Complacency in Storytelling


YOU'RE a pie chart.
Nov 30, 2009
To be fair, I think the Helghast lost the right to being the underdog when they nuked their own city, killing countless innocent Heglhast citizens, just to try and kill a few ISA in the blast as well. At that point you kind of lose the right to act like the victims because you really are just a bunch of rotten evil asshats.

Of course, there still could have been better writing in the games so we never had such an inane thing happen in the first place, but it did so I'm all on board for the Helghast being the villains in the story now. Besides, it was still better writing than what Shadow Fall's campaign brought to the table.

Evonisia said:
I miss tutorials, too. I remember in Gears of War 2 you could optionally do a tutorial by choosing to 'train the rook' or just sod the matter and rush ahead to the next mission. That's how you do it.
That really pissed me off in Gears 3 when they got rid of the "do you want a tutorial" thing and just forced it on everyone. I mean damn Gears 3, I already played and beat Gears 1 and 2. I already beat you on regular-hard. Now I just want to give the actual hardest difficulty setting (that's another thing that pisses me off: let me go for the hardest setting first if I want) a go and you still treat me like I don't know how to play? Bite me, Gears 3.


New member
Aug 5, 2009
wombat_of_war said:
tutorials??? REAL gamers wade through 200+ page manuals before they start a game!

sometimes the hardcore gamer demographic reminds me of the gung-ho, nationalistic BS you see in games like COD. dont agree? they you are a filthy casual, er communist.. er nazi !

these days with the AAA+ market you are expected to play the gaqme in the exact way the developers designed, do not deviate, do not pass go. the future of gaming was meant to huge expansive worlds with characters and locations that were fully immersive, not a bunch of cut scenes and set pieces that the game is annoyed you arent seeing fast enough or that you DARE set off the designated path
OMG, I feel old that I miss games coming with MANUALS! The books that not only tell you the controls, but the weapons/power-ups, enemies, locations, and characters. Nowadays, you have to look in the games' menus for the manual. I get they're trying to "go green", but it just doesn't feel the same.

As for KillZone, I always thought that the Helghast were mutated descendants of the original human colonists on Helghan, but they thought they were better than the rest of humanity. Plus, it's hard to make a direct USA vs. someone else comparison since the developer is based in the Netherlands, so make of that what you will.
This means tomorrow's ZP will be about Killzone, won't it? Or Battlefield 4?


New member
Jul 16, 2009
Darth_Payn said:
Plus, it's hard to make a direct USA vs. someone else comparison since the developer is based in the Netherlands, so make of that what you will.
The Netherlands are sufficiently exposed to bad American story-telling to mindlessly copy many of the same tropes.

V8 Ninja

New member
May 15, 2010
Yahtzee Croshaw said:
Although considering the sales figures of the PS4 a lessening of respect for one's fellow man is something I can sympathize with.
I hate to say it, but this dig seems extremely petty Mr. Croshaw. Not only does it have very little relation to the topic at hand, but it also fails to follow up on any significant topic that you brought up. Rather than getting the impression you're going in for another blow or trying to make the viewer laugh, I get the impression that you just wanted to throw the comment in to satisfy your own disdain for the more closely related topic that the comment relates to.

Anyways, I pretty much agree with the article. It seems extremely odd that game developers don't just segment their tutorials to an option in the main menu so that the developers can get on with creating interesting game content rather than trying to cram in a tutorial.


New member
Feb 17, 2009
The Batman
Yahtzee Croshaw said:
I noticed it when I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins. The game seems to assume that you know the backstory of the Joker as told in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke as well as who Black Mask is and why we give a shit. But the unearned assumption that we're on board seems to extend to the gameplay as well as the exposition. You start the game with a bunch of the same gadgets from previous games and none of them are introduced, the game just kind of assumes you know how they're all used. The combat with ground-level mooks at the very beginning of the game is, I'd say, on a level of difficulty you'd have found at about half-way through Arkham City's campaign.
Try Splinter Cell : Double Agent.

There are two tutorial levels : the first is just to do basic movement controls (literally "move into the patch of light") and the second is a full on stealth insertion, take down three armed guards while remaining utterly undetected. Wait what? I get how we covered "do you want the analogue sticks inverted?" but otherwise you're just throwing me in midway through a stealth game. Yes the franchise was established by then but I'm pretty sure Double Agent was the first Xbox 360 Splinter Cell game and having never owned a standard XBox, I never got past the "tutorials".


