Gameplay Trumps Story for God of War Dev

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Gameplay Trumps Story for God of War Dev

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The mind behind the God of War series believes gameplay must always come first, even at the expense of the story.

If you were on the internet on October 24, 2011, you might remember that Eurogamer awarded the upcoming Uncharted 3 a very respectable 8/10. You may also recall the intense backlash that followed. Many of the comments for this piece made it sound as though the reviewer, Simon Parker, had personally murdered each poster's pet. Never one to shy away from criticism, God of War director David Jaffe stepped into the fray and defended Parker. Moreover, Jaffe used the review's criticism of Uncharted 3 as a launching point to discuss the role of narrative in games. When story and gameplay clash, says Jaffe, story must always take a backseat.

"I want our games to serve the gods of gameplay first and foremost," writes Jaffe on his personal blog. "[Our] team's desire to tell a story/make a movie may or may not get to be fulfilled (depending on the game) but if we do tell a story, it will never come at the expense of the gameplay (the thing that makes our medium matter and special)." He goes on to explain that he will - and has - cut story content because it got in the way of the interactivity and experimentation inherent in gaming. Of course, Jaffe is hardly against a good narrative to go hand-in-hand with a game's mechanics. "Ideally, the best games are those that do both."

With this mindset, Jaffe believes that Parker's review is fully justified. "[The review calls] out what some people consider a fundamental flaw in many of today's console titles where making 'cinematic experiences' seems to have become a more important goal than making games. How refreshing that a great, hyped, and soon-to-be much loved game can be praised ... [and] criticized for what a reviewer thinks (agree or not) are genuine issues." Jaffe cites games like Madden, Mario, and Modern Warfare, suggesting that while good gameplay and a great story will generate respectable sales, a strong narrative is almost irrelevant where the industry's megahits are concerned.

For those who have played Jaffe's games, it's pretty clear that the man has a great respect for gaming both as an interactive and a storytelling medium. As games become more and more cinematic, it's difficult to tell where the hammer will ultimately fall. Is it fair to criticize a game for being too scripted if the trade-off is a cinematic experience that would leave moviemakers jealous? On the other hand, how strong can a game be if its narrative falls flat?

Source: DavidJaffe.biz

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This is an odd turn around from Twisted Metal Black where the gameplay was kind of meh, but the stories were insanely awesome.

I can agree with this.

If you can't have both, choose the gameplay.

I have to say I agree with him, and like he said I think it's very possible to do both gameplay and story well. The fact is though, there are other mediums to enjoy a good story, and after all, they're called "video games", not "video stories". I know, that's a bit pedantic, but I firmly believe the root of a video game is the gameplay. A video game can just be further enhanced by having an amazing story, too.

tldr; For me, this guy is right on the money.

I guess it would depend on the desired level of immersion. (I doubt for example that Vampires the masquerade bloodlines would have been better if they ditched on the story and atmosphere in favor of improved gameplay.)

Ripping off the heads of Greek mythological characters is pretty awesome, storyline wise. I never cared for the quicktime events in the game though, so I'm not sure what I think about this.

Marshall Honorof:
The mind behind the God of War series believes gameplay must always come first, even at the expense of the story.

And in other news, Yahtzee hates motion controls and Darth Vader is Luke's father.

Onyx Oblivion:
I can agree with this.

If you can't have both, choose the gameplay.

Yeah but it doesn't mean you shouldn't even try with the story.

The mind behind the God of War series believes gameplay must always come first, even at the expense of the story.

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Worked for Taito's 500 million dollar enterprise.

DVS BSTrD:

Onyx Oblivion:
I can agree with this.

If you can't have both, choose the gameplay.

Yeah but it doesn't mean you shouldn't even try with the story.

Yeah. But I'll put up with a shitty story for good gameplay, and rarely ever will sit through gameplay I hate just for a good story. I also find gameplay lends to replay value more than story. I did multiple playthroughs of Bioware games to play as another class, not to see where my choices would lead me.

The_root_of_all_evil:

The mind behind the God of War series believes gameplay must always come first, even at the expense of the story.

image

Worked for Taito's 500 million dollar enterprise.

How can you not recall the amazing storyline of their games? Remember that part where you shoot the thing with your gun-laser? And the emotion you felt at taking a life?

Like the guy said, any decent game should be able to deliver both.

Madden, Mario, and Modern Warfare, the examples given, are all crap ones to support gameplay trumping story. Those games all succeed because they capture a tone and atmosphere perfectly. Mario delivers lighthearted fun and (more importantly nowadays) nostalgia, Modern Warfare delivers gritty military realism and presumably Madden captures the feel of American football very well for people who give a shit about that. Even if their actual stories aren't up to much in the sense a book or a film's narrative is, the narratives and moods of these games play a big part in their success.

