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Amy Hennig Thinks Longer Games & Player Agency in Open Worlds Are Hindering Traditional Storytelling

Amy Hennig thinks games getting longer (she cited Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War and Marvel's Spider-Man) and allowing players to 'tell their own stories' are elements not conducive to traditional storytelling.

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ccgr1977d ago

I've spent countless hours on games with no story (Mount & Blade) and had a lot of fun, but good stories are more memorable

LordoftheCritics1977d ago

RPG's allow for long games with good stories but require damn good writing and a damn good effort. That's what made the old Bioware games so good.

Forn1977d ago

Old Final Fantasy games as well.

UltraNova1976d ago (Edited 1976d ago )

OffT:
I know saying this might anger some "internet warriors" but Amy needs to stop talking and and start making games again. Its been how many years since she made something as impactfull as her Gaming mentor-esqe "views" / "opinions" ?

lxeasy1976d ago

yeah games like Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age Origins had that perfect balance of being long but never allowing the story to suffer for it.

rainslacker1976d ago (Edited 1976d ago )

I think the more important aspect isn't that bigger and longer games are bad for player agency and story telling, but rather the longer and side stuff in open world, isn't presented in a way that adds to the urgency of the story. Take any given open world RPG game. You have a cataclysmic event looming, which everyone says needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. You spend a good portion of the game figuring out how to do that, then you have a path to your final goal. Common story telling sense would say, pursue that goal, and everything else should be put on the back burner, because it's not important to the overall goal. But, throughout all this, the ability to just go do anything leads to a distraction from the story, because a lot of times it isn't related to that main story. There is usually a point of no return as well, so before you hit the climax part of the story, you want to fill it with all this other stuff, making the urgency of the story diminish, because instead of preventing the cataclysm, you're saying, "Oh, that can wait, lets go do this stuff which may get us killed so the world will be doomed".

That's how most of these kinds of games play out.

I think Horizon:ZD did a good job with this, because all the way up until the end point of no return, you really had no clue what you were supposed to do, and her journey was about discovering the world around her to find out what to do next. They had the point where you go back and finish up the invasion in typical waiting fashion, but the rest of it didn't seem like a distraction, and side quests often blended seamlessly into the overall narrative. Plus, your actions during that time affected who was there to help you at the end.

So, the takeaway is that its about the structure of the narrative, and the game world itself. Not the size of the game, or the characters place in the narrative itself.

I think the new God of War even addressed this topic a bit in passing. Artreus asked why they were going off doing all this side stuff, because it wasn't important to their quest. Kratos responded that everything they do is to make them stronger and better equipped to handle what was to come. While most games like Henning is talking about you are kind of doing this too, it fit into the overall narrative of GOW, because the story was more a journey type story anyhow.

Hardiman1976d ago

Really great points and as you stated HZD and GOW handled some of the issues well.

WilliamSheridan1976d ago

Horizon had the same issues if you got to the end but didn't climb so of those giant Dino's or whatever. It has the same distracting elements that too away from the side story with the collect all of the things side quests.

GoW doesn't have the problem, but that is due to being linear...

rainslacker1976d ago

@Will

It had the side stuff, but as I said, it fit better into the overall story, and the way that Aloy was progressing through the story. It wasn't all just about the discovery of her existence, but also finding out about the world around her so there was context to what it all meant in the end. Most of it was pretty cursory, and didn't involve a lot of time, and was more just a way to expand the world. There is a lot of this kind of stuff in modern open world games as well, and it's not always bad, so long as it's not overdone. More often than not, outside the collection of artifact type quests, you usually just came across them naturally, or while doing other things. The collections of artifacts did take a bit of side venturing, and I did sometimes spend time doing it, but how it affects the narrative is really going to be dependent on how you pursue it, which is true of most open world games.

When you reach the point in the story where there is no turning back, when you return to your homeland, then there is that point where you can venture off and do anything which may be an unavoidable aspect of this type of narrative.

I assume you mean by climbing dinos, you mean the longnecks to open up the map. I didn't really find that much of a distraction to the narrative, since you didn't have to rush to them, and they provided help in your travels. Maybe we have different definitions of what's considered a distraction though, and generally, slight detours don't bother me as much as things which consume a lot of time, but feel obligatory. Like the hunting, gathering, and crafting aspects of RDR2. Not necessary, but they were so intertwined with the design of the game, but held no relevance to the plot other than to give the player something to do. Further, in RDR2, I'd say 3 out of 4 side quests had no relevance to the plot, or the players motivations in that plot. But, that may not be the best example, because I don't think Arthur had much relevance to the plot either way.

