Super Smash Bros. Creator Feels Games Could Tell Stories Better

By Ishaan . February 13, 2013 . 4:30pm

Stories in videogames often don’t match up with the content of the game itself, says Super Smash Bros. creator, Masahiro Sakurai, in a column for Famitsu magazine. This is something Sakurai finds irksome, he says.

 

"As a player, as someone who’s been playing games for a long time, the stories that get told in video games are honestly irksome to me pretty often," Sakurai writes in a column partially translated by Polygon.

 

"For example, games that take forever to get through the intro and won’t let you start playing, or games that go through the trouble of being fully voiced and wind up having their tempo all messed up as a result. I just want to enjoy the game and I think I’m just intolerant of aspects that block that enjoyment. I can enjoy a story in any other form of media; I just want the game to let me play it already."

 

Sakurai goes on to cite the example of characters in RPGs dying for story reasons, despite the fact that you’ve spent a good while raising them, as one offender of separating the game from the story. This is the reason that he ended up writing Kid Icarus: Uprising’s entire story himself, he says.

 

"I did it so I could write a story that jibed with the game, one that took advantage of the game’s advantages," Sakurai shares. "Every character, including the bosses, had their personalities shaped by their roles in the game, or the structure of the game itself. That let me develop the dialogue to firmly match the developments you encounter in the game. If I had had someone else write the story, I’d either have to keep explaining things to the writer whenever anything changed in-game, or I’d have to partition it away from the game and lose on that consistency."

 

In concluding, Sakurai writes that he feels game designers would benefit from thinking about how a game’s story should relate to the game itself. "A game’s story absolutely needs to match the content and the gameplay," he states. "In an ideal world, we could take advantage of this to provide new story developments that you’ll never be able to see in other media."

 


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  • Jirin

    I 100% agree here, this is the one thing that bothers me the most about modern gaming.

    I love it when games have great stories, but it should be the gameplay that drives the story, not the story that drives the gameplay. And I absolutely hate it when it takes 45 minutes to start playing, then they unveil the gameplay to you so slowly you’re not really playing the game for a few hours.

    • Sonicdarks

      Same thing here.

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      45 minutes is nothing compared to some games that string you along for HOURS before letting you play the “real thing”. Final Fantasy XIII is by far the worst exemplar of this, but the Zelda games have been getting progressively worse about it in recent years, and some RPGs are just as bad. For developers to assume that their players have that kind of time to spare, and that kind of inherent commitment to the game while receiving nothing in return, strikes me as incredibly self-indulgent and arrogant.

      • D H

        And yet, both of the games you mention are rated T for teen or lower around the nation; they are, honestly, built for young kids and/or teenagers, who are going to have plenty of time and desire to play the games. Sure, it’s a problem for working adults, but they certainly aren’t the only target audience, and certainly aren’t for those titles.

        • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

          So just because they’re kids means you shouldn’t be respectful of their time?

          Also, it’s kind of hilarious that you think a game’s ESRB rating has any correlation with who actually does or is “supposed” to play it.

  • Spirit Macardi

    Talk about insightful. Yeah, it’s a big problem when a game can’t manage consistency between the story and the gameplay. Like when a character suddenly has a moral problem with killing someone after you’ve just had him murder a metric ton of NPCs. It’s very jarring and destroys the immersion.

    And don’t even get me started on long cutscenes. There’s nothing wrong with using short videos to relay story information, but when it lasts long enough to leave the room, make a sandwich, and come back then something has gone horribly wrong.

    • ronin4life

      The end of that first paragraph reminded me of Tales of the Abyss instantly.
      >.>

      Still an awesome game though, right next to or just behind symphonia(ooo, they should make a 3ds remake of that as well…)

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        What does any of that have to do with Tales of the Abyss?

        • KingRuff

          He’s saying that in Tales of the Abyss, Luke freaks out after killing a man, even though he had killed a ton before then under your control.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Luke didnt kill people though. The game did explain that. They made it clear when he did and didnt kill people

      • Spirit Macardi

        I was thinking more of open-world games and other titles with supposedly non-linear stories.

        With TotA I always just figured that Luke simply knocked out his opponents before then, which makes sense to me since he took sword training before hand and probably learned how to incapacitate or disarm opponents (most sword fighting styles have these maneuvers).

        • ronin4life

          Perhaps.

          But to I still remember going “…huh?” When I was playing the game after he freaked out on the tarturus and the very next enemies on the world map where people… and then every time after, that was all I thought. ^ͺ^;

          It wasn’t a big deal, just something that stuck out to me…

  • Brion Valkerion

    I’d like a great fighting game with an interesting story, not just cutscene/pictures for the opening and ending. But a single story. Persona/BB do this well but beyond just text. MK was on the right track but I dont see why its so revered myself, it was just cutscenes between fights, which I guess is all you can really ask for. Curious to see how Injustice expands on this, which seems to be only afew context moments.

    But I like where they are heading with this train of thought.

    • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      MK? Blazblue has story down pat

  • DesmaX

    True. I personally love the ps2 persona games, but they take almost 3 hours just to start going into dungeons.

    Almost discouraging

    • RoxasTheUnknown1

      Lies! xD
      P3P you’re in Tartarus within roughly 50min-1hr, thats not even counting the tutorial fight earlier.
      P4G I’ll give you this that its definitely over an hour before getting into Yukiko’s castle but again. You get a taste much earlier with the tutorial and early visit. They can come off as bad and boring if you already know the plot but if not, then i thought the pacing was fine.

  • http://twitter.com/AnthonyFoster5 Anthony Foster

    Most game stories are terribly derivative and/or preachy. But then again, so are most stories in general.

  • Kevin Lor

    If I like the story enough I dont really care how long the cut scenes are but thats my opinion.

  • JoJo_649

    I’m getting the feeling that he and Hironobu Sakaguchi wouldn’t be friends.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      I don’t know about that. The Last Story is very gameplay-driven.

      • JoJo_649

        True he changed in The Last Story, but on his works in the Final Fantasy series the games were more narrative driven and some main or secondary characters were killed for story purposes, wonder what made him change between Final Fantasy X and Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey?

        • puchinri

          I feel like some of the early titles convey what Sakurai talks about kind of well though. Or, at least, I got that feeling as we played through FFV. FFIX also has a somewhat long intro, but it does include you in it soon and helps introduce you to playing just as much as it does the story, which works wonderfully to me.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Right. Even VII got you into the thick of things very quickly, as I recall. I think FF has always been pretty good about jumping into the game itself. The only one I can remember with a really long intro is FFVI, where they have the scene with Terra and the mechs trudging through the snow. I love that intro sequence personally, but it does take a bit.

          • puchinri

            Agreed~. And I definitely like that intro a lot as well. I think it works as a great set-up into the world (and a main character) before introducing you to the gameplay without being painstakingly long. It tells you a lot without shoving a bunch of stuff in your face all at once (which is a problem that some cutscenes and intros do have, to me anyway).

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      Nope. Since they’re RPGs they rarely get credit for this, but many of Sakaguchi’s games have integrated narrative and gameplay in really creative ways. Just look at some of the neat, weird gameplay-narrative experiments scattered throughout Final Fantasy IV-IX. (Rydia’s plot arc in FF4, the opera scene in FF6, the playable flashbacks and impromptu minigames in FF7, the proto-QTE setpieces in FF8, the optional parallel scenes in FF9… the list goes on.)

      • puchinri

        FF9 is one of my favorite examples of that, because it is such a great RPG, emphasis on the game part, but still tells a lot of great story from many different perspectives.

  • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

    That my friends is why Xenogears sucks and Xenoblade is awesome

    • MrTyrant

      >Xenogears sucking

      Please, stop posting.

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Sucks is probably the wrong word. The games just bursting with “quality” riiiiiiiggggghhhhttttt?

        • M’iau M’iaut

          Rather than blindly throwing out red meat, simply tell us your concerns. Did you hate when your action mech RPG turned into a visual novel? Did the finicky nature of the ‘hey let’s turn this into a platformer’ parts make you want to throw your PS1 controller through the set in frustration? Were you hoping for hawt Margaret-Bart action that never took place? See even a fan of the game can come up with points of possible concern, tell us yours and threads can stay as conversations — not arguments.

          • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

            For what it’s worth I like Xenogears and I will readily admit that it is an absolute (glorious) trainwreck of a game.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            I think its more of the conglomeration of a fact its a long winded mashup that is lost inside a black forest cake. Some people find it fun being lost in a black forest cake. Me? I dont like getting lost in that tangy tart sweetness.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            And for others as @Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi:disqus notes, that’s what makes Xenogears special to them. Call it a difference of opinion, and leave it at that. Leave the “friends this is why (anyone’s most personally hated game here) sucks” somewhere else.

    • MrRobbyM

      I haven’t even played Xenogears and I’m offended.

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Then try playing it. Or did I mix Saga and Gears up.

    • Ferrick

      inb4ban for breaking the rules yet again

      xenogears and xenosaga are good games with good story in its era, and you never stated your reason on why you say so, so your opinion is completely null and void

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        What are you talking about? I never stated why I thought Xenoblade was fantastic either. I was making a comment this isnt a discussion about Xenogears, Xenogears is a clear example of gameplay being in direct contrast to the story. Switching between two things after long periods or short bursts is jarring to the viewer and they start asking ” how in the hell did we get from point a to point b?”
        Well? Is it a good story or not? You say for its “time”… but all that makes me do is wonder whether you really know what that means. Let me give you an example of a story that is good for its “time … James Bond, ever single plot that it ever had has been ripped off and re-tilled 50 million times, another example…? Hmm Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Guyver the Bioboosted Armor come to mind. Oh and who can forget Battle Royale

  • z_merquise

    I won’t mind cutscenes as long as it’s good but I personally prefer the “gamey” games more. The kind of game where you just press Start and perhaps, watch the cutscenes (or maybe there’s none at all), then you’re right into the action. And at the same time, you’re in full control and enjoying the action continuously without “cinematic storytelling” to interrupt it.

