MGS--deepest story in a video game

Arthur Sting

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I've been playing MGS4 latetly :cool: and i realised that MGS has one of the most complex stories to a game that I've seen. And we wonder why Call of Duty 4 dosen't have a more gripping story? Because there aren't any cutscenes; you start mission you play mission you move on. That's basicly the whole game. You can't tell a deep intresting story without cutscenes. Though there are some execptions. Note: this isn't a putdown on COD4 just the first example that came to mind.
 

Commonmind

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I disagree completely. You can tell a deep and interesting story without cutscenes; the entire Half-Life series comes to mind; Portal had quite a bit of depth as well. There are numerous games which have had very compelling plots and have delivered those plots in interesting ways without using a scripted sequence, cutscene or traditional FMV.

And CoD4 wasn't trying to be something it was not. It was a pretty straight-forward game that was built around the realities of realistic warfare (though sensationalized and dramatized for obvious effect) in a realistic time, and was more concerned with keeping the player intrinsically tied to those conflicts -- which would've been difficult if it had taken them out of the situation in order to tell a story that was (for this particular game) unnecessary.

I loved MGS4; absolutely loved it. But not every game can be of this caliber in the storytelling department, and, quite frankly, not all of them need to be, or should be for that matter.

I don't always want to read a Malazan, Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire styled novel; sometimes just a good old fashioned Artemis Fowl book can pass the time, or some cheap, page turning fantasy wets my pallete. This kind of thing is ubiquitous across all forms of entertainment; there's a time for Gone with the Wind and a time for Blazing Saddles.
 

Arthur Sting

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Yes you are corect Commonmind but MGS4 has the most complex and narritive heavy game. Wouldn't you aggree. And you have a point about Half-Life and portal. Put those are very game sentric stories. I'm talking about MGS4, how in theroy you could make into a desent movie.
 

Commonmind

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I'm not sure what you mean by game-centric. Half-Life's story is complex and its world fleshed out in a similar fashion to MGS -- its mythology as deep and rich. I think you're weighing two different types of presentations -- the classic cinematic approach seen in the MGS series, and the one we see in games like Half-Life 2, which never leave the player's perspective -- on a scale of quality.

Not only that, but I think you're also confusing complexity with quality. While MGS4 was an opus and tied the entire series together, previous titles in the series were confusing and difficult to follow, and the narrative was sometimes complex to a fault. A lot of fans of this series find themselves taking a lot of flakk because they tend to believe that the harder the eccentric, superfluous Japanese storyline is to follow, the more worthy it is of praise. Movies must be able to get to the point; something Kojima took 19 years and more than half a dozen titles to do (but God bless him for it).
 

Lucien21

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Cutscenes are lazy storytelling method in videogames and not something to be held up as great entertainment.

Games are all about interaction.

You can tell a complex and excellent storyline without sacrificing interactivity. Take a look at Bioshock for instance. It told a complex story via radio commentary and the diary logs without the need for any cutscenes. A story that would make for a much better movie than any of the MGS games.

The storyline in the Metal Gear games is to complex for it's own good and wouldn't make for a decent movie (Hideo couldn't make a film that lasted less than 20 hours anyway :) ) There could be a decent movie in there if you made Metal Gear Solid 1 the basis of the movie. After that the story just bloated.
 

Durandal

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I like the story of the MGS games quite a bit, but Kojima really does need an editor, and I'd like to point out that "deep" isn't the same thing as "long" or "complicated". ;)

As I said in another thread here, I very much like the MGS cutscenes; I actually like them more than the gameplay segments. However, I do think they're too long.

And I strongly disagree with the idea that a game can't tell a deep, complex, compelling story without cutscenes. My all-time favorite game story is in the Marathon trilogy, and those games didn't even have cutscenes. There was so much depth, symbolism, allegory and history is those games that people are still hashing it all out online, and the series ended in 1996.

I think it's a little disingenuous to compare the story of MGS4 to that of Call of Duty 4. Those are two games with completely different goals and intentions. It's like complaining about the lack of story in Gran Turismo or something...
 

Commonmind

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I think there's room for both types of presentation. Cutscenes deliver a different experience, one which I believe does have its place in mainstream gaming. Of course, it's all a matter of opinion, but I think if we were to lose that cinematic perspective, quite a few franchises which we've all come to know and love would be very different (and not necessarily better) experiences. Interactivity be damned; that's a definition created by the user; it's subjective and changes from person to person.

