Is a long running story always a bad thing?



  • Througout my time discussing video games, a very common question comes up when it comes to game sequels "do I need to play the previous entries to enjoy this?"
    Almost always the answer is the same "no, you don't need to play the previous games, but it might help you understand some of the minor references."

    A long running story is naturally going to suffer if it constantly needs to take newcomers or people who may have forgotten what happened prior into consideration. Sadly, the few series that try and avoid this issue and focus solely on its fanbase, end up either criticised for being convoluted or for being somehow inaccessible.

    Kingdom Hearts, Xenosaga, . hack// etc. There's no doubt to me that a niche series that presume players are already cought up on the story thus far have their strengths in narrative but they may ultimately suffer in sales.
    My question is: Do you think more game series should be given the chance to create a multi-game series without worrying about newcomers understanding what's happened so far in previous games, even if that series spans generations.



  • Yes and no. I think it's more of a case by case thing. Like you don't need to play previous Final Fantasy, Mario or Zelda games to get into or understand anything. But stuff like Xenosaga, Shadow Hearts (at least the first two) or Kingdom Hearts can definitely start to feel convoluted even to long time fans simply because of time between entries, not knowing about that game X,Y,Z fit into the larger picture (mostly in KHs case) or in some cases having major plot related stuff never translated and brought overseas. If I remember correctly Xenosaga 3 assumes you've played the DS version of Xenosaga 2 (that had a more complete story), and have read at least a light novel and manga that covers the gap in time between XS2 and XS3. Nier is just as guilty too with major plot revelations for Replicant and Automata being hidden away in short stories, plays, script readings from concerts, manga, art books and a smartphone game. Most of which is still largely untranslated



  • You start to explain something incredible though.
    Let's say Shenmue fulfilled its ambition. Multiple games maybe over Dreamcast and two other consoles/generations.
    I think this would be hurt by attempts to catch people up all the time. I don't think it's necessary



  • A long story is a bad thing when it wastes players' time and pads out the game unnecessarily. The best videogame stories are the one where you can't wait to see what happens next, which will become a greater challenge the longer the game goes. As for newer entries requiring some knowledge of previous entries to fully understand-there's no shame in reading or watching story details on the internet before playing the new game. Unless Square Enix release a the full Kingdom Hearts story in video form, then you're better off diving into whichever Kingdom Hearts game you want to play. The problem is if you're requiring yourself to read up on backstory, then you are depriving yourself from playing the game you want to play.



  • @jdincinerator said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    A long story is a bad thing when it wastes players' time and pads out the game unnecessarily. The best videogame stories are the one where you can't wait to see what happens next, which will become a greater challenge the longer the game goes. As for newer entries requiring some knowledge of previous entries to fully understand-there's no shame in reading or watching story details on the internet before playing the new game. Unless Square Enix release a the full Kingdom Hearts story in video form, then you're better off diving into whichever Kingdom Hearts game you want to play. The problem is if you're requiring yourself to read up on backstory, then you are depriving yourself from playing the game you want to play.

    My point is, a story spanning games across multiple generations and platforms is an incredible concept. Certain people may not like it but what an experience for the dedicated fans

    Why can't we have the odd series where its all built for the dedicated fans.



  • I say yes. It is very bad actually.

    Ignoring all of the logistical problems in telling a multi-game narrative from a production standpoint; it's just a pain in the ass to follow a plot for so long. Not to mention that games are generally pretty long and little details can be easily forgotten (hence video games having high replayability and re-discovery).

    The Witcher series does it right. There are large details and world events that carry over from one game to the next. But each individual game has it's own beginning, middle, and ending. You can play any one of these games without playing the one before or after. Even GoW 2018 is going to be a 2-parter, but the first game has a coherent goal of spreading your late-wife's ashes. It's cool that the story will continue on and wrap up in the sequel, but it still had a coherent and concluding plot.

    But generally speaking for any narrative across any media, you need a small handful of really well developed three dimensional characters. The writer/director and even readers/players/viewers should know how a character might react to any circumstance. That is step one and the most important step. But so many video game insist on focusing on the wrong things like backstory, exposition, and lore.

    Games would be much much better if they were more focused on characters and act structures than epic multi-game narratives.



  • @dipset said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    I say yes. It is very bad actually.

    Ignoring all of the logistical problems in telling a multi-game narrative from a production standpoint; it's just a pain in the ass to follow a plot for so long. Not to mention that games are generally pretty long and little details can be easily forgotten (hence video games having high replayability and re-discovery).

    The Witcher series does it right. There are large details and world events that carry over from one game to the next. But each individual game has it's own beginning, middle, and ending. You can play any one of these games without playing the one before or after. Even GoW 2018 is going to be a 2-parter, but the first game has a coherent goal of spreading your late-wife's ashes. It's cool that the story will continue on and wrap up in the sequel, but it still had a coherent and concluding plot.

    But generally speaking for any narrative across any media, you need a small handful of really well developed three dimensional characters. The writer/director and even readers/players/viewers should know how a character might react to any circumstance. That is step one and the most important step. But so many video game insist on focusing on the wrong things like backstory, exposition, and lore.

    Games would be much much better if they were more focused on characters and act structures than epic multi-game narratives.

    Im sorry but I think that's very small minded. It might be your preference but I'd prefer to encourage larger scale epic series.



  • @sheria

    I just can't think of an example where there is an epic long term adventure that doesn't completely drop the ball in other and more important parts of storytelling.

    Like, I just whipped up this venn diagram quickly. I think it's pretty accurate. You just can't have all three. Or I at least can't think of any.

    0_1651510695735_Game Story.png

    For example, I'd say MGS series is Option 3. Lots of pretty well developed characters and a long running storyline, but the dialogue and plot is completely bungled.

