#441

cars posted:

I don't know. Maybe it comes down to how, for every marketable rage-machine of a "critic" on YouTube ranting about a TV show, the world now contains hundreds of "professional" reviews of the show that are just a breathless or tepid summary at length of the events of each episode, a reciting of the text that makes no sense if you aren't already familiar with the characters and is designed simply to acknowledge and affirm that the reader has watched the show. Imagine trying that for a AAA video game story, chapter by chapter. You'd have to go full lorem ipsum by halfway through the second article. It's a lot smarter to just get some people together, turn on a microphone and say nothing at all for hours and hours and hours.

If there's nothing to summarize in that braindead backpatting written-summary-as-review-series way when it comes to the "best" video game stories today, if there's even less there than there would be for a mediocre TV show by dint of the pseudo-writing process, maybe there's no foundation for talking about them at all in the current economy of "reviews" and "critics", however that breaks down on the back end. Yet video game stories apparently exist almost solely to get people talking about the game, and discussion of the story often fills 50% or more of the text of reviews. I don't know. TBD.



*thinking* 150 hour reaction video

#442
Cruelty Squad is an incredible example of auteurism in video games, highly recommended.
#443
Why do video games need culture?
#444

cars posted:

So I got my question half-answered about why the bar for "good" video game writing, specifically that, is so much worse than "good" writing in other media.

Someone pointed me in the right direction and I learned more about how stories for video games are written in nearly every contemporary case that isn't a solo project. The head of the development team writes the story as a vague outline, maybe just something they ramble off the top of their head on Zoom so their team leads can turn it into a framework for the game. In rare cases this is a known auteur but otherwise, it's written at the usual level of talent that a software development project director has for crafting a compelling narrative, and the goal is to make whatever elements are considered hot right now in AAA games happen in this game, whether or not any of what's decided for this game fits together at all. That is also a moving target, and since it's the most important target for the game to hit according to every current development philosophy, contempt for the story is baked into inventing it.

The various assets, sequences, quests, maps, etc. for the game are then acquired or developed with the outline as a guide, though it's often ignored or rapidly changed during development so different parts of the game no longer fit together. It's considered poor form in today's industry either 1) to develop a AAA game without a melodramatic plot, OR 2) to use the plot to inform what's going into the game. The standard is to switch the plot up as needed to match the assemblage of marketable copies of parts of other recent games that keep getting kludged into the one that's being made.

Then, the "head writer" and/or "writing team" are brought into the project, often at a point when the game is nearly finished, to try their best to translate all the jumbled mess of stuff that happens in the "plot"—the project director's vague and constantly metamorphosing ideas of the narrative paths of characters that have already been inserted into wall-climbing and gunfights and climactic duels with each other—into a story that makes something resembling sense, through writing dialogue-heavy cut scenes, characters saying exactly what they're doing to themselves to inform the player (with the writer maybe trying to sneak in their motivation for it), written or audio logs that interrupt the game to deliver backstory, etc. Contemporary development tools greatly aid the processing of voice lines recorded later into robotic movements of each character's face in the middle of whatever action sequence, as we all know and love.

More or less, no one is tasked with writing the story of a video game anymore, and no wants to be. The writers' jobs are to make semi-coherent the narrative nonsense of the game, a bunch of pieces strung together from an endlessly shifting idea of what the story should be and what the "gameplay" should include, dictated over the phone to the development team daily by their bosses. But a script in imitation of a big-budget action movie is considered mandatory for most such projects, and it has to be elaborate to get people talking about it and arguing over it around release time to build hype, and a huge amount of the game's run time has to be devoted to telling it. It's like making a superhero movie, I suppose. You can't wait around until the script is finished to start animating Superman punching Batman, or it'll never get done.

The net result is that there is just not a standard for a "good" story in a video game project of any size anymore. It's impossible to write one. It's a myth lost to time.

The half that this doesn't answer for me is how the overeducated cultural-critique class writing video game reviews has been trained to ignore how much the "good" stories suck compared to "good" writing in other media. Payola is part of it given the struggling fortunes of all "news" sites nowadays and the full knowledge of writers that their editors have no power anymore, but there's also an existing market for denouncing everything and anything, which doesn't seem to be happening here even though it's deserved. Video game rants are all bourgeois party politics today, pretty much. Republican vs. Democrat, spiced up with buzzwords about this or that feature that "everybody" likes or hates in the current moment.