The man speaks the truth. If the gameplay is shitty I dont play it since that is what I would be doing for the majority of the game. A good story will never ever make up for bad gameplay but amazing gameplay can make up for a shitty story. Obviously it is better to have both a good story and gameplay but that isnt always possible.

I read the comments on the review, is it really worth getting worked up over two points difference, he still gave the game an 8/10.

The importance of story vary from game to game, some games I'd never play without the story and others I really wish would just drop the story completely.

Onyx Oblivion:

How can you not recall the amazing storyline of their games? Remember that part where you shoot the thing with your gun-laser? And the emotion you felt at taking a life?

I thought the invasion of France was a little forced though.
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I agree with the guy... Kinda.

In my opinion it's not so much the clash between story quality VS gameplay quality where I'd favour gameplay, so much as player control VS automated actions. I can totally get behind games in which the gameplay is merely functional, doesn't try to do anything particularly astounding or flashy, but is instead a vehicle for the story. However, the crucial point is that they still remain as games - in which the player is the one in control, they're driving the narrative, they have some agency over how the events go, they overcome challenges, yadda yadda yadda.

What I can't stand is when games start to take control away from the player in order to make their experience more in line with what the developer wants. That is the point where the game begins to move out of video game territory, and more towards interactive movie territory - where the way the game progresses is set in stone and the player's only input is to press buttons to move it along.

And actually that sort of gameplay can be fine - that's pretty much the definition of adventure games, after all, but there the gameplay comes from figuring out which button you have to press and where. In games like Uncharted or Heavy Rain, on the other hand, where the challenge supposedly comes from the execution of the actions, not working out what actions to take, execept the way you perform those actions is completely pre-scripted and pre-determined in every way, and laid out on a plate for the player so as to allow the minimal amount of deviation from the script possible...

That's what I don't like, and that's where I'd agree wholeheartedly with Jaffe.

The thing I don't like about the stories in a lot of games is that they limit choice. I don't like feeling as if I'm only able to do what the character wants to do, I want the character to do what I WANT IT TO DO.

Even with a linear story, there's room for choosing which power-ups you use, which side-quests you do, which order you do the components of the quest in (if you do the quests at all). Even in games like GTA, where the missions will lead every player down the same path, you still get to spend time collecting weapons and causing mayhem between missions.

I hate to use FFXIII as an example (I do that a lot here : S), but I felt like they just cut that game down to it's bare-bones in terms of gameplay; there was literally almost no decision making to be made until about 20 hours in (and even then all the side stuff is in the same area *yawn*), there was no back-tracking, virtually no character customization, and very little party customization until near the end. I would have gotten just as much out of the game having watched a "Lets-play".

Interesting that Jaffe was "the mind behind" God of War, but not God of War 2 or Gof of War 3. IMO, the first God of War had a great story, but storytelling definnitely took a hit in the sequels.

I disagree. Both should be treated as one flowing whole that adds to the overall game, not two very seperate, very alien entities.

If you absolutely have to pick one over the other, sure, pick gameplay. There's no point in having a wonderful story if you can't actually get to it.

EDIT: Or, in the case of the Final Fantasy series, put in a decent combat system in and make sure the player recognizes and play around with the decent combat system by dispensing plot pellets every fifteenth hour of random battles.

That being said, if it's a game with mediocre gameplay but a epic tale, then absolutely, make THAT game. Story is very important for some genres, otherwise you're just pressing buttons without any context and that's not good.

Plus, if you're just running around shooting guys without knowing who they are, that's not heroism, that's sociopathy. Heh.

Then again, I'm one of the nutjobs that played and genuinely enjoyed Heavy Rain, so maybe I'm just crazy.

I think that plan will work some places, and not work in others, but as far as God of War is concerned, as long as I get to punch a Gods face into a red pool then I'm okay with a lack of story

Onyx Oblivion:

DVS BSTrD:

Onyx Oblivion:
I can agree with this.

If you can't have both, choose the gameplay.

Yeah but it doesn't mean you shouldn't even try with the story.

Yeah. But I'll put up with a shitty story for good gameplay, and rarely ever will sit through gameplay I hate just for a good story. I also find gameplay lends to replay value more than story. I did multiple playthroughs of Bioware games to play as another class, not to see where my choices would lead me.

I tend to agree with this. I've put up with some dumb-ass stories because the actual playing of the game was really satisfying. I can happily play an "OK" game because it has a good or great story, but I can not play through an awful game regardless of how amazing the story seems to be.
Then, of course, there's games like FF13 where both aspects suck but it sure is pretty.

The problem is that so many big-name games are "cinematic" AND have a shitty story. This is huge cognitive dissonance to me. Such narrow level design, so many cutscenes, and for what? Why do this if not to tell a good story? Is it so I can watch a scripted explosion? That's only going to impress me up to a point. An experience like that needs a good story to keep me truly enthralled.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Onyx Oblivion:

How can you not recall the amazing storyline of their games? Remember that part where you shoot the thing with your gun-laser? And the emotion you felt at taking a life?

