Story vs Gameplay - which is more important in a RPG

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MushroomCake28, Jun 18, 2019.

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Which would you prefer?

  1. A very good story with an alright gameplay

    22 vote(s)
    51.2%
  2. An alright story with an amazing gameplay

    21 vote(s)
    48.8%
  1. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    I know it's better to have both a great story and a good gameplay, but in the event that one is better than the other, which is more important in your opinion? To start off, let's define stuff:
    • Story: The plot, including the characters. Who are the characters? What do they do? How do they evolve? What happens in your game? So every aspect of storytelling.
    • Gameplay: The whole experience of the player, including battles, maps, story (yes I include that), progression, menus, etc.
    So would you prefer a game with an okay story but a great gameplay, or a game with a really good story but an okay gameplay?
     
    #1
  2. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I personally will enjoy the gameplay-centric RPG with fun, user-friendly, thoughtful, creative, deep, and diverse gameplay. It gets me in a wonderful flow state when I get to play a game like this.

    However, that's just my personal taste. I don't think one is truly better than the other: either a superb story or superb gameplay can be used to create a memorable and beloved game.
     
    #2
  3. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I voted for story. I've put up with some awful gameplay ideas when I really liked the story (Caligula Effect).

    Though there are cases where good gameplay and minimal story work well too. Doom isn't exactly known for it's plot after all. And Tetris didn't even have a story, and people played it a lot.
     
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  4. HexMozart88

    HexMozart88 The Master of Random Garbage Veteran

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    Either one. Generally I need both to be really good, but but I've played a lot of games with basically no story that I loved, and ones with sub-par gameplay that I still stuck around for just because I wanted to know how it ended.
     
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  5. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    @Wavelength Yeah I'm like you. Like I said at the beginning, it is a very subjective preference though.

    @bgillisp I'm of course talking about typical RPGs where's a there's a bit of story. I wouldn't qualify Tetris as an RPG, but I get your point.

    @HexMozart88 Wow, your tolerance for sub-par games is very high. I would have quit early lol.
     
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  6. HexMozart88

    HexMozart88 The Master of Random Garbage Veteran

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    LOL, I sometimes just like to play not very good games 'cause they can be just as helpful as excellent ones.
     
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  7. Neo_Kum0rius_6000

    Neo_Kum0rius_6000 Not Your Ordinary Guy! Veteran

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    I honestly like game play better I often find most RPGs boring, because they focus on the plot to much...
     
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  8. AfroKat

    AfroKat Villager Member

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    In the end with a bad story and good gameplay, I'm not gonna want to play the game if it gets me nowhere storywise (FE conquest) rsther if it had a good story I can put up with the gameplay to get to more story (FE echoes)
     
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  9. Heirukichi

    Heirukichi Veteran Veteran

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    I did not cast my vote. The reason behind my choice is that the answer greatly depends on the genre of your game (and other aspects as well). JRPG and Western RPG are completely different and, depending on which one you are aiming for, game-play can be more important than the story or not.

    I would have definitely voted for game-play if your poll had a "great story with bad game-play" option, because decent game-play is a condicio sine qua non for all games. What I mean is that the game-play cannot be bad, otherwise it would spoil the fun, and if you have to spoil the fun with a bad game-play, there are better medias to deliver a good story.

    The same goes for the story though. There are so many games around, with so many different features. If somebody wants to play a game with those features disregarding the story, there are many ways to do that. This is the reason why a story has to be at least decent (by story I mean main plot, lore and/or characters).

    If we assume that both aspects are at least decent, I think the main difference is what you want from your game. Of course, a JRPG usually has more story than a Western RPG, so I would say that story is more important in that situation, but that relies on the fact that Japanese uses ideograms, which allow you to convey messages in a whole different way. Doing the same with a language that uses latin characters is tricky, and that is also why JRPG developed in that direction.

    Is your game about narrative or fellowship? Go for the story. Is your game about challenge and discovery? Go for game-play. There are other ways to handle this, of course, but if you want to research deeper on this subject, I recommend reading "A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research" by R. Hunicke, M. LeBlanc, R. Zubek. It is a good document that summarize the concepts behind the MDA Framework. I do not know if you already know about it, but it might greatly help you. Of course, you can check the references if you want to go even deeper (they are very interesting).

    I think that following that framework really gives you a better perspective than just "doing what your guts tell you" (as I have heard once in a video).

    EDIT: as a side note, you could check one of my posts in another thread with a similar poll. The post contains a mathematical analysis of the reasons why game-play cannot be bad. It adds nothing to this topic since you already mentioned an "alright game-play", but it can be helpful when it comes to understanding my point of view.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  10. Doktor_Q

    Doktor_Q I'm not a real doktor, but I am a real Q Veteran

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    As long as the part that's good is good enough to offset how bad the bad part is, I think either works. I've played a lot of RPGs with laughable stories because I enjoyed playing them, but I've also struggled through some bad games to see the rest of the story.

