Never-end­ing sto­ries


So long, Ir­ra­tional Games. Ken Levine’s an­nounce­ment that he was wind­ing down the stu­dio be­hind BioShock sent a shock­wave through the in­dus­try, or at least the parts of it that hadn’t al­ready heard the ru­mours. It’s not too sur­pris­ing, though. Levine is a sto­ry­teller, not a game maker, at heart. The six-year wait be­tween the orig­i­nal and In­fi­nite was no doubt as frus­trat­ing for him as it was for the play­ers an­tic­i­pat­ing the se­quel, and the pro­gram­mers and de­sign­ers who had to build the game to sup­port the script.

Amid all the con­fu­sion over why Levine so pub­licly took the fall for fir­ing al­most an en­tire stu­dio, one thing was made clearer: the fu­ture of videogame sto­ry­telling doesn’t lie with 200-per­son teams. Even Hideo Ko­jima is turn­ing his back on cutscenes, and we hope au­di­ologs won’t last much longer ei­ther. In­no­va­tion in this area tends not to come from stu­dios labour­ing away on a project for six years, but from smaller teams in­stead.

One such stu­dio is The As­tro­nauts. In our first look at The Van­ish­ing Of Ethan Carter (p38), Adrian Ch­mielarz – him­self a vet­eran of pro­tracted big-budget de­vel­op­ment – ex­plains the need to bal­ance how nar­ra­tive is de­liv­ered with agency. He wants to give play­ers room to work things out for them­selves with­out leav­ing them com­pletely clue­less. It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant for a game in which you play a de­tec­tive, but it’s a con­cept that ap­plies to many more gen­res than this.

Levine says he will fo­cus on “nar­ra­tive-led games that are highly re­playable”, which is surely the au­thor’s Holy Grail. He has spo­ken of his in­ter­est in pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated sto­ry­lines, and at GDC this month will dis­cuss what he terms “nar­ra­tive Lego”. Per­haps he will deliver on his prom­ise. Hope­fully, it won’t be six years be­fore we find out. But can Levine, or any­one else, deliver any­thing as rich in story po­ten­tial as Rust (p50)? An ever-grow­ing num­ber of play­ers have no need for an au­teur’s story. They’re too busy mak­ing their own.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.