    I think he got it right in Kid Icarus: Uprising. You’re witnessing the story while you’re playing the game and at the same time, it didn’t drag the pacing.

  • Solomon_Kano

    I’m with him %100 when it comes to RPGs.

    Learning what happened to Red XIII’s dad was a touching moment. That is, until I considered why they didn’t just use a Gold Needle like the player would if they’d been hit by Petrify. RPGs are the main place where I find the story deviating from what the game’s mechanics establish and it can be pretty irksome.

    Long intros don’t really bother me though. I suppose we play games to actually get to playing them, but I don’t mind setting up context outside of gameplay. That’s fine, especially since a lot of games restrict what you can do when they do let you control yourself during the intro or other key story moments. What’s the point of me maintaining control of my character if I can only walk down this hallway? That might as well be a cutscene if that’s the only action I’m permitted. I get his point about enjoying the game already and maybe it’s just me, but I’ve accepted cutscenes as a method of delivery that some designers choose to embrace. It doesn’t really bother me, provided the cutscenes remain interesting.

    Ultimately, I guess, I’d just prefer a long intro to those games where they throw you into controlling your character but you can’t actually do anything yet because the story says so. If the point of the game is combat and I spend the first 30 minutes of gameplay without a means to initiate combat, then that’s a huge problem.

    I’m not quite sure what he means about voicing messing up a game’s tempo though. The only thing I can think of is when dialog is at odds with what’s actually happening in a game. Or, I suppose, and this gets me, when everything in a game is voiced but there’s no real dialog to speak of between characters unless it’s in a cutscene. That’s one of the Uncharted series’ greatest triumphs to me — the characters continue to converse as you play the game, and their conversations occur in context with what’s going on. They aren’t shouting random gibberish, but you’re actually being fed details about characters and story. So I guess I do get that, actually.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Agreed. I think the games that Sakurai takes issue with are the ones that carry out their exposition for a little too long before actually giving you control of your character and allowing you to do fun things. For example, a game with a really long introductory cutscene or maybe a badly-designed intro like Twilight Princess, where you’re doing fetch quests for three hours before you get to venture out into the world.

      Some games do get it right, though. Kingdom Hearts 2 comes to mind. The opening hours of that game with Roxas did a great job endearing you to the characters (and setting up the story in the process), but at the same time, also kept you entertained by giving you control of Roxas and letting you do different things around Traverse Town.

      • ronin4life

        “Fetch quests/game intro tutorial for hours”?

        Fable. Fable does this. Worse and worse each time. Never played 3 because of this.

        Blech. >.>

        • Solomon_Kano

          Heavens yes. I tolerated it in the first game, I didn’t know any better. Then Fable 2 came along. Then I played the Fable 3 demo and I was through.

      • Solomon_Kano

        Yea, that’s a sentiment I can definitely agree with then.

        The opening moments of Arkham City come to mind, for an intro done right. You’re thrown into a half cutscene, half gameplay kinda deal for the first 3 minutes or so to set up the story and then, BAM, you’re playing the game.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          Yeah, Arkham City was definitely very smart about how it handled the intro! In fact, thinking back, Arkham Asylum’s into wasn’t quite as great. There was like a ten-minute-long interactive cutscene where all you could do was walk forward while Batman and the Arkham guards carried Joker down to the lower levels.

          I think the reason people put up with it was because it was the first time anyone had seen such an incredibly polished and high-budget Batman game, but objectively speaking, it could get a little annoying.

          The rest of both the Arkham games were great, though. They were very “gamey” games with just enough story to keep you going.

          • Solomon_Kano

            Yea, AA’s intro is the reason that I haven’t replayed it. I’ll admit to being one of those captivated by how polished it looked initially though haha.

            That was a level of presentation unheard of in a Batman game, nigh unheard of in any licensed game. From there it just got better and better, though I took issue with the bosses. That’s another story though.

        • KingRuff

          That’s actually a great example! I always liked how the Arkham games handled themselves. I think it was easier for them though, since Batman is already established. They don’t need to tell us what Batman has to do. We all know it already. All they have to do is make it fun and interesting. Still, they managed to take an already familiar character and still surprise people so they have my applause.

          • Solomon_Kano

            True. The first game began similarly, with a cutscene throwing you right into the fight. Literally! But there was a lot more talking and walking without really playing the game before we could arrive at that cutscene. But the sequel just dove in.

            So, yea, I agree that having established characters makes it easier to set up a game’s intro.

  • AuraGuyChris

    Sakurai, you are the MAN.

    “For example, games that take forever to get through the intro and won’t let you start playing,
    Persona 4 fans, don’t get offended.
    “or games that go through the trouble of being fully voiced and wind up having their tempo all messed up as a result.”
    Chaos Wars was chaotic, I heard.

    Sakurai goes on to cite the example of characters in RPGs dying for story reasons, despite the fact that you’ve spent a good while raising them, as one offender of separating the game from the story.
    Everyone misses Aerith, dude… No, SERIOUSLY. She was the biggest offender for gameplay reasons.
    This is the reason that he ended up writing Kid Icarus: Uprising’s entire story himself, he says.

    If you can do this miracle, try doing an anime based on your games! Unless the Kirby anime was entirely your idea…

    “I did it so I could write a story that jibed with the game, one that took advantage of the game’s advantages,” Sakurai shares. “Every character, including the bosses, had their personalities shaped by their roles in the game, or the structure of the game itself. That let me develop the dialogue to firmly match the developments you encounter in the game. If I had had someone else write the story, I’d either have to keep explaining things to the writer whenever anything changed in-game, or I’d have to partition it away from the game and lose on that consistency.”

    *Sheds tear* Beautiful…

  • Joe S

    I, for one, enjoy Xenosaga-length cutscenes. I play games not for gameplay, but to be entertained. I am entertained by a variety of things in a game, including both gameplay and story.

    Also, Sakurai is coming from the perspective of an action-game developer, so this isn’t terribly shocking news. His jab at RPGs is a bit strange; I don’t think it’s very common at all to have a playable character that dies and doesn’t have their abilities transferred on. Is he referring to Fire Emblem? No, that wouldn’t make sense, as most character deaths would be the responsibility of the player rather than a forced story event.

    • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Final Fantasy 7. Aerith.
      No he’s not referring to Fire Emblem. He’s referring to how story jars the gameplay experience and there are multiple examples of that and Masahiro isnt an action game developer

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      But like, most cutscenes in games are terrible, quality-wise, compared to actual movies made by dedicated filmmakers. Even if they weren’t, having 45-minute sequences of total non-interactivity during an interactive game is just plain jarring and unnecessary. A game’s story should be primarily expressed through its GAMEPLAY. If you spend half the time watching instead of playing, and the gameplay is completely inconsequential to the story – as in Xenosaga – why is it a game at all, and not just a movie?

  • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

    Originally, I had enjoyed games for the stories. To me, games were just another medium for which I could enjoy great characters / stories – be it visual novels or RPGs. It’s why those two have always been my favorite genres. I honestly never paid much attention to the gameplay portion. So long as it didn’t get into the way of the story (by being too grindy / frustrating / buggy), I was fine.

    That is, until a few years ago, when I realized that games were … well, games, and there were just some formats and organizations that were better suited for games, and that there were some things, as Sakurai described above with the personality of characters being shaped by the structure of the game itself, that only games can accomplish. This wouldn’t be possible in many other media (just like how the transition from books to movies to games to series doesn’t often work well).

    I tend to pay more attention to gameplay now because of tighter time constraints than in the past and because (as you all know) I write about them, but also because there was a moment when it just suddenly hit me that, “Oh, in the past, it was gameplay that was the priority and not story. That’s … completely opposite to what I think.”

    …I’m not even sure what I’m commenting about here, other than that I agree with what Sakurai says 120%. As Sakurai states, a balanced mesh would be ideal (and even moreso one that would not be possible in other media). I like to treat games as art, and one that finds the balance well is a masterpiece to me.

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      I think it’s pretty common for gamers to be really enamored with game stories when they’re young, only to (hopefully) grow up and realize that if they really want to witness a good, mature story, they’re far better off with books, movies and television; games are primarily for gameplay (duh) and while an interesting narrative is always nice, it’s rarely as important as being a fun and engaging interactive experience. Also, the narrative conveyed through the gameplay is far more important than the narrative confined to cutscenes!

      • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

        I’d have to disagree, but I’m probably of the minority. I view games as a media for communication; you want to tell something – a story, a set of characters, a set of events or what-ifs – and your main question is how you want to tell it. There are things you can and can’t accomplish with each form of media (or at the very least, is much easier to accomplish in one media than another), which makes it all unique. I don’t think this gives any form stake over “mature” or “good” stories. They just have to work it well so that they’re not tripping over their feet, and this holds true for everything; not just games.

        I may place more importance on gameplay now (as in, I don’t completely say “But the story is good!!” anymore), but this I feel rather strongly about.

        Mm. Gameplay vs. cutscenes… That I’d agree with you on, though mostly for art’s sake. It takes much more skill to reveal things through gameplay than just smacking them in the face with it through a cutscene =3

        • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

          I’m not saying that games CAN’T tell mature stories, just that they usually don’t, and it’s a lot harder for them to do so than more conventional narrative media. Games have to be both narratives and GAMES – or more specifically, the game can exist without the narrative, but the narrative can’t exist without the game. It’s a lot harder to balance the requirements of sophisticated storytelling with those of good game design than it is to just focus primarily on one or the other, and more often than not – for good reason – the game aspect takes priority. Never mind the question of whether it’s even possible to convey a truly mature and sophisticated narrative (the sort that one might call “artistic” or “literary”) in a video game, which I’m not even going to take a position on because I genuinely don’t know.