    Uncharted series is Option 1: 3D characters and good dialogue / narrative, but they are short n sweet.



  • I appreciate the diagram but I find it shallow and the reason for my thread.



  • @sheria

    But wouldn't you agree that strong characters is the biggest foundation for any narrative form? I feel as though all parts of a good narrative stem from it's characters first and foremost. It really is narrative 101 and most professionals writers would agree with that.

    You can't have focused themes or challenging topics or really even the ability to say something compelling without focusing on a solid character foundation first. The author should always be trying to say something meaningful with every entry and the viewer should have the right tools to extract meaning from the media if it's done successfully.

    I think in your examples, say, Kingdom Hearts; the criticism that they are pushing newcomers out is valid. But I think the even better criticism is that these games have unfocused characters. They spend too much time building the grand narrative and are skipping out on dialing into themes or something actually worth sinking all of this time into.

    I have more familiarity with Metal Gear Solid as a long running franchise. Those games have distinct thematic points with every entry. MGS1 is about humanizing those on the battlefield. MGS2 is about trust and truth. MGS3,PW, and 5 are about the possibility of peace or how war gives people meaning.

    They do a good job of planting the seeds for the player to extract something meaningful. But due to the nature of constantly trying to tie up loose ends and hypodermically injecting events and characters to fit into the grand narrative, the MGS series on the whole drops the ball in so many departments from: characterization, narrative pacing, dialogue, and the overarching long term narrative too.

    All in all, I think juggling too many bowling pins at once leads you to drop them all. I much prefer when a game is focused on delivering the best quality product instead of satisfying too many needs at once.



  • I really don't have the memory for this to ever work for me.

    I feel like a lot of sequels already rely too much on knowledge of the previous games even if each game is a self-contained story. I don't have a need for more. I really can not keep track of all the storylines of all the video games series I play.

    Creating multi-game stories has also another issue: cliffhanger endings. I really hate them. They are so unsatisfying.



  • @dipset said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    @sheria

    But wouldn't you agree that strong characters is the biggest foundation for any narrative form? I feel as though all parts of a good narrative stem from it's characters first and foremost. It really is narrative 101 and most professionals writers would agree with that.

    You can't have focused themes or challenging topics or really even the ability to say something compelling without focusing on a solid character foundation first. The author should always be trying to say something meaningful with every entry and the viewer should have the right tools to extract meaning from the media if it's done successfully.

    I've personally always been more about the plot. If I think way back when and which games/series I've spent the most time mulling over and discussing on message boards, it's the ones with the more grand and complex narratives. Even something like Silent Hill 4, once we'd got around understanding the central plot of that game, more fun actually came afterwards, simply theorising what possible connections are hidden within tieing it to all the other games in the series.



  • @neocweeny said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    I really don't have the memory for this to ever work for me.

    I feel like a lot of sequels already rely too much on knowledge of the previous games even if each game is a self-contained story. I don't have a need for more. I really can not keep track of all the storylines of all the video games series I play.

    Creating multi-game stories has also another issue: cliffhanger endings. I really hate them. They are so unsatisfying.

    I think the understanding is you maybe go back and replay the previous ones if your memory is hazy. This of course this brings time into the equation, but both time and memory are really very personal issues that of course don't effect everyone.
    I'm in no way expecting every series to attempt this mind, but I think it would be sad to deny the medium of some really unique experiences if we always view it as a bad idea.

    I kinda agree on the cliffhanger thing, or more accurately I agree now. It wasn't much of an issue for me back in the day because I almost always knew the next game wasn't too far away. This is a much bigger issue now though, FFVII Remake being a great example.



  • @sheria I know it's a personal issue but I just don't feel the video game industry is lacking in these experiences. It's a very sequel driven industry and not many series have 100% self-contained stories for each game either. Like I feel like I personally have my fill, don't really crave for more.



  • @neocweeny said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    @sheria I know it's a personal issue but I just don't feel the video game industry is lacking in these experiences. It's a very sequel driven industry and not many series have 100% self-contained stories for each game either. Like I feel like I personally have my fill, don't really crave for more.

    I get what you're saying, I'd just like to see one here and there where the developer's intended from the start for it to be absolutely vital to play the game(s) prior to have any chance of understanding what's going on.
    I find even sequels where I'd expect that to be the case still have their stories marred at least somewhat with slow beginnings again and attempts to bring people up to speed etc. Mass Effect is a trillogy where I'd expect that, but If someone asked me if they could skip Mass Effect 1 and jump in at the second game, it's a definite yes from me.



  • @sheria I understand what you are saying.
    To be honest I think this is more of a gameplay issue that may also have an effect on the storyline.

    Having a sequel start with expecting the players to have the knowledge and mastery of the game's mechanics from the end of the previous is almost never done. Which is why you always have these slow starts. I think many devs are just thinking "might as well recap on the story also while we are re-introducing all the gameplay mechanics and building up the difficulty from the beginning".



  • @sheria said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    I think the understanding is you maybe go back and replay the previous ones if your memory is hazy. This of course this brings time into the equation, but both time and memory are really very personal issues that of course don't effect everyone.

    It's not just about time. Playing a game I've already played before and know everything that is going to happen is just tedious most of the time.



  • @e_zed_eh_intern said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    @sheria said in Is a long running story always a bad thing?:

    I think the understanding is you maybe go back and replay the previous ones if your memory is hazy. This of course this brings time into the equation, but both time and memory are really very personal issues that of course don't effect everyone.

    It's not just about time. Playing a game I've already played before and know everything that is going to happen is just tedious most of the time.

    Well I can't really agree there sorry. I personally love revisiting old favourites I've not played for a long time and I don't really think that's too uncommon.
    Thing is though, that was a response to when you've forgotten most of the game and it's story, so you wouldnt remember everything that is going to happen. 😊