How important is originality in a game?

Simon D. Aelsi

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Ahem. People are talking about originality in storytelling, but they fail to see that there is plenty of room for innovation in gameplay. Many, many mechanics are yet to be explored, from innovative puzzle mechanics to battle systems to new scripts enabling greater possibilities than ever before. Innovative dungeon designs, innovative choice-based systems, harvest-moon-style real-time games, horror games with more inventive scares, and even time-bending possibilities.

I believe the magic of gaming lies in innovative gameplay. I can get a good story in a movie. But an experience comes from the way that certain mechanics interact with each other.

So no, originality is not dead. There is still plenty to be found out, and I think that may even be something that is sorely missing from the RPG Maker community. I'm generalizing here, but it's true.
Aha, brilliant! You're right, I was starting o get swayed...  ;_;

Great stuff! BD
 

Deep Thought

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Ahem. People are talking about originality in storytelling, but they fail to mention that there is plenty of room for innovation in gameplay. Many, many mechanics are yet to be explored, from innovative puzzle mechanics to battle systems to new scripts enabling greater possibilities than ever before. Innovative dungeon designs, innovative choice-based systems, harvest-moon-style real-time games, horror games with more inventive scares, and even time-bending possibilities.

I believe the magic of gaming lies in innovative gameplay. I can get a good story in a movie. But an experience comes from the way that certain mechanics interact with each other.

So no, originality is not dead. There is still plenty to be found out, and I think that may even be something that is sorely missing from the RPG Maker community. I'm generalizing here, but it's true.
That's a very astute observation that hadn't occurred to me until you brought it up. There isn't much more progress to be made in storytelling, but gameplay can still be innovated and improved upon. Unfortunately, to many developers, both amateur and professional (SEE-GAAA~) "innovation" means "gimmicks". True innovation in gameplay is hard to find, but it's more critical to video games in specific than plot, which is important to every medium. Almost any writer can make a plot for a game, but it takes a game developer to make a game.
 

BlissAuthority

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The problem isn't unoriginality; it's that an unoriginal story is usually a symptom of a thoughtless writer.

There's nothing wrong with rehashing the "rescue the princess" plot so long as you go "wait a tic, does this make sense?  Why can't the princess escape on her own?  Could it be a prince or minor nobleman instead?  Why a princess?" and are satisfied with the answer.

That's a very astute observation that hadn't occurred to me until you brought it up. There isn't much more progress to be made in storytelling, but gameplay can still be innovated and improved upon. Unfortunately, to many developers, both amateur and professional (SEE-GAAA~) "innovation" means "gimmicks". True innovation in gameplay is hard to find, but it's more critical to video games in specific than plot, which is important to every medium. Almost any writer can make a plot for a game, but it takes a game developer to make a game.
Something that helps on both counts is to develop your gameplay before you come up with a plotline.  Defender's Quest was designed this way; it's one of the reason the story works so well.  (Immortal Defense too, oddly enough; both tower defense games, both very different, both with amazing storylines.)
 
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C-C-C-Cashmere (old)

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The problem isn't unoriginality; it's that an unoriginal story is usually a symptom of a thoughtless writer.


There's nothing wrong with rehashing the "rescue the princess" plot so long as you go "wait a tic, does this make sense?  Why can't the princess escape on her own?  Could it be a prince or minor nobleman instead?  Why a princess?" and are satisfied with the answer.
Truth. Even more though, is when developers write a story with the bare cliches and add no flavour to it. It's a simple "rescue the princess" story, but they don't give details or depth. Character motivations are lacking, dialogue is uninspired or poor imitations of other games/movies/anime. Not that I'm any better, I just recognize it though.


The best thing to do is to write a story using cliches as a base and add your own flair. You can create a rescue the princess story, but maybe dress it up with some political intrigue - there is a line of suitors in line waiting to inherit the kingdom. You play a vagabond that gets in trouble with the law, but since you have great skills they want to use you to go undercover and learn valuable royal secrets. While there you meet the princess, who you want to take away with you when it's all done. She has the potential to ruin the entire operation. Then she invites you to dinner with the King and you have to obey her wishes or she will tell the King that there is an infilitrator in amongst the suitors.


It's a B-plot, but at least it's a low-tier passable RM game instead of an unbearable annoyance with an excuse plot.
 

BlissAuthority

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Truth. Even more though, is when developers write a story with the bare cliches and add no flavour to it. It's a simple "rescue the princess" story, but they don't give details or depth. Character motivations are lacking, dialogue is uninspired or poor imitations of other games/movies/anime. Not that I'm any better, I just recognize it though.

