How much can you suspend your disbelief for a jRPG's story?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jonthefox, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    Title. When you play a jRPG, how much are you willing to suspend your disbelief, and what are the determining factors for that? I'm talking about things in the story that you'd either say "Wow, cool!" (and happily overlook any realism issues) vs. "Wait...this doesn't really make sense."

    Here's a quick example. Let's say you're playing a game and the premise rests on a foreign race that came from another planet, but somehow...all of their scenes with dialogue where they interact with each other or with the player characters, clearly implies that they speak the same language...which, if they came from another planet, wouldn't make sense. Would you just overlook this because videogames, or would this bother you? TLDR: What determines how much you're willing to suspend your disbelief for a storyline in a jRPG?
     
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  2. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    The quality of the writing and the internal coherence of the story can go a long way. In a sci-fi movie or book I don't expect the aliens to be talking in some incomprehensible language, so why should I expect it in a video game? In order for me to understand what they are doing, there has to be a degree of overlap with human behaviour otherwise I have no point of reference.

    The "wait,,, this doesn't really make sense" moments tend to come from contradictions within the logic of the story itself, or a plot hole, or too much writer's convenience. And that is not genre dependent. It could be high fantasy or high realism; if it has those problems my suspension of disbelief goes out the window.
     
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  3. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    One way to think about this too is to look at what sci-fi movies and TV shows do. In those it is very rare for the aliens to speak and you can't understand them unless the entire premise is no one understands them and is trying to figure out the language. Wing Commander 5 did this actually, as it was a new alien, but it was translated about 4 - 5 missions into the game too. But most shows/movies/games if they want to convey it is a different language will have the audio be the unknown language, and the subtitles will show what they are saying.

    A good example of this is Star Trek. The Klingon race speaks a different language, but the subtitles translate it for the viewers.
     
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  4. standardplayer

    standardplayer Keeper of Kitties Veteran

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    Honestly, as long as everything is well put together and feels like it has story behind it, almost any Sci-Fi or High-Fantasy setting can be pulled off. In my opinion though, there's less tolerance for amateurism in those types of far-flung stories. What I mean is that if you aren't careful or don't have enough backstory, it will sound or appear childish or amateurish, real fast.

    I think about the language thing all the time, but I realize I'm taking it to the extreme when I worry about stuff like that. I've seen some good and many bad attempts at trying to so squeeze an entire made up foreign language in the time allowed in a movie, tv show or game.

    Some people, myself included will take criticizing a concept or story of a finished product the most when we really like it. I'm paying so much attention to something I'm actually becoming concerned about ridiculous stuff. Like I'll accept the fantastical parts that make it work but then question real world physics. The difference is most of us know not to truly be upset by it.
     
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  5. Rodak

    Rodak Veteran Veteran

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    Suspend disbelief?

    In my stories it is rarely enough to merely suspend disbelief.

    For my stuff disbelief must be expelled!
     
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  6. Poryg

    Poryg Pixie of the Emvee kingdom, Ham of a Hamster Veteran

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    I am definitely a realist. It doesn't mean everything has to be as close to reality as possible, but if you in one instance say that one element is weak to another, but for majority of the story it is not true (Hello Golden Sun and Naruto), it is absolutely not right. If you make water beings not resistant to water, that is not right. If you make a person switch personalities just for the sake of plot convenience, it is not right.
     
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  7. Andar

    Andar Veteran Veteran

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    I think you have to make a difference between two different types of "breaking realism".

    The one is where breaking realism is absolutely vital to keep the game/story fun or going.
    Your example of language is one of the prime examples for this - you can't keep that realism because the player/reader would not be able to understand the story if the other people were talking in an unknown language.
    It doesn't matter what kind of reason you pull to make that translation happen - from automated and injected translator transplants inside the SF story to simply making subtitles doesn't matter, if the player or reader can't understand half the characters nothing will work.

    The other form is where the realism is broken for reasons that have nothing to do with making the story fun but with idioticy or cheapness of the developer.
    Worst case I personally know is an RPG on android. Theoretically well-made, it's about someplace where people live under primitive conditions while their environment breaks down more and more. You learn relatively quickly that it's technology that is breaking down, and soon that you are on Mars in an artificial forest that was supposed to start terraforming for the last human survivors before the computers broke down.
    The problem? Because the developer used a cheap engine (not RM, that would have more variance) with premade pictures without hiring an artist for anything to add, the enemies were skeletons and vampires and similiar throughout the game, just called them something else to pretend they weren't.
     
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  8. PhxFire

    PhxFire The Eternal Flame Veteran

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    You could always elaborate on why they're able to communicate (or whatever it is you're portraying)... Like in you're first interaction the first dialogue is in incoherent characters, you're player then displays a question bubble, *Play some sort of mechanical SE*, then it says "Is this thing working now? Sorry, sometimes we have trouble with our translators. "

    I like this because it's quick, you don't really have to explain much but it still gives the player enough to understand how they're communicating. A simple cut scene like this can really add that extra likability to a game.
     
