[Feature] No Story? No problem! I’d rather have that…

Published on February 25th, 2014

For many gamers, the story in a game is the star attraction. The way a story can twist and turn like the largest Hollywood blockbusters, it often makes you shocked by your actions and leaves you wanting more. Now, in 2014, it seems as though we are seeing the best of gaming from multiplayer titles and now seeing more games which aren’t based so heavily on providing the player with a standard story, but allowing the player to create their own.

Over the course of the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, we witnessed so many games which were driven by an excellent narrative and this often resulted in the gameplay winning the silver medal behind the golden story. The freedom to ‘create’ your own games is something which allows a good game to become great. I would say that almost every person who has played a game has thought at one point, “I wonder what would happen if they did X and mixed it with Y or you were allowed to do Z,” or if an experience was never the same again as it changed and you could never tell what was ahead.

Thankfully, there are games which don’t take themselves too seriously and allow for the player to make their ‘own’ games.

As much as Grand Theft Auto Online was hyped, the launch was underwhelming to say the least. The constant disconnecting of players in games, character progress being lost and online matches freezing meant that some were put off by the unreliable servers. Once everything was clear to use, the possibilities were endless. Whether you enjoyed messing around on your own, competing against fellow players or having great fun with your friends, the online mode had it all. With the online modes being so open and free, many GTA players created memorable ways to push the boundaries of the game to the edge. Numerous YouTube videos have shown how much gamers can think outside of the box and create games for themselves. We have seen unique games including:

Flatbed fighting – Where two or more people fight in the back of a truck while another player drives the truck around San Andreas.
Sky bowling – While there has been several variations of the game, the premise remains the same; Jump out of an airborne helicopter and try to hit a car without using a parachute. It’s harder than it seems.
Landmine Basketball – A landmine is placed around the free-throw line on the basketball court and as you place it on there, a friend walks over it and tries to hit the rim. This creates hilarious ragdoll physics.

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Although the game was never designed to be played in this way, the lack of story-driven content is what makes GTA Online a standout mode for an excellent game. While the single player game does allow for shenanigans as seen in the multiplayer, it is very much dependent on the story and main characters.

While some prefer the linear path which you have to take when you are playing through a story-driven game, this type of sandbox game allows you to create your own world and do what you want with it. It is thinking outside of the box and encourages others to join in and you are able to share unique moments with friends, moments that you can talk about for years to come. Even with games which are focused on multiplayer, the personal touch and quick thinking by the players make it far more rewarding and it’s something which Rockstar clearly believes in. As well as GTAV, we have seen this recently with Minecraft and Just Cause 2,  creating things that wouldn’t be made possible without an amazing community and that’s something which isn’t said often enough.

As good as some story games are, you soon learn the error of your ways if you cannot get past a certain part. The number of enemies will be the same, they will move in the same direction and they will react the same to various actions you perform. A game where the story isn’t the most important aspect allows the player to make the game their own and include others in creating memories and stories to pass on to the community. Games such as Left 4 Dead and Battlefield 4’s multiplayer mode help create memories that are formed by the way the user plays.

The two games I have mentioned above are titles which are largely viewed as being multiplayer based games and, in doing so, makes for some amazing stories. While I haven’t played as much of Battlefield 4 as I would have liked to, I have seen via various YouTube videos of the unique moments which can take place on the front line. The freedom the player has to control tanks, helicopters, boats and jeeps is unrivalled in terms of gaming. The number of times I have played previous Battlefield games where someone had shot-down a helicopter and had me running from the scene, was such a thrill. The thought that someone else had experienced what I had just witnessed is a crazy thought, but it’s an incredible moment to witness as it affects so many players.

It is these unique moments which story based games cannot have, the scripting of moments are all too familiar once you have played that part of the game. The best game for these moments is definitely Left 4 Dead.

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From someone who has put many hours into playing both Left 4 Dead and the sequel, I had only found out recently that there was a story, but only if you look hard enough and there are some theories online also. While the aim of the game is simple enough, the highly-acclaimed director role is a masterstroke from the Turtle Rock Studios game.

Each game you play is never the same, even if you are playing on your own. As you never know what is coming, the game constantly keeps you on the edge and makes you play every game a different way. The number of times I have reminisced about certain moments in L4D with friends has been time well spent.  The masterstroke of not knowing what is ahead of you helps break up the repetition which a story often finds itself bogged down with.  The game entirely depends on how the survivors are coping with the infected. If they are finding the game challenging, there will be more medi-kits, if they are moving too quickly, there will be a horde to stop them in their tracks or if they are finding things too easy, more special infected will spawn, including the dreaded Tank and Witch.

The objective of Left 4 Dead is really simple: GET TO THE SAFE ZONE.

In only having to achieve this one goal, the game allows for players to create their own stories of how they reached the safe zone after overcoming the Tank in the Sewers of No Mercy, how they survived Dead Air on expert by climbing onto the plane wing or how they alerted a Witch trying to take her down with a single blast from a shotgun. When you have moments like these, which are not scripted, you realise just how many great stories can be told from Left 4 Dead.

When compared to games such as Dead Island, Dead Rising and Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead isn’t weighed down by the burden of an in-depth story or a boring objective. The content in Resident Evil 6 was so vast and the story became so complicated that many had lost track by the time they were half-way through a campaign. Dead Rising had always been about having fun, until the series’ most recent release on the Xbox One. Although there is still an element of fun, it is something which we have seen before and it is the same old story of surviving a zombie apocalypse.

While I do thoroughly enjoy playing story-based games, I don’t feel it is a necessity to have it eclipse gameplay. As far as most games are concerned, the gameplay mechanics are the most important part of a game. They are the difference between a good game to watch and a game which you have to play. The ability to allow gamers to have freedom in games is something which can stand them in good stead for future games, also. The stories which games have provided us with in recent times have been wonderful. I do think that we have now reached a point where stories have overtaken gameplay and it is so refreshing to see indie game developers have such an impact on the industry. With indie games becoming increasingly popular, we can hopefully get back to many games putting gameplay before story.

 

Written by Simon Marshall, Decepticon sympathiser and videogame critic. Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
Follow on Twitter: @SimonMarshall6
Xbox Live Gamertag & PSN ID: SCIENCEakaSYCO

Nintendo 3DS Friend Code: 2466-2669-0117

Images used under creative commons, rights to respective publishers/ manufacturers.

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