    That said, I guess gameplay is more important to getting me to play the game; if it's bad enough I'll just watch / read someone else playing it and save myself the trouble. Possibly with a point by point breakdown of why the gameplay is so bad as a lesson to future developers.

    ...I guess if you hypothetically achieved a story so bad and obtrusive it actually prevented me from getting to the rest of the gameplay, I'd wait for someone else to copy the mechanics with a less-awful story, but I haven't actually seen that happen yet.
     
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  11. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @Neo_Kum0rius_6000 : We're opposites. I personally play RPG for the story, not the battle system that the maker thinks is cute but is more work to figure out than my Differential Equations HW was when I was in college.

    @MushroomCake28 : True, so if we mean just RPG's, then story over gameplay. I'll get bored of the game if there is only gameplay and the story is poor.

    @HexMozart88 : True! I've played some really poor RPG's and made it to the end as it was like watching a train wreck. I knew I should go play something else but it was almost laughable in how bad it was. And sometimes I'll play a bad game if it has a mechanic I want to see to see how they execute it/attempt it. And worst case scenario I learn what not to do.
     
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  12. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    You know what, if I want a story, I'd rather watch a show, read books/comic, or other story-centric media.
    if I want gameplay, I'd rather play FPS, 4X, Strategy/Tactic games, and other games which the story is just an excuse for the game to happen.

    RPG? it's in the sweet spot between both, i.e if I want to experience both. So you need to have both. You need to get good at both. If you're neglecting the story aspect, you can still call it a game, but probably not an RPG. Probably a dungeon crawler, probably a hack and slash, and so on. However, strictly speaking, whether to choose a story or gameplay, I choose gameplay. I play games for a gaming experience.

    Not always the case, I put gameplay over the story because there was a case of a game where the story was really good, but the gameplay sucked that I had to look up at the internet on how to proceed. And that was really a pace breaker. I wish I was watching a movie instead. How am I suppose to enjoy a story if I roadblocked from advancing?
     
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  13. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @TheoAllen : That's in an ideal world where both will be good. Usually since nothing is perfect, one will be better than the other I've found.

    But I do know what you mean about needing both.
     
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  14. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    @bgillisp by I mean having good at both is you need to make an effort to make both good. Just because you focused on the gameplay, don't just make a barebone story, and just because you focused on the story, don't just create a low effort balancing and copy pasted skill that bloated the skill window and other useless gameplay aspects. However, good itself is subjective. Therefore, nothing is perfect. But you know when someone makes an effort on both.

    EDIT:
    Also to note, the story isn't always the fate of a character (JRPG approach), it can be a narrative (WRPG approach). Tell the lore about the world, tell the NPC life, and other aspect makes the game has a more immersive experience.
     
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  15. BlackGoldSaw

    BlackGoldSaw Veteran Veteran

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    Went with gameplay without a second thought. Genre doesn't matter, gameplay is always the make or break thing for me. There are a lot of games with characters and plots that I hate: FF8, FFX, FFX-2, FF12, but I enjoy the gameplay greatly and that's what keeps me playing for a hundred hours. Bad story is less of an issue for me as there's nothing forcing me to read it. In FFX-2 for example, I can skip every cutscene and just enjoy playing the game. Bad gameplay I can't avoid. I have to tolerate that the entire game. You could write the greatest story ever written but if that story takes place inside Bubsy 3D it's not gonna matter. The controls are so abysmal it makes the game nearly unplayable. It'd be agonizing and frustrating beyond all hell fighting the awful controls in an attempt to get back to the awesome story.
     
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  16. mathmaster74

    mathmaster74 just...John Veteran

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    My vote is for story. I play for the next cutscene, the next plot development, the next wrinkle. Story is, in my book, what gives an RPG charm, character...even life. Pacing a well-written story to reward the player at intervals will keep them playing. While good gameplay is its own reward, consistently good gameplay can go unnoticed. Players expect games to have decent gameplay, but a good story? That's considered a good find. Of course, we all know that bad gameplay can confound, and I will agree that I would sooner put the game away than play it if poor gameplay gets in the way of story. Likewise, I will concede that I have played "fun" games, including RPGs, which have little or no story. My fondest memories and most treasured takeaways from games I loved aren't about how the gameplay was, though. When I tell someone about a game I loved, my report is about the story experience I got while trying my darnedest not to ruin it for them.
     
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  17. Astfgl66

    Astfgl66 Veteran Veteran

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    I play games because I enjoy the interaction, the gameplay.
    I read books because I enjoy the story.

    The gameplay is what makes your game a game. If it sucks then your game sucks.

    I'm not talking about a specific part of gameplay here, or specific genres even.
    Some games are walking simulators and their very streamlined gameplay allows you to enjoy the story. But that's the important part: the gameplay is tailored to the rest of the experience.

    I have and will play games without narratives, and pretty much everyone will, you'll just have to look at the overwhelming majority of mobile games to convince yourself of that.
    Candy crush, tetris, angry birds, card games, gacha games, shooters,... It would be too long to list gameplay centered genres really.


