Short Script: Mass Effect 2

In this post, I've already touched upon the differences in gameplay between Mass Effect 1 and 2. After having completed Mass Effect 2 a second time (without importing a character this time), I can safely say that I don't have to go back on my words. Its Short Script is now available, and it manages to eclipse its predecessor's in length, but only just. It helps if you've read the Mass Effect script first.

Short Script: Mass Effect

As I mentioned in this post, I recently played both Mass Effect and its sequel back-to-back. Having now finished both games, I present the Short Script of the first entry in the series, which is currently the longest one on the blog by a wide margin. This is a testament to the amount of content in the game, especially when considering all the things I cut or didn't put in. Casually talking to Wrex about saving his species after destroying the cure to the genophage on Virmire, some flying turrets looking like three sticks glued together, Matriarch Benezia's overacted melancholy... all aspects that were initially included but ultimately removed for pacing reasons.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

After 18 seasons, David Caruso just had retractable sunglasses grafted onto his face.
After 18 seasons, David Caruso just had retractable sunglasses grafted onto his face.
Some new information regarding the third entry in the Deus Ex series has recently surfaced. Eschewing the standard tradition of naming sequels, the game is now called Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I don't have to tell you how much I love the first game, so my interest is more than piqued. With regards to Deus Ex: Invisible War, many fans of the original would like to pretend that it doesn't exist. The Deus Ex: HR developers jokingly do the same, as mentioned in this article: "Going back to the original was very, very important. We all started playing [Deus Ex] thoroughly, and then somebody voluntarily played the second one, just to make sure".

Global Game Jam 2010

 not me, not me, me, not me.
From left to right: not me, not me, me, not me.
I was a participant in this year’s Global Game Jam (GGJ), which is an annual event organised simultaneously by many countries. It marked the second time that Belgium participated, and this year’s attendance of 40 more than tripled that of last year. GGJ’s goal is to create a functional game based on a single theme in a timespan of 48 hours (this year the theme was “deception”). At first I was somewhat daunted as the room slowly filled up with programmers and 2D/3D artists. Introducing myself as an aspiring Narrative Designer elicited some worries in a “getting-picked-last-at-gym” sort of way, but fortunately enough I was quick to glom onto a team in which all necessary skills were accounted for.

Short Script: BioShock

To celebrate the release of BioShock 2, I present the Short Script of its predecessor. BioShock is an example of a very specific type of story which lends itself exceptionally well to being told through the medium of videogames: an aftermath story. This typically involves the player being thrust into a game world where many things have happened which are not immediately made clear, but are responsible for leaving said game world in its current state. The System Shock series, to which BioShock is a spiritual successor, also uses this story model. It allows for many different narrative techniques, from obvious means (audio logs, wall scrawlings, survivors) to less than obvious ones (the appearance of certain rooms, corpses). In this case, dead men do tell tales.

Welcome

Welcome to Playthroughline! Regardless of how you found your way over here, the content of this blog assumes you have a healthy interest in videogames, or more specifically, the design thereof. With a strong focus on story and narrative and how these concepts are linked to gameplay (or how they unfortunately are not), I aim to collate my thoughts and impressions here. Naturally, this will not preclude me from branching out to other topics as well.

The title is a combination of two terms: playthrough and throughline. A playthrough is a gaming session from the beginning of the story to its conclusion, though not necessarily a continuous one. A throughline is generally regarded as the spine of a story in the field of narratology. As such the title combines my interest in both games and story and segues nicely into the field of Narrative Design.

Short Script: Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

The hype surrounding Kane & Lynch: Dead Men got me genuinly excited, and while the game had an interesting story, intriguing characters and inspired set pieces, its gameplay mechanics were average at best and derivative at worst. I found myself annoyed at times and I really had to trudge through some of the later levels to see the story play out. Put simply: it wasn't fun. And as an esteemed cohort of mine said: "A game with bad gameplay and a good story will get trumped by a game with good gameplay and a bad story". However, Kane & Lynch's narrative does present a few interesting traits, a few of which I'm going to delve into here.

Rethinking "No Russian"

When this gun goes up, you guys are so dead.
When this gun goes up, you guys are so dead.
Note: this post does not mean I wholeheartedly condone Modern Warfare 2's linear narrative structure because I choose to work inside its confines. It's simply an interesting exercise to write within a predetermined framework, something game writers unfortunately have to do entirely too much. I recently reread Tom Francis' brilliant reimagining of BioShock's ending, and it got me thinking about my previous post which detailed my views on Modern Warfare 2's "No Russian" level. My main complaint was how the linear narrative of Modern Warfare 2 isn't suited for such a set piece, yet it was limited to just that: a complaint. Everybody can point out problems, but only a few go that extra mile and come up with a solution. So I aim to provide an answer to the narrative problem presented by the "No Russian" level.

Short Script: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Ah yes, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. What can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times before? Well, this. As in the script, the following post contains spoilers if you're one of the three people who hasn't yet played the game. Anyone talking about Modern Warfare 2 can't help but mention the 'No Russian' level, where you play an undercover operative being forced to take part in the killings of innocent civilians. Going past what others have said, I'm interested in a player's response to this level when that player had no prior knowledge of it. I'd like to hear the reaction of someone who somehow missed all the pre-release footage of 'No Russian', had a wild ride on a snowmobile and suddenly found themselves witnessing and/or participating in a massacre. It's fair to say that the (intentionally?) leaked footage helped in softening everyone up to the idea, if not getting everyone interested on whatever point on the morality spectrum.

Short Script: Deus Ex

This blog will not only serve to disseminate my opinions to whoever might be interested in them, but also as a repository for a series of Short Scripts on games. Some of you may be familiar with The Editing Room, a site that periodically posts abridged movie scripts which poke fun at recurrent flaws in their stories and presentation. I applied this idea to games and wrote up a quick script on one of my favourite games: Deus Ex. Because it was so fun to do, I plan to write more of these and post them here on an irregular basis. The Deus Ex script has been made available and can be viewed by clicking the link at the top of this post. I will also be using each accompanying post to briefly elaborate on (the story of) the game in question, beyond what the script itself touches on.

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