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View Full Version : Lesson from TW3 is kind of unexpected



Sushiglutton
03-26-2017, 05:56 PM
I started playing TW3 in December last year and am now a couple of hours into the Skellige part lol. It's one massive game. Anyway I just wanted to discuss one aspect of it that I thought was a bit suprising. Came to mind when reading this QA of the AMA summary (https://www.reddit.com/r/assassinscreed/comments/60tdpy/summary_of_aymar_azaizias_ama_feel_free_to_add/):

Q: Is it true that you guys are moving away from a narrative story in the next AC game?
A: No, narrative is an essential piece of Assassin's Creed


For a few years people have basically been saying that games are meant to be played. Story doesn't matter much. Especially not story told through tradional cutscenes. That belongs to the movie/TV medium. Game stories should be told through gameplay. In particular "emergent gameplay" were players create their own stories. Hardcore gamers (I don't know a better term sorry) have been saying this more than anyone else. The rumour that was the origin of the question above was in line with this sort of thinking. And so are games like No Man's sky, Just Cause and so on.


Enter the Witcher 3. What stands out about that game more than anything to me is just how unapologetic it is about bombarding the player with narrative, mostly through very traditional cutscenes and walk/talk sections. It's like they didn't get the memo. And everyone loves and praises the game (and so do I). The open world content feels great because of the injection of story more than anything. It's because these fairly repetetive encounters (TW3 does not have a lot of gameplay variety tbh) have narrative context and work with the Witcher fantasy, that they feel engaging. Not because they play that great. Therefor the lesson of TW3 is that cutscenes trumps gameplay lol. Who would have thought?

So what does this mean for AC? It for one means the question at the beginning is crazy. What AC needs to do is to embrace narrative much more than it has. In paritcular the open world content needs a narrative injection to feel meaningful and engaging, more so than actually being meaningful and engaging to play (can't believe I'm saying this).


Thoughts?

Edit: "is kind of" lol. Maybe mod can help?

Farlander1991
03-26-2017, 07:32 PM
(hope mods don't mind that I've stepped in to help even though technically shouldn't be moderating this)

Eh, I think that both 'gameplay trumps narrative' and 'narrative trumps gameplay' camps are not looking at the whole picture. People are forgetting that everything is a toolset, and what matters is how the toolset is used, and how everything works well together, not what is better. Mechanics, world, cutscenes, dialogues, everything is a tool that can be used well or badly.

Journey wouldn't have had a compelling narrative if the visual art and level design didn't try to follow the Hero's Journey narrative. Cutscenes don't matter if gameplay directly contradicts them. Gameplay storytelling doesn't work if mechanics don't build anything cohesive.

It's all about building something meaningful, cohesive. Emergent, non-emergent, linear, non-linear, many cutscenes, little cutscenes... all that doesn't matter as long as what the game is building is something wholesome and great and it uses the tool it uses in a good way.

AssassinHMS
03-26-2017, 09:55 PM
"Therefor the lesson of TW3 is that cutscenes trumps gameplay lol. Who would have thought?"

https://media.giphy.com/media/l4Ki2obCyAQS5WhFe/giphy.gif


The narrative is literally just an excuse for the gameplay to exist, itís what connects the player emotionally to the game, thatís it. Whether a narrative driven game is better than another centered around gameplay is subjective but to say that cutscenes trump gameplay (in any objective or general sense) is false. You can have a videogame without a narrative but you need to have some form of gameplay (no matter how rudimentary). And personally, Iíd rather play pacman than any Telltale ďgameĒ

Itís all in the synergy and it depends on the type of game/experience the developers are aiming for. At the end of the day though, gameplay is always paramount.

Megas_Doux
03-26-2017, 11:31 PM
In these kinds of games you need if not a solid, at least a likable story and protagonists....

If anything, gameplay can remain stagnant or without any major twists and still be acclaimed, or at least work, in franchises such as GTA or Uncharted because the story, protagonists and narrative are top notch.

I'm more a gameplay like person -I have 895898593 ideas that I would include and/or improve in the franchise- but I think a good narrative is needed. That is most noticeable in the last two games I think......

LoyalACFan
03-27-2017, 12:15 AM
As a writer, I tend to agree that the "gameplay is king" camp tends to overlook the importance of narrative, even in their favorite games. However, I think you're overlooking one critical point; The Witcher 3 has a dialogue system with branching narrative options, even in its sidequests. That's gameplay. CDPR doesn't bombard you with cutscenes where you just put down the controller and wait until the next fight, you're an active part of the story. You get to react to what NPCs are saying, often dramatically altering the outcome of a quest. Contrast this with AC Unity* (the AC game that comes closest to TW3 in terms of side mission count) where every sidequest basically boils down to ["hey Arno, will you go do a thing?" --> *Arno does the thing* --> "thanks, here's some money or a sh*tty weapon for your troubles."] A lot of TW3's sidequests have a pretty simple setup, especially the contracts; a monster is causing trouble and you're being paid to get rid of it. In terms of avoiding repetitiveness, it helps that the monsters are all very unique and require a wide range of tactics to take down, but really, the narrative setup is pretty simplistic. But having that little extra layer of control over the narrative (e.g. forgoing your payment when hired by dirt-poor peasants, or sparing a father the gory details of how his son was killed) really go a long way toward making each sidequest feel like its own little story even though they're all pretty similar.