I think the only really distracting side missions in Horizon would be the bandit camps. They were not really related to anything, and provided nothing more than a distraction, with a bit of a pointless side character thrown in. But again, they weren't so frequent or time consuming, that I felt it was overly distracting.

I guess it's a matter of degrees. Some things are more tolerable, and generally speaking, the more fun a game is to play, the less the distractions are a problem. the more integrated they are into the narrative, the more interesting they are, and the less chance they distract from the main plot.

neutralgamer19921976d ago (Edited 1976d ago )

Open world is the trend now a days so it seems all games are open world. Especially ubi games

Open world can be done right if the quality of content is there not quantity. Too many publishers have that mixed up. I rather have 15-20 hours of great content than 30-50 hours of filler content

Perfect example

God of war/yakuza games

Not perfect

Most other open world games

UltraNova1976d ago

Problem is when a dev decides to make an open world game these days they feel they have to fill it to the brim with activities for their game to "feel" complete. This is a double edged sword though since a big map filled with activity markers is very daunting and bordom-inducing. Its difficult endeavour to find the perfect balance. GOW was the only game that came close to this "perfect" formula. It was semi-open with just the right amount of side content, none of which felt like filler. I wish more devs feel safe making more GOW type games going forward.

wwinterj1976d ago

Agreed. However a open world isn't a bad thing for storytelling. It all depends if the open world works with the story that is being told also not every game needs to be open world. I believe the later part is the most important thing here. I love open world games but if the very core of the series gets ripped apart just to go that route then I'd rather not have it at all.

Christopher1976d ago

I think she has a point on some part, but I like longer games with good storytelling just as much as shorter games with good storytelling. It's not a "this or that" situation.

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-Foxtrot1977d ago

I think we saw this in games like Metal Gear Solid V or Zelda Breath of the Wild

Good games for what they are but the stories are either bland, unmemorable or generic

Not everyone can do it at the end of the day, you might do better in X, Y and Z but loose out on A, B and C, most of the time things which made the franchise what they were.

NecrumOddBoy1976d ago

This is why it boggles me that BOTW has so many 10s. No other game would have received such praise with being devoid of any real story.

-Foxtrot1976d ago

Exactly

Especially when past Zelda games have had decent stories

It got those marks mostly on hype, the franchise name and it was an open world Zelda

The game score + nostalgia points = total score

-Foxtrot1976d ago

@Imalwaysright

I think he's talking about games like Zelda which have been known for a story. Whether it's Zelda, Witcher, Deus Ex, Uncharted, Bioshock, Final Fantasy. Not mostly racing, sports and fighting games which aren't usually known for that, even if it was games like Far Cry Just Cause or Doom where story hasn't been the selling point

Imalwaysright1976d ago (Edited 1976d ago )

-Foxtrot

You can think whatever you want. What I read was: "No other game would have received such praise with being devoid of any real story." and as you can see that statement isn't accurate. Games can get levels of praise that we rarely see in this industry despite completely lacking or putting almost 0 focus in telling a story. That's because stories aren't at all needed for a game to be good.

Genre has nothing to do with it either. Open world games with crappy stories like of Skyrim or Fallout 3 also received high praise and unlike Zelda these are RPGs, games that most associate with deep storytelling but as you can see they got great scores despite their stories being at best vomit inducing

https://www.metacritic.com/...
https://www.metacritic.com/...

SuperRaccoon1976d ago

A fun game is a good game, it's the basis of video games as a whole and the most important factor. That's why people loved Zelda for the NES and why BotW got 10s.

NotoriousWhiz1976d ago

Ocarina of time had a great story. Outside of that, I can't think of any other Zelda that had an above average story.

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Last_Boss1976d ago

Thank you!! I seriously thought MGS 5 was going back to the whole card key access adventure style. Zelda lost so much of it's luster cause they cheapened your way of exploration.

slate911977d ago

Mass Effect 2 did this perfectly imo

anonymousfan1976d ago

Wow what I would give for a proper Bioware game of the caliber of Mass Effect 2... I have completely lost faith in that studio now...

Christopher1976d ago

Ooof, I think ME2 was actually the weakest of the 3 because the majority of the game was just character side quests and not main story telling. Go and recruit people, then go and make them loyal, now go and handle the actual issue which is only 15% of the overall game.

I think ME1 was way better in that everyone you ended up recruiting actually advanced the main story rather than just added more squad mates with their own thing. And ME3 was closer to ME1 in that regard. I find ME2 storytelling the weakest of them all, even with ME3 lame ending.