          My point is, though, if you want to engage in a sophisticated narrative and aesthetic experience, the first place you turn to generally isn’t your game console, any moreso than your local comic book stand or multiplex theater. Maybe one day that will change, but that day is still a long way off. And in the meantime, why not enjoy games for the mostly silly pop art – sometimes even great, soulful pop art – that they are?

          EDIT: Oh hey, apparently I’ve been totally misusing the term “pop art”. Which means I have no idea what the term for the concept I’m trying to describe actually is. Whoops.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Alot of people think Journey is sophisticated. Story telling doesnt have to be vague or artsy fartsy.

          • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

            I haven’t played Journey so I can’t comment on it specifically, but you’re holding up an exception as though it disproves the rule.

          • Kuro Kairi

            The only reason to turn to other media to create a respectable story is because games are majorly considered just to be entertainment and not art by the global populus, movies and even music long ago was also considered just that and that only books and paintings were art.
            Even by some gamers and developers they are considered that, so we have many games that clash in various aspects because they are handled differently by different people
            (the art presentation with the tone of the story, the story with the gameplay…).

            But games are just a different form of media and they have a different way of presenting, engaging, and telling what they wish to tell, they don’t even have to use narrative to do that.
            Thats why to me games have become such an engaging media weather they were intended for art or entertainment, they have a very unique way of presentation and engagement that imo hasn’t been truly explored yet.
            Thats why I feel that Silent hill 2 is worthy of the title ‘masterpiece’, it has used every aspect of itself to give us its story (story isn’t just the narrative, its the feeling, the atmosphere, tone, gameplay, visual, sound…). As a horror game it integrates horror in its every aspect, but as an art piece it has been able to present its story in the most unique way.

    • puchinri

      I think you said that quite eloquently, and I entirely agree.

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      Actually, let me slightly amend my bit about “always” wanting a game to have a good story. This isn’t completely true; sometimes I DON’T want the game to have a story, or at least anything more than a bare minimum, because the gameplay does a perfectly good job of speaking for itself. If a game tries to have a “serious” story, it may hinder my ability to just let loose and enjoy the gameplay, because I’ll be implicitly trying to roleplay my character or simply too distracted to have fun. Maybe what I’m saying is, when games have stories they should fit with the tone of the games themselves. Crazy, silly action games should have crazy, silly stories; RPGs with all their abstracted mechanics, wacky internal logic and capacity for intense character focus should have fittingly larger-than-life yarns. Games, by and large, shouldn’t take themselves too much more seriously than they need to. Unwarranted self-seriousness is one of the cardinal sins of modern blockbuster games, especially (though by no means exclusively) in the West.

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        You just said what Sakurai Said. The story should complement the game’s atmosphere

  • sandra10

    Yes, they could. Enslaved, Team Ico’s games, Gravity Rush, and Nocturne are games that manage to tell stories, some interesting ones at that, very well without being intrusive to the gameplay. I want more games that know how to use many cutscenes as well as games that know how to use subtlety in their story-telling.

    Uprising’s story was a mess, though. Everybody they could think of just came out of the woodwork to fight Pit, there was an awkwardly placed time skip, and while there weren’t many cutscenes, the dialogue was intrusive to the gameplay namely during the on-rails sections. I don’t think it should be used as any sort of model for games to follow.

    • puchinri

      That’s what he’s saying though. There aren’t enough of those titles. I think that part is certainly true.

  • Asura

    I agree with him, but I also think he completely failed to do all the things he talks about in Kid Icarus. Although I disagree in the death view; sometimes a character dying packs a double-whammy as you wouldn’t expect a character you spent all this time on to die. If done right, it’s much sadder and more meaningful that they died.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

      Hell yes. I think Sakurai, like one of his more notable series, can be random and hit or miss in terms of insight. I don’t know how a guy who constantly gets base mechanics to have some dumb gimmick (like stamina as a poor way to police players in Uprising) can attack something like character death, when character death can help convey certain thematic messages in a video game. There’s no blueprint to art, so ultimately the problem I have with some of his critiques are how they are narrow and misunderstand how narrative can work to the game’s advantage. It’s not just writing, but a holistic combination of your game’s assets. Clearly certain things can be done better, but I have to control my impulse to respond to Sakurai with “CHECK YOUR SHIT FIRST, PLEASE.”

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Its his opinion, but you cant just right off his point entirely. Whats your issue with stamina? Your entire point is completely in dis-array

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

          Nah.

          At no point did I write off Sakurai’s point, just expressed what makes it hard for me to take him seriously, not that I’m not acknowledging him whatsoever. I’m being pretty clear in that post, please re-read/reconsider.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

          Seeing as how the down-votes are hitting… I don’t like votes, I appreciate the support, but I prefer someone coming out and engaging in conversation rather than using that particular feature. It’s valid, but I think it can send the wrong message. As for what I thought about his stamina feature, I just find that if you put in a stamina gauge to make sure the player “doesn’t just run through the levels”, it’s communicating the idea that you believe someone would have as much fun skipping the content of your game’s levels. Competent games have better check factors, like how Devil May Cry asks the player, to achieve good rankings as an incentive, collect a certain amount of red orbs in a stage, which can be accomplished via secret platform spots or well-executed combat. You can police the player, but policing them in an asinine way like “stamina” is, more often than not, problematic.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            I think Stamina is more of a check and balance for shooting mechanics in fights. Its not an action game like DMC, you cant realy compare . Rather than policing the player its a check and balance. I mean thats what the power system is for, you have played the multiplayer correct?

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            Admittedly only played the single player, though not sure how that’ll make a difference unless it’s a balance consideration for Multiplayer, which would immediately just have me going “It’s clearly not for me” depending on who was putting up with that. As for it not being comparable to DMC, it’s similar enough that the comparison easily (maybe just easily in my eyes *cough*) stands. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to compare much of anything in these sort of topics. I won’t split hairs on it, just seemed like a sensible comparison.

      • puchinri

        My only problem with character death, is in very customizable games when you put a lot of resources and time into a character and they do. If I actually liked them (and didn’t use them just for combat purposes), then it is very tragic, yes. But I will not deny being upset at the loss of all my time and whatever else in-game I put into them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

          And that’s a valid complaint, though I can’t say for sure if the game is flawed depending on what it goes about in the scenario you describe… because I’d just as soon introduce a caveat that, like music or movies, not every game has to be for every player. If you feel slighted by the time investment being put to waste, then it would be a matter of examining just what the game leaves you with afterward, among other factors.

          Would I say the same thing of Final Fantasy 7 that I would of Valkyrie Profile? That sort of thing. Does the scenario justify the mechanic? It’s fine to be upset, whether or not that’s a legitimate hole in the game can be debatable. Which is why I think games can achieve some sort of thematic message in spite of a person perceiving that their time has been wasted. Has it? Lot of things to consider.

          • puchinri

            I won’t call it a flaw right off the bat, because it certainly depends on when/how/where (context).

            Since I still haven’t gotten to Valkyrie Profile, I can’t say anything about it, but with 7, I’m mixed. I think it fit well enough for the game, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say it came in so late and that there was that much time to “be wasted” to be a flaw/detriment to 7.

            In the end, it’s a bit 50/50 to me. It can still achieve its message, but in spite/at the loss of what? If it interferes with people’s enjoyment of the game, does that make it a flaw? (As in, not a “I lost my fav character”, unless that’s the reason they were playing, but a “I don’t feel comfortable investing much into anyone/anything in the game anymore /paranoia out the wazoo.”)

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            I don’t want to play at the notion of being vague about Final Fantasy 7. I’m forgiving of most aspects of Final Fantasy 7 because of the context of when and how it was produced. This isn’t the same as the copout “They had different standards at the time”, at least in my view. Red XIII’s dad not being able to get a Gold Needle used on him, I ask players this, just who is using a Gold Needle on your PARTY if you get petrified? I get there are different standards, but what’s messed up now could be messed up back then, so hopefully I can frame this properly:

            If you could really call it major, my only significant problem with Final Fantasy 7 in terms of design is how there’s a significant lack of scale/scope in the things that I do. Some things feel too separated from what it is that I’m doing. Combat, in particular, has a way of wrenching what I consider is believable that eclipses Aeris or Seto. For instance, certain Summons or Attacks imply having this sort of ridiculous access to Planet’s power… yet the narrative constantly clashes with this aspect. In Final Fantasy 6, the themes of power made the tools that I had access to feel like an organic part of the world, even if it involved huge, exploding blue spheres of power or summons devastating the landscape.

            In Final Fantasy 7, some of the presentation just feels like it’s there for the sake of being there. And, to further extremes, feels poorly thought through. Sephiroth has an attack that can destroy the entire universe… yet here I am trying to save the Planet from Meteor. “Just what are you trying to say?”

            I think Square learned from these kind of things rather well, at least in terms of making later entries have a better sense of scope and scale. So in terms of what we can say are flaws and why, I think there’s this whole depth to the conversation that’s possible… and it can be traced much further back than just Final Fantasy 7. I think games have excellent examples of storytelling and plausible fundamental flaws that can be avoided or understood by developers and players alike.

            When we come into the conversation that Sakurai introduces, I’m assuming given our time with the medium, we know these things are here. And I think we also know that, in spite of how things seem, there are such things as games with strong narratives, they just aren’t working under the same rules as movies or books, and if understanding and evaluating our experiences critically is our job/interest/mechanism… I think it’s best to be specific about that. If you really feel that a death in Final Fantasy 7 served as a major flaw or any other character death for that matter, just be specific, present that viewpoint.

