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Blizzard: Game Developers Are Not Shakespeare, Need to Stop 'Writing Books' in Games

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During a presentation at this year's Game Developers Conference, former World of Warcraft director Jeffrey Kaplan took a moment to address the lengthy exposition that plagues numerous games, including those developed by Blizzard.

"Basically, and I'm speaking to the Blizzard guys in the back: we need to stop writing a fucking book in our game, because nobody wants to read it," he explained.

"We need to deliver our story in a way that is uniquely video game," Kaplan, who left WoW to work on Blizzard's next MMO, explained. "We need to engage our players in sort of an inspiring experience, and the sooner we accept that we are not Shakespeare, Scorsese, Tolstoy or the Beatles, the better off we are."

However, Kaplan did offer consolation to his fellow developers. "If it makes us feel better, Shakespeare couldn't 3D model his way out of a paper bag," he noted.

From The Chatty

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    March 26, 2009 4:39 PM

    I agree w/ this 100%. I'm so sick of games that have huge dialogue scenes. You're a game -- show, don't tell. MGS4 is obviously the bad extreme, but even Mass Effect's dialogue was far too verbose the vast majority of the time.

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      March 26, 2009 4:52 PM

      I don't mind that so much in a case like Mass Effect where you're dictating the direction of the conversation. I think what holds that back more is how limited they are (by necessity) with camera angles and animations, and the limits of how much each scene can reasonably change the story.

      I am going to reserve a special level in Hell for people who put checkpoints before cinematics that are anything more than a 5 second establishing shot. And even that's a stretch.

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      March 26, 2009 5:01 PM

      I loved the dialog in Mass Effect and MGS4. To each his own I guess...

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      March 26, 2009 5:06 PM

      There are gamers that play games for their story and gamers that play for the gameplay. Nothing wrong with either. I prefer story in my singleplayer games and gameplay in my mp games.

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        March 26, 2009 5:58 PM

        I prefer both :D

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        March 26, 2009 7:45 PM

        you can get the story out without making the player read a wall of text

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          March 26, 2009 8:23 PM

          Left 4 Dead is a multiplayer game with basically no (direct) story where you encounter literal walls of text.

          It's quite ironic and brilliant.

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        March 27, 2009 5:19 AM

        Story doesn't mean you have to have long non-interactive sequences though..

        See COD4 for a good example of how to tell a story interactively. There are some short sequences with dialog, but mostly the story is told through gameplay.

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          March 27, 2009 1:46 PM

          No it doesn't mean that but it also doesn't mean that non-interactive sequences can't be interesting. There is a lot of people who in fact enjoy them. Just see how successful the final fantasy and metal gear series are popular. There is plenty of others too.

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        March 27, 2009 8:09 AM

        Your comment makes no sense, if there are gamers who play games for the story and not gameplay, why are they playing a GAME. The word "GAME" is important here. Go buy a book if you want story or you are just wasting your time.

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          March 27, 2009 1:45 PM

          Because people enjoy how they affect the story or how they play a role in it. Is it really that hard to understand?

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      March 26, 2009 6:06 PM

      I think that's pushing it...some games (the most notable being Planescape: Torment) feature a story that not only is interesting and worth reading, and packed full of incredible dialogue, but also enough variety and optional responses that they would never work in any medium other than an interactive game...and I'd hate to see someone with another story that good simply not write it because "that's not what games are".

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        March 26, 2009 8:02 PM

        You make a very good point. I just think by and large we should embrace the strengths of the medium -- interactivity -- and really push the story telling in that way. I think there are great examples in every case and there is still a lot of room to expand here.

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      March 26, 2009 8:35 PM

      I think the difference is really audio vs text dialog. Neverwinter nights, for example, had tons of dialog and most of it was really boring, outside of the main storyline. Mass Effect, on the other hand, handled their dialog very well, and there were really no cheesy lines or bad scenes with any character's dialog (maybe a bit much at times, but since it wasn't terrible, like Japanese translation games, it didn't matter). Of course that all depends on how good the dialog/audio is in the first place. If it's totally interesting and is like reading a good book, then fine, keep it coming. But if it's boring and sidetracks you from the rest of the game, then just leave it out.