Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Interview Matt Chat 62: Chris Avellone

Jason

chasing a bee
Joined
Jun 30, 2005
Messages
10,737
Location
baby arm fantasy island
Tags: Chris Avellone; Matt Barton; Obsidian Entertainment

<p>Chris Avellone joined Matt "Dungeons & Desktops" Barton for the <a href="http://game-central.org/2010/vidcasts/matt-chat-chris-avellone-pt-1/" target="_blank">latest episode of Matt Chat</a>.</p>
<blockquote>The game world, dungeons, people have to react in meaningful ways to those character choices and how your character is developing. I would even argue that having a strong storyline in an RPG is absolutely secondary or even tertiary to those things. It's the game system, it's allowing the players to develop, it's allowing the consequences that develop in the RPG. And then most RPG players will form a stronger narrative themselves based on actions that occur in the game that have nothing to do with the NPC they talked to or the big wow moment you threw at them.</blockquote>
<p>He continued this train of thought over at his <a href="http://forums.obsidian.net/index.php?s=50075034ecce7a59cc7574e62923e981&automodule=blog&blogid=1&showentry=135" target="_blank">Obsidian blog</a>.</p>
<blockquote>I think the concept of emergent narrative is stronger than any enforced narrative. I think a blend can work well (and it's what I prefer whenever possible), but I think the stories players create on their own from interesting system mechanics and AI behavior has more weight and meaning than anything a designer tries to do. My favorite example is that no enforced narrative can really trump the story of planting dynamite on victims in Fallout, superstimming people to death, or how a character's 3rd level dwarven fighter with 5 hit points trained 20 orcs into a narrow, funneled corridor and killed them all one by one with a ball-peen hammer, Oldboy-style. The player makes stories like that happen, and those are the stories I hear players talk about most in relation to games, computer game or pen-and-paper games, not necessarily their reaction to specific cued story events or anything the designer or GM tried to force on them.</blockquote>
<p><em>Thanks to Ben</em></p>
<p> </p>
 
Joined
Nov 8, 2007
Messages
6,207
Location
The island of misfit mascots
Well. he still knows what makes a good game in theory, at least. Whether he's in a position to make them while still hitting the financial aims and the lifestyle he wants, is a very different question, so it doesn't have much bearing on whether AP will live up to his description of a good crpg.

I think there's also something to be said for a variety of gamestyles where the developer plays to their strengths. They don't ALL have to be C+C fests, or ALL open-world TES-style games, or ALL dating sims in disguise. If you're good at writing linear stories, make a great linear story. If you're good at small-scale interactions and multiple paths through discrete maps then start tapping Warren Spector's game style. I think more than a few gamers would LIKE to see Avellone try his hand at another story-driven PS:T-style jrpg-in-disguise.

Thing is, that can't happen while writers are still being carried by a development system that is great for their career security but terrible for producing good writing. So long as the writers get hired first and then put up their scripts 2nd, we'll always get second or third-rate writing. We'll get book or movie-quality scripts when game developers work like movies or book publishers. Actually, it's more movies I've got in mind - like film producers, the game company should give an outline of the kind of mechanics the plot has to support and maybe even a few set action pieces it must include. Then put it out for tender and have the writers work freelance, so you get to pick the best piece each time rather than being stuck with what you've got inhouse. Once a writer has proved himself or herself by producing a ton of good material, THEN you make the exception to the rule and give them a multi-script contract.

Sure, it's worse for the writers in the short term. But it's MUCH better for consumers, i.e. us. And it's better for the writers that are actually good.
 

bhlaab

Erudite
Joined
Nov 19, 2008
Messages
1,787
Generally, I don't like to make major characters in games sacred and invulnerable unless I absolutely have to.

Okay, well let's see how many times he absoloutely has to in New Vegas
 

shihonage

Subscribe to my OnlyFans
Patron
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
7,157
Location
location, location
Bubbles In Memoria
. My favorite example is that no enforced narrative can really trump the story of planting dynamite on victims in Fallout, superstimming people to death, or how a character's 3rd level dwarven fighter with 5 hit points trained 20 orcs into a narrow, funneled corridor and killed them all one by one with a ball-peen hammer, Oldboy-style. The player makes stories like that happen, and those are the stories I hear players talk about most in relation to games, computer game or pen-and-paper games, not necessarily their reaction to specific cued story events or anything the designer or GM tried to force on them.

