When it comes to playing games you could say that two of the main draws of games are the story or the actual game play. I’ve noticed over the years how these two forces aren’t balanced in most titles. Some of the best titles with game play aren’t known for their engaging and well though out story. On the other hand the best game stories aren’t usually put into game play intensive games. Personality I prefer the former to the latter and I’ll tell you why.
A few years ago I was playing the action adventure Mortal Kombat game at a local EB, being friends with the manager gave me the chance to play it over a few days and beat it in the store. As I got to the final boss fight a customer came over and watched me get the crap kicked out of me but eventually beat the final boss and watched the end scene. He then turned to me and said “thanks, now I don’t need to buy this”, and I have to agree with them. The game play was very repetitive and the story seemed to be the main draw. The problem with this is that not all games are like this. How many people do you know play the Mario games just to see the end scene of Peach kissing Mario?
Going back to that saying the journey is basically the game play and the destination is the story. A great story will keep players playing, but it shouldn’t be the focal point. Take the Final Fantasy titles for example, these games are known for epic story lines, and at least 50 hours of grinding and added fluff to make sure you got your money’s worth. I’m not a fan of games that the reason for playing is the storyline, as it usually means that the game play has been ignored. One example would be the latest Suikoden game, I loved the storyline but once it got out the story driven beginning , the game play was so boring and uninspired I stopped playing, and the best part was that people complained about the intro taking too long. The problem is that these two important components seem to be at odds with each other.
To create a compelling story, leaves very little room for letting the player control their characters, and the opposite goes for focusing on game play. I think some of the RPG makers are getting the point as we’re seeing less of the 80 hour rpgs. However I think it’s harder for game play intensive games to add better stories to them. Even the cinematic action titles like God of War are still only about 8 hours long, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to tell a compelling story. I think a good combination of game play and story (regardless if the story makes sense) would be the Metal Gear Solid series. In my entry on AARs, I talked about how they add flavor to strategy titles, and I hope at some point strategy titles can create AARs out the player’s game (an idea that was planned for Galactic Civilizations 2 but was dropped). Strategy titles are heavily on the gameplay scale, and the AAR is the perfect way to compliment the game play.
I’m still waiting for the 80 rpg that has non stop amazing game play and no grinding required, but I believe that statement could be an oxymoron 🙂