I think the single most important thing in a game, nowadays, is the storytelling. Having come from a RPGey background, I can tell you that the more people engaged and cared for their characters, the more they had fun with the game. Games with a lot of options and paths that you can choose from (and can actually alter the story) give you this warm little feeling each time you have to make a decision. In those moments, you’re building the personality of your character, and those are great moments. I am proud to have saved that ugly town in Fallout 3 that was built around a bomb. I remember that part, I remember defusing it. I don’t remember the moments of fighting with such clarity.
I think Rock Band 2 did a darn good job in creating a story for your virtual band. They have all those situations where you have to choose (doing a benefit show, doing an indie videoclip, doing an encore), and also the stages where you have to perform a show to earn your van, your bus, or your airplane, for example. Those are great ideas, and my single greatest hope for Rock Band 3 is that we see MUCH MORE of those elements. And this is the first of a (hopefully) long series of posts in which I’ll write about my ideas.
But first a comparison with GH5. Where the HELL is the storytelling in that game? There’s NONE! You jump from venue to venue, and nothing ever happens in-between! No cutscenes, no choosing, no nothing! The only thing you can choose is the songs you play, but come on, that’s basic. I might as well just have gone to Quickplay mode and played the songs… but that wouldn’t give me access to new stages, clothes and… well… everything. So I have to endure a lot of boring songs, with no “story rewards” for them, to unlock stuff.
This is the reason why I have given up on playing Guitar Hero 5. I don’t care for my band there, I don’t care for my musician either. It’s like he doesn’t even have a personality. He’s an angry guitar player who’s playing songs at concerts and that’s pretty much it. What CRAP.
In RB2, though, things are different. I love my band. I love jumping from city to city and performing setlists. I love gaining fans. When the chance appears to make a videoclip, it’s awesome. I love choosing to add a difficult encore to the setlist. And performing huge concerts at large venues is awesome.
I have designed all the members of my band. And I kinda even imagine the personaility of each one of them. I have dressed them accordingly. I have this fiery, tophat wearing Cyndi Lauperesque bass player, the mellow cute redhead singer with a touch of poppish sophistication and the long-haired heavy metal brute banging on the drums. My character is the tattooed virtuoso guy with simple clothes and a big heart. My band is awesome. It plays “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and then “Tribute”. The kids love them.
Anyway, do you see what storytelling can do, even for a music game? It’s what gives games depth. It’s what makes you care. You wanna play because you want to know what’s gonna happen next. It keeps you interested! It keeps you wanting more. It gives your characters meaning.
I’ll keep writing about this, about ideas, and I invite you to do so as well.