Game Design Talk: How (not) to start an RPG story.

Discussion in 'Games' started by Xylia, May 9, 2018.

  1. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    I know I'm late to the punch, but I, for the first time, played FF13 last night.

    I never had a PS3 or PS4, and I've owned it on Steam for a couple years now, but never got around to actually playing it because of the 50GB download, and that would simply take forever on a 3-6Mbit internet.

    Yesterday, I got my new internet (which is significantly faster) and I downloaded the game in under an hour, and got into playing it, and immediately I noticed something about how the story starts out.

    Before I explain that, though, I will go over the openings of FFs 1 through 14 (excluding #3 because I don't know enough about that one and #11 because it's an MMO that's got a very open-ended story) and see what we can learn, and then lastly I will explain my thoughts on FF13 and why I felt that there is just something... off... about its story. (it's by far not the only game I've seen to do this)

    FF#1: "An adventurer is you". This game dumps a little dialogue on you from the very beginning of the game as soon as you hit 'new game'. It tells you that the world is in chaos, IIRC it mentions a prophecy, and how four adventurers each bearing an orb of light show up. The game starts with you standing outside of Corneria Castle. This is a very vague story opening, but I feel they pulled it off here, because A). it's the NES which had limitations, and B ) . You're a nobody who has probably done nothing worthy of note just yet. Your tale begins when you actually do something noteworthy (like rescuing the king's daughter) that sets off the chain of events for the rest of the entire plot.

    FF#2: This game does it even better: Your group is a group of 4 youth friends whose city is attacked. You literally start the game in the middle of the attack and you are swiftly defeated by black knights that you had no chance of defeating whatsoever (which makes sense, because you are a group of youths with very little combat experience and meager equipment facing seasoned and trained, well armed knights). You are KO'd, and three of you are found, rescued, and you join a rebellion/resistance group since you are able-bodied youths that want to become warriors. There's a backstory, there's a purpose to who you are, and why you are doing what you are doing.

    FF#4: This game opens with Cecil (as a dark knight of baron) on his way to steal the crystal from Mysidia and along the way it is explained that Cecil does not agree with his kingdom's aggressive conquest, but begrudgingly goes along with it. You are told fairly early in the game who you are, what are the general events happening in the world, and the game "grabs" you and pulls you into its plot pretty quickly. You're not left wondering who you are and what you are doing, and why.

    FF#5: An Adventurer is you redux. You're an adventurer and you stumble upon a meteorite and you meet up with a princess and away the plot goes. Works for the same reasons #1 does.

    FF#6: "Amnesiac". This trope can sometimes be overdone, but I feel it worked rather well in FF6. You begin the game as a girl who is magically controlled. Said girl is basically a mindless drone and you are left with no choice but to press on with your mission. After the prologue, your character is discovered to have amnesia and gets dragged along with the plot by a host of people trying to get her to see their side of the story.

    FF#7: This one is... eh. It's okay, though it has similar problems to #13 that I mentioned already. You start out as some guy (you don't even know his name) who is fighting some kind of soldiers along with somebody called Barrett and pretty quickly you're given the impression that you are actually part of a terrorist/resistance group of sorts as you do acts of terror/vandalism/destruction without any kind of rhyme or reason why until you get to the resistance base, and then finally you learn that you are actually part of an environmental activist group fighting an evil corporation that is polluting the world. I think they could have done the explanation a bit better; they could have started with Cloud receiving the mission briefing before the actual start of the mission so the player knows who they are and why they are doing what they are doing from the get-go.

    FF#8: You are shown a cinematic (a rather impressive one at the time) of various people and things, but it ends with two guys having a duel for... unknown reasons. After the cinematic, it's quickly revealed to you that you are Squall, a student of some sort of military/mercenary academy and you were practicing with a rival (who tends to get himself in trouble a lot). The rest of the details are quickly filled in, especially as you start receiving missions to help various people.

