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Branching Story - Great or Goof?


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#1 Blackskullgreymon

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:19 PM

We all remember the hilariously overreaction to the ending of Mass Effect 3.  Even objectively, though, there were some problems.  Mass Effect's story has promised that the player's decisions will effect the game's story and Mass Effect 3 was advertised as fulfilling everyone's wish of feeling like a special snowflake where all of their decisions resulted in a very specific ending that revealed the consequences of their actions.  Instead, we sort of got a bell curve where it peaks in ME2 or halfway through 3, and then comes back to one of 3 endings that you just sort of pick between.  Doesn't matter if the geth as a species are dead or not, you can still choose to do a), b), or if you got enough points c).  

 

But, this is sort of the point of the story.  Really, the decision to take Jak's side in every argument just so you can see her ta-tas later shouldn't have any influence on the Reaper's attack strategy or whether or not you can overcome them.  Yeah, maybe seeing Shepard and Jak laying on a beach after the credits would have been a nice "happy ending" sort of nod to your decision in that one instance, but does touching on every little decision really improve the story after the ultimate climax of saving the universe is over?  Mass Effect 1 set you on a mission of saving the universe, and by 3 you do it.  That should be a "yay" moment, but fans felt jipped because of the advertising that seemed to imply something more would happen.

 

 

On the other hand, fans celebrate the Witcher 2 for doing it right.  The story can branch off and the decisions you make really do lead to different storylines.  If you do a replay and pick new options, you might be surprised just how much you didn't experience the first time.  This game doesn't really do the bell curve, it actually branches out in less annoying ways.

 

 

So, why is the Walking Dead on everyone's "I like this game and you should play it" list?  Ultimately, it does the exact same thing as Mass Effect 3.  Each episode opens with the phrase, "The decisions the player makes will effect the story", and yet there are a lot of decisions you make that don't save that person either way, or doom that character either way, or set you up for the ending in the exact same way.  There are some neat variables to experience, and you feel like it matters along the adventure, but it ends the same for everyone.  

 

Well, maybe that's it.  You feel like it matters.  Even if it doesn't.  The Walking Dead puts you in a situation where you feel like a human being.  The world will keep spinning, and sometimes you have bad luck and sometimes things will happen.  You might be able to offer a character your opinion, but that doesn't mean they'll take your words to heart.  It feels a little more real.

 

In Mass Effect, you feel like the single most important human being in the universe.  Sometimes the most important lifeform of any race in the universe.  You make these huge decisions that can wipe out entire species.  And what happens if you choose wrong?  You get a brief cutscene and then get back to your adventure as if nothing happened.  I exaggerate,  but my point is in there, somewhere.  

 

 

Even though Walking Dead ends in such a way that was unavoidable, you want to talk to your friends about how you got there.  "Did you do that?"  "Did doing this work out any better for you?"  It's entertaining to see how differently you played the game, despite the fact that spoilers happen.  

 

 

 

I've never really enjoyed a video game's story more than Walking Dead.  I teared up by the end and I was emotionally invested and stressed for days after each episode.  I freaking cared about these fictional characters, knowing all-too-well that they could die at any moment, even if I do everything I can to stop that.   Mass Effect wasn't just about the story, either.  You had cool shooting missions and weird side quests that don't mean anything, and ultimately the story is only a portion of the game.  Walking Dead was 100% focused on survival and things that matter, so if you made a decisions or said something or didn't say something, it might be important down the road.  But, what's important is that you knew it mattered.  When it was your time to speak, sometimes you didn't want to be given the opportunity to say anything because that's a weight you weren't ready to bear, yet.  

 

 

Or whatever.  Anyone have branching storylines they wanna share?  



#2 Jonny The Pie King

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 11:33 AM

I think the only games that have ever really done this right are The Witcher 2 and MAYBE the original Deus Ex.  Even then, that game had really minor changes, and still ended in a "well, what are you going to do at the end" moment where you pick from 3 choices.  At least you actually have to DO something in that case though, it's not a "push a button" moment.

 

I personally like a more structured story, since choices in games done ala mass effect generally are pretty lame.  Then again, I also like a story to be structured more like Metroid Prime where I can just read stuff in the universe, rather than someone telling me exactly what happened.  Human Revolution did a pretty decent job at this, and Dishonored had some AMAZING lore.  Speaking of lore, for whatever reason people praise skyrim for it's books and shit, but it never did anything for me in that game.

 

Oh, and Alpha Protocol was pretty good at the mass effect style of telling a story.  I mean, it was pretty dumb, but it was at least enjoyable.


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#3 Admin EP

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:10 PM

Yeah I love branching stories. I played skyward sword twice picking both sides. At first that dude asked for help getting his cat and I said yeah and he was all like "Thanks!". Then on the second playthrough I said no and he was all like "You're a jokester! I know you'll help get my cat!".

In all honesty I don't really care for branching stories. The first reason is I rarely will play a game twice, so I feel like I'm missing out on half the story. The second reason is because a lot of times it just makes me more aware that I can't do what I really want to do in a game. The more freedom I get the more I realize that I don't have enough freedom to do what I'd do in the situation.

TBH I prefer the (older) LoZ or MP style approach where they don't show your interaction in the story. I always enjoyed filling in the blanks in my head because you get full control over the character.

There are two games I really enjoyed with branching stories though: Star Fox DS and Shadow the Hedgehog. The main reason is that they were short, and you're decisions didn't impact the game at all, they just showed different scenes in preordained stories.

