one of the best storylines of all time.

(just be careful not to read any spoilers)

Here are some other games with great characters, dialog, and player freedom in directing the story:

I have played those games and I think yes they pull through just fine. I did like that the characters in the party would chat with each other, that was a very nice touch.
i was kinda off-topic before lol. but you should listen to me because im always right. now let me think up reasons why 2d platformers/scrollers suck to tell a good story in.

the problems come with limitations in dimension- and space restrictions. 2d sidescrollers i think is the most cursed genre because the player becomes so confined. unlike other genres i feel like you're never playing or seeing beyond the layout. every jump or obstacle you avoid or enemy you have to pass, you're gonna do it in a way the developer meant for it to be done, like your entire progression through the game does not differ from any other play through. You just can't have a 2d sidescroller that is played any way unlike it is intended. this genre is old and quite frankly have not played any innovative ones since knytt but i do miss out a lot and theres like hundreds.
most 2d scrollers have the story advance through dialogue boxes with characters you are set up to run into. That is both lazy and no fun. it doesn't matter if these people have other things to say or do either. This is why themes is important, good thing i said that before. otherwise your dialogue have no purpose beyond information and you just waste time. another reason i think 2d scrollers are cursed is because they can't handle many cinematic approaches, which is usually why I imagine one would go for 3d or a 3d world in a 2d environment if they want to get serious with a story. In a 2d scroller the players character is always in the center or is the focal point of attention. Meeting people / discovering things is hard to get interesting when missing that dimension and it always kinda becomes that you stumble upon these things.

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Offline Wrenbot

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But I'm not really a game developer, so my opinion isn't very relevant.

That's OK, I'm not really a developer too, yet (just lots of unfinished experiments lying around, nothing published) which is why I wanted to know what other aspiring developers/designers thought was the most convenient genre to express themselves in. :)

the problems come with limitations in dimension- and space restrictions. 2d sidescrollers i think is the most cursed genre because the player becomes so confined. unlike other genres i feel like you're never playing or seeing beyond the layout. every jump or obstacle you avoid or enemy you have to pass,  You just can't have a 2d sidescroller that is played any way unlike it is intended. this genre is old and quite frankly have not played any innovative ones since knytt but i do miss out a lot and theres like hundreds.

I see where you're coming from, but that's a problem with top-down RPGs too: the view is equally limited, just from a different angle, but that doesn't stop developers from designing a complex world or telling an engrossing story, as you can see in Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment, Ultima, Chrono Trigger and so many other JRPGs.

Even 2D platformers can have exceptions to that rule; just look at our Knytt Underground, or Limbo.

KU gives you the freedom to go in any direction and complete quests in any order. What's really genius about it is how it uses photorealistic background images to give you a sense of depth. Instead of the world feeling confined, it actually feels HUGE! Combined with the music and overall atmosphere, I haven't gotten this kind of feeling from any 3D games lately.

Limbo on the other hand, despite doing everything to feel depressing, like the monochrome graphics and a linear path, actually ends up giving you a sense of freedom through the realistic physics interaction. The kind of interaction that's missing from the biggest 3D games.

I can't wait for someone to combine the ideas of KU and Limbo to create a hybrid which challenges the notion that 2D platformers have to feel outdated or confining.

you're gonna do it in a way the developer meant for it to be done, like your entire progression through the game does not differ from any other play through.

That annoyed me too, especially during some of the precise robot-dodging puzzles in KU, but it's not a problem unique to 2D platformers. It happens in other genres too, even 3D ones: Remember Dragon Age and Mass Effect where you couldn't jump over knee-high stones in the way or even walk up and down small, 2-inch changes in elevation, unless there was a predefined path there?!

In fact, the only game where I've seen almost-complete freedom of movement and exploration was World of Warcraft..

most 2d scrollers have the story advance through dialogue boxes with characters you are set up to run into. That is both lazy and no fun. it doesn't matter if these people have other things to say or do either. This is why themes is important, good thing i said that before. otherwise your dialogue have no purpose beyond information and you just waste time. another reason i think 2d scrollers are cursed is because they can't handle many cinematic approaches, which is usually why I imagine one would go for 3d or a 3d world in a 2d environment if they want to get serious with a story. In a 2d scroller the players character is always in the center or is the focal point of attention. Meeting people / discovering things is hard to get interesting when missing that dimension and it always kinda becomes that you stumble upon these things.

I agree about dialog limitations crippling a story, but again that's not a problem with 2D platformers alone. Remember the King's Quest series? Or all the NPCs in Skyrim that repeat the same things over and over?

And again, there are creative solutions to this as well: You can tell a good story with using ANY dialog at all!

Look at Limbo, or Machinarium and Botanicula and other games from Amanita Design.

Even in KU, you can cover vast distances without running into any character, but the beautiful backgrounds tell a story without using any words: "Oh look, bits and pieces of machinery deep down in this cavern, there must have been a civilization here!" or "Aww those cute little houses hanging from the cave roof..won't they be cold? Oh, there's some lava flowing underneath, that must be where they get their heat from." :P2

I believe the less words they use the more the player's own imagination is engaged.

TL;DR: In the end, most of the problems are present in every genre, but a more limited genre forces the developer to become more creative. ;)
« Last Edit: October 09, 2014, 03:27:29 by Wrenbot »
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Offline Salmoneous

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would you mind sharing your story? I would be very interested in hearing it so I can judge all your mistakes. no just joking but it would help with your question since not all stories fit all genres.