So after two long weeks of writing my exams, I am finished. I turned the last two in yesterday. Now all that is left is my oral defense next Monday. I’ve never been through a defense before, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I’m trying not to worry about it because that isn’t going to do any good, is it? However, I think since it is called a defense I should be defensive, right? So I plan on saying lots of things like, “Well, that’s a stupid question” and “what do you think it means?” With an attitude like that I can’t help bud pass, right?
Invetween now and then I plan on sitting on my butt a lot and playing games. Oh, and apply to a couple conferences…
While writing my exams, I did play one game. After hearing so much about Planescape Torment, I decided to hunt down a copy and try it out. I’ve certainly got to respect a game so highly regarded that fans have made their own patch for it. I was a D&D nerd for a couple years back in the day (even though I could never really find anyone else who wanted to play), so I’ve had a fondness for the RPG genre, but last RPG I played was the cutscene-tastic Final Fantasy 7 and 8, and that prety much soured me on the genre for several years. FF7 was a novel experience for me since I’d never played any of the others, but I got half way through 8 and just got bored. The final straw was when I realized that I was really only playing in order to play the card game within the game.
The reason why I wanted to play Planescape was that it is quite often one of the games that are brought up when people talk about emotional impact in games. Indeed, the game is quite wordy. In fact fans have taken all the text from the game and made it into a book. However, I have to admit, about half way through the game I realized you could just hit enter and the numbers to go through the dialog and I just started skimming. Maybe it is because I’ve spent all summer reading around a book a day, but I didn’t have much patience for the dialog.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the game and I fully admit that the story was intersting. However, it was just a little much for me.
However, I still wonder, was it the story that was interesting for me or was it the motication for the tasks I had to perform? I know that once a character died before I had gotten around to completing two small missions involving a secret that character had I was irritated that I couldn’t complete those missions. I didn’t care that the character had died. Similarly, in the dialog trees that were mainly concerned with relationship stuff I would just pick the answers that I thought would give me the best result, not out of some sense of obligation or emotional attachment to the characters.
I often wonder what people mean when they say that games have a good story. I’ve got a paper about the fact that Half-Life had a rather simple plot, but it was well told. Years ago in an interview where I was asking a person what they liked about certain games and the person said that Unreal Tournament had a good story. I wish I would have asked him what he meant by that because certainly Unreal Tournament doesn’t have much of a story at all. I think for me the appeal of Planescape ended up being that mission screen and that there were always more things to do and not the story or the emotional impact. I don’t doubt for a minute that some people found the story of Plaenscape to be the most interesting thing about the game and found the missions to be simply getting in the way. I wonder, however, are there other people who say they liked the story but might be referring to the missions? Or if there can really be a distinction between the story and the mssions at all? For several years I’ve been thinking about the importance of the initial premice and the importance of the narrative itself. I suppose I will be thinking about it for several more years untill I get somewhere where I can make some sense of it.