Oh yeah, and Golden Sun's two minutes long story branch. :P


#4 Blackskullgreymon

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:13 PM

Oh, Heavy Rain.  That game is not fun to 100%.  The ending doesn't really come about too much different outside of the actions you take in the last few minutes of the game, but there are a ton of stupid "you missed part X" moments, but they don't mean anything.  Like, if you decide to not help this person it doesn't add something by making you wish you helped them, it's just that now you don't get the clue he would have given you and on your next playthrough you will want to do it "right".



#5 CONKERSBADFURDAY

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:58 AM

The closet game I've played with a branching story is probably Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I loved that game, but not for the little story branching it did. The game was just good.

 

Honestly, I"m not a fan of branching storylines. I just want the one definitive and canonical story. I can see the appeal in completely crafting your own adventure, but that's not what I want in a game.

 

Let's go back to Deus Ex. In a way, you crafted your own story in that there were multiple ways to tackle a problem. Depending on how a conversation went, you might not gain access to an area so now you have to sneak in and hopefully not get shot. That was cool, but it never changed the story. It changed minor dynamics with secondary characters that mostly didn't matter, but the story was the same.

 

There were optional things as well, and optional is usually better since I'm rarely bothered with stuff like that.

 

I don't normally play games more than once, and since most games with branching stories are long, I just don't see the point. You beat it, get your ending, then go watch the others on youtube


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#6 Admin Prime

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 04:02 PM

I think branching stories are great and all, and I totally see the appeal, but honestly as someone who's typically a completionist they bug me, because it gets to the point where you literally can't see or do everything unless you spend hundreds to thousands of hours replaying. >.<


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#7 Lame Plant42

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:16 PM

Yeah, I'm okay with a tiny bit of branching, but I much prefer my game stories to have one defined beginning and end. I love sidequests that further flesh out the main story, but for the rest of the game, I'd prefer it to be unbreakably linear before it risks branching too much for my taste. Tales Of games do exactly that (have defined start and end, sidequests expand on story and characters), and that's one of the reasons I love them so much.

I'm okay with a "Bad, Good, and Best" set of endings because you can always tell that the Best ending is the canonical one. The other endings are for people who failed to achieve the true ending. What I don't like is when there are Endings A, B, and C; the true ending is open to taste and interpretation. I hate endings like that, and I feel that narratives with elements open to interpretation are weaker for having them. I want to talk to other people about what they thought about a particular narrative, not argue with them about what took place to begin with.

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#8 CONKERSBADFURDAY

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:37 PM

Yeah, I'm okay with a tiny bit of branching, but I much prefer my game stories to have one defined beginning and end. I love sidequests that further flesh out the main story, but for the rest of the game, I'd prefer it to be unbreakably linear before it risks branching too much for my taste. Tales Of games do exactly that (have defined start and end, sidequests expand on story and characters), and that's one of the reasons I love them so much.

I'm okay with a "Bad, Good, and Best" set of endings because you can always tell that the Best ending is the canonical one. The other endings are for people who failed to achieve the true ending. What I don't like is when there are Endings A, B, and C; the true ending is open to taste and interpretation. I hate endings like that, and I feel that narratives with elements open to interpretation are weaker for having them. I want to talk to other people about what they thought about a particular narrative, not argue with them about what took place to begin with.

I've nothing wrong with narratives that are open to interpretation, but yeah, I don't like it when that interpretation comes from three separate endings. Give me one ending that can be discussed please.


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#9 Admin Prime

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 06:45 PM

If it wasn't for my need to consume the "whole story", I'd think alternate "equal" endings are great, just so long as they're done well. In a lot of games, I think Black Ops II actually does this, the ending you get can almost seem random, with seemingly inconsiquential choices drastically and unpredictably changing what ending you can get. If there's a clear path you're seeing to a clearly related ending, than that's great.

 

Also, I disagree that being open to interpretation makes the narrative weaker, and I've certainly never heard of anyone arguing about what ending or narrative event "really" happened in a game with true narrative choice... That would be a really retarded argument...


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#10 Lame Plant42

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 07:03 PM

If it wasn't for my need to consume the "whole story", I'd think alternate "equal" endings are great, just so long as they're done well. In a lot of games, I think Black Ops II actually does this, the ending you get can almost seem random, with seemingly inconsiquential choices drastically and unpredictably changing what ending you can get. If there's a clear path you're seeing to a clearly related ending, than that's great.
 
Also, I disagree that being open to interpretation makes the narrative weaker, and I've certainly never heard of anyone arguing about what ending or narrative event "really" happened in a game with true narrative choice... That would be a really retarded argument...

It's not just in games. If you ask me, the top at the end of Inception totally fell down, but there are a bunch of faggots who say it doesn't, and I feel that movie's ending is weaker because of its ambiguity. For a game example, I don't like how Deus Ex: HR gives you 4 endings with drastically future-changing outcomes, and none of them are indicated in-game as the true ending. At least for this game, our resident Pie King pointed out which one fits the most with the events of Deus Ex 1, but it didn't coincide with the David Sarrif ending which I chose. Had it not been for Pie King, I wouldn't have known that my choice isn't canon.

Anyway, I hate that randomized ending/story shit in games. Western games are more keen on this stupid idea. Any time I hear a game touting how it is so open and every player's experience is totally different, I think, "...And that is supposed to be something to get excited about? :| That's the last thing I want."


Edited by Plant42, 08 December 2012 - 07:05 PM.


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