Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Highly Overrated: Since when were characters in fiction overrated?

This is the story of League of Legends
StarduskLP recently showed me an article on IGN titled "GDC: 'Plot is Highly Overrated' in Games, Says Devs", a presentation by two people in the biz. Riot Games' Narrative Lead Tom Abernathy, and Microsoft Game Studios' Design Lead Richard Rouse III. They gave a presentation titled "Death to the Three Act-Structure."

I wasn't there. I didn't read the brief. I don't know their "extensive research" on the matter. But as soon as they say:
...that plot itself doesn’t resonate with a majority of players. Characters, on the other hand, do

There is a great disturbance in humanity. Or at least my brain.

1. Plots come from characters. You cannot remove one from the other. In data modeling, we call this a composition relationship. It would be like removing your heart and saying you are still a living human.

Now, this may tell us that game makers don't know this relationship, and haven't crafted particularly decent stories, but that doesn't mean we don't care for it. (See the comments section of that article.)

2. Riot Games' Narrative Lead. Riot Games has a Narrative Lead? Riot Games: the makers of League of Legends. Let that title sink in. How do you get this job, let alone there being Lead, implying there's Intermediate and Junior Narrative titles? What does Mr. Abernathy do all day? A game based on the genre called a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) where the narrative is nearly moot. (While I can argue there is a narrative to everything, that is not the point of these kinds of games, even in DOTA.) If he's using his amazing stats of 30 million+ players, about LoL, how can they appreciate LoL's narrative? What, the Journal of Justice thing that no one reads? (And why that exists, I cannot say.) That's like making a sci-fi porn flick and stating how "studies show us that no one cares about our special effects."

Everyone I've talked to (in person) about a stand alone, single player, LoL game based on their favorite character(s) would love to play it. Riot Games must have no personal idea how important the animation, voice acting and personalized skins (and the idle joke/dances) associate ourselves into these games, and how we identify ourselves into such characters. They certainly have the resources (and inklings of lore) to do, what, 1 game based on Teemo Chogath? Doubt doing so would take away from their cash cow.

3. Richard Rouse III, who made 7 games, including The Suffering & its sequel, were psychological horror video games where Choices Matter. Players can import their save using 3 different morality status (good/neutral/bad) that determined the transformation of their monster form and their attacks, which eventually determines what kind of ending players get. Confronting ones nemesis, MPD, orphan child suffering, and a general journey of self-discovery determined through game play, are a few of the themes present.

If he got stats from that kind of game and came to that conclusion? Game Over Man: humanity is doomed.
“So the question is,” he (Rouse) later continued, “how much does the third act pay off, that you’re putting so much work into, as you’re trying to structure your plot, intricately. How much does that matter, when the fact is that a majority (2/3rds) of your players are never even going to see it?”
I don't know, Rouse. Do you want to ship unfinished games, and just do some random game play end boss scene because "plots don't matter"? For the people who actually care, yes; Yes, we want you to finish your games. Properly. We want you to put your soul into everything, not just the game mechanics. If you got a story, write and produce it properly.

We may not be the other 2/3rds who don't finish your games (if you can call his 1998 Centipede or Drakan: The Ancients' Gates worth going through.) But for God's sake man: if you bother to put a character with a plot and an arc in your potentially uninspired shooter series that won't end, you do it right, or not at all; how one should with everything in life.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me feel sick and I'm going to try to walk away before I feel the need cry for the sad state of the modern gaming industry. I would like a complete story please. Finishing things is a good thing.