            My only problem with Sakurai is that he’s crafting a situation that I honestly don’t know or am capable of believing he’s willing to be specific about. It feels like a very dishonest accusation or something that’s just right for all the wrong reasons.

            *phew*

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            You certainly seem like you want to ask him for clarification

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            Who, Sakurai? I’d probably press for it, sure. The subject, in my opinion, at least warrants that sort of depth/specificity. It’d certainly be nice, but I can tell I just outright disagree in ways.

            I’m reading a lot of “Persona 4 takes forever to get started”, but I don’t even agree with that. I’m kind of sad I missed the boat on some of that conversation.

          • puchinri

            You didn’t miss the boat. Unless those comments are gone, you can still give your opinion. There’s no reason not to~.

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            I am of the belief that if you don’t provide some sort of investment in an online discussion early on, the returns you get for coming in later are less than stellar. I’m actually aware that there are plenty of features and evidence to factually suggest otherwise, but my experiences don’t exactly sing the praises of those two factors.

          • puchinri

            I actually wasn’t thinking about the Golden Needle part at all. Not to say I forgot entirely, because it was brought up here often enough, but just that it’s not a waste in that case because that wasn’t a party member that you had invested great amounts of time and resources into.

            That is a fair point about the summons and their supposed power clashing with the narrative. In this the case of 7, I usually forget that power because it didn’t often feel heavily/frequently emphasized to me (which is why I could let it go).

            Really, it’s starting to sound like 7 was the most jarring title in that aspect. I feel like the titles before it didn’t contradict things as much (for where I got storywise in each). But they did seem to do better with later titles.

            When you say present that viewpoint though, do you mean people, me or Sakurai? Because I suppose it depends. I actually don’t feel like Sakurai was talking about Aeris. And honestly, I did not invest any time in her at all myself (and I don’t feel like it was too damaging in 7′s case anyway aside from favored character or shipping). I actually thought of Tales of Destiny, where I was really burned and it was part favorite character and resources. The problem is in general, I suppose, that this does happen fairly often and it can be a punch in too many different senses, and Sakurai is kind of right about that. I don’t think removing a character from the party (death or no, but when it’s not death, that’s worse I think) has to always be terrible (again), but I do think it usually isn’t handled for the better.

            Most likely, he doesn’t need to be specific. A lot of people brought up plenty of semi (or fully) guilty parties to a bit of what he was saying. If he was asked to be specific, he probably would be (and there was more missing from the article that was not said here, though I don’t think I read any specifics mentioned), but it doesn’t change the fact that it happens. Of course, there are also those semi-guilty games that may have a long intro, but they don’t throw you out of the game (as in, you can still interact at least). Or there may be inconsistencies with the story and what happen in the game, but the gameplay and story can still flow somewhat well together. (Even though FF9 has a lot of story, it’s integrated wonderfully into the gameplay; and Ni no Kuni has a somewhat lengthy intro before you actually start adventuring, but it lets you interact a great deal and that’s only a plus to the game instead of not allowing you to connect more or missing out on any information.)

            I think I understand where you’re coming from (at least a little), but because I have seen a lot of what he says and know examples on both sides, I agree with him entirely. (And what more he says about KI:U, how he did the story because of that sentiment, he also goes on to say that it was very hard to do, etc., so I don’t think it’s as though he isn’t understanding. I like that he separated himself as a developer and gamer in this though, and I feel like it helped me understand his case more.)

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Good point. Eloquently stated.

          • puchinri

            Thanks~.

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            The reason I want him to be specific is that there are people raising examples here that I would disagree with in terms of what Sakurai was pointing out. So, in the case of Persona 4 I see people saying that “it takes forever to get started”… I think that’s crap. Persona 4 has a great deal of genre blending, it clearly takes influence from visual novels, and has done so since Persona 3. In terms of “getting started”, I think that there’s a very clear difference between Persona 3 and 4 in terms of their setting and themes. Persona 3′s opening has a much more fast paced hook, but Persona 4 takes place in a rural area, and I think that its tone is much more relaxed as a result. Those first few hours establishing setting are important for getting you to care about the characters in the story and thus the decisions you’ll be making, you’re essentially being asked to make an assessment of the situation at hand. It isn’t that the game “hasn’t started”, it’s that some players aren’t necessarily interested in the narrative. Now is that the game’s problem, or a lack of patience in players? In terms of functioning like a Visual Novel, it does invoke some aspects that, like a book, are probably troubling if you’re viewing games in a very rigid way. “Why can’t I just skip to this part?” Fair question. I don’t think it’s a major flaw for Persona 4, just a limitation of the way it chose to go about expressing itself. I doubt it could be any other way than how it is. Some things just aren’t going to have a universal appeal, but I think some players could do a better job of meeting the game halfway.

            Did Sakurai specifically say “Persona 4?” Not at all. So I’d like to know what game or games he’s talking about so I can have a frame of reference for his grievances, no one else’s. While you are correct that people are bringing up games, I am interested in what SAKURAI has to say on the matter, because he could be talking about any number of games. And I could agree or disagree for any number of reasons. In the case of “Persona 4 taking too long to get to gameplay”, I have a far less rigid view of what a game needs to do to “get started.” I don’t think there’s a strict blueprint in the way that Sakurai seems to imply, and he has a history of doing things that makes me question HIS abilities as a designer. But, moving from that to something more specific to the Polygon article:

            “let’s talk about how, in RPGs and things, a character that you spent the game raising dies or leaves your party for the sake of the story. From a gamer standpoint, that’s dreadful; it’s totally unreasonable. In games where you’re fighting against enemies, you’re playing from the perspective of the hero, and you’re being asked to basically win every time. If players wind up in a predicament because of what the story calls for, that’s like penalizing them even though they made no mistake. As gameplay, it’s lacking.”

            Character death is, flat out, not “totally unreasonable”, I don’t really buy what he’s selling here. In terms of fighting against enemies and being asked to win every time, the problem I have with this logic is that, like other media, if you try to make a literal interpretation of the events that are happening, it means that the thematic and narrative strengths are going to go right over your head. So it’s ironic that he says that “You can’t have character deaths because the player was already trying to survive and had to do so in gameplay and now you’ve just killed them so what was the point?”, because it’s that kind of point that completely undermines his desire that “games tell better stories.” I think players, within reason, accept a certain lack of control in certain types of games and thus certain types of narratives. Whether that ultimately makes sense is up to the game, but, for instance, how can you really touch on themes of human interaction if you limit them for one pesky, literal interpretation of how RPGs might function.

            I think it’s rigid, I think he needs to be specific and bring up examples because I’m not going to take his word for it. I mean, if this is just passive commentary, I can easily write it up to “what Sakurai is saying isn’t necessarily wrong, but he isn’t necessarily right, either.” The way he goes about making his point is lazy, because I can think of all of these exceptions.

            The one thing I like about, say, Iwata Asks interviews that are with certain developers like Platinum Games, are that they do speak specifically about issues like Japanese development being viewed as stale, or the kind of environments in which they design games. I think the Souls series is a good example of an RPG that doesn’t fall into the standard tropes of previous games, I also think Xenoblade is a good progression forward as well. Given that I think that there are good efforts being made, hell yes I want Sakurai to be specific, because if this is just a matter of “Man games aren’t good at doing stuff” it’s like… “Man games are really good at doing stuff!”

            I have no idea what kind of point he’s trying to make or what it’s at the expense of. It’s like, I have a whole wealth of knowledge or experience, but his comments feel like broad strokes that don’t really touch on why developers might be playing the same tried and true cards. I believe Inafune saying “We have to take risks” is more commendable than Sakurai’s “Man, people are making mistakes.”

            To Sakurai I ask “So what?” “Why should I care?” “Be specific.” Kid Icarus: Uprising isn’t the only game to successfully have a great narrative and gameplay, I actually think there are games that are better than KI: U for everything that KI: U offers. Story, gameplay, features… so, I’m completely ill equipped to just take this man’s word for it as things stand, at least not without quite a bit of mental reconsideration and noise.

          • puchinri

            I can understand what people mean with Persona 4, and there’s a bit of an interesting case there. The (Persona) games didn’t become particularly VN like until 3, right? So I think it’s fair to critique that element, but also appreciate how it works for the games. I mean, on one side, it’s great to see any SMT/Persona/etc titles get innovative, but given their nature, some of the critique isn’t without its merit or weight (I appreciate how VN like they are, since we still have SMT at least which doesn’t have that aspect really).

            On that quote, speaking just to the part after character death, I don’t think he’s referencing having to win every time. I feel like he’s talking about battles where you can never win (no matter how reasonable or unreasonable it is within context) and similar scenarios that the games put you in. An example I think actually fits, again, FF9. The battle with Beatrix. She basically wiped the party out and you’d think you’d stand a chance if you did enough grinding. And then you sit back and go, “no matter what, that’s mother flippin Beatrix.” At the same time, there have been times in games where I felt things happened in the story that shouldn’t have went the way they did, just going by what the game showed me earlier.

            There are times when I think examples could help but aren’t necessary, and I kind of feel that this is one of those times. For all we know, he could be speaking only about older titles, or maybe about certain newer titles. If this were a statistic, I would definitely say he needs to back up his info, but he may just be burned the way plenty of us other gamers have by titles and maybe he enjoyed enough aspects of those games not to just throw them out and have them under scrutiny. I don’t know~. Maybe, I just feel he didn’t need to list examples because I thought of examples immediately myself (and I probably wouldn’t be able to do so on the spot if asked).