So emergent narrative is about killing people in imaginative ways.
 
Joined
Nov 8, 2007
Messages
6,207
Location
The island of misfit mascots
bhlaab said:
Generally, I don't like to make major characters in games sacred and invulnerable unless I absolutely have to.

Okay, well let's see how many times he absoloutely has to in New Vegas

Does he have much to do with NV? I thought that was Sawyer's baby - interesting in itself b/c it's the first time we'll get to see a game that Sawyer's taken from start to finish rather than (a) had cancelled or (b) taken over and pulled to a sellable state after the project has become irredeemably fucked (if you believe Carlson's account of NWN2, in which she basically credits Sawyer with their being able to get a sellable game out the door).

I thought Avellone was pretty much tied to being head of AP and only joined the NV team for some polish once AP was done. Odd thing is, at this point (Bethesda's combat model and the fact it's a game for the FO3 market taken into account) NV seems to be doing a lot more with the FO3 model than AP is with the ME one. If I had to pre-order, my money would probably be on NV, despite dearly wanting AP to be better due to wanting a spy setting and something vaguely similar to Deus Ex.

If Avellone's strength is as a writer, I'm wondering how much of that could be neutered purely by (a) taking a genre he's not familiar with (not quite 'hitting' the smooth spy dialogue could easily make the hero loathably arrogant rather than smooth) and (b) bad voice acting. And what little I've seen so far doesn't look promising:-( NV, on the other hand, seems far harder to derail given that it seems a lot like my 'dream FO3 mod' - may a less ambitious but more achievable aim.
 

SolipsisticUrge

Educated
Joined
Mar 28, 2010
Messages
145
Location
Cleveland
Avellone has great potential seldom delivered on. He seems to work best on restricted schedules when working within an established setting that he gets to dick around with a bit, rather than creating his own setting wholesale. What enthusiasm I had for Alpha Protocol has mostly vanished with the progression of poor preview videos, and a lot of really neat-sounding talking points that won't be delivered on (another of Avellone's specialties).
 

relootz

Scholar
Joined
Sep 9, 2009
Messages
4,478
Matt Chatt really does some great work with his videos.

I really enjoy his videos and his Romero interview.
 

CrimsonAngel

Prophet
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
Messages
2,258
Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong
relootz said:
Matt Chatt really does some great work with his videos.

I really enjoy his videos and his Romero interview.

yeah full props to Matt.
I do wish his sections where he shows games could be a bit longer, but he dose well with in his format.
 

relootz

Scholar
Joined
Sep 9, 2009
Messages
4,478
CrimsonAngel said:
relootz said:
Matt Chatt really does some great work with his videos.

I really enjoy his videos and his Romero interview.

yeah full props to Matt.
I do wish his sections where he shows games could be a bit longer, but he dose well with in his format.

Yes that unfortunate but a side product of the 10 minute barrier of youtube, i guess.
 

bhlaab

Erudite
Joined
Nov 19, 2008
Messages
1,787
Azrael the cat said:
bhlaab said:
Generally, I don't like to make major characters in games sacred and invulnerable unless I absolutely have to.

Okay, well let's see how many times he absoloutely has to in New Vegas

Does he have much to do with NV? I thought that was Sawyer's baby - interesting in itself b/c it's the first time we'll get to see a game that Sawyer's taken from start to finish rather than (a) had cancelled or (b) taken over and pulled to a sellable state after the project has become irredeemably fucked (if you believe Carlson's account of NWN2, in which she basically credits Sawyer with their being able to get a sellable game out the door).

I thought Avellone was pretty much tied to being head of AP and only joined the NV team for some polish once AP was done. Odd thing is, at this point (Bethesda's combat model and the fact it's a game for the FO3 market taken into account) NV seems to be doing a lot more with the FO3 model than AP is with the ME one. If I had to pre-order, my money would probably be on NV, despite dearly wanting AP to be better due to wanting a spy setting and something vaguely similar to Deus Ex.

If Avellone's strength is as a writer, I'm wondering how much of that could be neutered purely by (a) taking a genre he's not familiar with (not quite 'hitting' the smooth spy dialogue could easily make the hero loathably arrogant rather than smooth) and (b) bad voice acting. And what little I've seen so far doesn't look promising:-( NV, on the other hand, seems far harder to derail given that it seems a lot like my 'dream FO3 mod' - may a less ambitious but more achievable aim.

dude i know all that i was just saying. jesus.
 