For me, the entirety of the game is what I consider the interactive experience; I look at it in a broader scope. Sure I didn't have control over my character during this scene or that, but what I did within the context of the game changed the world in which my character existed -- maybe my actions caused me to see something different than another player during that particular point in the game. So we have a case of there being a cutscene that takes the player out of the experience, pulling the interactivity away, but one that was unique and could only have been delivered if the player made choices which led him to that point. We've lost some interactivity in the traditional sense, but what we've gained was exponentially more important: we've changed our own personal experience within the game. That, by my definition, is far from lazy game design.
 

Lucien21

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Well I disagree of course, but hey each to their own.

When I play a game I want to be the character, not just sit and watch him do stuff that I can't do in the game (Bloody Meryl killing all those frogs with one shot each :))

I can tolerate a certain cutscene/gameplay ratio and feel that the story and gameplay is greatly enhanced by not taking you out of the gamespace. In game cutscenes can still be cinematic.

GTA4 has about 8 hours of cutscenes, but it also has about 50 hours of gameplay on first playthrough not 8 hours out of 17.

It's not even like it was a great story either. It's far too wordy and in serious need of an editor. You could have told that story with half those scenes or used ingame narrative from the Mrk 2 to provide story while still playing the game or give the player the option to look up extra info on the PMC's etc. Keep the player involved.

It's not a movie and shouldn't pretend to be, movies are sharp last 3 hours at the most and would never be as talky/complicated/boring.
 

Commonmind

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I can definitely respect your opinion. Being a huge fan of RPG's I guess I'm sort of partial to the cutscene, so I'd like 'em to stick around. :)
 

Durandal

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I can definitely respect your opinion. Being a huge fan of RPG's I guess I'm sort of partial to the cutscene, so I'd like 'em to stick around. :)

I think that's more of an East/West thing rather than genre-based. My favorite RPG ever is Morrowind, which had about 10 minutes of cutscenes and easily 200 hours of gameplay (if you count the expansions).

The Japanese seem to love their cutscenes, which is fine for them, but not for me. :)

Morrowind is actually a great example of the fundamental difference in perception that we're talking about here. I remember some people who were really used to the Japanese take on RPGs complaining that Morrowind "didn't have a story". It was the most beautifully fleshed-out world I've ever played a game in, but here's the thing -- you made the story. Depending on what you did, it could be a story about an amnesiac messiah figure who took down a dark lord; or about an apprentice theif who eventually took over his guild and played the other guilds against each other for his own gain; or about a pearl diver who one day stumbled into the ruins of a lost technological race under the sea.

For me, it was all those things, and many more. I think people who like the Western idea of game design like to make their own story, whereas people who like the Eastern ideals like to have someone else make the story for them and just watch it unfold.

Personally, I think if you just want to experience a story someone else made, you've got books and movies which do a better job than games. But if you want to make your own story, games are your only choice. Unless, you know, you want to actually write a book or something crazy like that. ;)
 

Commonmind

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I think that's more of an East/West thing rather than genre-based. My favorite RPG ever is Morrowind, which had about 10 minutes of cutscenes and easily 200 hours of gameplay (if you count the expansions).

The Japanese seem to love their cutscenes, which is fine for them, but not for me. :)

Morrowind is actually a great example of the fundamental difference in perception that we're talking about here. I remember some people who were really used to the Japanese take on RPGs complaining that Morrowind "didn't have a story". It was the most beautifully fleshed-out world I've ever played a game in, but here's the thing -- you made the story. Depending on what you did, it could be a story about an amnesiac messiah figure who took down a dark lord; or about an apprentice theif who eventually took over his guild and played the other guilds against each other for his own gain; or about a pearl diver who one day stumbled into the ruins of a lost technological race under the sea.

For me, it was all those things, and many more. I think people who like the Western idea of game design like to make their own story, whereas people who like the Eastern ideals like to have someone else make the story for them and just watch it unfold.

Well, I think you've made an incorrect assumption here -- which I'll get to later -- and as a result I believe your initial comment is a bit off the mark.

But to argue your first point... Morrowind is one (good) example among the exceptions within the RPG genre -- not the rule. Games such as Morrowind and Oblivion share very common threads, their perspective and the way in which they tell their stories -- through the viewpoint of the player. They are few and far between where PC RPG's are concerned, however.