I don't know. Maybe it comes down to how, for every marketable rage-machine of a "critic" on YouTube ranting about a TV show, the world now contains hundreds of "professional" reviews of the show that are just a breathless or tepid summary at length of the events of each episode, a reciting of the text that makes no sense if you aren't already familiar with the characters and is designed simply to acknowledge and affirm that the reader has watched the show. Imagine trying that for a AAA video game story, chapter by chapter. You'd have to go full lorem ipsum by halfway through the second article. It's a lot smarter to just get some people together, turn on a microphone and say nothing at all for hours and hours and hours.

If there's nothing to summarize in that braindead backpatting written-summary-as-review-series way when it comes to the "best" video game stories today, if there's even less there than there would be for a mediocre TV show by dint of the pseudo-writing process, maybe there's no foundation for talking about them at all in the current economy of "reviews" and "critics", however that breaks down on the back end. Yet video game stories apparently exist almost solely to get people talking about the game, and discussion of the story often fills 50% or more of the text of reviews. I don't know. TBD.


it's not quite the same but i feel like this sort of writing process has quite a bit in common with how blockbusters seem to be made now. like you read some of the behind the scenes stuff about the marvel movies where the cgi depatrtment made all the action scenes first and they then rewrote bits of the movie to work around those depending on what test audiences liked or didn't like and it has a similar sort of thing going on, although it's not as separated from the writing process as game production seems to be.

#445

Populares posted:

Why do video games need culture?


they are culture

I was interested, reading some posts about a recent video game, about how story criticism from the gamer usually is some variation on a sentence saying: "the writing is bad". You see this same sentence said by hundreds of people until it sort of cements itself in peoples heads. No one ever says what it is about the writing that makes it bad. They just say it is bad. Its a meaningless sentence, but everyone is saying it.

#446

tears posted:

Populares posted:

Why do video games need culture?

they are culture


#447
do video games need stories? no. do they have them? yes. is that exactly what i'm talking about? yes
#448

cars posted:

The half that this doesn't answer for me is how the overeducated cultural-critique class writing video game reviews has been trained to ignore how much the "good" stories suck compared to "good" writing in other media. Payola is part of it given the struggling fortunes of all "news" sites nowadays and the full knowledge of writers that their editors have no power anymore, but there's also an existing market for denouncing everything and anything, which doesn't seem to be happening here even though it's deserved. Video game rants are all bourgeois party politics today, pretty much. Republican vs. Democrat, spiced up with buzzwords about this or that feature that "everybody" likes or hates in the current moment.

I don't know. Maybe it comes down to how, for every marketable rage-machine of a "critic" on YouTube ranting about a TV show, the world now contains hundreds of "professional" reviews of the show that are just a breathless or tepid summary at length of the events of each episode, a reciting of the text that makes no sense if you aren't already familiar with the characters and is designed simply to acknowledge and affirm that the reader has watched the show. Imagine trying that for a AAA video game story, chapter by chapter. You'd have to go full lorem ipsum by halfway through the second article. It's a lot smarter to just get some people together, turn on a microphone and say nothing at all for hours and hours and hours.

If there's nothing to summarize in that braindead backpatting written-summary-as-review-series way when it comes to the "best" video game stories today, if there's even less there than there would be for a mediocre TV show by dint of the pseudo-writing process, maybe there's no foundation for talking about them at all in the current economy of "reviews" and "critics", however that breaks down on the back end. Yet video game stories apparently exist almost solely to get people talking about the game, and discussion of the story often fills 50% or more of the text of reviews. I don't know. TBD.


You've finally won me round to thinking about this... ugh. These are a few ideas for thought, rather than anything cohesive.

First idea, perhaps there is an issue that "video game critics", whether they be of the geriatric long form, the youtube-crtique type, the mauler-esque culture wars rants, the rising procedurally generate SEO bait, the near-illiterate steam reviewer, however it might be they have little frame of reference except video games and mass market explosion-spectacle "movies" and dire serials in the same vein. Sincethere is no good writing in video games and those who might be inclined to discuss about such have little experience of the vast variety of storytelling that one might get from say, reading a fricking book,they are in no position to offer any sort of criticism beyond either "the writing was bad", or the latest actually its about ethics in game journalism, which seems to be "woke in video games". I would describe this as the 35yo young adult literature enthusiast effect.

