on Mar 6, 2007
A few people have pointed to this item on Shacknews which links to this announcement from Ragnar Tornquist, the guy behind The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. It seems that this game series isn’t going to be a trilogy after all. Instead, it’s going to be Part 1, Part 2, and then many small incremental add-ons to continue the story from there. Here is the relevant quote:
Don’t lose sight of the big picture, guys (and girls). The fact is, we listened to you, we heard you, we decided we wouldn’t leave you hanging. The saga continues. Now how cool is that? Rejoice!
I’m just going to skate right around the bit on piracy, because that would need a post of it’s own if I decided to tackle it. Let’s just cut to the point on episodic content…
I’m not interested in the fact that the saga simply “continues”. What people want (or perhaps, just what I want) is for the saga to end, cleanly and clearly. If that works out, then start a new saga. But don’t pump this one until it’s a dead husk. Maybe I’m wrong on the intent here. Maybe the intention is to replace the next $40 game with four $10 expansions that lead to a firm conclusion. Even so, I think most gamers want to sit down and play through a game all at once, without waiting weeks or months between chapters.
But if (as I suspect) this leads to an “ongoing story” then this is about the worst move I could think of. We’re talking about two very different types of stories here. Episodic content is rotten for story-based games, because it strongly discourages anyone from writing a firm resolution. If your job is to keep a story going, then the moment you write an ending you’ve put yourself out of a job.
This is exactly why I don’t watch TV. I’ve read about what a train wreck Lost is. I got tired of the Sopranos when I realized it was just a meandering soap opera for men. I’ve read the frustration from people who have realized that the Battlestar Galactica saga seems to be rudderless. If the author’s goal is to keep stringing the audience along forever, you end up with crappy stories.
To be fair, after giving Dreamfall much fawning praise the ending caused me to divorce myself from the series, so it’s not like this move affects me directly. It’s just that I see this as a bad trend for story-driven games. The last thing I want to see is game that ends in a cliffhanger, with a note for me to come back in four months and give them another $20 if I want to see what happens next. Half-Life is already taking this route. There are a lot of questions about who the aliens are, what their plans are, who the G-man is, and just what is really going on. We’re two games and an expansion into it, and nobody’s even trying to give us any answers. I really believe there aren’t any. Like Lost, it’s just a bunch of mysterious nonsense to keep you coming back.
I can just imagine if the Harry Potter books worked this way: The truth about Harry’s past, his parents, and his scar would be endlessly hinted at, yet never revealed. Each book would end just as Voldermort appears, instead of after he is defeated. Maybe this is just a personal preference, but I prefer the “complete story” approach of books, as opposed to the clumsy, heavy-handed approach of TV shows and comic books. If you tell a decent story I’ll come back for the next one.
And furthermore, the most astounding revelation in this whole business, and the thing that is really going to turn the world of gaming upside-down, is that Want to read more? You can pre-order the expansion pack for this post now! Subscribe to our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when it is available. Thanks for reading!
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.