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Recycled themes in RPGs

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Frozen82, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. jewboy Arbiter

    jewboy
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    Even the story in PS:T was a bit of a cliche. An amnesiac who cannot remember who he is? Seriously? I admire MCA's writing and story telling, but it was hardly very original. And yet it's the best story of any computer game I've ever heard of. A cRPG story that was actually suspenseful? Where you are curious about what is going to happen next? I'd like to see more of those original or not. I think originality is a side issue. Originality is nice, but not telling a compelling story is a bigger problem with most cRPGs. Defeating an evil wizard who kidnapped a beautiful girl that you love and is trying to summon a demon maybe even by sacrificing her may be the biggest cliche in RPG stories but it's also fun to play a game like that. Stories like that are super easy to write and can barely even be considered stories they are so overused, but they are also fun. Coming up with a more original story is nice, but it is easy to overestimate one's ability to make your original story just as fun to play.

    In BG2 I could have just as happily killed Imoen myself. In fact I wish I could have. She was annoying enough. IIRC I think maybe you can kill her and get her belt in the starter dungeon, but then she just reappears and gets abducted anyway. I could not have cared less about defeating the evil wizard or saving the damsel even though the game told me she was my sister. That didn't really make the task much more compelling to me. It was better than no story at all, but it wasn't a particularly compelling story that made me care about events. I do think that is good enough for most RPGs though which seem to have even more trouble making the combat tactical and fun than coming up with an interesting suspenseful story. So I'd rather the devs focused on their combat system first and then maybe hire MCA to create a story to give the fighting some wider context and meaning.
     
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  2. smaug Sei gegrüßt, Speer, Kreuz und Dorn! Patron Shitposter

    smaug
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    I like when something is new, or there is a twist on something generic, however, if a game has fun/good gameplay I don't give 2 shits, whether it's generic or not.
     
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  3. Zed Duke of Banville Zo Kath Ra Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    Story is an emergent property of RPGs that arises from decisions made by the player(s) in the context of the adventure being run. That narrative-driven CRPGs tend to recycle overarching plots and themes merely demonstrates the poverty of this approach to CRPG design.
     
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  4. Üstad Educated

    Üstad
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    "OI BLOODİE CUNT WITCHAH WOT OBOUT DA CONTRACT WESE PAIDZ YA BLOODY FUCKIN CUNT?"
     
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  5. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

    Damned Registrations
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    People that complain about tropes haven't seen many stories. Tropes are trops for a reason, there's only so many ways to tell a coherent story. A story about a guy who stays in his safe hometown and is defended from all threats by people stronger than him isn't much of a story, so the fact that it would be 'original' (and some fucker would still find someone else who did it first and bitch) doesn't help. Starting out strong and crushing your 'threats' is likewise boring. So you start out weak and get stronger, like every other fucking story ever. There're gameplay reasons for doing it that way as well.
     
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  6. Frozen82 Arcane

    Frozen82
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    So, you are saying RPGs can only work on "low level" dungeon stories because "adventure being run" cant have more complicated "bigger" setting. Its like reducing RPG to pen & paper in digital form.
     
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  7. Kev Inkline Arcane Patron

    Kev Inkline
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    A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I don't think many RPGs have recycling as a theme. Perhaps white wolf's Werewolf the Apocalypse has some eco-friendliness, and in Paranoia clones are sort of recycling your memories and psyche. But that's about it.

    To come to think of it, returning paper and empty cans is kind of boring to really be a central theme.
     
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  8. Lurker47 Learned

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    Amnesia is an awesome device if used correctly.
     
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  9. Frozen82 Arcane

    Frozen82
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    This is like so American way of thinking. Lets make a gazzilion Spider Man stories because it works! until everything becomes the same thing repeating itself to infinity. Believing there is "a proper way" to tell a story is first step into formulaic shit.
     
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  10. Üstad Educated

    Üstad
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    :brodex:
     
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  11. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    "your story is cliche when boiled down to a one sentence description" is moronic btw

    originality isnt about "my game is where italian pasta grows sentient and tries to legalise marijuana"
     
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  12. anvi Cipher Village Idiot

    anvi
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    I hate stories in games, and dialogue, for all the things you mentioned and more. Although some games have attempted to try new things. The whole tagline for games like Dungeon Keeper was "Evil is Good", you play as an evil overlord of a dungeon, and you have to kill the heroes that come to cleanse it. Some RPGs have done the same thing, and some have made it so that you aren't a typical hero, more like someone caught up in events. The problem is that even when the story tries something new, it still doesn't matter if the writing is shit.

    That's my issue, games don't have high standard professional writers, or even professional writers at all. Most of the games I play have story written by the same nerd who programmed it. And even with big budget games, they hire a writer who is more of a literary busybody. A high-end writer is on a whole other level to people like that. Take the story from Breaking Bad for example, it isn't that much different to an RPG, the guy starts weak, works at his new trade, gets rich and powerful, has to take on the bad guys. But it is great to watch because the writing is miles better than any game. The problem is that the gaming audiences keep buying games with shit stories, if they voted with their wallets against shit amateur dialogue, it would change. But they don't. They keep enabling the same crap.

    I love lots of games with no story, and yeah I will get bored eventually, but I can play say Supreme Commander 2/FA for a few weeks and then leave it for a year or so, and then play it again. Same goes with flight sims, racing games, collectible card games, a moba, my MMO of choice, a good action game, fps, etc. I don't have to play them forever, if I can get 2 weeks out of a game I am happy. And if I can forget about it for a year and then play it again, I am even happier. I would be a "storyfag" if the story was as good as a good TV show, but it just never is, so for me story just gets in the way. I will still play some games with a lot of story, but I angrily mash the escape key every time someone tries to talk. If it pushes the story too much, I just wont play.
     
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  13. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

    Damned Registrations
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    Yeah you go ahead and tell us about a great original story with no tropes. We'll all wait.
     
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  14. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I mean, if it works, it works. :)

    The fact that certain elements of a story have been used before is (1) inevitable; (2) a decent way to be sure that they are time-tested; and (3) a useful way to use shorthand to avoid excessive explication. Having a bad cowboy wear a black hat and have a scar on his cheek is, in a sense, the visual equivalent of Spenser's formulation that so-and-so was a "bold, bad man." Once you've established who he is, you can quickly get on with things. In games in particular, there is a virtue with quickly getting on with things.

    Complaints about structures like "you need to kill a villain intent on taking over the world" seem silly to me because in some way those structures are implied by the game's form itself. IMO, game stories work best if the game's core verbs are the verbs that drive the story. If the game play is about killing trash mobs, then a story in which killing all the trash mobs until you kill the boss mob is a pretty good one. If the story is about being a villain who just wants to kill weaklings, by contrast, the structure of the game play doesn't work as well. And once you construct a Rube Goldberg device by which, while you're the villain and just want to kill weaklings, in fact you need to kill the weaklings' powerful leader and his huge army of non-weakling defenders of righteous, you're just reskinning the old good-versus-evil plot for the sake of cynicism. IMO, it is unlikely to work as well. (The Wizardry twist is different, of course, because the gameplay was massively retooled.)

    anvi
    Of course game writers are terrible compared to TV writers -- or even fiction writers. (My own experience was that it was trivially easy to make, albeit over 15 years, mid six figures of total income on game writing, while a comparable amount of effort as a fiction writer led to absolutely nothing because even free zines would reject my work!) But I don't think your comparison really holds. The writing in Breaking Bad is very good, but the medium allows it to be about things other than killing guys or choosing between a gunfight and hacking a computer. The excellence of the show lies in the subtler moments, the slow build up, the acting (often in very small details in the acting), none of which can be conveyed in a game. The amount of action in the show that could be translated to good gameplay is very thin. You couldn't even make a Telltale style Breaking Bad game. Even a pure action movie like Predator or Aliens can't really translate to a game. (Though I do love the Aliens Doom TC.) To make a Predator or Aliens game, you have to reduce the plot even further and increase the action even more. Of course, Predator is better written than most games, too; but Predator isn't a better story because of its better writing, it again rests on things like the way you can pace a cinematic story versus a game story. A lot of the drama in Predator is the waiting. Waiting in a game isn't very much fun (though I do love Thief and I can recall one text adventure, Anchorhead, where entering the "z" command to wait was actually very exciting).

    Hiring a higher-tier writer will no doubt make things better (witness Douglas Adams as a text adventure writer or Patrick Rothfuss's work on Rhin, which most people seemed to think stood out from the other companions in TTON), but it won't make things good in the same way.

    At the same time, the very structure of games makes stories feel better than they actually are. PS:T feels like a spectacular story, but if you translated it to a book or movie, it wouldn't. That's why video game books and movies generally are so bad. When you take away the player's agency and complicity in the story, suddenly the story feels trite and weird. All of the shitty video game movies you can think of (Final Fantasy, Prince of Persia, Resident Evil, etc.) almost certainly had tremendously better writing and narrative nuance than the respective games, but they felt terrible because a game's story is inherently lousy away from a game. The best game writers, like Avellone, know how to leverage the medium to maximize the benefits of agency and complicity. That's more important than how well you can turn a phrase or conceive of an alien culture.
     
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  15. ShadowSpectre Learned

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    This may be a controversial opinion, but there is a reason why people like Bethesda/Gamebryo games. The NPCs are so terribly boring that you go out and explore anyways. The reason why such a terrible engine is so terribly popular is because you can steal most things that aren't nailed down. If you can't steal it, you can probably fuck it up through the in-game physics. Killing NPCs is no problem and you can even do it to important ones (or sometimes the buggy game engine game just does it for you). So yeah, you can steal, kill, and cause general mayhem. I'm sure there's a rape mod available for those who want it too. The why is it so shitty but so popular has been answered. In a strange way, Bethesda have created a lesser trope filled RPG-lite where you can go and do whatever the hell you want except enjoy the pointless story.
     
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  16. jewboy Arbiter

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    I dont see why you could not gamify breaking bad at least in the broad strokes. You could make a simple drug manufacturing sim where you compete with and/or cooperate with other drug manufacturers while avoiding and/or killing police and DEA investigators. You could also have it work as a GTA-like action game where you evade and kill the police as much as possible. Seems like you could also make an RPG somewhat like Fallout or Wasteland or Kenshi where your enemies are cops and rival drug gangs. Turn based or RTwP combat would be no problem. As anvi pointed out the story is already RPG-like where you start out weak and grow in power as you gain experience and knowledge. Would love to see something like GTA or Saints Row or Hitman or Just Cause get RPGed. Crime RPGs shoould be a thing. The police make fun enemies.

    I agree that game stories are more limited though. You cannot even really just tell a linear story because C&C. There's a compromise, a trade off, between more complex, detailed, nuanced but more linear stories and a more bareboned nonlinear heavily C&Ced one.
     
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  17. anvi Cipher Village Idiot

    anvi
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    I disagree, take something like GTA5, there is just so much story and dialogue. Many hours of it even. They have huge budgets too that even sometimes put TV shows to shame. So there is really no excuse for it not at least being as good as an episode of The Shield or something like that. All the things that make a show work, the subtle stuff and the build up etc, can all still be done in a game, especially one that is story focused and has so much time spent on it as a lot of games do today.

    Also it has come pretty close once or twice. The Bloody Baron in Witcher 3 had good enough writing and good enough voice acting (and animation) that for the first time in maybe ever, I felt like the gap between TV and game stories had shrunk down to almost nothing. The problem is that it was just one small part of the game and it was sat amongst hours of filler.

    Lots of game stories start out low key and develop into something big later on. I recently played Dragon Age Origins and the first hour was spent goofing around in a wizard tower with hardly any story at all. Then a grey warden shows up and explains about the blight. You go to a city and are asked to get help from the witch of the wilds. You go and meet Morrigan. And then all hell breaks loose and you have to go on a heroic mission and the King dies/is murdered at that point. They had time to build things up and they mostly nailed it. It can be done, and it can be done well too, it is just so rare.

    Also I don't think the action has to get in the way, it should complement each other. Yeah TV is always going to be better for just telling a story, but I think games could be really close and currently they are a million miles off. (Except a few rare exceptions). My biggest argument with this, is that if a game can't provide a story as good as TV, whatever the reasons, then why do it? Why force me to read second rate dialogue in a product that doesn't even need it? My first RPG was Eye of the Beholder 2 which will forever stick in my mind, partly because of how they did the story. It was so short and sweet.. Just 1 minute intro movie was mostly all there was in the whole game. "We sent a scout to investigate dark rumors about Myth Drannor, and she never returned. I now recruit your party to go there and uncover the truth." That's it. It sets up a huge dungeon crawl and gives it the context it needs, and nothing more. Every indie game I play today has mountains of text that tries so hard to be funny or clever or interesting or fantasy-ish, and it not only always fails (from my point of view at least) but it also really annoys me because it forces itself upon me, and it is so unnecessary. Focus on gameplay! Only add story if you somehow manage to get something truly exceptional.

    We have pretty distant points of view I think :) PoE is one of my most disappointing games in the past 20 years. Forgetting about all the gameplay issues, the endless loregasms bored me to death, and there were so many terrible 'side quests'. This is another thing I think is completely unnecessary. A movie doesn't have these random boring side plots with weak writing, so why should a game? Why does a game need to pad itself out into 30 hours? I would be perfectly happy with something that is 10 hours if was really good. Quality is always > quantity. But again it is not necessary. Give me some good context and send me to a dungeon to slaughter stuff for a few hours. I am fine with that. TOEE was a glorious game and again there was hardly any story, just, "Go cleanse this evil temple full of baddies". I much prefer that than reading 3 paragraphs of trash text trying to convince me this side quest is more interesting than it really is.
     
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  18. Lurker47 Learned

    Lurker47
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    Thanks, Paris Hilton.
     
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  19. Citizen Prophet

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    Correct answer. Roleplaying an edgy psycho killing people left and right could be fun if you're an easily impressed teen, see postal games, but in the end many people me included prefer to play a hero or a witty adventurer. The thing that I miss in RPGs is not EdGy EBiL AnIMe plots, but low-key stories. I'm tired of being a wonderboy/chosen one/the last of the airbenders/whatever and saving the multiuniverse fighting the omnipresent ultragalactic old gods

    Gimme a good low level DnD game about a party of adventurers on a quest of looting an old tomb and becoming fucking rich, with focus on exploring the dungeons and finding the clues about the treasure, with spooky mazes full of traps and a cool adventurous atmosphere of the first scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark
     
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  20. Darth Canoli Cipher

    Darth Canoli
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    I agree, with various sources of inspiration comes greater knowledge and mastery.

    Still, if someone was capable of extracting the best of a couple of classics, we could get a real masterpiece, yet, all we get is more shitty 3D engines and half baked games ...

    Maybe inspiration isn't the problem, game designers are ... Or the ones getting the money to make "ambitious" games ...
     
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  21. BING XI LAO Magister

    BING XI LAO
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    The problem is normies. Their purchasing power ruins all media with their shite 100 IQ tastes.
     
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  22. Ladonna Magister

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    I do miss the old rpg cliche of being just an adventurer ala pool of radiance and doing things for personal gain, at least initially.
     
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  23. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    Which is actually the strength of the medium. Novels have things like interior monologues, vivid descriptions, jumping into the character's head, etc, that don't work in other media.
    Film has acting, visual language, etc, which doesn't work in other media.
    Comics are somewhere between film and novel, with both text and imagery working together, but what works in comics doesn't necessarily work in film or novels.

    Games, just like films, comics, novels, have their own "language" and approach to storytelling.

    If you recognize the special position of games, which have interactivity as their defining feature, you can make great use of it for storytelling and worldbuilding. Telling a typical linear story doesn't work in a game. What works is intricate worldbuilding that allows the player to explore a detailed fictional world and discover small stories within it. Games can make good use of environmental storytelling (some of which has become a cliche on its own by now - how often did you find a corpse somewhere and the environment around it hinting to how it died? that trope is used all the time), can add in-game texts which are optional to read and flesh out the setting (all those letters and diaries in the Thief games, the lore books in Elder Scrolls, etc), little sidequests and situations for the player to stumble upon, etc.

    The non-linearity and interactivity of games also allows writers to explore certain characters, organisations and events from different perspectives. In one playthrough you could work for the Holy Knights and fight against heretics, in the next playthrough you join the heretics and get their perspective on things. And in another playthrough you might choose to stay neutral, play both sides against each other, and profit from the conflict. If you allow the player to join the bad guys and lead them to victory, you can also show the results their victory would have on the world - and maybe it wouldn't even be that bad!

    That's the unique strength of games as a storytelling medium.
     
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  24. BING XI LAO Magister

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    Big disagree from me, because the hero's aim in that story is.... to kill himself. That's very original.
     
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  25. Chaotic_Heretic Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

    Chaotic_Heretic
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    kill enemies, loot treasure; grognard munchkining.
    These are the themes i miss in a rpg.
     
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