            What I didn’t like about Inafune’s “we have to take risks” was that it also came with a lot of crapping on Japan and at times, praising the West more than necessary (when he only had a good example or two himself) and it was as though he was neglecting/being blind about the many others that were taking risks and/or being innovative. Sakurai didn’t even make his comment as a developer. He intentionally separated himself from that aspect of it. But then he took it upon himself as a developer to try and find a solution to something he sees and feels cheated by as a gamer. I think it’s unfair to say that he’s not allowed to have an opinion as a gamer (because/especially as a dev).

            And at no point did he say his title is the only one to do it successfully. he didn’t even imply that. All he said was that he realized and didn’t care for these elements and tried to remedy it himself, and that he had a hard time doing so (so it’s not like he’s saying, “everyone else is so incompetent/lazy!”). I know there are games that offer better story and gameplay, and I know there are games that do specifically what he was talking about better (integrating story and gameplay and making them work together instead of against each other), but that does not mean we should stop looking at (potentially) flawed or problematic elements of any title and asking why it is that way and examining it. As gamers, that’s out job. If we enjoy something, but there’s a disconnect in your enjoyment, it’s fine to point that out and make your voice heard. (And that’s basically all that Sakurai did.)

            You don’t really have to take his word either, but isn’t it something to consider the word of everyone else hear that shares the sentiment and provides adequate examples? Or are you saying their opinions are bullshit too?

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            It’s one thing to tell and another thing to show what you mean. So, just to point out what we’ve been doing, we’ve been providing specific examples of games either brought up by others or ones that stood out to us… but at what point did we reference a game brought up by Sakurai?

            We didn’t. That’s the problem.

            As far as “thinking other people’s opinions are bullshit too”… that’s real cute, but I’d appreciate you making the distinction that I said it’s “hard to take [Sakurai] seriously” and in terms of the various games people bring up, I find the assertion that they fit Sakurai’s list of problems to be lazy and not things that just fit his argument effortlessly. I brought up Persona 4 because it was one game I saw people bringing up as potentially proving his point, and I then provided pretty specific evidence as to why I think it’s not “taking forever to get started” or matching Sakurai’s accusation. Just that one example in this case.

            Please don’t put words in my mouth, especially words that accuse me of taking a position at the expense of others. That’s not cool. At the very least, I’m not the one leaving room to take liberties with undisclosed specifics, unlike the person we’re discussing not providing examples of what he means.

            Hopefully to keep this short, a few last points. If I can be clear about why I’m praising Inafune. I don’t agree with his praise of western development, though a certain game is apparently considered “good” here that shall go unnamed that I think is a textbook example of why one shouldn’t assert things the way Inafune did.

            Ugh, the reason I praise him for saying what he did is because I completely understood WHY he came to the conclusions he did. He was specific, or at least as specific as one can be without completely outing Capcom and other companies like them in a tasteful way. With Sakurai, exactly which RPGs does he happen to be talking about? I happen to know a few Japanese RPGs that aren’t making the mistakes he’s implying, and even if they are, I also know that there are reasons that some RPG developers stick to a very sad and repetitive formula. I don’t know the problems Sakurai is trying to point out, I also think it’s a disservice to just imply that some change can occur without crushing people under some massive weight of the market. All I know is that he’s pointing out a flaw without being very constructive about the means other developers have.

            It’s like speaking from an Ivory Tower. I don’t mind criticizing, especially in this case, but I do mind those who aren’t going about it with some kind of structure. Say what you mean, or at least HAVE something you mean. His comments seem so matter of factly put in so crass a way, I know he’s not the only one to do what he’s described… but his criticisms come from some seeming vacuum as if, well, he just may be the only one with these apparently solutions to these issues he brings up. Specifics would go a long way in at least gathering what he’s trying to say other than “Man games don’t tell stories well”, which I think is not true but whatever.

            Anyway, I’ve gone through the trouble to be specific about what I mean, I think it would have helped if Sakurai had done the same. It’s fine to make your voice heard, but ultimately my point is that Sakurai should have done the due diligence when voicing his opinion. It means less chaos and people filling in the gaps themselves where there was originally no whole argument from this man. For now, I see a lot of unnecessary cognitive dissonance. Others have discussed these sort of topics in a way that doesn’t come across as some dilettante sidebar. The man can do better.

          • puchinri

            I wasn’t trying to be cute, I was really just wondering. You said you couldn’t take him seriously, which is fine. But to me, that really brought up the question of what that meant about everyone else here who brought up a point with a specific title (or general examples). Sure, Persona 4 was brought up and I also provided my own opinion on that (agreement to both sides and why that one is an exception, but going by previous titles, maybe shouldn’t have to be – but it’s refreshing that it is). But for the long list of other titles and examples brought up? What? I mean, people brought up a number of titles and made some points that I didn’t know of (and some I did, but agreed with and disagreed with).

            I don’t recall putting any words in your mouth? I was going by anything you said, and not sure what you’re referring to.

            Hmm. See, now I feel kind of like you on your Inafune point. I don’t see why he came to the conclusion he did (unless we’re specifically talking about Capcom, but I think they still took at least one risk recently and that was E.X. Troopers, sad that it didn’t do well too). He barely provided a firm example, and then just lambasted a bunch of stuff; and most importantly, without acknowledging the other side to the scenario. That I can’t believe or take seriously. It’s why I can’t praise him. I mean, I can say the game industry anywhere is going to crap too, and I would partially be right, but it’d be a whole lot of wrong because I’d be ignoring a lot of great titles that people put some great work and innovation into. And, that’s not a risky thing to say at all because a lot of people say it all the time.

            That’s also missing a good portion of what I said. Whether it was said here or not, he went on to say that there are good stories out there, all kinds of stuff and he never said he had the solution. He only said that he attempted to mesh gameplay and story and that it was a difficult undertaking. That’s pretty responsible to me. Why should we have a problem with his voicing his opinion as a gamer, and then as someone who can take action, trying to fix it? He never even said he was successful (and I think that’s good, because that leaves it up to other gamers to feel and decide for themselves whether or not he was). He doesn’t even pretend to have a solid solution or answer. He just voiced something that he felt (as a gamer, not as a dev criticizing other devs), and then decided to give a shot at it himself.

            At no point in time does he even come down to saying anything near “games don’t tell story well.” Paraphrased maybe, and as a larger generalization, but he himself states that there are games that tell story well and are enjoyable. His problem is not with lack of good story. It’s the fact that story and gameplay at times clash, and that lately, quite a few games forget that they are games. If anything, his comment isn’t risky either because I’ve seen plenty of other gamers say the same (and it came here too, sure enough). He’s not even talking about titles that are/have VN influences. He means action/RPG/etc titles, that should be games first and foremost.

            There is no due diligence is my main contention. He just had an opinion as a gamer. He wasn’t even stating it’s a universal fact. He was just saying, for some games that he has played, he doesn’t have a preference toward whatever. Are you holding him to that standard because he’s a dev? Because this was publicized? Why hold him to a different standard here than we do everyone else on the site? If he threw out two examples, what then? Would that be satisfactory?

          • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

            I have a problem with how he’s voicing his opinion, not THAT he’s voicing his opinion. Big difference. If you’re going to present an argument, do a good job of it. I think, stated like that, my point should be a little easier to understand. I think the way Sakurai is expressing his points ends up being problematic and causes all sort of false dichotomies to emerge, in spite of the fact there’s some truth to what he’s saying. Based on this,I’m not satisfied with how he’s presented this argument, that’s just what I’m led to think after reading his words and comments/discussion surrounding this. I think there are a lot of potential truths to what he’s saying, but nothing he specifically provides in the way other developers/designers have done in other areas. Compared to other things I’ve read, I mostly see this small sample from a larger interview has caused people to fill in gaps and then point back to him in a way that implies he’s had this deep, profound realization. He hasn’t though, at least in the way this realization could be considered deep or well presented.

            I think it’d be satisfactory that Sakurai craft the specifics of his own argument, rather than throw out an idea like “Video Games are bad at storytelling a lot”, then provide no specific sort of game combined with really sketchy, generalized examples/scenarios. This has clearly led people, in this very discussion page, to create their own inferences while crediting him with having a sort of faux insight.

            As for what he specifically said:

            “As a player, as someone who’s been playing games for a long time, the stories that get told in video games are honestly irksome to me pretty often…”

            It’s hard for me to agree or even make heads or tails of what he means by this given his examples. If I was irritated by the stories that games tell, I wouldn’t be so fascinated with them. I wouldn’t be talking to you. Bad games have bad narratives, scenarios, design. But there’s a whole history of good games, and I think these can be traced from the beginnings of games up to the present. It’s not some new thing or some epidemic problem. I’m learning to appreciate the stories in games I actually thought were bad. I never thought I’d be singing the praises of things Metal Gear Solid 1 does. I think there are plenty of developers who understand the kind of stories that can be communicated via a video game, how to make them interesting and how to make them grip players. Not only that, but that a valid way of creating a narrative is through how the user defines their own experience with the game.

            Sakurai has to do better, he’s not invoking anything particularly deep on his own, I think what he’s saying does need to be said, but not in the way that he’s going about it, where it’s both leaving room to ponder a greater issue as well as clearly creating room for people to throw certain video games under a bus when they, quite frankly, don’t deserve any thought of that sort. The genre deserves this type of critique, but not in so shoddy a manner, not when it produces:

            “… you know what? YEAH! GAMES HAVE A HARD TIME TELLING A STORY” *names the first game that seemingly fits the argument without really thinking*

            He needs to do a better job expressing himself, that or I just need to find and read a whole transcript of this interview. As it stands, I think I’ve seen this better put elsewhere and I’m gonna criticize him for that.