The best thing to do is to write a story using cliches as a base and add your own flair. You can create a rescue the princess story, but maybe dress it up with some political intrigue - there is a line of suitors in line waiting to inherit the kingdom. You play a vagabond that gets in trouble with the law, but since you have great skills they want to use you to go undercover and learn valuable royal secrets. While there you meet the princess, who you want to take away with you when it's all done. She has the potential to ruin the entire operation. Then she invites you to dinner with the King and you have to obey her wishes or she will tell the King that there is an infilitrator in amongst the suitors.

It's a B-plot, but at least it's a low-tier passable RM game instead of an unbearable annoyance with an excuse plot.
Truth!  Of course, my first project is a thin excuse for a bunch of interesting people to meet at a tavern - but then again, I'm describing it as such.  It's deliberate.

The problem isn't a cliche, it's an unexamined one.
 
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Ed19

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There's nothing wrong with the cliche unless you make a modification of the major plot.  We can make a story more interesting by using a plot twist, mysteries, more fleshed antagonist, and adding an anti-hero to your character rooster.
 
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MMO

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To me, originality doesn't really matter. If one person executes his game poorly, but it's "original", I don't find that interesting. But if someone takes an idea that's already been used, but makes it extremely fun to play, then that's what I'm going to pick.
 

whitesphere

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The way I'm trying to be original, or at least enjoyable, is to have some long-term consequences for significant actions.   Yes, you can kill the king who seems to be taxing his people heavily.  But I'm trying to make every action taken justifiable, at least from the doer's perspective.

Why do you need to venture into the Thieve's Den?  Well, a character won't join you unless you retrieve her medal.  Why does she care?  She wants to adventure but wants to make sure her travelling companion has some measure of skill.

And the Master Thief?  He wants to recruit you, but an offhand remark by the player starts the boss fight...

And, if you do certain very dark acts? You might lose some PCs since they won't stand for them.
 

BlissAuthority

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The way I'm trying to be original, or at least enjoyable, is to have some long-term consequences for significant actions.   Yes, you can kill the king who seems to be taxing his people heavily.  But I'm trying to make every action taken justifiable, at least from the doer's perspective.

Why do you need to venture into the Thieve's Den?  Well, a character won't join you unless you retrieve her medal.  Why does she care?  She wants to adventure but wants to make sure her travelling companion has some measure of skill.

And the Master Thief?  He wants to recruit you, but an offhand remark by the player starts the boss fight...

And, if you do certain very dark acts? You might lose some PCs since they won't stand for them.
Can I just say that this is the best morality system in a game that I've heard of in a long time?  It would be tedious to event, but so worth it.
 
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Stridah

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You don't need to have the most original story ever to make a good game.  I think the excection of how the story is delivered along with the game play is what makes a game interesting.

I could create a basic two paragraph story and hire two writers to flesh it out.  I could get drastically different quality stories depending on the skills of the writer.  
 

aozgolo

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You don't need to have the most original story ever to make a good game.  I think the excection of how the story is delivered along with the game play is what makes a game interesting.

I could create a basic two paragraph story and hire two writers to flesh it out.  I could get drastically different quality stories depending on the skills of the writer.  
Way back in the day I was actually a part of a group game project that did this. The group leader provided me a basic synopsis saying he wanted a dystopian gritty cityscape as a setting and a lot of seedy underworld factions vying for ultimate control over the city, and the protagonist kind of shoved into the middle of it all.

With that I fleshed out the world, major characters, basic story outlines, even the general themes of the story. Sadly the game kind of died but it was fun to get into.

Definitely know your strengths, sometimes being a writer isn't a person's strength, whatever you feel is NOT your strong point, don't be afraid to seek help on it, get other people who know how to write, give them a basic idea of what you want, and turn them loose. Writing is luckily also one of those things you can "try before you buy", you can throw the idea out there on these or other story forums, get feedback and advice, before deciding which story you think best fits what YOU want to do.
 

DavidGil

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Speaking as a fiction writer, I think it's best not to worry about originality. :) I mean, by all means strive for it, but the chance is very good that even if you create something you think is unique, people will probably still be able to find similarities to another work.

In other words, pretty much everything has been done before. It's best to just work on telling your story well, rather than worrying about originality. And I guess the same can be applied to games. Chances are many of the mechanics you can think of have already been implemented elsewhere, at least in a similar fashion, but how you actually put the mechanics together or how everything comes together for a complete game? That's what would ultimately determine whether you have a good project or not.

And yep, know your strengths, though you kind of need to do everything when you're working on your own and can't afford to pay people. Myself, I know I'm not too good with mapping yet, but hopefully that'll come. I do, however, know that I'll probably never make my own animations, graphics, sound/music. So, I'm hoping my story skills will help sell whatever I make. (Pretty proud of the first cutscene I've put together in a day or two though!)
 
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