Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Guess I need to add a few thoughts here. Not so much on the Cheetos front, yes, there are “fast food” games which offer a quick fix of cheap enterntainment, and yes, the medium needs to mature, just like movies and novels did, but there already are games that offer unique experiences, storys, characters - games that are art. And of course, they’re here to stay. They change other media, and they are changed by them - it’s not like “the book” has been the same for centuries.

I’m a writer for video games (and using Scrivener for those :wink: ). Not necessarily huge titles like Uncharted (I only get to translate such games from time to time). I also write and publish novels. And I’ve been writing screenplays for a TV show. So I might be able to comment on why stories in games suck. I’ll try to keep it short.

Let’s look at movies and games. With movies you have a way of producing them that has been formed over decades. Pre-production, shooting, post-production. You always know what you’re aiming for, you have a certain amount of movie minutes to generate, and you know the tools how to achieve that.

With games, everything is different. You have to spend an awful lot of time on the technical foundation, the engine. The graphics you have to generate don’t have to fit in a certain frame that’s defined by a cinematographer - no, they have to be dynamic, the have to scale, they have to change.

On the story side you have to decide, how to tell your story. Every game genre works differently. If you choose the safe route, which is pre-defined cutscenes, you need to find a good balance with gameplay, because you don’t want to go all Metal Gear Solid. With ingame storytelling you have to carefully look into the game mechanics - does it fit? Does it keep the controls simple? In many cases players have a lot to learn about basic game mechanics and controls - especially casual players - so they’re simply not able to pay attention to the story.

Your budget is always to small. Even if you have a great script with great dialogue - the story won’t work if there’s no time (or money, which is the same) to animate characters (faces and limbs) properly. Just like a VERY bad actor breaks the illusion, it’s the same with technical and graphical shortcomings. But the player’s impression is: the story sucks …

Writing for games is a kind of writing that’s totally different from prose or movie scripts. And a game always fails when it simply hires some Hollywood guy. And interactivity doesn’t necessarily mean arbitrary choices and storylines - heck, it multiplies the amount auf assets you’d have to generate. It means engaging the player in something that’s tight, convincing and thrilling. Uncharted does it really well, and I’m also looking forward to Heavy Rain.

Keith, how about Adventure games? You know, the graphical ones, the descendants from the old Infocom days? Even today there are some decent titles.

What sort of adventure games do you mean? I’ve never really liked RPG games, if that’s what you mean, because I hate turn-based mechanics (although I quite liked Knights of the Old Republic, and I ought to give Mass Effect another go). I like feeling as though I’m in the game, controlling a character’s movements in realtime. And to be honest, in my zealousness at trying to defend the medium, I’ve painted myself into a corner - in reality, I like many games, some of them violent and brainless (just as I like a range of films, from Merchant Ivory to Die Hard). The best games I have played tend to mix a good story with game play you have to think about. Recently, as well as Uncharted, I have enjoyed Mirror’s Edge (mostly - great concept, let down by having too many levels based inside narrow spaces - it’s a free jumping game for crying out loud! Let me jump over the buildings!), Infamous (just great fun), LittleBig Planet (who couldn’t love that? Playing it with my kids was hilarious)… Hmm, what else? Deus Ex was always one of my favourite games - it actually managed to have atmosphere (Max Payne did that too - whatever happened to Alan Wake? There’s a game I was looking forward to), and you had to really think about how to approach everything. And then of course there’s a whole other area of gaming - the Wii, with its archery and bowling, stuff you can play with your friends or family over a drink. Properly sociable stuff. (And don’t tell anyone, but I’m partial to the overly violent Hitman series, too…)

I can understand how driving a story forward in a game is always going to be difficult. I couldn’t even play the latest MGS - the fifteen-minutes-at-a-time cutscenes just bored me stiff. I think a game has to earn its cutscenes, in a way. Uncharted was brilliant at that - there’s a short cutscene at the start, and then you’re hanging from a train off the side of a mountain. You’re thrown in but want to find out what happened.

I’ve realised I’ve spent a lot of this thread defending computer games, but I didn’t really mean to. I like computer games and I don’t think they are the spawn of Satan as some do, and I don’t really make any apologies for that. All I really wanted to say, was: if you like computer games, Uncharted 2 is a superb game and a step along the way as the medium matures.

All the best,

The Point and Click games, without any action whatsoever. Classics would be the Lucasarts titles like Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. The genre has been “dead” for quite some time now, but great titles are released regularly. For the majority of gamers those Adventures are simply too boring, because you have to engage in lengthy conversations. Which I like. :slight_smile:

Concerning story and innovation - the games which impressed me most in recent years were Ico and Shadow of the Colossus on PS2.

(Alan Wake has been moved to 2010, and it’s still Xbox 360 only.)

Ah, I never had a PS2, only an Xbox - I was very jealous of Shadow of the Colossus. I remember seeing reviews and thinking it looked amazing. (These days I have to confess that I am tooled out with all three major consoles, which will just ruin my reputation around here even more, ahem.)

I think I missed most of the old point and click adventures, sadly. There was a big hiatus in my computer game playing between the death of my ZX Spectrum and first Sega Console when I was about 15 and me buying my first computer when I was about 24, by which time the world had moved on to Tomb Raider 2 (and I was blown away by the graphics). A few years ago I did track down the old Indiana Jones and the something of Atlantis point-and-click game, and it was hilarious (and very difficult). I do miss that humour that used to suffuse many games. Portal did a good job of that, though.

Glad to hear Alan Wake is still happening.


They even made an animated Movie (on netflix) that is a prequel to the story line. I have it on PS3. My advice for a first time player. EASY MODE.

Here is a Trailer.