Fat Dragon

Arbiter
Joined
May 24, 2007
Messages
3,499
Location
local brothel
Azreal has a bad habit of responding even to the shortest one liner with a full blown essay. He makes good posts but it can get a bit lulzy at times.

Anyway, interview was good, looking forward to part 2. Nice to see an interviewer who has actually played some real RPGs.
 

Alex

Arcane
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
8,752
Location
São Paulo - Brasil
If I understand what MCA and Mr. Barton mean by emergent storytelling, then I agree that it is an important part of most rpgs. However, his blog post seems weird:

Mister Chris Avellone said:
2) Do you think is something already out there or it is still and embryo?

2. It's already out there, and was present in Oblivion and other open-world style games and even in many MMOs, where player raiding stories are generally more involved than the actual pacing of the raid itself. It's been around for almost as long as gaming has been around, in my opinion.

He seems to be equating this with larping, which not only seems wrong to me, but goes against what he said in the chat:

Mister Chris Avellone said:
The game world, dungeons, people have to react in meaningful ways to those character choices and how your character is developing.

I mean, Daggerfall, Ultima 4 and Dwarf Fortress have better potential for emergent storytelling than the games mentioned, simply because they react somewhat to the players actions in meaningful ways. Maybe MMOs have some good potential for this if you play with the right people, but from what little I know about them, this potential would be in an RPG that only barely has anything to do with the MMO itself, one that happens in the heads of the people playing and frequently has to go against the very game they play on.

Azrael the cat said:
I think there's also something to be said for a variety of gamestyles where the developer plays to their strengths. They don't ALL have to be C+C fests, or ALL open-world TES-style games, or ALL dating sims in disguise. If you're good at writing linear stories, make a great linear story. If you're good at small-scale interactions and multiple paths through discrete maps then start tapping Warren Spector's game style. I think more than a few gamers would LIKE to see Avellone try his hand at another story-driven PS:T-style jrpg-in-disguise.

Azrael, I completely agree with you that there is room for a lot of different storytelling techniques in games. But I don't know if linear story games are such a good idea, at least if the story is to be a prominent part of the game. I mean, interactivity is the most important part of a game and this seems to go against it.

The way I see it, Planescape worked because, even if it wasn't too hot on the consequences side, it still had plenty of choices to make. The first time I played Planescape, most of my RPG experience came from JRPGs. The amount of interaction with the story in Torment not only earned it a spot as one of my favorite games, but also made me give up JRPGs and go after CRPGs. So, I think that even though the outline of the story was fixed from the start, the way you could interact with the small parts of it is the greatest factor in the enjoyability of the game.

Thus, back to my point, I think that it is important to understand, even if your game will have a more static, predetermined story, how it will be interactive. From what I have seem, this is the biggest fault of Heavy Rain (or maybe it is the second biggest one), where the most important aspect of the game is the story, but the player's only influence over it is on very small details.
 

FeelTheRads

Arcane
Joined
Apr 18, 2008
Messages
13,716
Oh, boy... emergent storytelling. This is the new C&C, you watch. In essence they're pretty much the same thing, but I guess they needed to find a new name because C&C was used so many times completely out of place that even people who care about it find disgusting its mere mentioning.

It's all bullshit anyway.

Pretty much any game that doesn't require an exact combo of keystrokes each time you play it has "emergent storytelling", at least the way they describe it: Hey, dude, let me tell you how I killed that boss!

All bullshit.
 

Shannow

Waster of Time
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
6,386
Location
Finnegan's Wake
Fat Dragon said:
Azreal has a bad habit of responding even to the shortest one liner with a full blown essay. He makes good posts but it can get a bit lulzy at times.
At times he can even be utterly moronic, kind of like an inverted Volly.
 

Alex

Arcane
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
8,752
Location
São Paulo - Brasil
FeelTheRads said:
Oh, boy... emergent storytelling. This is the new C&C, you watch. In essence they're pretty much the same thing, but I guess they needed to find a new name because C&C was used so many times completely out of place that even people who care about it find disgusting its mere mentioning.