  • Ethan_Twain

    The writing in Kid Icarus actually did fit the tone and content of the game remarkably well. The absolutely schizophrenic narrative was clearly created to serve and justify the different levels instead of the reverse. So sure, nothing really made sense… but that fit perfectly in this game full of evil flying noses and puns and metroids. The Smash Bros Subspace Emissary narrative was equally nonsense, clearly invented just to string the characters together.

    Now everyone has his/her own opinion about how their favorite kind of game handles it’s storytelling, and I’ll bet a lot of Siliconera readers are RPG fans who like a little meat on their narrative. But let’s remember that Sakurai is a creator with his own distinct methods and preferences and it’s been working out awfully well for him. I would describe the narrative of both Kid Icarus and Smash Bros Brawl as funny, well produced, and of the sort that doesn’t get in the way of the player’s fun playing the game. If there are cutscenes they are short and good. Often there are none.

    • puchinri

      This. In a way, I think that gets to exactly what he’s getting at. I also don’t think he’s saying there’s anything wrong with story heavy games, but when the story becomes inconsistent with something that you’ve been doing for some time in-game, it does become a bit jarring, if not obvious.

  • Nesfe

    To each his own I guess. I like stories in my games, and I love the CG cutscenes a lot games used to do (not so much anymore).

  • SirRichard

    I agree with his conclusion, at least, and it’s something I rather like about the GTA games, as one example. They tell their stories as they want to, but let you just run off between missions to go wreck things as you see fit, and their protagonists are often designed so that you could feasibly see them snapping and going on a mass-murder spree (and sometimes not even snapping, just doing it anyway). Hell, the main guy in Vice City already did that in his backstory! Red Dead Redemption was the same way, kind of.

    The general point that games these days really need to pace themselves better and remember that they are actually games is a good one, and it’s one that a lot of developers should learn. In games, the audience is involved, they are interacting with the world the story is in, and that should be accounted for. It’s not that cutscenes don’t have their place, but slapping the controller out of the player’s hands for another 20 minutes is just going to make them resent you more often than not. It’s why the likes of MGS2 got resented a lot, aside from the whole Raiden thing.

  • MrRobbyM

    Can’t say I agree with him on this one. There are some games where the story is so good, I don’t mind sitting back for a while and watching a 10 minute cutscene. Sometimes it’s annoying in the beginning of games but sometimes it’s necessary to do so.

    Not all games are meant to pick-up and play. Some games are meant to experience.

    • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      The most important thing about a game is immersion, if any part of the game causes the player to be less engaged then its a flaw. That is not something you can deny. If the story isnt helping to immerse and emotionally involve the player then what is the point of having it in the game?

      • MrRobbyM

        Cutscenes can help immerse oneself into the game even more. In most cases, cutscenes do what you cant do in-game or do it better. The only times cutscenes are truly bad is when it makes you feel like you’re wasting your time.

        • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          That depends on the cutscene There is no point to long cutscenes. Play Xenoblade and TLS most of those cutscenes were fine. Except when I had to urinate. Hell even Bayonetta is a good example. It was cutscene galore but it at least tried to keep the player involved. The opening scene was like what 5-8 minutes max

          • MrRobbyM

            Yet MGS4 fully immersed me in the game.

          • Richard N

            I’m with you there. Most cutscenes went past 20 minutes and the ending went beyond an hour, but after 6 games and a mess load of
            spinoffs, I think most of us were okay with sitting back and watching an ending 20 years in the making.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Okay. Not like I’ve ever played it

          • MrRobbyM
          • D H

            Sorry, I was fully immersed into Xenosaga from the time I put in the first game until the time I completed the third (and still to this day, honestly). That includes all the cutscenes, up to and including the hour and half plus ending. No point to long cutscenes? Why? It’s not like you can’t skip them easily enough these days, pause them when you need to go do something…

            When I’m playing a game with predefined characters (about 95% of the time), I much prefer finding out as much as possible, including how they interact normally; therefore, to me, no cutscene is ever a waste, and rather presents an interesting learning opportunity. Metal Gear wouldn’t be the same without it’s interesting characters, which we wouldn’t know much about except for the long cutscenes and extra codec conversations.

      • 60hz

        immersion is a nonsense word that means nothing when it comes to games – good vid essay on ‘immersion’ here http://youtu.be/JyY1xt-YnCY

    • puchinri

      I think the problem is when these stories don’t allow for any interaction at all either. I liked how Ni no Kuni was done. The intro was strong, but you were also a part of it. I think that may have even helped connect me with Oliver and his journey even more. But if I’m really just watching everything, I’ll be entertained usually, but I will start to wonder, “when do I get to play?”.

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      He’s not saying that games shouldn’t have stories, though; what he’s saying is that the gameplay and story should be integrated, not awkwardly segregated as in any game with the traditional “level-cutscene-level-cutscene” structure, or worse, the innumerable modern games where the player’s actions are constantly arbitrarily directed and restricted by the imposing hand of the “story”. Storytelling in video games should be more than just a shallow emulation of the properties of other media (usually film); it should take advantage of the unique narrative possibilities presented by the interactive medium, and also accept its limitations.

    • xavier axol

      like metal gear solid 4 guns of the patriots, it gave me a new prespective about games. i don’t think that the game could have end up like it did, without those cutscenes. it gave me the chills when i saw both old snake and big boss at the end.

      i guess that even if cutscenes limits you from being more engage, it provides you with more information about the plot, character and more. that you wouldn’t get it from just gameplay alone. though that can be change when games imrpove from what heavy rain did.

      • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

        Wait, Metal Gear Solid 4 made you like cutscenes MORE??

        • xavier axol

          yes it did, is it weird? also at that time, i don’t think the cutscenes of raiden vs gecko would happen in gameplay.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Never played it but cant they just take control of the camera while you control the player to show those types of things?

          • Richard N

            Well, you don’t play Raiden in MGS4, thats what MGR is for. Raiden was this badass character there to protect you, the stressing out old guy. Would’ve been a little strange to go from 5 hours of slowly sneaking around to crazy cyborg ninja dude tearing shit up.

      • MrRobbyM

        Agreed. MGS4, even if it’s not my favorite MGS game, did cutscenes very well.

  • $29082171

    I’m more concerned with games that try to be movies like Heavy Rain, the pompous and presumptious personality of the creator doesn’t help much either.

    • sandra10

      Are you just as concerned with games that try to be books like the heavily lauded (and for good reason) Virtue’s Last Reward and Steins;Gates?

      Or other movie-esque games like the award winning The Walking Dead?

      You know, sometimes I think the only reason people pay so much (negative) attention to QD’s games is because their adventure games have a AAA budget.

      • Ferrick

        steins; gate is a visual novel, not a game, so that amount of text isn’t really surprising. Virtue’s is a text heavy mystery game, and we do need to pay attention to the text as it may hold clues. Those games are like that for a reason

        movie-esque games are not really that needed imho, because well… its a movie in a game, wouldn’t it be better if it were a movie instead. Idk, i just feel that these games are not that appealing

        • sandra10

          Uh… VLR is half a visual novel (well, I spent most of my time with the game reading). And yeah, that amount of text wouldn’t be surprising in SG just like that amount of cutscenes aren’t surprising in a game like Heavy Rain and TWD.

          Still, the main point has been side-stepped. Why should you have a problem with Heavy Rain and not something like Steins;Gate or VLR?

          • Ferrick

            do i have to spell everything out to you ? Its a visual novel, a visual novel, its genre was not meant to be a game to begin with

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Let’s be careful going to far down the ‘not a game path’. Pure ‘read and choose’ VNs require an engagement with the text and courses of action based upon ‘evidence’ at hand. In short, a puzzle in simply another form.

          • Ferrick

            woops, my bad, then again most VNs are pretty much interactive novels to which each choice leads to different endings, though i don’t think Virtue’s can be considered as a visual novel, then again, galaxy angels is a VN with a strat game integrated into it

          • M’iau M’iaut

            And there are plenty of other hybrids — most of which have been the most successful types at least stateside. Remember, the reason folks first got interested in 999 was the author’s tie to Ever 17, one of the few pure VNs that is not an h-game to get a physical stateside release.

          • Ferrick

            hmmm, i guess its understandable why people would choose the hybrides more than the pure VNs (for the extra gameplay), though you gotta give the pure VNs credit for bringing some epic/awesome/great storylines

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Why do you think i mentioned E17? I’ll mention that every day until the cows come home. We gave KnS quite a bit of play here, even with the fact it does have very adult content. S;G was the VN that kind of made it cool again to even read them.

          • Ferrick

            because you loved it ? nah jk =P

            well point taken. All in all, both hybrid and pure are pretty fun to read/play.

            To me, T/Moon’s VNs were what pulled me into the world of VNs (and i don’t really mind the eroges in it)

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Actually for my own self, not being able to read JP and not wanting to dip my toe into the grayside means I actually haven’t played S;G or Type Moon. Just noting that S;G actually found its way to a wider market than most Vns.

          • sandra10

            Yeah, I get that you don’t consider them to be games even though they’re coded for game consoles and sold at the same price as other games.

            If you think that movie-like “games” would be better as movies, wouldn’t you think that book-like “games” would be better as books? A light novel? Or manga? Or anime?

            So, like I’ve been trying to get to before, what gives them a reason to exist, these expensive book-like interactive media sold on video game consoles even though they’re not really video games, and not something like Heavy Rain, an expensive movie-like interactive media sold on a video game console even though it’s not really a vidya game?

          • Ferrick

            no, its better for visual novels to stay that way. I will just assume that you’ve never seen the manga/anime adaptations of visual novels, so i will say this, it feels different when watched/read as a manga/anime, and the routes that the manga/anime take aren’t exactly what you want to see, take Umineko for example, some parts of it were left out in the anime, especially some important parts to make it less confusing (though its understandable because of the 30 minute limit for each episode for non-OVA type animes)

            Trying something new is what i can assume

          • sandra10

            Ergo interaction is the reason why visual novels should exist.

