: Does A "Western Focus" Affect Storytelling?

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Does A "Western Focus" Affect Storytelling?

While the Western RPG designers took the route of freedom and player decision/customization, Japanese RPG developers kept with the linear adventure that focused on a deeper, cohesive storyline. Now, I'm not saying that all JRPGs had better stories than WRPGs - I'm not about to make that kind of rash generalization - but there's one rule of thumb that can't be avoided: the more freedom you give to the player, the less emphasis we can have on story. This is simply because the story writers can't possibly know what players will choose in their quests, which is why we've only seen minor branching storylines in some WRPGs like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Authors of books don't let you change the story; how could they? You get the point.

But as a direct result, it seems that fewer Western gamers consider a compelling storyline to be a top priority. They care more about supposed "freedom" and customization and they'd rather not be restricted to following a set plot. We can also toss in the shrinking attention spans of the American public, and I'm starting to wonder if a "western focus" means less of a focus on storyline. Now, Kojima and Co. have said they want to appeal more to a worldwide demographic, which of course means they'll have to cater more to the Western audience. I think we all know that last year's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sported the best story of the current generation of gaming, but the question is...will Kojima's new "western-oriented" project push aside his amazing storytelling ability? Will we see more in the way of gameplay action and player decision making?

I'm not saying that MGS4's storyline is good enough to be a book or even a movie (well, we've seen some extraordinarily insulting films as of late), but I am saying it was a fantastic step in the right direction for this industry. Kojima tells a story like no other designer, and I'd hate to think that he'd have to curb his literary enthusiasm just to appeal more to a gaming crowd that doesn't have the patience to read two sentences in a cut-scene. I guess I'm just really interested to see how Kojima Productions will handle this shift; up until now, their titles have really always placed the Japanese public at the forefront. Thankfully, the games did well here, too, but it just isn't the same, and the man himself knows it. I have no doubt that whatever he does will rule the school, but I really, really, really want to have another amazing storyline. We just don't get a lot of them.

The good news is we won't have too much longer to wait. Kojima said he will announce his new game at E3, and time flies these days. It may be the biggest unveiling of the entire show, and you can bet the press will be listening very, very closely...

4/3/2009 Ben Dutka

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Comments (40 posts)

godsman
Friday, April 03, 2009 @ 10:07:00 PM
Reply

I say Japanese have much greater storyline... there's twists in the plot. GTA4 story was a disappointment with all the hype. When Niko Belic was hunting down his enemy. I couldn't put my controller down, had to keep playing. Then.... OMG wth?! it just became an open-ending. All the loose ends with no strong focus on the plot to tie them all together. Thats where Japanese storyline excel. *sigh* and GTA supposed to have a "perfect 10" in story and everything else.

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Neurotoxiny
Friday, April 03, 2009 @ 10:30:11 PM
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I agree with godsman, open ended endings don't usually turn out to well, but when they're open ended like in Castlevania: SOTN, it's okay, but I didn't really like the GTA story either.

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www
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 5:36:32 AM

At least GTAIV's storyline is better than Fallout 3,trust!
There's some emotional feeling in IV,when Niko finds Darko,at least i could feel his pain.The storyline was great for an action/adventure,it's not an RPG for sake's sake!

Last edited by www on 4/4/2009 5:37:14 AM

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godsman
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 10:10:01 PM

you feel Niko's pain, but the story, you just see him work for money to get revenge. Thats the mission objective is to get money to keep hunting. They shouldve made the hunted a mastermind behind everything, instead hes a bum. After that, i dont know why is the story still going on. Its just a bunch of events that doesnt tie to the game.
At least Resident evil 5, the plot was so predictable, but it makes sense. You reveal more every chapter until you confirm the bad guy's identity.

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JasperLoons
Friday, April 03, 2009 @ 10:44:36 PM
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God, I hope he doesn't change his story telling style. I played MGS4 for the first time a couple weeks ago and... let's just say I had no idea why people were complaining about KZ2's story before I played it. I still love KZ2's story, but you just don't know what a video game story can be until you play MGS4.

I think the perfect example of what Ben is saying about Western RPG's though is Fallout 3. So much potential in that story, but the weak way they presented the ending really hurt the overall experience.

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Scarecrow
Friday, April 03, 2009 @ 10:53:48 PM
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MGS4 was better than a movie.
What'cha talking 'bout Ben?

No, Kojima's team will not cut back on the awesome storytelling.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 03, 2009 @ 11:09:11 PM
Reply

It's an interesting question, but I agree with Scarecrow, I don't think his Western focus will take him in this particular direction.