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  9. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    I'm very lenient on the breaking realism or suspend my disbelieve mainly because the anime influenced me. It has a lot of them and it sucks I always look at what is the writer is trying to tell. I pay attention more to the character action/reaction than the plot convenience. I can get away with "suddenly, a random event happen", or "talk in the same language". But if the character action/reaction didn't do what I was expecting to do, I drop it.

    But since the story is just one element of the game (jRPG), I usually can get away as well with it if the game's gameplay can cover the story that eventually I won't be caring about the story at all. Just here for the gameplay.
     
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  10. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    Yeah, pretty much any RPG with "magic" or "supernatural" nonsense in it requires me to suspend disbelief. In my own games, I try to explain magic in a scientific way: "you're actually in a simulation" or "super-advanced technology generates the effects" and soforth.

    That said, language is a lot easier to forgive, because orcs actually speaking orcish isn't going to help me, the player, figure out what's going on. And I'm not a fan of subtitles (HI STAR TREK DISCOVERY) because I'm too busy reading the bottom of the screen and thus, prone to missing the action. So I like to think of things like "Common" or the "Universal Translator" as QoL elements for the audience, because that's what they are.
    "
     
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  11. EthanFox

    EthanFox Veteran Veteran

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    I'm really lenient with this. The trick is that a story has to be internally consistent, i.e. a fantasy is a fantasy and it can make up its own rules - but once it does, it has to follow them.

    To give a specific example here, consider Star Trek. That's an enormously successful franchise which is loved by millions of people, but it plays very fast-and-loose with this. Everyone in Trek speaks English apart from when the plot of an episode requires them to be unintelligible (e.g. TNG's "Darmok").

    Trek does have a hand-wavey explanation for this (called "the universal translator") but that's just a convenient doohickey to explain it away. The real reason everyone speaks English in Trek is that it would be inconvenient for them not to. It's quite telling that Enterprise started off its run trying to be a bit more stringent with this, but after a season they pretty much discarded it and went back to how Trek has always been.

    It's been interesting to see peoples' reactions to this, though, in my own work. In my first book, a person from ancient Japan finds themselves in modern-day London, and I made a conscious decision that their speech would be intelligible to the characters. It was a difficult decision; part of me wanted to have the characters have to use actions and gestures to understand each other, but I quickly found that in written form, I often needed to write a great deal of text to describe something quite straightforward, and whilst I enjoyed the intellectual challenge as a writer, I realised this may get tiresome for the reader - so I just abandoned it and effectively had the character speak English. The reactions from readers have been varied; about half the readers just get along with it, a few have asked about it (but been satisfied by that explanation) and of the hundreds of readers, only 2-3 have said it killed their immersion - so I think I made the right decision (I mean you can't please everyone).
     
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  12. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    My answer is simple.

    Consistency

    You are welcome to invent any rules you like. But, once invented, you need to hold to those rules, or have plausible exceptions to those rules that make the audience feel SMART for having never considered them (or having considered them, but been validated later on).

    So... things that don't really bother me... Gas tanks that explode or start fires when shot (this doesn't happen in real life). It's more exciting when things blow up, and it allows you to do cooler stuff with action scenes. Alien languages translated without explanation. It doesn't bother me as it means I just get to understand what's going on much easier. Stuff of that nature. "Rule of Cool". Things that ultimately ramp up the "fun" without really being consequential to the plot at all.

    Things that do bother me...

    1. What are the freakin' limits on a Replicator in Star Trek? Can't they just replicate some money anytime they need some? Why not? Why don't they? What about any random want? Why don't they replicate booze? Or other illegal drugs? Why do criminals steal things when they can just replicate them?
    2. Why can't they fly the giant eagles to Mordor to drop the ring? Actually... why do they have to drop it in THAT PARTICULAR volcano? Aren't all volcanos linked to the same overall magma across the whole world? Couldn't they pick a volcano in the opposite direction? Why not? Couldn't they have created their own lava with magic to destroy it?
    3. Why does a person wearing glasses have to automatically be a smart nerdy scientist... or a hopeless loser? Glasses do not add +20 to INT.
    4. Houses in video games with not enough beds/chairs/rooms for the amount of people who live there. It is seriously immersion breaking when you realize a family has one bed... and 10 children. It's squicky as well.
    ---
    Basically, I need a base minimum effort put into the game/movie/book to provide explanations for things. Limits.