New member
Jun 28, 2008
Being thrust into a battle with no context or motivation only really works in the historically based Call of duty games.
World War 2 provided all the backstory and context, so Call of Duty games haven't had to, until now.

Even Modern Warfare 1 was close enough to reality to understand what was probably going on in the bigger picture, but by the opening of MW2, Russia has turned evil without explanation so someone can invade Washington D.C.

WWII: Kill Nazis is enough context and motivation for me, but it can't just be switched to Present: Kill Invaders.
I want to know why I'm doing something, even if my character doesn't.

Call of Duty should go back to history, or at least the real world. There are lots of conflicts they could shine a light on, instead of cooking up another sci-fi invasion of America.


New member
Apr 2, 2008
WhiteFangofWar said:
Story-wise, you can't expect Call of Duty to pay any attention to narrative sense, their main audience doesn't care why they're shooting people, just that they are. Arkham Origins is a prequel so there's not much to bring you up to speed on, but aren't there dossiers for each villain anyway?
See the problem there is that you're making assumptions about Call of Duty players in the first instance, and assuming that "Origins" players will know the context of the game / past games in the second. I remember playing the original "Halo", and I never touched the multiplayer apart from a couple of goes of split-screen on my mate's X-box. Yet whenever "Halo" gets mentioned nowadays, it always seems to be regarding the multiplayer. I'm not saying that your assumptions aren't generally correct, but CoD isn't TF2. There are always going to be people who play it for the single-player.

To others: "System Shock 2"'s opening actually put me off a bit the first time I played it (and yes, this is the guy who's completed that game about sixteen times talking.) I find that it gives you too many decisions, too early on. It's a little too confusing. That and the early enemies are ridiculously powerful, even on "Normal" mode, if you're new and haven't learnt about health conservation yet.

I think "Skyrim" is a great example of a game that starts off well. You start the game fleeing a freakin' dragon attack! Compare that to, say, "Oblivion", where your first enemies in the game are... rats. Yeah. (I know there's the Mythic Dawn guys as well, but come on... you can just stand back and let the guards take them out without breaking a sweat.) Then there's the question of how an essentially linear situation that you can't really affect is presented. In "Skyrim" control is never taken away from you, forcing you to make use of what little resources you have at that point. This makes a great introduction to the game. In "Oblivion" the plot depends on the Emperor dying, which happens while you are literally rooted to the spot - after being told that you're supposed to guard him! Add that to the Emperor immediately entrusting you, a prisoner in the city jails, with a vitally important artefact (instead of one of his own guards) for no other reason than he apparently likes your face... It's not exactly immersion-building.


Master of Lancer
Jan 25, 2012
United States
V8 Ninja said:
Yahtzee Croshaw said:
Although considering the sales figures of the PS4 a lessening of respect for one's fellow man is something I can sympathize with.
I hate to say it, but this dig seems extremely petty Mr. Croshaw. Not only does it have very little relation to the topic at hand, but it also fails to follow up on any significant topic that you brought up. Rather than getting the impression you're going in for another blow or trying to make the viewer laugh, I get the impression that you just wanted to throw the comment in to satisfy your own disdain for the more closely related topic that the comment relates to.
you're not alone in seeing it that way, rest assured. XD Not that the sort of opinion he takes is all that uncommon on the escapist.

I try to be as divorced from emotions as possible when it comes to these sorts of things, but given that the "PC master race" is always as tactless, arrogant, and condescending as possible when they try to make a point about anything, I find myself in a position where I no longer care about how objectively superior the PC is as a gaming unit. Their elitism literally annoys me to the point where I'm perfectly happy to play on inferior consoles just so that I have one less thing in common with them.

More on topic, I actually wonder if the trend he discusses was born precisely because military shooters came to prominence. Games that take a more hero-centric focus can't go anywhere without you because... well, without the hero, there's no story. The military "realism" for a given value of the word came to prominence, and thus was born a situation where the player is literally just one in an entire army of equally outfitted soldiers, and thus the battle will progress, more or less in the same way, whether the player's avatar was there or not. It's a strange paradigm shift, one that suits the nature of a multiplayer focused game at the expense of the singleplayer experience.

