Two ways of storytelling: concise versus verbose

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Two ways of storytelling: concise versus verbose

Post by almos666 »

One of the criticisms levelled against the NE is that 'the storyline is thin'. The criticism comes, I believe, from people who equate storyline with tons of dialogues and exposition.

There are, in my opinion, two ways to tell a story. One's treating the reader/viewer/player as an idiot who has to have every tiniest detail explained to them. This is, unfortunately, why I disliked "Interstellar": the author is so desperate for us to get his message that he hammers it into the viewer via dialogue. In the end, there's no shadow of doubt as to what have happened and why it has happened, but all of this at the expense of subtlety.

The other pole is, for instance, Thomas Alfredson's "Let The Right One In", where the story is told in a very precise manner: just a few lines and one accurate shot convey what otherwise would take tons of dialogue and exposition. This way of telling stories is, in my opinion, more affecting: the world and the answers are constructed within the viewers/players mind. They come as much from within as they do from without.

NE fall into the latter school. The few lines of dialogue between Thomas and Gabrielle work even better than overlong exposition in most adventure games because they are few and between, but delivered precisely where they should. To me it explains why NE works, and why it had such an effect on myself in the first place...

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Re: Two ways of storytelling: concise versus verbose

Post by evilkinggumby »

I think what you are talking about is Explicit vs implicit. Concise vs verbose is really how wordy and efficient the storytelling is, not how the details and storytelling are handled. You can be implicit and verbose, or you can be implicit and concise.

I agree that NeN shoots for being more implicit, you have to search for the implied meaning in everything because very little of it is explicitly detailed for the gamer. I personally feel it strays a bit too far on it's implicit nature, but I also recognize Matt has said he wanted to leave a lot of grey area so players can come up with their own story/endings/plot (and so find their own sense of meaning and moral to the tale). It means that I've seen a few very different explanations of how a player interpreted the entire experience, and then there is Matt's reveal for what he actually had in mind. The beauty of the design is that for those able to read and imagine the story through the implied details, they can make the story shape into their own wonderful and disturbing/uplifting story and be uniquely emotionally moved, and so everyone can sort of create a version of the game story that suits their fancy.

But for those looking for more traditional story telling, explicit or implicit or otherwise, it falls into a very grey area where not enough concrete detail may be readily apparant, so due to the murky 'open to interpretation' nature, it will feel over simplified, weak, or non existent. This is the big risk Matt took with the game, and sadly it is also why I think some players didn't appreciate the experience (among many other details I have already cited and won't recant now).

Matt also admitted the game was not Narratively focused/driven. yes it had a narrative, but he did not built the game with it as his main focus, but rather, looked at a lot of other details and emotional ideas to build the game around. Because of this, there is a lot of details only glanced over about the narrative, whereas the "experience" of the game is much richer and well developed.
[I am Evilkinggumby on DeviantArt and Steam if you want to looks me up!]

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Re: Two ways of storytelling: concise versus verbose

Post by matt »

We definitely wanted to keep the dialog to a minimum and leave as much up to the imagination of the player as possible. I think the game is definitely minimalist on exposition as well as uses implicit story telling. For example, in the Final Descent ending, we leave it up to you to interpret the events giving only the clues of the painting on the wall and what the note hints at. Would people have preferred that I come right out and say "Hey, you had a daughter that died?" It sounds like some would, but that idea never really sat right with me.

I think a bigger problem than implicit story telling is that we wanted to really mindfuck the player so much that we didn't really drop enough breadcrumbs to hint at the story.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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