Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

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Alphizzle
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Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Alphizzle » November 11th, 2016, 7:50 pm

The purpose of this thread is to shine light on games that provided purposeful player experiences by effectively marrying story narrative and game mechanics.

My favorite remains to be Soul Reaver where you play as an undying harvester of souls. The nature of your being means that you cannot die. When your physical body is destroyed, you return to the spiritual realm where you consume souls to aid you in returning to the physical realm.

This mechanic succeeds in capturing the essence of the respective narrative, whilst providing a meaning ' fail- state', rather than just forcing the player to restart the entire sequence.

What's your favourite narrative + mechanic combo?

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Todinho
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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Todinho » November 11th, 2016, 7:58 pm

Given what you said Dark souls obviously comes to mind with nearly all of it's mechanics working in harmony with the narrative and setting. I would also add Undertale on that on how that game's combat system works and how it plays on the tropes of JRPGs to it's narrative purposes,on the JRPG train still Persona is a great example of that too as the narrative progression you get on social links directly feeds into your combat and dungeon crawling.
And lastly because it wouldnt be me if I didnt say it,the metal gear games, especially 3 and V for they can force you to do something you might not want to or became something you didnt think you were.

EDIT: Also Bioshock in how the entire game is constructed around the objectivst ideology and it's consequences and ramifications.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by chase210 » November 11th, 2016, 8:29 pm

Does the end of Halo Reach count? I always think of that as pretty cool.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by AndrewBrown » November 12th, 2016, 2:56 am

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

To say any more would be spoilers.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by AndrewBrown » November 12th, 2016, 2:57 am

Todinho wrote:EDIT: Also Bioshock in how the entire game is constructed around the objectivst ideology and it's consequences and ramifications.
It's not, though. That's where the term "ludonarrative dissonance" originated.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Todinho » November 12th, 2016, 3:15 am

Yes,yes it is and "ludonarrative discobiscuits" comes from Uncharted games and more especifically Tomb Raider where you kill thousand's of people without remorse. I can literally link every mechanic and narrative aspect to the overall theme which is a criticism of Objectvist ideology,Bioshock infinite is another matter that game is the one that suffers from a crisis of identity and dissonance from the gameplay and the gameplay,I think anyway.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by AndrewBrown » November 12th, 2016, 5:28 am

No, I mean "ludonarrative dissonance" literally originates from an essay written about BioShock by Clint Hocking. It says in no uncertain terms that the gameplay does not match up with the themes:
In the game’s mechanics, I am offered the freedom to choose to adopt an Objectivist approach, but I also have the freedom to reject that approach and to rescue the Little Sisters, even though it is not in my own (net) best interest to do so (even over time according to this fascinating data).

Yet in the game’s fiction on the other hand, I do not have that freedom to choose between helping Atlas or not. Under the ludic contract, if I accept to adopt an Objectivist approach, I can harvest Little Sisters. If I reject that approach, I can rescue them. Under the story, if I reject an Objectivist approach, I can help Atlas and oppose Ryan, and if I choose to adopt an Objectivist approach – well too bad… I can stop playing the game, but that’s about it.

That’s the dissonance I am talking about, and it is disturbing. Now, disturbing is one thing, but let’s just accept for a moment that we forgive that. Let’s imagine that we say ‘well, it’s a game, and the mechanics are great, so I will overlook the fact that the story is kind of forcing me to do something out of character…’. That’s far from the end of the world. Many games impose a narrative on the player. But when it is revealed that the rationale for why the player helps Atlas is not a ludic constraint that we graciously accept in order to enjoy the game, but rather is a narrative one that is dictated to us, what was once disturbing becomes insulting. The game openly mocks us for having willingly suspended our disbelief in order to enjoy it.
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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Stanshall » November 12th, 2016, 6:55 am

I think the Bioshock games are excellent in terms of narrative impact. They are chock full of very memorable moments, and some scenes in Bioshock Infinite, particularly the opening and the Paris interlude, are incredibly beautiful and moving, up there with almost anything I've experienced in a game. In terms of internal logic, you're best off just enjoying the ride. Literally. I mean, Infinite is basically a funfair crossed with a museum.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Flabyo » November 12th, 2016, 7:54 am

The oft cited 'best example' for mechanic AS narrative is Missile Command.

One of Polygon's better pieces was an interview with the creator.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Todinho » November 12th, 2016, 2:21 pm

AndrewBrown wrote:No, I mean "ludonarrative dissonance" literally originates from an essay written about BioShock by Clint Hocking. It says in no uncertain terms that the gameplay does not match up with the themes:
In the game’s mechanics, I am offered the freedom to choose to adopt an Objectivist approach, but I also have the freedom to reject that approach and to rescue the Little Sisters, even though it is not in my own (net) best interest to do so (even over time according to this fascinating data).

Yet in the game’s fiction on the other hand, I do not have that freedom to choose between helping Atlas or not. Under the ludic contract, if I accept to adopt an Objectivist approach, I can harvest Little Sisters. If I reject that approach, I can rescue them. Under the story, if I reject an Objectivist approach, I can help Atlas and oppose Ryan, and if I choose to adopt an Objectivist approach – well too bad… I can stop playing the game, but that’s about it.