The isometric or over-the-shoulder points of view are still the norm, and I think you'll find games which use these perspectives tend to use a more cinematic approach to their storytelling. There's simply two different schools of design at work here: the one which we see in games like Morrowind, and those we see in games like Neverwinter Nights. They're different types of interactive experience. Morrowind gives you freedom, but as a result its "story" lacks a certain linearity. Neverwinter Nights puts you on a rail, a path that leads you through the story, but it dissallows the player from making choices which can affect the outcome of the game. I think what the both of you have been trying to say is one is the right way, and one is the wrong way -- or, at the very least, is somehow inferior.

On to the assumption. Morrowind is one of my favorite games of all time, the Elder Scrolls series in its entirety is also one of my favorite franchises. I think you've assumed I am a JRPG fan, and as such have assumed I was speaking of the cutscenes for which those particular games are most well-known.

This couldn't be further from the truth. While I enjoy JRPG's, my first love are PC-based RPG's, or more westernized RPG's for the console platform (Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Jade Empire; anything produced by BioWare, basically). When I was referring to cutscenes, I was actually speaking to those you found in games such as the Baldur's Gate series, Planescape: Torment, Fallout 2, Diablo II, Freedom Force, The Witcher, Neverwinter Nights, Titan Quest and the BioWare games produced for the consoles. All of these games use a cinematic approach to their storytelling. Where some of you believe it to be a crutch, I simply find it is a device; a different way of telling the story. A different perspective, if you will.

Personally, I think if you just want to experience a story someone else made, you've got books and movies which do a better job than games. But if you want to make your own story, games are your only choice. Unless, you know, you want to actually write a book or something crazy like that. ;)
I respect everyone's opinion, and generally speaking I'd much rather debate constructively than become a close-minded ass and tell someone they're completely wrong (though I'm guilty of doing just that at times). The above comment, however, is deserving of just that type of treatment. I'm a writer, a book fanatic, an artist and a gamer. I find joy in all these things, and I never place margins upon them or define them in such a way that I must find fulfillment here or there, with this or that particular thing, in this or that particular way. I enjoy being led through a story, I enjoy making my own; sometimes I want full control, other times I'd rather someone held my hand and showed me the world. I dream of being dropped into a story without a guide, and having to find my own way; I also dream of being dropped into a story and having the narrator guide me to my final destination.

I think you'll find yourself much more fulfilled if you experience the breadth of storytelling, rather than deciding you must experience stories in particular ways in specific mediums for them to be considered viable entertainment. For instance, if your dislike of cutscenes and linearity has stopped you from experiencing a truly breathtaking story (ala Mask of the Betrayer) than you've missed out on something very special for no good reason, save stubbornness.

It's all apples and oranges really, but I think the argument that there's no place for both methods of storytelling in mainstream gaming is a silly one. That would be akin to stating there's no place for different perspectives in fiction or different styles of movie making. I loved Cloverfield, which was told through the perspective of its main characters. There was absolutely no dramatic irony or foreshadowing within the context of their journey through the city; you were with them 'til the end. Does that mean I want every movie to be produced that way? Hell no; what would Star Wars have been if we'd never gotten to see the interaction between Vader and his underlings? Many villains we know and love would've been very flat and one-dimensional if we'd never changed perspectives throughout their respective stories.

I, for one, don't care if you wrote a good story with piss in the snow. If it's worth reading I'll pour some tea, put on my earmuffs and pull up a chair.
 

Durandal

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Gah. I had just written an enormous, tremendously erudite response to this whole issue, and after 30 minutes of typing, I kicked the plug out of my computer and lost it. I'll try to hit the main points again, but I'm sort of drained.

(By the way, that bit about erudition is a joke.)

Well, I think you've made an incorrect assumption here -- which I'll get to later -- and as a result I believe your initial comment is a bit off the mark.

True enough -- you mentioned liking RPGs and cutscenes, and I assumed you liked JRPGs.

Turns out you like pretty much the same RPGS that I like. However, I do think there's an East v West difference in game storytelling styles -- there's definitely such a difference in cinema, and I think it's filtered into game design, too. All I was saying is that, based on my experience, Japanese games tend to be more into showing, and Western games tend to be more into the user-driven experience. This isn't a universal rule, of course, but I do think it generally holds true.

The isometric or over-the-shoulder points of view are still the norm, and I think you'll find games which use these perspectives tend to use a more cinematic approach to their storytelling. There's simply two different schools of design at work here: the one which we see in games like Morrowind, and those we see in games like Neverwinter Nights.