Regarding Batman... I think that may well just be a case of a long-running franchise game assuming everyone has already played the games leading up to it... more a case of not being considerate than anything.


New member
Mar 31, 2010
As a European who studied a little bit of history, all these dumb scenario's of "the US is being attacked!! oh noes!!" do kind of annoy me. They don't dig into any profound reasons for the attack, but just keep hammering on the perception that there are some kind of attackers out there for little to no reason.

I mean, even the 9/11 attacks and the whole legacy of Bin Laden has roots going far back, involving both the US and Europe during and after the first world war, no one just says "Lol lets attack!" in geopolitics.

Not that I wonna say that these games are meant to create fear amongst the public opinion or whatever, I'm not the kind of guy who thinks people can just be injected with ideas like that. But still, it annoys me that they can't manage to come up with something better.


New member
Jan 22, 2011
This is something I've been thinking about these past few days. I honestly don't know why more games don't have a separate non-canon tutorial. It would be best for everyone, so far as I can see. Those who don't know what they're doing can boot up the tutorial and get taught the basics in a stress-free environment, those experienced with the game or similar games can skip it altogether, and the developers don't have to worry about front-loading everything the player will need.

Everyone would win, maybe with the exception of the people who think they're above a "tutorial" and still can't figure out the game, but in that case, it's their own fault. How big could that demographic be, anyway?

Also, I noticed that motivation seems lacking in a lot of games too. I played through RAGE again recently, and at no point did I know why I was doing anything the game was telling me to do. To a certain extent, this seems to be par for the course.


New member
Jan 7, 2011
Killzone: Shadow Fall lost me in the first 15 seconds because apparently (I don't think this is a spoiler, because it literally is the first 15 seconds of opening movie): The Vektans nuke the Helghast planet into a lifeless cinder, then invite all the remaining Soviet Nazi Space Empire back home and give them half their home planet. What could go wrong?

Now maybe there's some backstory or whatever that makes this less stupid than it sounds, but that just reinforces the main point of the article. I lost track of the Killzone lore long ago (first game) because it was so WoW-ishly bad I just gave up caring. So for I, or anyone else who has never played a Killzone before, you start out with the plot being completely asinine before you've even gotten into the game. And then, yes, it does seem to expect you to have played all the previous games to make sense of anything other than 'Okay, we need you to go here and do this Dead Space bit.'


New member
Oct 12, 2009
I hear you loud and clear, Yahtzee. I find a lot of games *expect* me to feel emotional or invested in their stories, but just jam them forward without giving me time to figure out what the stakes are. Just 'in you go, kid - and by the way, you're supposed to care about this!'

Upon early previews of CoD:MW2 I was truly excited. Truly, truly excited. What I heard was that a few missions were going to take place in Afghanistan; that we'd have to deal with enemies whom we knew were our enemies but couldn't fire on because RoE bullshit. I heard about generals landing airstrikes way too close to friendly forces, and an interesting mission with frustratingly sketchy details about whether or not the Player himself would actually be involved in a terrorist attack.

"Yes!" I thought "Finally, someone's going to tackle the War on Terror with the unflinching 'harsh-light-of-day' scope that conflict's been crying out for years now." I was fully prepared to be thrust into situations where who the enemy was remained uncertain; the psychologically draining reality that an attack could happen at any time, from any direction, from anyONE without warning. That we'd glimpse, perhaps, into what drives our enemies to do what they do and despair as a bloated, inefficient military bureaucracy gives fighting so many rules that fighting itself is near impossible.

This is the game I was excited for...but, obviously, that's not what I got. Instead, 'Call of Duty' should be rebranded to 'America: Fuck Yeah! The Game.' Now I'm as American as they make 'em, but even I have to pause and scratch my head at CoD's recent portrayal of my nation and its enemies. Mainly: do they really expect me to swallow this?

Y'know, Call of Duty used to be pretty even-handed in its portrayal of its heroes and enemies. Americans, British, Russians; we were all just doing our thing - fighting the Germans...who were never really portrayed as cartoonishly evil, by the way, just dudes doing their jobs as well. Hell, the Jerries in CoD2 were tendering wounded Allied troops in one mission adhering to the Geneva Conventions despite being associated with arguably the most evil organized government in modern history. They were just young and scared as any of the rest of them.

