As many of you probably know, I hate highly scripted games. I feel taking control away from me in general is kind of the anti-thesis of games. Doing it sometimes to impact me, to make it feel like I’ve really lost control can be effective if used wisely, but outside of that taking control of my character away has always bothered me. Things like the Call of Duty single players since Modern Warfare 2, quite a bit of the beginning of Duke Nukem Forever, etc. . . really really bother me. Yet I got into an interesting discussion with a friend about the main reasons behind the heavyhanded scripting.
The biggest argument for it is of course pacing, by scripting you can guarantee the pace a player goes through an area, you can make sure the camera is in the right place, or that it takes enough time you’re extremely likely to see….something. While it does work for this, it seems like an extremely lazy way of doing it. There are a lot of perspective designs that help draw your eyes to certain spots, and pacing can be controlled in other ways, puzzles, stopper enemies, water, bastion does it with a combination of the narrator and the level actually building itself in front of you. There are a myriad of ways to affect pacing, one of the more interesting is in the first mission of Deus Ex: Human Revolution *MINOR SPOILER ALERT* that if you’re too slow, you actually get punished.
Another argument is that people are unlikely to catch some of the more subtle hints in a story, why would you watch the news in Duke Nuken Forever for example? And if you did bypass it, and missed part of the story, it might lessen the experience. In a market where people aren’t finishing the ‘majority of games they buy’ according to even CNN, expecting them to do a second playthrough and catching some of the more subtle design is asking a bit too much. While that’s true to a point, there are two points I’d personally argue against those, that a.) important story bits should be explained to the player in better, less intrusive but still obvious ways, and b.) finding bits like that is extremely rewarding, and once you find one, you’re more likely to find others. You lose that sense of wonder when you’re forced to see these things.
I’ve also argued that the main use of scripting in modern games is to pad content, by controlling the player’s actions they can make shorter games -seem- longer. I always feel this is a detriment to games, I’d rather have a shorter, more fluid game, than a longer padded game. Like anime, filler content is usually more detriment to the product than helpful. Though I have to admit even there, I prefer fan servicey beach scenes to getting frustrated that my character is apparently a little too steroid infused to remember how to open a door.
So what are your thoughts on heavy scripting in games? How big a problem do you think pacing is for games? Always love to hear from my readers, till next time gamers.