Secondly, on the last point in the above, there is just money to be made from, in your own words, shouting about bourgeois party politics in video games. Probably a lot more than saying the stories suck and here's why - people just don't want to hear that. They want affirmation that what they hate is bad and what they like they like because it is ambrosia - innately excellent - and perhaps reading a tepid summary of the object of their infantile desires provides the affirmation they need. I'm reminded of how every negative metacritic "review" about the latest anti-communist disney princess film "Black Widow" is ratio'd to hell. as if there is this huge host of people out there who cant bear to be told that a core part of their lives: drinking for the toilet bowl and loving it, is actually terrible and disgusting.

#449
imagine providing grover with a detailed explanation about exactly why his shrek-haus was bad.
#450
exposition sucks. it's terrible writing to have your character say out loud something they should already know, or even to have a conversation where the do nothing but repeat what both people already know. its the worst part of watching tv, a sign that the people writing it were too fucking stupid to allow us to learn this information by watching the events of the world they're supposedly showing us

with videogames the sin is multiplied. you are playing a videogame, you reach a certain point, and then you aren't playing a videogame anymore. it's been paused so that they can show you a scene from a tv show starring the videogame characters. for some reason, it is only one of the exposition scenes. when it's finished then they give you the videogame back

this is a total failure of writing a videogame. they havent written a videogame at all, they've written movie clips you unlock as a reward for playing the video game. even half life falls into this pattern, you have blocks of gameplay broken up by scenes where you're locked in a room with people who just exist to say story at you, and when they're done they unlock the door.

i want to be given nothing but a goal and a gun. if i notice a story it should be something i have to put together from first hand experience. it's an interactive medium, it's trying to simulate the world, let me interpret it as i do the world
#451
Goldeneye did it right
#452
i must revise my opinion about exposition being bad because i've seen the new matrix movie and then looked at people's reactions on the internet. characters turn to the camera and explain things in plain language, and then the audiance has gone home saying "i didn't understand it"

i propose that storytellers create a kind of super-exposition, possibly involving a fun muppet character like big bird
#453

tears posted:

You've finally won me round to thinking about this... ugh.



goondolences

#454

Horselord posted:

with videogames the sin is multiplied. you are playing a videogame, you reach a certain point, and then you aren't playing a videogame anymore. it's been paused so that they can show you a scene from a tv show starring the videogame characters. for some reason, it is only one of the exposition scenes. when it's finished then they give you the videogame back



I recently found out this happens because the parts the player actually plays in that sort of video game are an incoherent series of set pieces, each designed in isolation by teams of the sort of guy who once tried to replace his entire diet with Soylent and ended up in the hospital. Then, they bring the "writers" in later to try to connect that jumbled mess together through an after-the-fact "script", which is, ironically, why all of those games nowadays need pseudo-cinematic "stories" in that euphemistic sense, because otherwise nothing would fit together. That's where you get the cut scenes, audio logs, etc.

The "story" happens that way because nearly everything else about the game is complete when the "script" gets written, and because otherwise every game would just be a collection of mini-games, the result of an initial idea about the game's outline that is almost immediately changed around, sidelined and, eventually, outright ignored by the current development process. And that collection of mini-games might be better, but no one will pay full video-game market price for a chess/checkers/poker/and-so-on-style mini-game collection. It's a price point that drives the current industry and can't be dropped to 1/2 to 1/3 of current prices, collection-of-minigames level, without the industry collapsing.

There can't be a story when developing the game, because "gameplay comes first" in design and development philosophy, and subordinating development to a story is considered a financial suicide pact. But the video game can't be sold to customers without a story, because then, the game as a collected whole would make no sense at all, and no one would pay the current, industry-driving price for it. So, the "story" is wedged in somewhere between "80-90% developed" and the release date.

Which doesn't make you wrong—it's just that there is, not only no story, but no coherent through-line at all for the video game until after it's almost finished, when the "writer" is sent in to build one. As a player, you wouldn't really be able to construct a story using the playable parts. There isn't enough there to allow it. There's just the unassembled pieces of a machine whose plans changed entirely in between the manufacturing of each piece. Please read about this and even worse ideas in my posting, which i plan to replace with a similar method/product after realizing it can't get any worse.