That’s the dissonance I am talking about, and it is disturbing. Now, disturbing is one thing, but let’s just accept for a moment that we forgive that. Let’s imagine that we say ‘well, it’s a game, and the mechanics are great, so I will overlook the fact that the story is kind of forcing me to do something out of character…’. That’s far from the end of the world. Many games impose a narrative on the player. But when it is revealed that the rationale for why the player helps Atlas is not a ludic constraint that we graciously accept in order to enjoy the game, but rather is a narrative one that is dictated to us, what was once disturbing becomes insulting. The game openly mocks us for having willingly suspended our disbelief in order to enjoy it.
http://clicknothing.typepad.com/click_n ... ive-d.html
Well with all due respect but in my opinion his analisys is just wrong and missing the point,the game is a criticism of objectivism and the whole "freedom" in games that's why it works so well together,mechanically the world forces you to engage in objectivist principles to survive and narrativelly it shows the end result of that world and ideology,the game gives the player the choice to fully embrace or reject that logic to it's fullest with the Little Sister choice,which decides what kinda ending you get. But the game also shows you how you had no true choice from the start,even your choice to engage or not in the objectivist game was no choice,the only real choice you have is weather to fully embrace or reject the enviroment you're in,it's a negation of objectivism an ideology that completely negates the marxist idea of the enviroment molding the person,this however isnt a negation of one idea over another though because it gives you that choice and agency which does matter.
The games mechanics dont want to reinforce objectivist ideology it wants you to engage in it as a form of reflection and criticism,think about the looting,killing and self improvement you do,but it also shows you what path this lead the city and enemies you fight and shows you how it's fundamentally flawed in both the narrative by showing you had no choice and in mechanics by allowing you not to accept it fully and if you do you get the bad ending.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by gallo_pinto » November 12th, 2016, 3:38 pm

AndrewBrown wrote:Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

To say any more would be spoilers.
I think this is the most powerful example of narrative+game mechanics (and why I get annoyed when people complain about the controls or say they wish there was a different control scheme).

Also, there's a moment in Last of Us that captured this really well.
Spoiler: show
Right after the boss fight with David, when the game cuts ahead to Spring, you get control of Joel again and Ellie is clearly traumatized from her experiences. There's a moment where you need to boost Ellie up to a ledge, you hit the triangle button and...nothing happens. The camera pans over and Ellie is just disconnected and lost in thought. That moment hit me a lot harder than the famous giraffe scene that comes a few minutes later.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by KSubzero1000 » November 12th, 2016, 6:49 pm

I've always liked the way that some of the Fire Emblem games weave gameplay and characterization together in the form of the support and permadeath systems. The player is encouraged to develop strategies around certain character pairings, which in turn unlock support conversations that add to their development and boost their stats. The support conversations can be really touching, or funny, or explore their backstories. Which makes sense: Not everyone who is joining a large army would start by immediately becoming friends with everyone or blathering about themselves all day long. So basically, the player is rewarded for caring about and sticking with certain characters in terms of both gameplay and narrative. And on top of that, the permadeath system makes you care about them even more. Awakening and Fates were somewhat disappointing in that regard by eliminating the need to handpick a specific team and by turning half of the support conversations into dating sims, but I still maintain that the basic system is very well thought-out and rewarding.

I see Todinho has already mentioned MGS, and I'd be damned if I broke the unspoken rule about us ruining every thread with our pointless fanboying. What I really like about the MGS games from 2 onward, is the way they subtly encourage and reward non-lethal playthroughs to support their pacifistic message. The Sorrow being the most obvious example of that, of course. I just like the subtlety of it. Unlike most games' moral choice systems that are so completely on-the-nose "Do you want to -KILL- or -SAVE-???", MGS hardly draws attention to the non-lethal options at your disposal. It's a more difficult and less varied way to play the game, but I don't think it was a random design choice to have it count towards the post-game rankings.

With that being said, "ludonarrative dissonance" has never been too much of a problem for me. The Yakuza series is a particularly egregious example of it, and yet it doesn't bother me in the slightest. So, while I certainly appreciate games that are smartly designed around integrating both gameplay and narrative in a coherent manner akin to the examples I've mentioned, I'd rather have a game that tries its best on both fronts even if the two don't perfectly overlap than a half-assed attempt at combining them with forced walking sections and stuff like that.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Scrustle » November 12th, 2016, 8:43 pm

AndrewBrown wrote:Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

To say any more would be spoilers.
Definitely this. I was going to post that one, but you beat me to it. I think it's not too spoilery to say that the reason it's so good is that it does a brilliant job of turning game mechanics in to character development. Really clever, and so well pulled off as well.

I always think of it as being one of the most important achievements in games in recent years. I really hope more developers take note of what this game does and try to learn from it.

Kind of ironic really, with how much the games industry seems to have an inferiority complex with films. Always trying to be like them, emulating their way of telling stories, sometimes even to the detriment of the game itself. Yet here's this game that manages to weave narrative and mechanics so well, in a way that each benefits the other, and it comes from the mind of a film director.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Joshihatsumitsu » November 12th, 2016, 8:45 pm

I don't think it's spoiling anything to say that the way the social mechanics of the Persona series play very well into the narrative. There's a logic to the gameplay encouraging that you get to know the people around you better, to spend time with them, help them where you can, and in doing so your character becomes stronger because of it.

I am a bit of a Persona fanboy, so there may be some bias.

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Craig » November 25th, 2016, 10:52 am

AndrewBrown wrote:Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

To say any more would be spoilers.
I just played through this for the first time.

1) Good call.
2) Thanks for not spoiling.

Oh! And there`s a Cane and Rinse about it. Marvelous!

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Re: Your favorite 'narrative + mechanics' implementation(s)

Post by Combine Hunter » November 25th, 2016, 1:15 pm

As others have said, the original Dark Souls and Bloodborne are both great at this. Dark Souls more so, as the undead curse was such elegant way of explaining why when you or anyone dies, they return. Bloodborne manages to explain why you come back, but not everyone else.

Humanity still blows my mind, it's such a fundamentally important part of the origins of that world and everything that it going on, and it's right there under your nose the whole time.

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