In regard to the general question, this is something I've examined on my own time and it's fairly obvious that story has taken a backseat for western games and even more so for western RPGs. While there is something to be said for ultimate freedom, game makers need to make sure the give and take on freedom and story equal out to give the experience they were aiming for.

I think Fallout 3 did it well, because the experience of the wastes was the real star of the show, but it was a far different experience from say a Final Fantasy where I demand a linear plot that jumps off the screen and an ending that shines. This is why in my opinion Fable falls short, its trying to do both and it doesn't mesh.

What scares me is that since there is so much focus on the western market that we will lose games with very engrossing and fantastic stories and plots.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 4/3/2009 11:10:45 PM

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www
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 5:40:54 AM

But i think Fallout 3's story was dumb though.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 1:39:32 PM

You missed my point, the story wasn't the star of the show, it was supposed to be secondary.

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ps92117
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 12:06:10 AM
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Hope not, I don't care if mgs5(or what ever it maybe called) is 2min gameplay rest cgi, but as long as that thing has an epic story I will be happy.

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Advent Child
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 5:15:44 AM
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Ok where is the prize winner? I thought it was going to be announced on the 3rd?

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www
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 5:31:54 AM
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I must admit that Fallout 3 has one of the lamest stories ever in history!
Find your "Dad" and activate some so-called Project Purity and that's it.The rpg elements keep the game going,else it woulda sucked.
It still deserves high scores at least for it's longevity.

There's no rpg better than Final Fantasy PERIOD.

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LyleCapua
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 11:07:39 AM

Fallout 3's story is about the over-arching plot involving the nuclear war that wiped out 90% of life on Earth, and the story of one man surviving the Capital Wasteland to find his father - the Project Purity stuff is just a sidenote to you being able to find your father and finish his dream.
The dark humor, the setting, the environments, the dialog - all of this kills MGS4 in that regard. Every single NPC in Fallout 3 was more interesting and had something more meaningful to say than the characters in MGS4.

Don't get me wrong, I loved MGS4, but I didn't play it for the story and the gay characters - I played it for the now Western-ized stealth action.

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www
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 12:26:24 PM

That's incredible!

Fallout 3 is nowhere near MGSIV's quality please!

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LyleCapua
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 3:06:55 PM

That's incredible!

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Deleted User
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 1:32:37 AM

Final Fantasy is hardly the tip of the iceberg :p

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LyleCapua
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 10:55:24 AM
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What literary intricacy? I think the word you are looking for is "soap opera". Even with Ryan Payton's Western influence, it couldn't stop MGS4 from being a sobby, soppy mess with melodrama, a lack of focus and an utter luck of enjoyability.
Going "Western" is the best thing to do.

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Lairfan
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 12:07:46 PM
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Going "Western" is probably a bad idea for Kojima. I live in America and I'm saying this.

If you can't find literary intricacy in MGS4's story, yet you can find some in Fallout 3's story, then may I be struck by lightning at this very second.

This would be a worst-case scenario you're describing Ben, but the possibility that it could happen is all too real. Apparently we Westerners just don't like story and plot anymore, which is somewhat heartbreaking to say the least.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 1:41:54 PM

"Apparently we Westerners just don't like story and plot anymore"

-I'm not sure we ever did in any vast majority, look at movies in the last 20 years... trash.

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LyleCapua
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 3:06:29 PM

:|
Word, while the last 20 years have been full of Japanese cinematic masterpieces. What an idiot you are.

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LyleCapua
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 3:11:31 PM

Please, do the Western world a favour and move to Japan. I'm sure they'll be super-accepting of your dressing-up, cosplay personality.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 5:25:15 PM

Way to judge someone you don't even know.

I don't cosplay you retard, I drink and do funny things. I don't pretend to know jack about Japan and I like it in the US. Now get with the effing program.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 4/4/2009 5:49:03 PM

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Deleted User
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 1:37:30 AM

Man I must have dreamed playing Baldur's Gate and Mass Effect... KotOR was a wistful memory that never really existed outside the dreams of the Xbot Collective

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 12:13:17 PM
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probaly means we'll get another FPS.... Great....

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Banky A
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 3:09:00 PM

On the contrary, if it's by Kojima then it might be your most favourite FPS ever ;)

>=]

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Deadman
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 12:43:55 PM
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I never really knew thats what the difference between J and W RPGs but it makes scense Im playing Folklore and one of my biggest complaints is it that it doesnt give me any freedom to explore, but now I know that its the typical eastern design Ill just ignore that.
As far as MGS5 goes if they make it open and give the player freedom it may actually force the player to play the game multiple times to get the full story or experience.