It won awards in 2008.
Also Dead space 2 is in the works.

Very good game. Unique GUI and very good story line and the story is present in a very interesting way.

What is interesting is if you watch the animated film before playing the gam it still does not ruin the game. But I would recommend jumping in blind and play the game first. Learning the story without any previous knowledge makes it just that much more interesting.

The problem with easy mode is that some games don’t let you finish the story unless you play normal mode or higher. And to be honest, this really put me off certain genres because the alternate is too shop for games in the kiddie section.

That said, I am not above waiting a while and then looking up the cutscenes on youtube. It’s what I did for the Devil May Cry games. Speaking of story, if you cut out the boss fights, DMC3 has a shell of a great movie — it’s got a good premise of brother rivalry, demonic ancestry, woman seeking to avenge her dead mother and all this amidst the threat of an apocalypse. To be honest though, and maybe this isn’t fair, but the anime has the most complex characterization of Dante so I rec it over the games if you’re into character.

With Marathon I don’t remember any cutscenes, or if there were, they were very sparse in the first levels. But then, those games’ stories are told completely through computer terminals which is great for reading addicts who like to geek out on little details. Google around for “Marathon” “story” and read a few terminals and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a great example of how exposition can be done that’s organic to the environment the game presents.

You might want to keep an eye on the team’s first PS3 title: The Last Guardian

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - yes, I meant games like this. The genre still exists, but as I said, it doesn’t sell very well. With companies like Telltale Games many great games are still being made.

Cutscenes wit Bitmap sprites didn’t work very well. :smiley: In the early 90s the story was told with prerendered scenes (very expensive back then) or simply with text. I still have the Mac edition of the Marathon trilogy. You actually find many small references to Marathon in the Halo series.

… speaking of which, we have new sequences, just today. Looks great.

And seems to be slated for May 2010

The main character is a bestselling horror writer, so there’s relevance. :wink:

Didn`t he get a free transfer to Inter Milan? :confused:

Marathon was an epic game series. It was the precursor to the Halo series and the sole reason why Microsoft bought Bungie during that time. There was a continuation of Marathon after the trilogy but it was more of an open source project. I will say for its time it (Marathon) was hands down one of the best games around.

Ah the memories…

I think some of the best stories are going to video games now. Just look at all books and movies based off video games?

The real interesting thing in video games is the interactive story telling. No one has done it quite right yet, but every thing you do can change to the story? The RPG games from Bioware are close, but there are many others. The one thing about video games, is if the main character is a faceless projection of yourself, or a fully developed character in their own right.

Also, the scariest moment I had from entertainment wasn’t from a movie or a book, it was from a video game. It just had a way of drawing me in, when the “boo” finally jumped out at me, I almost fell out of my chair.

I too think there are some great stories in video games and that does translate to great spinoff movies and books and tv. But the story is so optional in a game.

At someone’s rec, I just read A Theory of Fun (pdf download). And the thing I grok’d from it is that games are about leveling up. Pac-man doesn’t have a story, it’s all about eating without getting eaten. So the challenge is how to integrate the story and the game when the story isn’t even needed.

I was reading McKee’s Story and I’ve just gotten to the part about the controlling idea and the counter idea. And I guess games have something similar but not quite, they’d have what I call the objective, and the consequence of failure. Take Tetris — objective, stack blocks without gaps; consequence, the blocks add up.

Games with stories have to marry both controlling ideas and objectives. Take Devil May Cry 3. Objective, fight demons. Controlling idea, twin brother rivalry and the difference in their reactions to their mother’s death culminates when one has to stop the other from leveling up unleashing demons into this dimension. The former is a story I wouldn’t read or watch but I’d play that button masher. The latter, I’d read that novel or watch that movie but it could be a very small part of a game, say, the narrative context and nothing more and I’d still be happy with the game. (And by narrative context, I mean: In Dead or Alive 4 Christie kills Helena’s mother, Helena vows vengeance, The End after two scenes, now let’s fight.)

Point is, this needing to engage the audience in multiple ways is really optional and also doesn’t happen with other story forms — poems/ballads, plays, novels, movies. Plays and movies are multi-media to the effect that they incorporate costume and set design and music choices and games are very involved in the same kinds aesthetics too. But they serve to complement the story/game and not really to help the audience view the environment in a different paradigm.

Lastly, ballads have existed how many millenia? And how about novels and plays, how long have these been around? Whereas games with stories have been around for only a few decades. Mostly, games — not just computer/video games but all games such as card games and board games and puzzles and etc. — haven’t been too involved with stories and the closest I can think of is tarot cards but those aren’t really games as much as they are meditative tools. Anyways, I think the gamestory form has time to evolve.

“Tales of Monkey Island” has just been released for the Mac. And who already bought it for PC can use the licence code for this version as well.

Great news for guys like me - and adventure fans on the Mac in general. :smiley:


I love the Broken Sword series, especially the first one. It had great characters and plot. I’m currently playing Broken Sword 3, which is taking me longer due to the timed action sequences. I have cerebral palsy which affects my motor skills and reaction times. I had to cheat at one point and ask a friend of a friend to help me get past the crystal cavern sequence.

I’m also playing lego batman on the DS which is very addictive.

An Xbox owner for years, I am a newcomer to the PS3. I have longed to play the Uncharted series for long (and soon will) although I am currently having a lot of fun with Little Big Planet.

Games aside, I can’t help but suggest all PS3 owners to try PS3 Media Server. It is a great free multiplatform application that will let you stream photos, audio and video files from your Mac to your TV set via the PS3.

It may not be easy to configure but the latest “unstable” version (1.20) integrates the iPhoto and iTunes libraries and is worth the effort. I can share my settings if anyone is interested.