Hello, people visiting Playthroughline! My name is Craig and I'm an author of abridged scripts on The Editing Room, where Joannes’ movie parodies are published. Joannes has kindly allowed me to contribute a Short Script to his site, and I have chosen the classic third-person shooter Max Payne. I was originally going to use this space here to go through one of my recurring video game rants, to be specific, a defence of linear gameplay. After all, games don't come much more linear than Max Payne. But the thrust of that particular rant is the idea of tight narrative focus, and in abridging Max Payne, one thing I realised was that "tight narrative focus" is not a term you'd use to describe it at all. If it were to focus on its story, it'd probably last about half an hour. Instead it rambles, inventing an endless series of feeble justifications for action set pieces which have nothing whatsoever to do with the central story. The restaurant fire, the robbery of the Charon, the parking garage showdown, the hotel drug deal, all of these things and more could be lifted right out and you'd hardly notice the difference.
And the more I thought about it, the more this little diatribe changed its topic to the bewildering question: why in the world do I like this game so much?
It appears I've been running this little blog for four years this month. Please join me in a celebratory nod as a distraction from the recent lack of updates. At least I have a series of valid excuses this time. I've spent a month in America! I've moved house! And pretty much the most exciting development of all: I can actually call myself a narrative designer now! For the last two months, I've been working closely with the Antwerp-based studio GriN on a game called Woolfe. It's an episodic platformer/brawler set in the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, but with that customary dark twist thrown in. I'm currently in charge of finetuning an already established story foundation and writing dialogue and voice-over elements. The first trailer is below the jump.
Thanks to the Steam Summer Sale, I finally got to play Spec Ops: The Line, the 2012 takedown of the military shooter genre. There's a reason it's now the shortest script on the blog, and it's not that I needed a breather after writing the longest. Spec Ops: The Line is anything but a breather and finding a workable angle for its Short Script proved to be quite a challenge.
I figured the BioShock Infinite Short Script would be a sizable one and as it turns out, it's officially overtaken Deus Ex: Human Revolution as the longest one on the blog. There is evidently a lot to say about the game, which is obvious from even the most cursory search for critical articles. I reviewed the game for BeefJack and declared it a masterpiece, which it really is. The imagination and the production values to back it up are palpable and I was more often than not flat-out amazed during my playthrough. That said, there are some problems with the union of story and gameplay in Infinite. Much like Columbia itself, you'll find plenty of things wrong with it once you peel back the shiny veneer.
When talking about Dead Space 2, I mentioned how it focused more on cinematic action when compared to its predecessor. Dead Space 3 turns that evolution up to eleven and goes all-out on the bombast. With the addition of (among others) co-op functionality, microtransactions and weapon crafting, Dead Space 3's kitchen-sink approach waters down the constituent elements that made the first Dead Space stand out from the crowd. While at times an entertaining shooter in its own right, it has been transformed to exactly that: a shooter.
And we're back! Again! With a Short Script of a game that came out last October! The game did take away the BAFTA for Best Game last week, so I am on top of things! Anyways, I've had great fun with Dishonored, as it's a game that places player agency front and centre. As a result, a hell of a lot has been written about its themes, mechanics, and approach to morality. I think you'll have gathered from this blog that I pay special attention to narrative, which I find lacking in Dishonored, but understandably so. Dishonored's story is really an easel, there to support a blank canvas which you can paint how you like (i.e. with blood or not).
Welcome to Playthroughline, a personal blog focused on the implementation of stories in games. In addition to general musings about narrative design, you’ll also find a collection of Scripts that basically do for videogames what The Editing Room does for movies.