            Now why doesn’t that reason apply to media like Heavy Rain and TWD which are just as interactive as VNs?

          • Ferrick

            well, the interaction between ME (movie-esque, i will be using this as the short form for now) games and visual novels are rather different in a way (one is button/six-axis spamming, while the other is actual decision making)

            and you don’t exactly “move” your characters in VN unlike MEs as the story progresses through text

          • saxophone15

            Doesn’t a game like Heavy Rain also have decision making? It’s not just button spamming. Also, Heavy rain definitely wouldn’t feel the same if it was just a movie. I think “movie-esque” games do have a place.

          • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Visual novels allow you to interact with characters thats their appeal. You cant watch a movie and have it be interactive at the same time, its one or the other

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.tharnish Eric Tharnish

    I think some of the best games, if I had to put my finger on it, convey an idea better than presenting a narrative. Bayonetta, for instance, has some really profound ideas in what it says about its world… but its narrative is confusing at points, and I think that may be a consequence of certain development factors. Ultimately, I prefer a good video game which sacrifices a perfect narrative but can still convey thematic ideas, and I think a lot of video games accomplish both an amazing narrative and gameplay concepts.

    I think Chrono Trigger (the original), is a textbook example. Or Dragon Quest 3. And there are probably more that I am forgetting. I think the vast amount of video games cannot be stated enough, and I would kind of prefer someone else point this out than Sakurai’s semi-clouded/backhanded view of things. It’s not that I don’t agree with some of his conclusions, but the way I’d go about reaching these conclusions would be dramatically different. I, for instance, appreciate solid ideas to dumb gimmicks.

  • Tails the Foxhound

    I gotta agree with Sakurai. I love Halo and Gears of War’s worlds and lore but they suck so much at telling that story. Did you know that Dom and Marcus are friends because Marcus was cool with Dom’s older brother? Would have been nice to have that brought up in the games…

    • Solomon_Kano

      Didn’t really stick with Gears past the first game, but I’m with you on Halo. The books bring up so many interesting things that the games never get into. At the least, they could do another Halo Wars deal (not necessarily another RTS) where we get something focusing on other aspects of the universe.

  • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

    While I won’t deny that Sakurai is completely right, it’s certainly an odd sentiment to hear from a man who was even partially responsible for giving us Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Adventure Mode.

    • raitouniverse

      To be fair, it had to be played out with just a basic mishmash of characters, I don’t think anything too worth while could have come of that other than your standard fanservice. Though the gameplay aspect of it was kinda long.

      • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

        Everything about Brawl’s adventure mode kinda sucked, though, and the embarrassingly dumb cutscenes (written by the literary genius responsible for Kingdom Hearts) were just the icing on the crapcake. Why did Super Smash Bros. need a story at all, exactly?

        • KingRuff

          To each his own I guess. I personally liked Brawl’s story, because I took it as just a funny distraction to support the gameplay. I didn’t really go into Brawl expecting a masterpiece story, and that’s kinda why I was able to enjoy it. Maybe you were expecting too much from it, and that’s why you didn’t like it? What exactly didn’t you like about it?

          • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

            The cutscenes are just achingly unnecessary and eyerollingly dumb – like, not just inoffensively silly, but painfully, 3D-Sonic-game-caliber stupid. And did I mention they were mind-bogglingly unnecessary?

  • raitouniverse

    It sounds to me like he wants to meld together story/exposition and such with gameplay so it’s more fluid. If that’s the case, then it seems like he’s succeeded with Kid Icarus, seeing as most if not all of the story plays out as you’re playing the game itself. This seems in opposition to games that have gameplay and story as two separate entities, kind of like when you have a gameplay portion of the game, and then you have a story portion. That kinda runs opposite to most traditional rpgs, so I can see why he takes offense to them.

  • Draparde

    I see where he’s coming from, but i can’t say i completely agree with him.

    playing with that character gives you more of an attachment to them, (and makes since story wise if said character can and is willing to fight)
    it’s also abit harder to see it coming in my opinion.

    Long cut-scenes in the beginning of the game without allowing you to play anything is something i *do* agree with however. games that do that sometimes also like to throw in-game jargon about as well. it gets me confused, and i lose some amount of interest usually.

    Long cutscenes in general, however are not bad if done correctly.

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    when it comes to RPGs 100% yes

  • puchinri

    I think I agree with this 100%, pretty much. I don’t mind if a game has a long intro if I’m included in it. Long cutscenes aren’t bad either. But the problem is the way the story and especially the telling/handling of it sometimes (maybe even often?) clash with the game itself.

    In a lot of ways, I feel like there are plenty of great games with fantastic story (that also gets implemented well). But in the end, I do feel like it’s story and character development that gets the shaft the most at the end of the day. And even in games with little/simple story, that can be a problem.

  • KingRuff

    I think games where the story happens while you are playing are best. Watching something happen is what movies are for. If I buy a game, It’s because I want to experience the world myself. By forcing me to watch a 30 min cutscene, it really does ruin the immersion. The worst offenders are a lot of RPGs. What did my slaughter of hundreds of forest creatures have to do with my character traveling from City A to City B? It’s like when you were in school and your teacher would give you busy work so she didn’t have to teach. The game is giving us something to do while we go from story point to story point. The problem with that is everything we did on our way there is irrelevant. I mean story is great and all, I like knowing the reason why I’m supposed to kill the evil pig monster, but I prefer to be playing while I find out.

    Tl;dr I like story, but the actual gameplay is what should be most important to a game.

    • Elvick

      I hate when story happens during gameplay. That’s usually when I walk too far forward and lose out on dialog, because it triggers something else while they were talking about something.

      Or I leave a room while someone starts talking and miss dialog completely.

      That is the most frustrating thing in a game for me, and it will make me quit playing all together. I don’t want to feel I’m missing anything.

      Never mind how hard it is to understand some dialog during hectic gameplay.

      • puchinri

        I think that connects well with Sakurai’s point though. If you tell the story, have the gameplay fit it, and if your gameplay lets part of the story be lost, or your story hinders your gameplay, it’s hard for some people to enjoy it entirely/properly (as a gamer, he feels that way at least and seems some of us do as well).

        I also don’t like gameplay segments where you can lose out on some of the story. I’ve played a couple of games where walking too far does mean you miss something, and ones where it means you don’t miss anything.

        I wonder if it’s hard to program that correctly, or if it is just a result of the gameplay in some titles or something.

  • http://s1.zetaboards.com/Espada_of_Alexandria/index/ konpon568

    I wonder how would Kojima react to this article. The answer to that is something to be sought after.

    • xavier axol

      probably the same as david cage, the guy who used the term “peter pan syndrome” to criticize today’s gaming industry. as much as i like the guy and his work, sometimes he can be too extreme.

      • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

        Ahahahahaha, better Peter Pan than Cage’s Ed Wood garbage

        • xavier axol

          heavy rain was amazing, it’s just david cage can sometimes be too harsh on people who make shooters and child-like content. because he believe that video games are more for a mature audiences.

          • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

            Heavy Rain is easily one of the most immature video games I’ve ever played.

      • http://twitter.com/ValeFalkren Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Read how he clarified it on Game industry? Was an interesting article

        • xavier axol

          no, he gave a speech at this year’s gdc. look it up.

  • Pekola

    I dislike certain aspects of this. Mostly because it comes off as the opposite extreme of what David Cage mentioned, the ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’

    Not every game is all gameplay. Sometimes you have to hold on to your horses for a cut-scene to happen. Specially RPG’s, which usually have more story and narrative than other genres. There’s nothing wrong with having cutscenes or moments where you don’t have control—provided that they’re done tastefully.

    Story exposition is an equally important aspect of a certain kind of game. There are games which are story-driven. It’s all about finding an enjoyable balance.

    Do I think games should flow better and integrate their stories with the mechanics of gameplay? Definitely. But I also enjoy cutscenes in my RPG’s a la Xenosaga.

    • puchinri

      I don’t see it that way at all actually. I mostly agreed with what Cage said and rather appreciated it. And I think what Sakurai is saying here in no way conflicts with that. He’s not saying sacrifice story for the sake of anything, but that story and gameplay are treated so separately, and that creates conflict in how they can (potentially) be enjoyed.

      Just taking a guess at what he means, games that entirely stop being a game just to tell a story, when that contradicts with what they are and their own potential. I love Ni no Kuni so far, and I think a huge part of that is because it’s a game that is a story and tells a great one (so far, anyway). It never stops being a game, and the story is well integrated into the gameplay, and the cutscenes you see, no matter the length, lead into something story and gameplay wise right after. That is great cohesion and I think it does something that some Ghibli movies cannot, which also was a main point of his at the end (then again, it also can’t compare to a Ghibli movie in ways and for obvious reasons).

      • Pekola

        Oh, I realize that. Which is why I said -certain- aspects. I agree that games should flow better.

        But his “I can enjoy a story in any other form of media; I just want the game to let me play it already.” comes off as ‘JUST LET ME PLAY BLARGH’ which is why I say that having non-controlled segments doesn’t necessarily draw away from gameplay if the story is one of the main driving points of the game (which it usually is in RPG’s)

        I enjoyed Xenosaga, even with its super-movie-lenght-long-cutscenes, because part of seeing those cutscenes was why I played–the story pulled me in, so I kept playing. I guess it’s important to know which kind of game you’re getting into, because not all of them will give you 100% control; 100% story blended gameplay.

        • puchinri

          Haha, it did come off that way, unfortunately. Although that wasn’t all he said about the story aspect.

          That’s also true. And I suppose, some teams (or companies in general) play to strengths like that more than others.