Well, I'd like to point out a "cinematic approach to storytelling" isn't the same as "lots and lots of cutscenes". Look at KotOR, for instance. Very cinematic, but not very cutscene-heavy, and still offereing a good amount of player control over pacing, character development and ultimate outcome.

I think what the both of you have been trying to say is one is the right way, and one is the wrong way -- or, at the very least, is somehow inferior.

Not at all. At least not me. All I'm trying to say is that I prefer one way over the other, and explain why. I would never presume to judge other people's choices.

I respect everyone's opinion, and generally speaking I'd much rather debate constructively than become a close-minded ass and tell someone they're completely wrong (though I'm guilty of doing just that at times). The above comment, however, is deserving of just that type of treatment.

Wow, I have no idea why this comment annoyed you so much. I mean, I was being a smart-ass, but I thought the ;) indicated that it was meant in jest.

I'm a writer, a book fanatic, an artist and a gamer. I find joy in all these things, and I never place margins upon them or define them in such a way that I must find fulfillment here or there, with this or that particular thing, in this or that particular way.

I'm all of those things too, if you replace "artist" with "musician". And I find tremendous joy in all sorts of art, music, books, film and games. I don't place margins on them, but I do know from experience what types of art give me the most enjoyment.

I enjoy being led through a story, I enjoy making my own; sometimes I want full control, other times I'd rather someone held my hand and showed me the world.

Me too. I just think gaming is unlike any other medium in the degree to which the audience can be a participant in the artistic process, and it frustrates me to see so many developers ignoring that potential and using the medium just to make slightly interactive movies.

I think you'll find yourself much more fulfilled if you experience the breadth of storytelling, rather than deciding you must experience stories in particular ways in specific mediums for them to be considered viable entertainment. For instance, if your dislike of cutscenes and linearity has stopped you from experiencing a truly breathtaking story (ala Mask of the Betrayer) than you've missed out on something very special for no good reason, save stubbornness.

I'm quite fulfilled with my entertainment choices, thank you very much. ;)

Seriously, I don't think I've skipped any games due to my dislike of cutscenes. Yeah, I'm not playing MGS4, but that's more because I don't have a PS3 than anything else. If they brought it over to the 360, I'd definitely play it.

Of course, I'd still whine about the long cutscenes and the crappy gameplay. ;)

It's all apples and oranges really, but I think the argument that there's no place for both methods of storytelling in mainstream gaming is a silly one.

Agreed. I'm certainly not making that argument.

Anyway, this hasn't been as long, thorough or exceedingly clever as it was the first time I typed it all out, but I hope I've given you a better idea of my viewpoint. Now let's see if I can manage to click the "submit reply" button without unplugging my computer again....
 

Commonmind

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You see, there I went and made an assumption. I assumed the winky was one of those smarmy, heckling kind of winkies; you know, the ones meant to drive a point home in that very haughty, egotistical kind of way.

My fault, entirely, and I feel a bit like an ass having made such a big deal out of it now.

And due to the fact that I'm horrendously overworked and tired this evening, it was just as clever as it needed to be. Anything more witty would've been lost on me.

Edit: I had a little more to say, but my brain is worthless at the moment. Sorry :(
 

Durandal

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You see, there I went and made an assumption. I assumed the winky was one of those smarmy, heckling kind of winkies; you know, the ones meant to drive a point home in that very haughty, egotistical kind of way.

My fault, entirely, and I feel a bit like an ass having made such a big deal out of it now.

And due to the fact that I'm horrendously overworked and tired this evening, it was just as clever as it needed to be. Anything more witty would've been lost on me.

Edit: I had a little more to say, but my brain is worthless at the moment. Sorry :(

No harm done. Chalk this up as another example of the internet being a poor medium for conveying tone of speech.

And when your brain's working again, I'd still be interested in reading whatever else you've got to say...
 

Pandæmonium

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I've been playing MGS4 latetly :cool: and i realised that MGS has one of the most complex stories to a game that I've seen. And we wonder why Call of Duty 4 dosen't have a more gripping story? Because there aren't any cutscenes; you start mission you play mission you move on. That's basicly the whole game. You can't tell a deep intresting story without cutscenes. Though there are some execptions. Note: this isn't a putdown on COD4 just the first example that came to mind.

Legacy of Kain > MGS tbh
 

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