Even CoD4 slapped military jingoism in the face when it went and nuked an entire Battalion of Marines.

I fear I have strayed from the point, here. Yeah, there's definitely a lot of 'complacency in story telling' going around. And it will be a joyous day when developers realize again that drawing your players in and giving them a reason for what they do is part of the reward of playing.


New member
Aug 18, 2009
I don't really agree with the tutorial business. I think at this point it's pretty fair to assume the players know the basics and to allow the game design to teach you how to play. A list of controls in the menu is plenty for any game that isn't particularly complex. And keep in mind these games are often rated 15 or 18 so we can assume most people picking it up know what they are doing.

As for the story - I kinda agree but at the same time you are in control so the assumption you are on board with the character is already a given. If I don't care about the character or the story then I often won't play the game after the gameplay has worn thin. There are countless games where I've gotten to an end boss or even just a tricky section and stopped playing all together because I simply did not care about the resolution. I don't think the problem is really easily isolated to the creator's assuming we are on board. It's just crappy writing and I'm skeptical this will ever be fixed for any game that involves larges amounts of killing because you just cannot have a character murder thousands of people and have me believe your story. I can't have sympathy or empathy for this monster and I can't really believe in imminent peril because I know if I were in full control I'd be hauling ass.


New member
Oct 9, 2008
Considering the "sequelitis" and "like X but..." design that triple-A games suffer from, why should it be too surprising that they make certain basic assumptions?

For that matter, why do we spend so much time going on about triple-A games all the time? Fuck 'em! They suck! Really, how many times has Jim, Yahtzee, and any number of other people constantly lamented on the sad state of triple-A games? Honestly, guys, if it's that bad, let's just stop buying it and move on. Let's focus on games that are actually inventive, creative, fun, and...edifying, rather than waste so many electrons crying incessantly over games that make us so disgusted. At what point do we just admit to ourselves that this just isn't a horse worth saving (holy hell, it's dead, Jim)? Just shoot it, be done with it, and move on to better fields (and better horses).

To be honest, I have to lay the sad state of the triple-A game industry not at the feet of the publishers but squarely at the feet of the gamers themselves. Why? Because we keep buying it. There's no real incentive for any of it to change. If the triple-A industry has become complacent it's because it knows it can be. There's no pressure to improve or do better, because it knows all it has to do it flash some new shiny graphics and watch every gamer come running with fists full of dollars ready to plunk down on the latest release of Churn-Grind Sequel Game No. Whatever: The Unending Toilet Overflow, completely forgetting how we got scammed out of our money with the last umpteen games. We go on the Internet to cry and whine about it all for a week or two, and then we're right back to throwing our money at these same games and publishers when the next new graphically shiny scam-a-thon gets dangled in front of us.

I think it would be nice to have a section devoted entirely to the lesser known, lesser advertised games, like small and independent developer games. What about a place where non-triple-A publishers can have their games receive a bit more press and attention. I think it would be nice to turn away from the beaten path of triple-A games to find some alternatives and save ourselves the constant acid-reflux over how bad the triple-A industry is. Really, if it's all as bad as we constantly lament it to be, let's just leave it behind and move on, cause it's not going to get better by us continuing to throw money at it for garbage.

Or, maybe, it's not as bad as we lament, and sometimes we just over-generalize.

Canadamus Prime

Robot in Disguise
Jun 17, 2009
I believe the term you're looking for here Yahtzee is "middle ground." We don't need things over-tutorialized, but we don't want to be left in the dust either.


New member
Oct 12, 2010
I'd be interested in seeing a tutorial married to one of these intro sequences. Don't know if it's been done before as I don't really follow the shooter genre, but maybe a scene in a real combat situation in which as the player is presented with obstacles we flash back to similar scenes from his training. These scenes could even be used to give more characterization for the character, like a hint as to why they joined the military or what they intend to do after (if they're not career). Then as most of these games that I have played seem to have the character being put in over his head, we can gradually have the training flashbacks become less frequent to show that the training may be inadequate for the new situations that are arising. Sorry for the block of text, but that was what came into my head thinking about how to integrate tutorials without disturbing the gripping entrance into the game.


