EpicBattleCry - Can Great Stories Be Married To Open World Gameplay?

Many gamers love a great story while others appreciate creating their own in an open-world environment. Question is, can you have your cake and eat it too? Bengt-Robert Leine (@BengteLeine) asks about marrying story and open ended gameplay on today's EBC.

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Tags: EpicBattleCry, podcasts

Comment by Miguel Ramos on August 14, 2014 at 7:48am

Well I love this topic, I love open world games and it's been something I've been thinking about for a very long time. The problem here is player agency. In games like The Last of Us, or any other story driven game, player agency is limited. You have a very scripted path to walk, and a very limited number of things to do. The reason for this is that if you give players agency they can do whatever they want and ruin the story you want to tell. That is why that even in open world games like Skyrim there are certain things you can't do, like kill certain NPC's for instance. In games like GTA or Red Dead, the open world is only a wide hub for missions to exist. These missions are in fact scripted (more or less) levels where your agency is limited even further, so that the story can occur the way it was written. The only way out of this is, like Brent said, incredible evolved AI that reacts to what you do. Then, like in real life, you could have an open world experience that would never stop and always move forward, not limiting in certain points your agency as a player. But unlike real life, the game needed to keep things fresh and interesting, making sure that a move you made 10 hours earlier didn't just ruin the experience later on. This kind of AI is several years and console generations away. The other thing is, the reason why The Last of Us is so powerful for some people is because of the acting, the animations and so on. To be able to replicate that in an open world game, the actors behind the voices would have to record all the possible words and sentences that the different characters could say, without knowing what is happening or where. Remember I'm talking about a place where AI reacts to you and your agency is never restricted. That would be insane, impossible, to have every word, every sentence, with every meaning possible, recorded. If there are only a few canned sentences you can never have an experience similar to a linear game. So the solution would be to teach the AI how to act. Now this is Skynet level AI I'm talking about, and yes, the apocalypse would soon follow. So it's not possible to replicate the same experience that you have in a linear game on an open world one. But you can use tricks, have advanced AI, make it react, limit agency in some points in a way it's not quite noticeable, and find a sweet spot, a sort of middle ground better than Red Dead or Skyrim, in the future. It won't be the same, but it can be damn near. And because it's not scripted, it can be even more powerful. 

Comment by StarBound on August 14, 2014 at 8:20am

I don't see a randomly generated story ever happening in an open world. It is simply too complex and the programming and cost of doing something like that would make Destiny's budget look like chicken feed. 

Like Skyrim or Guild Wars 2 everything is event based. That is simply the closest you will get to open world story telling (Witcher 3 prove me wrong). At the end of the day you will need a story to progress in some way to the end. You can divide up how you get to that part but that is it. It would have to look something like chapter 1 depends on event A, B, C or D and it cannot flow into each other. Then chapter 2 will take the answer from C1A or C1B etc and carry on with it. 

In the end everything is scripted but level design will have you coming back over and over while a scripted even will only hold you once.

Comment by Miguel Ramos on August 14, 2014 at 8:24am

@StarBound Today yes. In the foreseeable future sure. But to say straight out "never" when you see the evolution in the last 40 years of gaming seems too definitive. 

Comment by Johan - neM1_ on August 14, 2014 at 9:01am

Where I think Red Dead Redemption succeeded, and in my opinion games like Skyrim fail, is however open the world is, and however much you can play around in it, the side quests are very small tasks, and the main quest is never out of focus. I stop playing Skyrim after 50 hours, after no doubt having had a fantastic time, because I have no idea what's going on in whatever story there might be, and there is just nothing leading me forward..

Comment by Edward Wokhands on August 14, 2014 at 9:33am

Could you guys go back to the old show format? I know this probably seems like typical resistance to something new but it isn't, the old show was way better. You guys would get into discussions more, there was more of a "flow". Also there's just something great about having a weekly show to look forward to.

The only way I can describe the feeling of these new videos is that they're less important. Sounds silly but that's the only way I can describe it, short videos feel very IGN like and as we all know that isn't good. It's also annoying having to browse to another post just to hear the next topic. There's good content there it just doesn't feel as consistent as the old shows. I hope I explained myself well, this wasn't intended as a troll attempt, just how I, and some other fans feel.

Comment by Chimera-Six on August 14, 2014 at 9:48am

I think GTA5 did an excellent job of marrying compelling stories and open world gameplay.

Comment by Axel on August 15, 2014 at 11:31pm

I think like you guys said, Skyrim is a great example, like the way the game can give you narrative clues just by the way the scenery is arranged. You walk into a open cave and you can guess there was a bunch of bandits there but something went wrong there's corpses all around and you realize there's hole in a wall that leads to an old tomb or something like that and the whole thing happenned without a single dialog... anyways you get the idea. I can't think of a more perfect example of how to marry open world flow with a narative, at least for now. I am hopping No man's sky will be somehow similar...

Comment by Michael Bumüller on August 18, 2014 at 9:14am
Comment by Michael Bumüller 9 hours ago
Guys.... U dont hav a idea how much i miss watching your videonpodcast.... But as me there are many that doesnt use or care that much bout youtube,,,,,.... Could u create a way to dowload it?... Maybe a weekly video compilation..... Maybe itunes or right here on eba.com
Comment by Axel on August 18, 2014 at 10:39am

@Michael Bumüller 

you can still download the podcast in it's weekly format on itunes, that's how I get mine

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