    FF#9: It is shown pretty quickly that you are a thief/bandit part of a thief/bandit gang who masquerades as a troubadour band) who aims to kidnap the princess. You learn later on that they aren't *quite* thieves and bandits (even though they actually are, but they do have good intentions), but rather a group that's very good friends with another kingdom. The plot progresses fairly quickly and you are never left wondering who you are, what you're doing or why you're doing it.

    FF#10: The "who am I" is solved straight up in this one, as you're a sports player and your home city gets attacked. You get teleported once, and wash up on a beach shortly thereafter. The character and player simultaneously must learn where they are, who/what/how things work where they are, and this works perfectly. You have no idea who these people are, their customs, or where in the world this is... but then neither does your character. You both learn naturally. I feel that FF#10 did a great job with its opening sequence.

    FF#12: I'm actually going to leave this one out too, I don't remember it well enough.

    FF#14 (ARR): When you begin the game, you are shown this odd cutscene where this giant crystal is talking to you, and it gives you the impression that your character is some kind of chosen/special person or something. It's cryptic, but it gives you an idea. Then you wake up and you're on a wagon bound for a starting city (depending on which class you started as). You're clearly a traveller, and the opening main story quests have you joining an adventurer's guild and you quickly jump right into the main plot of the game.


    Let's look at FF13.

    I've played it for 45 minutes, and I...

    1). Have no idea who this Lightning girl is,
    2). Have no idea what her goals are,
    3). Have no idea of anything having to do with the world,
    4). Have no idea who this "Snow" guy is either,

    Outside of a very few specific details such as there appears to be some kind of oppressive government that is apparently abducting and killing people and that Lightning/Snow are part of some sort of resistance. That's it. I don't know what she was doing on the train, or why they just bust out and start killing people, I have no idea if Lightning and Snow know each other previously, and the character shift between Lightning and Snow doesn't even make sense... I'm controlling a soldier girl who has this odd black dude tagging along because reasons... then suddenly, a shift to Snow and I'm like "....what?"

    I feel they needed.... some.... kind of exposition to tell you just what the bleeep is going on. I can accept something like FF7 where it takes you 10-15 minutes to learn just who you are and what you're doing. But 45 minutes of scratching your head trying to make any sense out of the game is just too much.

    Even Xenosaga isn't this bad, and it's one of the most convoluted storylines of any franchises I've ever played (right next to Xenogears). At least in Xenosaga, you understand who you are and what you're doing (Shion trying to develop KOS-MOS) within the first 5 minutes of game past the vague opening scene.

    So if you're going to make an RPG... please find some way to tell the player who they are, and what their character's goals are. How am I supposed to RP a character when I don't know things my character should know? Lightning should know who she is and what she's doing, and why. But yet the player isn't told this information.

    Now I am aware that there's a Datalog and I bet the stuff is in there somewhere, but really now... I should find this stuff out through actual gameplay instead of having to read optional lore material in the menus.
  2. Parrotte

    Parrotte Supernova

    Trust me, it gets better. There's many games I say aren't my style, but there's few games I genuinely dislike. Even my brothers, who are very much into Final Fantasy and can don't mind the odd bugs or broken story just couldn't enjoy the game.
  3. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    I've heard that 13's story gets better after a couple hours, but yeesh.

    2 hours until stuff actually starts making sense? That's a bit extreme. A good game will start off with a nice story and grab you and pull you right in. I've played plenty of them to know That hehe.
    Parrotte likes this.
  4. D.M.G.

    D.M.G. Master Astronaut

    FF3 is alike the first, especially in the original
    In the DS remake tho, there is a bit of backstory provided for each character in the group and you starrt with only one of them, gathering the other in the first hour o gameplay

    As for the twelve, welp, it's quite the opposite of the 10, in that that while in the 10 you explore an unknown world for the main char, in the 12, the main char is from the world you're playing in, whch may leave to some confusion at first, but for what I remember, the game is quite clear
    Not to mention it may have one of the best universes in the serie

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