New member
Jul 22, 2008
On the subject of tutorials, I've always thought that it would be an interesting experiment to tie key/button mapping to tutorials. The game says crouch and whatever button seems most natural to you is the one you press and subsequently map.

Obviously with the option to change bindings later as permanent key binding is a terrible idea.


New member
Mar 31, 2008
UberPubert said:
Pseudonym2 said:
This is how I felt about Gears of War 3. At first I liked it as a game with good gameplay with bad aesthetics. Then by the time it had the Pompeii/Hiroshima level and started flat out encouraging genocide, I was genuinely creeped out and it really affected my enjoyment of the game. When the game makes the massive assumption that we're on board with their worldview it becomes a weird outsider art/art brut deal.
Pompeii/Hiroshima level...? You mean the one where all the main characters walk past the ash statues of dead people and act horrified? As in, they're actively condemning what happened through their reactions? Does that really seem like encouragement to you?

And if you're referring to the completely separate neutron bomb you'd know it was entirely necessary to save any semblance of life remaining on the planet from extinction if you were even half paying attention when it was explained.
Sorry I was a bit vague. I didn't like the ash level because the serious tone clashed badly with the previous scenes. The hyper-macho frat boy attitude makes references to real life disasters seem glib. I'm aware it was condemning the mass murder thing. Adam Fenix wanted to set the bomb off to preserve at least some life on the planet. Marcus Fenix didn't mind killing all the locust and seemed shocked that anyone else would. ("[Killing the locust would be be] fine with me." "You don't actually feel sorry for them do you?"])


New member
Sep 26, 2013
I feel like I've been in a cave for a few years... Games aren't holding your hand "enough" now ? Hell, that might incite me to buy new titles again and stop being a retro-indie-hipster. But whatever, I agree with the article and the consensus that seem to emerge in the comments : lengthy tutorials tied into the game have to go. Or at the very least, become skippable, because they are just as obnoxious as title screens and cut-scenes.

As someone pointed out with GoW3, the epitome of ridicule is reached when you have to play through an easier difficulty to unlock a harder one, and then you have to go through the "left stick to move" thing all over again. These "tutorials" make no sense, are generally hamfistedly shoved into the story and degrade the replay value.

Yahtzee Croshaw said:
They get the feeling that they've suckered in all the people they're ever going to sucker in and that they might as well let the facade drop and show absolutely no respect to their users whatsoever
Oh come on ! First, if this is their assumption, they are kind of right. Each CoD iteration might sell more than the previous, but the percentage of players new to the series or to FPS in general probably does not increase (actually I know that for a fact but can't display my proofs, so take it as an educated guess). And since when is it "showing absolutely no respect" to let the player find out stuff by himself ? Or, as suggested by a lot of comments already, leave it to him to play the tutorial or not ?


New member
Oct 30, 2009
I must agree on the story-telling bit. Games such as Call of Duty seem to just assume that I care and immediately sympathize with America simply because it got attacked. I watched a walk-through of the CoD: Ghosts' campaign (I haven't actually enjoyed a CoD game since WaW.), and I was just baffled at how lazy the storytelling was. The basic premise of a South American Federation invading the US is interesting. Yet none of it was fleshed out beyond...well...the basic premise that I just outlined.

Why did the Federation form? How willing are all the South American countries to be included in such a Federation? Is there a clearly dominate member of the Federation (like Brazil or something)? Why is the Federation so expansionist? Why did the Federation invade the US? What were the terms of the truce that was eventually broken? I could go on, but I think I have made my point. CONTEXT and MOTIVATION. It isn't that hard, for Fuck's sake. It isn't like they couldn't hire a decent writer to come in and write some B-grade, schlock action plot for them. Even Pierce Brosnan-era Bond movies have villains with clearly-defined motivations (Tomorrow Never Dies is my favourite Bond movie :p), and those are the definition of schlock. They make enough money, and they sure aren't spending it on graphics, sound design or gameplay improvements.

Battlefield 4 is just as bad:

Who is the Admiral? Did he launch a coup? I would assume so, but why? When did he muster enough forces to invade Singapore and the Panama Canal? WHY? Who is the 'magical plot-device' man that you have to protect and why is he so damn important? Why did Admiral man attack the US? Why is Russia supporting Admiral man? WWWWHHHHYYYYYY?!