    For example... in Science Fiction... they often have "Gravity Manipulators" to provide enough gravity to be on starships. But, their weapons are all lasers and such. I'm sorry, this makes no sense. The most dangerous thing any race could ever get hold of, is the ability to manipulate gravity. The crazy, terrifying, and horrifying things that can be done with such a power... Especially when the generator for it could fit into a ship no larger than a 10 bedroom home... Imagine just ripping chunks out of other ships with it. Or, using it to force objects into each other. Imagine using it to destroy the bonds between atoms and crumble people into their base elements. Imagine using it to shatter planets or kill stars. Imagine using it to immobilize criminals via a gun and lifting them into the air via gravity field.

    Do you see what I mean here? When you introduce something insanely profound with hundreds of millions of baseline applications... You need to explain the limits, why it isn't used more often, why all current technology doesn't use it, etcetera.

    Mass Effect 1 did this very well and their "Mass Effect" fields. The moment it was discovered, they used it for practically everything. They put it into their GUNS to make them fire faster than the speed of light. This is how you do gravity/inertia manipulation tech.

    Other games do similar things with their magic systems. They don't really explain them or establish rules with them. They just slam new magic powers into the plot when they need something "unexplained" to happen.

    I'm sorry, but when you have something that obviously affects the entire world it exists in... you need to spend some time addressing pretty much every possible angle of it. Because, if your audience thought of something they could do with that magic or that tech... Guaranteed, someone who had to interact with that magic or tech on a daily basis in the world you've created, would've thought of it first. There would've been consequences for what it was as well.

    I need internal logic and consistency. I need you to have thought of everything when introducing me to something. To have 400 pages of backstory and explanation somewhere in your design document about it. Because, you are building a world. Because you need to be able to apply your rules across the board and make sure it's consistent.

    I don't mind if you have very little "realism". I mind when you just assume I know how something works, or should work. I mind when you assume I won't ask questions. I mind when you assume I'll just roll with it and not consider 30 other ways to end your plot using YOUR OWN RULES FOR YOUR SETTING AND STORY that you didn't even bother considering.

    Do you know what REALLY kills immersion for me?

    When the only way your plot works is if the collective IQ of the entire cast of your story or setting is about 18. Namely, if the only way your story works is that everyone is a freakin' idiot and doesn't bother clarifying things, explaining things, apologizing for things, or just avoiding stupid actions... I check out. I can't do it. Real people do not act that way. Yes, real people do stupid things. Yes, they prolong their own problems for a variety of reasons. But, most people have some sort of motivation for doing so. They don't do it because it's what "fate" expects them to do, in order to move things along.

    If the plot of your story (or the JRPG) can be solved in about 10 minutes if everyone just grew a brain... it's a bad story or bad JRPG that I just refuse to play.

    Immersion broken.
     
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  13. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    YES!!!!!! I find that players will forgive a lot of things, but if you break your own rules, no matter why you break them, you will often get raked over the coals for them. So if you need to break them, then you better explain why they don't apply here, or prepare to get many angry players complaining about it and ripping your game for them.

    Yes again! I really HATE it when the combined IQ of your cast is equal to a turnip and/or the entire plot problems are caused by the cast themselves. For example (spoilers, so in a spoiler tab):

    The entire game of White Knight Chronicles the MC is told to never let all 5 knights be in one spot at once. Guess exactly what they do with the final showdown with the villain? Invoke their 3 knights while the villain uses their 2 so that all 5 knights are in one spot at once, which causes the evil to awaken that the party had been warned to never let awaken for the entire freaking game! All they had to do was hold back one knight and use 2 vs 2, problem would have been solved, but nope, they went and awoken the hidden evil that would awaken if all 5 knights were in one spot at once, and had to fight that too.

    In fact, I hate it so much if all of the problems of the game is caused by the cast being dumb that I will stop playing games or stop reading books if that is the entire plot, that is how much I hate it.
     
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  14. ave36

    ave36 Veteran Veteran

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    Some of the really incoherent stuff in JRPGs jars me a bit. For example, when playing FFIV, I asked myself about Dr. Lugae: wait, who is this guy? Is he from Earth or Moon? If he is from Earth, why is he a mad scientist, Earth is just not advanced enough in this world. Where did he get his scientific education?

    Similarly, I was jarred by Ultros in FFVI. A talking octopus? OK. Wait, he can move on land freely? Why is he working off his debts? Is there a bank that would give loans to octopi? And aren't all banks gone after Kefka's apocalypse? Maybe Kefka specifically spared bankers because they spread misery and he feels kindred souls in them?

    In my game, I try to avoid such inconsistencies. All my bosses have stories and reasons to be there, even if it is as simple as "ancient monster guardian left there by the Dark Elves" or "well that is a fire cave, so a fire dragon made it its lair". All my peoples speak their own languages, even if it is just a few flavor words added here and there to simulate that they are trying to speak Ruritanian but occasionally lapse into their native languaes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
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