  • Arrei

    I think the only major example of this sort that really interferes with the game is needlessly long intros. I love RPGs because they combine play with story, an experience you cannot get from another medium, but being story-centric is by no means a justification for making you watch a half hour of cutscenes before being able to do anything beyond walking around. At least let me FIGHT something!

  • http://gamgambit.tumblr.com/ Thespian Treasure Hunter ♢

    I think it depends on the game and how it relates to you, it happened to me the scenario I got bored of an intro and went to do something else instead but there’s also intros I didn’t wanted to skip even though the option is there.

  • Richard N

    Uh, what he’s saying isn’t really jiving with me. Sometimes sure I just wanna jump in and just roll my Katamari without any long winded introductions, but games that take forever to get into isn’t a bad thing. A slower pace can set up the rest of the game, like horror games. Fatal Frame 2 has you fumbling around a house for 20 minutes before anything happens.

    Overall, he’s sounding a bit pretentious here. I respect the work the guy’s done, but calm down man, your stuff isn’t that amazing in the first place. Video games can definitely be used as a unique experience that can’t be found elsewhere though, so atleast that we agree on. Look no further than Walking Dead or Ico.

    • Ehren Rivers

      I pretty much feel the same. I was going to get involved in the discussions, but it all seems a little too tense to me at the moment. Games shouldn’t have to appeal to everyone, and no one person’s ideal game should become the standard. Video games should be able to come in all sorts of different gameplay and story styles, because they are purely for entertainment. One dude’s personal preferences really shouldn’t be applied as a standard.

  • HappyOnion

    Sakurai would love journey… :) that game is the perfect example that should be followed, at least at a fundamental level.

  • Elvick

    Meh, I looooooooooove long cutscenes. Nothing like sitting back in Xenosaga Episode I and watching the cutscenes for me. Granted, not every game really holds my attention to that level. <3 Xenosaga

    I don't want that in every game, but that's why I don't just play RPGs. I play different types of games for different types of reasons.

    I don't see why you'd play a game for story, if you just want to jump into the game and not have to deal with dialog.

  • gsnap

    I get what he’s saying, but those little idiosyncrasies may never be fixed. And honestly, we don’t necessarily need them to be. We may just have to adjust the way we perceive things. The way games tell stories is simply different. Think about it. How many Christmas episodes are there for the Simpsons (or any other popular cartoon). In this world they live in, years and years go by, and no one ages. But it doesn’t bother us. For cartoons, people just accept that no one ages, or changes clothes. For musicals, no one cares that people are singing all their feelings. For games, I don’t think people should care that gameplay and story don’t always vibe.

  • Brimfyre

    It’s funny cause I just beat Subspace Emissary for the first time last night and constantly wondered why I kept playing through it. It was sooooo long and none of the cut scenes made any sense whatsoever and then it ends with the pretensions quote about fighting with you friends and enemies. Such a mess.

    I guess Subspace was like his college student film, and then Kid Icarus was his blockbuster movie, where he redeemed himself. Though I don’t know where that would leave the Kirby games.

    • puchinri

      Apparently he didn’t write SE though (I totally thought he did, or at least, he didn’t write most of it).

      They’re all interesting things to me. I think Kirby games tell really simple but fun stories and do some interesting things, but they obviously weren’t trying to do more with story than their gameplay, which is fair (I do/did wonder about the world more, but I’d be lying if I said I was more invested in the world than my ability to suck up enemies and use their abilities). On the otherhand, Smash has been very minimal with story, and I liked the idea of the SE (and enjoyed some scenes) because as a fanservice title, being able to see interaction like that where we won’t get it anywhere else is like full on fanservice.

      I’ve only played through a few of the chapters on my friend’s copy of KI:U (but I intend to get my own and go through it eventually), but at least for the parts I played through, I had a blast with the tone, characters, story and dialogue. The gameplay could be straining, but it was also incredible. And I think he mostly accomplished what he was talking about (whether he feels that way or not). I look forward to the rest of the game and seeing if that holds true~.

      • Brimfyre

        Yep he nailed exactly what he is talking about with KI.

  • Göran Isacson

    I do wish he’d elaborate a little, give examples of what he thinks is this done right or wrong, even if that probably goes against every instinct Japanese culture has ingrained in him since childhood. Because the loss of a character in and of itself is not an inherently negative tool, and I am sure he meant some specific game that did it in a specific manner that was irksome, but right now it sounds like he’s just tarring the concept of game character death and long intros overall as universally bad.

    I mean, there are some people out there who feel this way, who think that everything in a game HAS to support the gameplay mechanics, that there can be no such thing as cutscenes or a narrative that imposes anything but total freedom to do as you please, and all is ludo and so on and so forth, but I see these people as just as bad as the “auteurs” who make tremendously boring games with no gameplay at all but with “provocative” stories that just end up going to crap and are basically just interactive movies. All or nothing is not a grown up thing to believe in, people. I don’t think Sakurai is that kind of person, but he kinda comes off like it in this interview, if only because he doesn’t specify examples.

    • puchinri

      My one true example I hold above all, of a character death giving me the feeling that he did, was for Tales of Destiny. I won’t say who for spoiler content obviously, but I felt so burned by that on many levels. Not only did I lose a favorite character, I put a lot of time into them and then they got snatched away from me (and in such a cruel manner). Admittedly, when I was first playing the title, it pissed me the hell off. I think I may have even thrown my controller. It was wonderfully done on the story element though too, because it did hit me hard and frustrate me. But yeah, as someone who put time into that character, I was also really bothered. I kind of wonder if his examples are just for characters that died that he put time into, or ones that died and had great tragic affect.

      How I’m taking his long intro part though, are intros that are long without letting you actually be a part of it (interactively). The two examples I felt did that right were FF9 and Ni no Kuni. Even in Ni no Kuni, there are quite a few “cutscenes”/animations, but they lead right into parts of the game that immediately go back to interaction/gameplay and don’t take forever to tell you something. The one cutscene that actually kickstarts the story to me, wasn’t all that long (or the few of them together), but they did a lot and felt emotional. I like that. FF9 also did a lot of telling and showing, but it let you be a part of that often.

      I think it really depends on the title, and as others have said, some games are designed to be a certain way. I kind of agree with both sides, but mostly agree with what he said in its full entirety. I enjoy a game more if it lets me be a part of the story. Xenoblade is a weird example, because I love the story but it isn’t as interactive with it as Ni no Kuni and FF9 let you be. However, you get to do things to increase the bonds between your characters and the game rewards you for that, and I love that aspect and feel it’s close to what he’s saying too. Different games just do it in different ways (and some just don’t do it at all or fail to do it).

      In the full article, “Sakurai took pains to note that he realizes it’s sometimes necessary for a game to put story-oriented obstacles in a player’s way. He argued, however, that balance is key.” Which to me, at least, says that he does understand it both ways too (as a gamer at least), but he thinks some games don’t achieve that. (I can see how some do and some don’t). I also like this line the most, “To Sakurai, stories in games could seriously benefit from designers taking the time to think about how the story relates to the game, and vice versa.”; because it means he doesn’t feel story should be abandoned or that any one kind of story/stories should or shouldn’t be told. Just that maybe, more people could try to consider what they want to say and how they’re intending to say it.

      • Göran Isacson

        Mmm, designers taking the time to think how the story relates to the game is something I can agree with. The frustration that comes when cutscenes operate on a completely different logic than gameplay is never a good thing. Also while I haven’t played Tales of Destiny, at least I can now say that I am prepared for it when the time comes :)

        • puchinri

          Indeed. When it comes down to the heart of what he’s saying, I really agree and think it’d be something for more people to consider. Again, another case of a cutscene actually fitting the gameplay goes to FF9. I liked that part of a certain character’s gameplay got related to an earlier cutscene (in a particular forest). It’s not impossible to do, I suppose, but I can see why some people have a hard time when they have something distinct that they want to do/say.

          Well, maybe it won’t be as bad for you. I certainly hope not. x’D;
          It was terrible for me because I loved that character and so I did use them often (and I invested a lot of money and items into them. . .). But, hey, they could end up as your least fav and not get mained much~. But yeah, it’s always good to be prepared for moments like that.

  • fireemblembeast

    They could have better stories, true, just as long as they don’t do it FFXIII-style…XD

  • 60hz

    I’m no fan of stories in my gaming, it reminds me of the reese’s pieces commercial: you got your story in my game! except it actually doesn’t taste good. It’s rarely a seamless marriage.

    That being said i do like the story in jupiter’s The world ends without you, but hey that story was about being… wait for it… in a game!

  • Locklear93

    I get about to “I can enjoy a story in any other form of media; I just want the game to let me play it already,” and basically conclude I have no interest in games by this guy. Unless we’re talking about a game with NO setting at all (Tetris, for example), I want a story, even a thin one–and I hate when the story feels designed to fit the game specifically.

    His example of voice throwing off the tempo also annoys me. A recent example is Fire Emblem: Awakening. They specifically used just voice “cues” for a lot of the dialogue (“Yes,” “Aha!” that kind of thing to represent a character’s whole line) to avoid messing with tempo. I find that sort of restriction of voice for the purpose of maintaining tempo really annoying. It’s fine to let me skip it, but having just one or two voiced words really throws things off for me. I really enjoy Fire Emblem: Awakening a lot–their limitation of voices to maintain tempo is probably the only thing I really dislike about it.

    Anyway, I think this comes down to different strokes for different folks. I know several people who would agree with him wholeheartedly, but as for me, I’d rather stop and get some story than not. My one caveat to all this–no cutscene or dialogue should EVER be unskippable. Let people speed through if they want to.

  • M’iau M’iaut

    And you can take that junk completely away from here. I told you before, stupid endless arguing won’t happen here again. Warned.

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