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Story vs. Gameplay

Integrate or dominant?

By Troy Roberts and James Stevenson     August 13, 2004


Popular Sci-Fi Author R.A. Salvatore
© 2001 Rasalvatore.com

This week in Gamers' Thumb, James and Troy explore the growing focus on story in videogames. The biggest example of this is fantasy and STAR WARS novel writer R.A. Salvatore working with Atari on FORGOTTEN REALMS: DEMON STONE to provide gamers with a deep story. Is this a good idea, or should story development be largely to developers to shape around the gameplay?


I actually think that this is a pretty good call. I know that R.A. Salvatore does a lot of writing in the Forgotten Realms universe, so it makes perfect sense for him to do a storyline for an upcoming game based on the franchise. I believe that a decent storyline is somewhat necessary, especially in RPGs. While it may not be

Popular Sci-Fi Author R.A. Salvatore

required as much in a first-person shooter, please give me some kind of background on the game other than the "you have been dropped off, now fight your way out!" stuff we see every other release. While it may be hard to build games around the storylines that writers can weave, it is much easier with today's technological advances. Just about anything you can imagine can be put in a video game, and I believe that game companies need to take a few more steps to getting some of the more well known fantasy and sci-fi writers involved. I'd love to see people like Michael Stackpole, Kevin J. Anderson, or Timothy Zahn heading up the storyline for the newest sci-fi or fantasy video game. And with games budgets being increased to movie-like status, we may see familiar names in the near future. - TR


The involvement of R.A. Salvatore in a videogame is the way the industry is headed. I absolutely can't

Screenshot from MADDEN NFL 2005.

stand some of the awful stories out there, but it's easy to forgive a game with good gameplay. That said, it is hard to integrate the two. You can have the story taking you to places where imagining new gameplay possibilities is difficult, conversely, if you go game first, how can you possibly shape a compelling story around some fun action sequences? It's a delicate balance, and the best solution is to actually employ authors to help, but they have to contribute the whole time. Nothing irritates me more that doing something stupid in a game because of a story, or something stupid in a story for gameplay. It's obvious that for games like RPGs that story is important, and there are people who specialize in story working on these games, what'll be interesting is what happens over time to the other genres and if more authors and writers sign on to help write stories there. It's delicate, but when it works, it adds a dimension to the game that fuels extra sales and buzz. JS


TIDBITS



Warner Bros. has purchased Monolith Productions, developers of TRON 2.0 and MATRIX ONLINE...Sega is re-releasing SONIC MEGA COLLECTION on the Xbox, complete with 17 games from the Genesis and Game Gear...A CITY OF HEROES novel, based on the popular online RPG, will be released next year...COLIN MCRAE RALLY 2005 will not be released for the Playstation 2...



ON SHELVES



On

Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm by Kevin J. Anderson

shelves this week is pretty light considering MADDEN came out last week. We've got ASTRO BOY from Sega. We've also got HOT SHOTS GOLF FORE! from Sony. Finally, BUSH VS. KERRY BOXING. I only wish I made that up. If you haven't gotten MADDEN yet, most game companies are expecting you to, don't let them down.



Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Video Game column.



Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at GamersThumb@cinescape.com.

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