Letter From The Director: What's the Story Morning Glory?


Posted August 7, 2009 - By agentcooperfbi

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In our second episode of TheFeed: Nightcap that we dropped this week, a disagreement occurred between Patrick Klepek and myself about the story in Red Faction: Guerrilla. What bothered me about the narrative was that it was too generic, and I predicted what would happen plot-wise in the first 10 seconds of the intro cutscene. It bummed me out. The story in Red Faction: Guerrilla isn’t engrossing whatsoever, and it’s making it really difficult to press on through hours and hours of missions.
Patrick’s take on it was that he said I should just press A, skip the cutscenes, and move on because the gameplay is entertaining enough to drive you through the open world game. Should games get a free pass if the story is weak, but the gameplay is compelling?

I think not.

Letter From The Director: What's the Story Morning Glory?

Don't get me wrong, this isn’t a personal dig on Patrick. Some people can forget about a story and just enjoy the experience and I do love the actual gameplay of Red Faction. But if there’s an attempt made at making a solid story and it’s falls flat on its face, it’s harder for me to forgive than a game just not having narrative at all.

In the case of an open world game such as Red Faction, I want to know why I should care to explore the world and care about the characters. I’ve dumped 7-8 hours into the single player experience and have seen nothing to push me to go further, and while I love destroying everything in the world I can see why some people have skipped the single-player portion of the game and just played the multiplayer.

I had this same problem with Resident Evil 5 and Gears of War as of late. The only way I could stomach the story and enjoy the gameplay at the same time was to play these games cooperatively with a friend, and Mystery Science Theater the whole thing. While both these games are a lot of fun to play, the stories are pretty terrible.

Games and series such as BioShock, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Portal, Indigo Prophecy, Knights of the Old Republic, Half-Life, Final Fantasy, God of War, and Grand Theft Auto have done things with narrative that I wish paved the way for better narrative in all games.  Not only do the development teams knock the gameplay out of the park, but these titles have such thought provoking stories that they create water cooler moments all in themselves.

It’s also worth saying not every game needs a solid story. Do you really need to know what’s going on in the heads of a Space Invader? No. Does Uno need a plot? No. There’s a reason why Nintendo doesn’t give Mario platformers stories. It’s about the platforming. You already know it’s about Mario trying to save Princess Peach. That’s all anyone ever needed or wanted to know. Then Nintendo goes and tries to add cutscenes in Super Mario Sunshine and they were god-awful. Insomniac and Naughty Dog did it well in their respective platformers, but that doesn't mean it needs to be done.

On the horizon there’s companies doing fantastic things with story and dialog with games coming that really show the future of narrative in video games. Heavy Rain, Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams, Uncharted 2: Amoung Theives, and Assassin’s Creed 2 are taking narrative to a whole new level. These titles are proof that video games aren’t just games, but they’re pushing what is known as interactive entertainment.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or more cynical, but I like having a reason to not only care about the characters I’m controlling and interacting with, but feel compelled to get them from point A to point B as well. Whether it’s a beefy dude that I couldn't give two craps about coming out of cover or taking a hammer and demolishing a building, if an effort is made to craft a story, the development of narrative should be treated with the same importance as every other aspect of the game.



Letter From The Director: What's the Story Morning Glory?


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