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jdt1981
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 1:14:19 PM
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What was the main argument against MGS4 by FPS lovers and xbots? They all would say something like "I want to play my games not watch a movie". Allot (not all) of western gamers prefer more action over a deep, complex story based game. I'm afraid this westernization BS will mean allot more games with mindless twitch action that have characters that are shallow steroid injected meat-heads and little to no story.

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LyleCapua
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 3:15:26 PM
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Why does everyone thing going "Western" is such a bad thing? The only reason that MGS4 was such a critical success was because the gameplay was revolutionized from the POS control scheme that was there before. Ryan Payton and Kojima got together and made the control scheme and the action much more accessible, and completely changed the camera and gun control -- whilst MGS might be a better game than Splinter Cell, the only reason why MGS4 is such a massive critical success was because they emulated the controls from Splinter Cell.
I don't even give a shit if they keep the soppy, sappy Japanese stories with their crappy writing, but if the game is actually PLAYABLE, I will play it.

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jdt1981
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 3:36:17 PM

I enjoyed the gameplay changes they introduced in MGS4 too but I think I speak for allot of people when I say the main reason I decided to buy MGS4 is because I'm a fan of the series and I wanted to find out how the saga of Snake and the other MGS characters would be wrapped up.

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 5:08:27 PM

The New gameplay style of MGS4 was an awful idea, MGS2 was is more easier to pick up and enjoy. i just cant stand walking so slowly while in "'aim mode', i like MGS4, probaly everything else about it, but that really hit me hard. to be honest i havent played MGS4 for a good 8 months, id pick it up for 10 minutes a few times, but it just doesnt grip me like MGS2.

to be honest the only games i like the over the shoulder perspective is in Uncharted and Fallout 3, It ruined Resident Evil. i played Code Veronica the other day and realised why it was more effective, it was the camera angles. which obviously cant be done with the shoulder perspective.

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Deleted User
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 1:34:51 AM

Kojima-sama is a big fan of the Splinter Cell games. He was really impressed with the first game in particular and may have influenced his decision on the controls for 4.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 9:55:26 PM
Reply

First and last warning, Lyle. No more name-calling.

And your ridiculous bias against Japanese gaming and culture sounds like one of those PC/Western elitists that think all Japanese titles are the same. You sound like a completely ignorant child. Knock it off.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 4/4/2009 9:55:47 PM

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Deleted User [Administrator]
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 1:35:21 AM

now now... don't go breaking your own rules :p

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LyleCapua
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 11:27:13 AM

"You sound like a completely ignorant child."

Ooooh, ad hominem attacks - how dare I???

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BIG_E
Saturday, April 04, 2009 @ 10:34:43 PM
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@Lyle

Metal gear is a on going saga since the nes days.
Its clear that you don't know what your talking about.Splinter Cell was a xbox exclusive that had metal gear like controls.

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Deleted User
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 1:44:04 AM

Splinter Cell has always been over the shoulder... even the N-Gage version (which was awesome btw).

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LyleCapua
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 11:26:43 AM

Splinter Cell's controls were based off of a third person shooter perspective, with added aspects, like being able to change your gun hand, adjustable camera, etc.
MGS had none of these things until the 4th game, well after the release of the Splinter Cell series. I clearly do know what I'm talking about, because unlike you, I've played both series.

EDIT -- Talking to BIG_E, btw, not you, Cueil - you clearly know what you're talking about.

Last edited by LyleCapua on 4/6/2009 11:28:04 AM

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Vivi_Gamer
Sunday, April 05, 2009 @ 2:24:13 AM
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exclusive.... i though all the SP games were on the PS2... bbut anyway i never really got into them. in all honesty

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Deleted User
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 1:44:40 AM

It wasn't exclusive at all. The only thing exclusive was the fact that the game looked asstons better on the Xbox.

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stevev363
Monday, April 06, 2009 @ 7:37:55 AM
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HELLO! FINAL FANTASY! ANYONE REMEMBER????
this was why I fell in love with jrpg to begin with. no more nonsense talk of westernizing, the japanese style is impertinant!!! I am more entertained by the japanese style releases and their detailed stories than the open style gta/mgs. shin megami tensei and okami are what I want. KEEP THEM SEPARATED!!!

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