I thought the invasion of France was a little forced though.
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I agree the game play should come first, as they are after all games and if the game play isn't solid and fun you may as well have made it into a book or a movie.Also this is one of the best posts I have ever seen.

And this surprises us, how?

After the transition from GoW 1 to GoW 2 makes this completely and utterly obvious, especially with abandoning the whole idea of making him a tragic character (in the sense of a Greek tragedy).

And he's 100% correct, of course. What makes games different from books, TV, or movies is the interactivity. And if that aspect isn't the best it can be, whoever made it kind of missed the point. If I want a cinematic experience, I'll go to the cinema, but when I want to interact with something, I'll pop in a video game.

As for Uncharted, sure, the games play well. But when #2 was just more of the same (both in terms of gameplay and the shamelessly copy-pasted plot with just some nouns changed), it did start to feel a bit old towards the end. And I'm sure 3 will also be more of the same in terms of gameplay. I just hope they keep things feeling fresh with a different story this time (it doesn't need to be the best story ever, just not the same story Uncharted 1 had). Lord knows the awful multiplayer won't help the game out any.

Makes sense.

I will forgive a few story mishaps if the gameplay is awesome, but I will not forgive horrible gameplay even if the story is awesome, and it's rare that I will play through a game like that. I love a good story in a game, but the gameplay better be up there so the story can shine.

I really think it comes down to the gamer's liking. If you have a gamer who is mostly in to RPGs they are going to expect an awesome story and let go of the mishaps with the gameplay. However you get an FPS, RTS gamer they are going to want gameplay over story.

Me personally I believe a great story can distract from the broken gameplay. If it's subpar gameplay I find myself pushing through it just to finish the story. If it's broken to the point that the game is almost impossible to play, there is nothing that can save it.

Any competent developer should be able to whip out an AT LEAST decent story, anything completely awful is beyond being made up for by gameplay. Well, maybe if the game has a very good atmosphere as well (alan wake for example, I Hated the story and characters, but loved everything alse).

Note that I said awful and not minimal, or non existent.

As long as he didn't say "visuals...."

Well, good. Story is great, but the media itself near necessitates that story takes the backseat. Yes, there are prime examples for all of us where story and gameplay were life long buds, and are never separated, but we each play games that are almost entirely the gameplay. Prototype, CoD/BF/Killzone/Halo, Portal, Plants vs Zombies--these are all games where the story sits back, and gameplay leans forward. It usually doesn't matter who or what you're shooting, as long as you're shooting at it, whether it's zombies, various nationalities or ethnicities, robots, milkmen, patches of wall, or grandmas. What changes is how you shoot them. That is one of the fundamental premises of gaming, is that you actually get to shoot such a variety of things. For gameplay to sit back means a game isn't being played. I can read a book for a story alone, or see a movie for a prefabricated story to be granted specific visuals, but gaming takes it one further, by saying I control the advancement of the plot. No other media allows that. Gameplay drives the car. Story might sit upfront, riding shotgun, but gameplay drives. They might swap for short periods, but it's gameplay's trip, and story is tagging along.

The_root_of_all_evil:

The mind behind the God of War series believes gameplay must always come first, even at the expense of the story.

image

Worked for Taito's 500 million dollar enterprise.

Someone never saw the sequel.

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AdumbroDeus:
And this surprises us, how?

After the transition from GoW 1 to GoW 2 makes this completely and utterly obvious, especially with abandoning the whole idea of making him a tragic character (in the sense of a Greek tragedy).

You do realise David Jaffe wasn't the director for God of War II? He only directed the first God of War.

Onyx Oblivion:

The_root_of_all_evil:

The mind behind the God of War series believes gameplay must always come first, even at the expense of the story.

image

Worked for Taito's 500 million dollar enterprise.

How can you not recall the amazing storyline of their games? Remember that part where you shoot the thing with your gun-laser? And the emotion you felt at taking a life?

http://www.cracked.com/blog/space-invaders-movie-script-leaked/ In fact, here's a touching copy of the leaked script for the movie adaption. Can you say Oscar?

ccdohl:
Ripping off the heads of Greek mythological characters is pretty awesome, storyline wise. I never cared for the quicktime events in the game though, so I'm not sure what I think about this.

God of War had quicktime events? Where? I can't recall a single instance of quicktime events in the games. I can recall plenty of Action Commands, but there's no way you could be retarded enough to actually confuse the two terms when they're so completely different.

lord.jeff:
I read the comments on the review, is it really worth getting worked up over two points difference, he still gave the game an 8/10.

The problem is the way the guy writes it sounds like an arbitrary point that he decided to harp on about and take away from the score for no reason. Despite having no actual qualms with the gameplay, he attacks it pretty much because its linear.

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