    A game to be successful has to be good at the interaction part. I'm not going to play a story based rpg if the rpg part sucks,
    Let's take an exterme example: would you play a rpg that has the most gripping story you've ever experienced if that great story was wrapped into a survival system where you have to constantly monitor food sleep/etc and will drop dead if you don't check the menu and use an item every x amount of time to micromanage each of those parameters, those items would cost money which you'd have to grind for in really boring battles filled with insta deaths to add 'challenge', you can only get those items into shops in town so you have to backtrack a lot, there are no saves forcing you to repeat early parts a lot, and you walk very slowly to boot?
    You could read a lot of books during that time and would experience great stories in a much more efficient manner I'd wager.

    Even for the extreme example of kinetic visual novels where you have no interaction whatsoever the "gameplay" is important. Would you play such a game if you couldn't save or if you had no text log, or if the text was really slow to display and you couldn't change it? I wouldn't.

    These are very extreme example of course, and it's a lot more nuanced in practice, but gameplay will have to come first for me.
    If you have a stellar story and want to tell it in game form, then you'll have to make a good game first and foremost. Otherwise go and write a book, please.

    TLDR: A good gameplay is the fundation of your rpg. An awesome story will make me play a rpg with sub par gameplay. A terrible gameplay will make me skip your rpg, no matter how interesting the story.
     
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  18. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    Right, take an example of BoF4 (iirc it's the only JRPG where I got so far and almost finished, and has a good story in my opinion). The gameplay was alright, but none of them really memorable for my taste. It just... alright. I constantly wished that there was sort of episodic anime or a movie so I can enjoy without having to do grinding, buying new equipment, and doing minigames. Granted, iirc there was a manga for it, which is good, but I haven't read it.

    Another example is Valkyria Chronicles (is this RPG? or tactic? or RPG tactic? idk), I watched the anime first, so I know the first part of the story. When I tried the first part of the game, the game told the story exactly the same as the anime. Then I discovered the first few of the level are puzzle disguised in the tactical map. And I'm not fond of puzzles in the first place, so why bother to continue the game when I already knew the whole story (even though I don't know if the game story and the anime story are the same).

    There was also some of RM games that I liked because of the story. The gameplay was alright, nothing breaks my pace, and it wasn't too difficult. It was so good that years ago I even considering to even write a fanfic for it. Even I imagine what if it becomes a manga or an anime. But that goes back to my point, why can't it be in another media? Although I'm glad that the dev brought the story into a reachable media as an RM game.

    In all fairness, specifically speaking, in our RM community, and the RM engine itself is for "low-budget" people who want to tell a story with a visual media to tell their story. It can be either VN or RPG. Because making an animated series will be more difficult than to program it in RM engine. So, if you're making RPG, you need to have both story and gameplay. People play RPG for the story, and some may also play for gameplay. If you're not focusing on the story, it might be better if you don't advertise your game as RPG, or maybe don't make RPG.

    Gameplay part is important. Because that is what keeps your player keeps playing your game. If you can't make it good, make it "alright". Frankly, if I want to play specifically an RM game, I'd expect at least a good/funny characterization of the characters (probably a good visual too). Because this is what the engine for. I don't expect a deep, balanced, interesting gameplay (if I did get good gameplay, that would be like a jackpot). Now if we're talking about "more professional" indie dev, I'd expect more into the gameplay.
     
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  19. jonthefox

    jonthefox Veteran Veteran

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    If the story is AMAZING and the gameplay is just okay, then I think I'd prefer this. I always love a really great story, and can tolerate mediocre gameplay to progress through the story.

    If the story is merely "good" though, then I won't have the patience or motivation to progress through mediocre gameplay. If the gameplay is very good, and the story is mediocre, then it's much more likely I'll enjoy and finish the game. I don't mind a mediocre story if the gameplay is great.

    So, in short, I think gameplay is slightly more important - unless the story is S or S+ tier.
     
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  20. Heirukichi

    Heirukichi Veteran Veteran

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    In that game you can actually play however you want, the only thing that changes is the rating at the end of the level. There is no such a thing as "roadblocking puzzle". The rating also depends on how efficient your choices are, which is basically the same as playing using a good or bad strategy. It applies to all strategy games since the best strategy is the one that allows you to win with while leaving the opponent with the minimum amount of options. In every single strategy games there are good moves and there is a best move at each time, I am not sure that can be called a "puzzle".

    On a side note, it is amusing to see how a lot of people who voted (regardless of their vote) keep mentioning a "bad" counterpart when the poll clearly states that the counterpart is "alright". I am not allowed to know if the OP meant "bad" and wrote "alright" or - as I think - he is interested to know which one, among two decent aspects, is more enjoyable. If it is the former, I agree that a game is not playable if its game-play is bad. If it is the latter, I think a lot of people missed the point of the poll here.

    And based on this
    I really think it is the latter.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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