Monday, November 20, 2006

More on Gears of War

When I wrote the impressions post this morning, there was something I wanted to say that I just couldn't put into words. I thought about it for a few hours, and I think I understand it now.

Here's the thing: in a game where there is very little freedom and events are highly scripted, in exchange for that lack of freedom I expect a well-defined story and emotional involvement.

Look, in the single-player version of Gears of War we're all going to have the same experience. There are choices to make, sure, but they appear to be almost entirely superficial. So there is no excuse for that experience being boom boom boom shallow.

If the playing experience is going to be a foot wide, it better be a mile deep.

In games with large, relatively open worlds (Oblivion, for example), plot isn't that important to me, because I can create my own experience. In a first or third person shooter that's essentially a really long corridor, though, the corridor has to have everything, because I can't create anything myself.

Dwarf Fortress, as another example, has thousands of possible choices, and people's experiences playing the game diverge wildly, which is another example of its brilliance. There are as many stories in Dwarf Fortress as there are players, really, and that's why having a pre-defined story really isn't that important. Dwarf Fortress is a world, not a story.

In Gears of War, though, there is one story, and we all experience that one story. That's why the story in a corridor game is so much more important. In essence, these types of games aren't first or third-person shooters--they're first or third-person movies. We participate, but it's really a movie.

That's why there's no excuse for a weak story. They didn't have to create a hundred stories, or a thousand, or even ten.

They only had to create one.

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