Now, I'm not advocating for AC to add full-on RPG dialogue branches or anything, don't get me wrong. But we also can't say "story is everything" and go hog-wild with static cutscenes everywhere.


* Of course, it doesn't help that the production value on Unity's side quests was pretty awful, but that's another discussion.

SixKeys
03-27-2017, 03:09 AM
I don't think it's pure narrative that made TW3's side quests fun but variety. No quest was ever exactly the same. It would have been so easy to just have a ton of fetch quests and monster encounters, but every mission was given a different context. It wasn't about cut scenes (a lot of the side stuff only uses gameplay) but about how the devs came up with so many different ways to contextualize what was essentially really barebones gameplay. There were funny missions and serious missions. There were missions that seemed simple at first but turned out to sprawl into an epic multi-part quest. Even the simplest fetch quests had something unique that made them feel worthwhile. One of the first side quests I ran into was some lady whose frying pan was missing and I thought "oh Lord, this sounds like the most boring thing ever". Turned out Geralt found some clues in her cabin that led him on a treasure hunt. AC would have had you simply return the lady's frying pan, duplicated that template a dozen times and called it a day. "Return 20 frying pans to their owners." Another simple but fun one I recall was looking for a herbalist's goat and leading it home through a predator-filled forest. Had the potential to be the most annoying escort mission ever, but Geralt's humor made it amusing and the devs weren't so cruel as to stretch the length to the point where the player starts to get annoyed.

AC3's Homestead missions tried to have this kind of variety, but they felt half-assed. Connor herding pigs had the potential to be funny if there was more to it, but it's too short and simplistic to be either amusing or worthwhile. Connor acting as a matchmaker for Miriam and Norris had the potential to be sweet and heartfelt, but the character interactions were awkwardly acted and animated. Same with the Frontiersmen missions which had some interesting setups, but the payoff fell flat in all but one (the Bigfoot one was decent).

This is not just my usual s***ting on AC3, I'm simply frustrated that they tried to have this kind of variety and almost succeeded, but fell just short. A little more time and effort could have made some of AC3's side quests as good as TW3's.

Helforsite
03-27-2017, 06:30 PM
I don't think it's pure narrative that made TW3's side quests fun but variety. No quest was ever exactly the same. It would have been so easy to just have a ton of fetch quests and monster encounters, but every mission was given a different context. It wasn't about cut scenes (a lot of the side stuff only uses gameplay) but about how the devs came up with so many different ways to contextualize what was essentially really barebones gameplay. There were funny missions and serious missions. There were missions that seemed simple at first but turned out to sprawl into an epic multi-part quest. Even the simplest fetch quests had something unique that made them feel worthwhile. One of the first side quests I ran into was some lady whose frying pan was missing and I thought "oh Lord, this sounds like the most boring thing ever". Turned out Geralt found some clues in her cabin that led him on a treasure hunt. AC would have had you simply return the lady's frying pan, duplicated that template a dozen times and called it a day. "Return 20 frying pans to their owners." Another simple but fun one I recall was looking for a herbalist's goat and leading it home through a predator-filled forest. Had the potential to be the most annoying escort mission ever, but Geralt's humor made it amusing and the devs weren't so cruel as to stretch the length to the point where the player starts to get annoyed.

AC3's Homestead missions tried to have this kind of variety, but they felt half-assed. Connor herding pigs had the potential to be funny if there was more to it, but it's too short and simplistic to be either amusing or worthwhile. Connor acting as a matchmaker for Miriam and Norris had the potential to be sweet and heartfelt, but the character interactions were awkwardly acted and animated. Same with the Frontiersmen missions which had some interesting setups, but the payoff fell flat in all but one (the Bigfoot one was decent).

This is not just my usual s***ting on AC3, I'm simply frustrated that they tried to have this kind of variety and almost succeeded, but fell just short. A little more time and effort could have made some of AC3's side quests as good as TW3's.

I hated Princess and I wish I had killed her :mad:
On-topic: The Witcher 3 is probably the best game I have ever played, but its because of the whole and not because of one specific thing. It did everything right for it, but that doesnt mean AC should just do what they did. I think AC should take inspiration from TW3 and develop versions of their best systems that fit the game.