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World vs. Story: Is It A Tradeoff?

Joined
Sep 21, 2014
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In the last few weeks I've been absolutely bitten by the Zelda bug again. Thanks to the recent news of upcoming Hyrule Warriors DLC, the release of Twilight Princess HD, and a vague whisper that we'll be getting lots of Zelda related news at E3, I've been binge-watching youtube videos and discussions about the upcoming Zelda title. But I've been hearing a lot of different analyses ranging across a variety of topics, and it sorta got me thinking. There are a lot of things people seem to be expecting or hoping for out of the next game, and the more I think about it the more I feel that the various wish-list items seem to pull in separate directions.

On one hand, you have people clamoring for things like nonlinear dungeon progression, true open world, customizable character appearance/gender, and day, night and even season cycles that seem to put emphasis on building a world to explore.

On the other hand you have things like voice acting and cutscenes, concretely defined character appearance, difficulty curve, relationships, and Link's town of origin that seem like they would lend themselves more to creating a particular narrative.

I can't help but feel that emphasizing some of the articles on one list directly pull from some items on the other list. Whether that is because the items are diametrically opposed to one another (like having a defined Link vs. an Avatar Link), while some merely seem like they'd conflict with each other in development (like voice acting diverting budget and time away from creating more world features).

So what do people think? Are there some things that pull development too far in one direction or another? Is it possible to do almost everything, have an amazing open world and also a tight narrative at the same time?

Author's Note: There may be a few of you who are tempted to emphasize one particular trait in the above list (you know who you are and what I'm talking about). Pro Tip: do not do that thing. I will beat you into an early grave with my Whiffle Bat of Justice.
 

Dio

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The Witcher 3 is how its done. Fantastic storytelling. Beautiful open world, great music and voice acting. Day and night cycles. Dynamic weather. DYNAMIC BEARD GROWTH!! Numerous side quests and secrets. After playing that brilliant game and completing it I know it is possible to have it all.

The year W3 was released Zelda U was delayed and I believe that it was one of the reasons for the delay. I suspect that had ZU released when intended that it would have paled in comparison to W3. Now they have had the time to improve the game and add to it we will have a product which should stand up.



while some merely seem like they'd conflict with each other in development (like voice acting diverting budget and time away from creating more world features).

Voice acting is separate from world building it doesn't divert anything, it's not like the level makers are giving up their time making levels to voice characters. Nintendo dont have budget problems as they are making a AAA game here.

As for a player link vs a character. Yes link is a character though he is actually a boring stock hero so the player can easily imagine themselves as him and he doesn't do anything outrageous and unexpected. It is made quite clear in the games he is a hero and therefore it makes sense for the player to save the world as him and him to be a caring character who looks out for his friends. There isn't really another choice as its not like Skyrim where you can murder everyone and ignore the main quest. The main quest of saving the world is always the focus of Zelda and should remain so. The thing about games like Skyrim and Fallout is that the world itself becomes the focus and having maximum character choice. That is what makes the main story less of a focus in those games. I really would hate to see that happen to Zelda as for me and many players, experiencing the story is the most important part of playing.
 
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Ventus

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Make the story tied into the world. Yes, that means take an approach similar to Dark Souls and other games where the story is driven by item descriptions and snippets of voice/text here and there. Why do it that way? So we get the best of both. Would it require Nintendo doing something different? Yes. Best part is that that method is proven to work already (which is why I brought up DS). It frees up making ridiculous cutscenes and handholding sequences, instead allowing for better combat and gameplay design/enhancements.
 
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Voice acting is separate from world building it doesn't divert anything, it's not like the level makers are giving up their time making levels to voice characters. Nintendo dont have budget problems as they are making a AAA game here.
It actually does divert things. When planning a game the department heads and all major members of the development will meet multiple times to discuss their most important asset: time. They make decisions on what they think can be accomplished with the time and money they have at their disposal. Additionally, when new leads come onto a project, they may look at elements and insist they either be added or cut. In this way, the decision whether or not to fully voice characters or cutscenes absolutely comes into play.
 
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Also what I think I should clarify is that when I say "world" what I mean is "open exploration divorced from narrative". One two micro-examples can be found in Twilight Princess, one at Lake Hylia and the other just before Kakariko Gorge. They are little mini-dungeons that contain enemies, poes and heart pieces. These dungeons do nothing to advance the story. What they do, however, is give the player something to explore.
 

Ronin

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The Witcher 3 is how its done. Fantastic storytelling. Beautiful open world, great music and voice acting. Day and night cycles. Dynamic weather. DYNAMIC BEARD GROWTH!! Numerous side quests and secrets. After playing that brilliant game and completing it I know it is possible to have it all.
Xenoblade X has all this too!

...Minus the beard growth.
 

Lozjam

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Make the story tied into the world. Yes, that means take an approach similar to Dark Souls and other games where the story is driven by item descriptions and snippets of voice/text here and there. Why do it that way? So we get the best of both. Would it require Nintendo doing something different? Yes. Best part is that that method is proven to work already (which is why I brought up DS). It frees up making ridiculous cutscenes and handholding sequences, instead allowing for better combat and gameplay design/enhancements.
Metroid Prime did this nearly a decade before Dark Souls was even conceived, and arguably in an even better way....
 
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Metroid Prime did this nearly a decade before Dark Souls was even conceived, and arguably in an even better way....
I think I would consider most of the Scans "world" and not "story" because it's just little snippets that enrich the world around you, most of them don't actually advance the narrative or push the game into a story-focus.
 

Lozjam

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I think I would consider most of the Scans "world" and not "story" because it's just little snippets that enrich the world around you, most of them don't actually advance the narrative or push the game into a story-focus.
It actually did in many ways. Just because the game doesn't tell you exactly what to do, doesn't mean that it isn't story. It merely guided the player within the story.

For example, everything that has been done with the Space Pirates, Metroids and everything because of it guides the player to their true objective. Which is story. This advances the narrative and what should be done because of it. Now, at first it is very scarce snippets of information. However, the story itself is in itself a puzzle that you slowly piece together.
 

Dio

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It actually does divert things. When planning a game the department heads and all major members of the development will meet multiple times to discuss their most important asset: time. They make decisions on what they think can be accomplished with the time and money they have at their disposal. Additionally, when new leads come onto a project, they may look at elements and insist they either be added or cut. In this way, the decision whether or not to fully voice characters or cutscenes absolutely comes into play.
If they have done that and decided VA is the way to go then they would have thought it would bring something positive to the game and it would be better for having included it.

Including voice acting does not make the gameplay suffer in any way. It would likely be no different with or without voice actors, it just costs a bit more money to hire localised VA's and again has no impact on the dungeons which are handled by a separate team.
 

DarkestLink

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*is pretending that Ocarina of Time, Majoras Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess doesn't exist*

They're not bad...but they're not that huge either. It's hardly a selling point. I mean compare any Zelda story to a game where story is a big deal like Xenoblade Chronicles.....yeah.
 

ZeldafreakCJM

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Well it depends the world needs to be important but not so important that it requires Link to be destroyed and made into a boring avatar, and the story is also important but nowhere near enough to justify placing more emphasis on this particular games or any individual games incarnation of Link and actually make him something that does not correlate with what the character needs to be.

So it's a balance.
 

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