This is very likely what this will end up, yet another buzzword. But like most buzzwords, this actually has a meaning. The difference between Emergent Storytelling and C&C is that while C&C is about making the player's choices matter, while ES would be about making the story happen from a set of rules that would change the gameworld according to the player's actions.

The idea is that, instead of having the interactive story laid out as a graph, where at each node you have 2 or 3 choices, the game would provide the player with a few choices and calculate the result of these actions. The objective of ES is then, to make rules such the results of these actions make a somewhat coherent narrative.

FeelTheRads said:
It's all bullshit anyway.

Pretty much any game that doesn't require an exact combo of keystrokes each time you play it has "emergent storytelling", at least the way they describe it: Hey, dude, let me tell you how I killed that boss!

All bullshit.

I can see how you would gather that from the description, but I think that part about blowing people up with dynamite or managing to just beat an encounter, they are just examples of pieces that would be needed to make emergent storytelling. Just like a prologue, a foreshadowing or a climax don't make a whole story, so these elements don`t really make a whole emergent story. And I think there are still a lot to be done in that regard.

Shannow said:
Fat Dragon said:
Azreal has a bad habit of responding even to the shortest one liner with a full blown essay. He makes good posts but it can get a bit lulzy at times.
At times he can even be utterly moronic, kind of like an inverted Volly.

Ow, come on. There is little activity in these forums as it is. Azrael may be long winded, but he is rarely off topic and usually insightful. We need him to post more, not less.
 

Shannow

Waster of Time
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
6,386
Location
Finnegan's Wake
Alex said:
Shannow said:
Fat Dragon said:
Azreal has a bad habit of responding even to the shortest one liner with a full blown essay. He makes good posts but it can get a bit lulzy at times.
At times he can even be utterly moronic, kind of like an inverted Volly.

Ow, come on. There is little activity in these forums as it is. Azrael may be long winded, but he is rarely off topic and usually insightful. We need him to post more, not less.
Wow, I really didn't expect anybody on the codex to equate "inverted Volly" to "he is a bad poster, mmkay. He should post less".

BTW, you're doing the same. FTR just posted some meaningless nonsense and you responded to it.
There's simply some of us that see at a glance when somebody is just bullshitting/venting and don't bother responding, much less getting into a serious discussion about those "one-liners". And it is ... "peculiar" - for lack of a better word - to see others taking that stuff seriously. That is no judgement on quality or "worthiness" though.
 
Joined
May 6, 2009
Messages
1,876,038
Location
Glass Fields, Ruins of Old Iran
Shannow said:
Fat Dragon said:
Azreal has a bad habit of responding even to the shortest one liner with a full blown essay. He makes good posts but it can get a bit lulzy at times.
At times he can even be utterly moronic, kind of like an inverted Volly.

Meh, his problem is that he sometimes sees too much into things. But he always tries to make good, noncondescending posts, so it's all good

I just wish he'd pick a different avatar so I don't mix him up with Hoaxmetal.
 

Alex

Arcane
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
8,752
Location
São Paulo - Brasil
Shannow said:
(...snip)Wow, I really didn't expect anybody on the codex to equate "inverted Volly" to "he is a bad poster, mmkay. He should post less".

BTW, you're doing the same. FTR just posted some meaningless nonsense and you responded to it.

There's simply some of us that see at a glance when somebody is just bullshitting/venting and don't bother responding, much less getting into a serious discussion about those "one-liners". And it is ... "peculiar" - for lack of a better word - to see others taking that stuff seriously. That is no judgement on quality or "worthiness" though.

Ow, ok, I understand what you are saying now. Sorry for the mix up :oops: Anyway, I always had a problem understanding when people are being serious or not through the Internet, specially here in the Codex (I still can't tell if half of the GD is a big joke or if people take that seriously). Still, even if I am discussing something basic, trying to argue about it usually is useful in that I may notice things about what is being discussed that I hadn't noticed yet. Besides, there is always the possibility that this will generate some on topic discussion, which is what I want by making these replies...

FeelTheRads, do you disagree with what I posted about emergent storytelling? If so, could you elaborate?
 

FeelTheRads

Arcane
Joined
Apr 18, 2008
Messages
13,716
FeelTheRads, do you disagree with what I posted about emergent storytelling? If so, could you elaborate?

Maybe I'm dumb, but it looks to me that you said the same thing I did.
At least I don't see a difference between "C&C is about making the player's choices matter" and " ES would be about making the story happen from a set of rules that would change the gameworld according to the player's actions."

I mean, if the "choices matter" then it means that the "gameworld" or rather the circumstances changed, no?

Because, I don't see how this would work in any other way:

the game would provide the player with a few choices and calculate the result of these actions.

Except being what is already there in the majority of games, as I previously said.

And I don't see how you could create a coherent narrative from pieces such as "i managed to sneak around that mob by doing this" and "i managed to kill that boss by doing that", which are situational by their nature.

In short, you either have the "2 or 3 choices" or you have the innovative use of the game's mechanics. Or both. But that's nothing new, and it certainly didn't start with Olbiblians.
 

Shannow

Waster of Time
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
6,386
Location
Finnegan's Wake
FeelTheRads said:
And I don't see how you could create a coherent narrative from pieces such as "i managed to sneak around that mob by doing this" and "i managed to kill that boss by doing that", which are situational by their nature.

In short, you either have the "2 or 3 choices" or you have the innovative use of the game's mechanics. Or both. But that's nothing new, and it certainly didn't start with Olbiblians.
(Now it's not meaningless ;))
At least from the examples MCA used, I didn't see any claim of "coherent narrative" for ES. More, what does the player remember years after playing the game? Does he remember that carefully crafted, emotionally engaging scene that the dev put so much work and love into or does he remember that situation where his (un-orthodox) actions resulted in funny/unexpected/satisfying developments?
And the reason I see the whole discussion as pointless is because every game that isn't totally linear (not only story- but gameplay-wise) or procedural will have a mixture of both. It's nice if the game system allows for lots of ES because, personally, I care a lot more about situations I created myself than some drivel the dev forced upon me. But every game I can think of always had both (well, maybe roguelikes and M&B lack the story... ;)).

Exactly.
 

Alex

Arcane
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
8,752
Location
São Paulo - Brasil
@FeelTheRads

Sorry, I should have been clearer. The way I see it, emergent storytelling is one way to create a narrative on your game. By its very nature, all but the most retarded uses of ES will lso generate some C&C, but it isn't the only way to create C&C in the game's story.

For example, you may have the traditional storytelling model:

Code:
        Find a boat
               |
  Board the black pearl
               |
Get betrayed by pirates
               |
Get stranded in an island.

The above example doesn't have any C&C in the narrative. The story was written beforehand and the player has no choice but follow it through. Then, if you want to add some interactivity to it, you might add some branching paths to the above:
Code:
                                                           Find a boat
                                                        /             \
                                         Board the black pearl        Board the white barge.
                                                  /                        /            \  
                           Get betrayed by pirates           Have a tranquil      Try to steal
                        /                     \              journey.             from the captain.
Get stranded in an island.    Scare the pirates enough                            /           \
                                 to be made captain.                            Get caught  Succeed
                                                                              /        \
                                                              Kill everyone and       Get jailed
                                                              get stranded in the
                                                              middle of the sea.

The example above has some C&C built into it. But it is still a story developed from ground up by a writer. Someone thought of all the consequences and coded all of the player's actions before hand. It is much like a game book, like the fighting fantasy or lone wolf series. While games like this can be much fun, in my view, it is costly to make games like this with real C&C.

As I understand, ES would be something like this: first, you define some actions the player may take, like working on a ship, attacking and captaining a vessel. You might then define an attribute for loyalty, and possible actions a crew might take when it is low. Then you let the story happen according to these rules.

Now, the above idea of having loyalties and actions and getting stranded in islands, it is a little like Sid Meyer's pirates, isn't it? we have had some form of ES since games started. Players have always been able to assign some meaning to the little pieces moving on the screen, even in pacman or pong.

But there is a lot of problems with these little emergent stories in most games. Usually, games have a static story that won't acknowledge the emergent stories. Then, these small emergent stories might happen very rarely, completely based on chance, or not happen at all unless you take stupid actions in the game (like angering your crew in first place. Also, these stories rarely influence one another. The way you just defeated an enemy group in wizardry will rarely matter in the next fight.

That is why I think ES is an interesting idea, but shouldn't be used as a buzz word. If a game claims to have an emergent story, then it should be doing something innovative to help make the emergent story noteworthy. This is what Chris Crawford has been trying to do with his Storytron (before he ran out of money, that is).
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom