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Thread: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

  1. #11

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by FanaticTemplar
    Well, I think I'm going to really supersede your expectations with regards to WarCraft III, because not only did I not like the way it made the previous games irrelevant, I did so without having ever even played the previous games. The notion that this setting has a long history of war between the Orcs and Humans, and suddenly it's revealed that this all only happened because Kil'jaeden or Archimonde or whoever was in charge couldn't manage to find someone to open the Dark Portal on the right continent is something I find really off-putting :P. It's a warning not to get invested in the story, because the writers might just decide it was all meaningless next game.

    Reaching into the past for inspiration is fine, but Blizzard's writers seem to enjoy writing the backstory far more than the actual story. They write events that happened before the game, with characters, conflicts, motivations and everything, and in exchange take away any investment we might have had in the history they've overwritten and give us an actual story about some new alien threat wanting to take over the world! It's like they don't actually want a sequel, just another story starting from scratch with approximately the same actors. They write an entirely new backstory for the setting which replaces the previously existing one and just start a new story from there.

    Take the UED. We knew Earth existed, but we also knew that the Terrans were completely lost. It was just this place they came from, like Zerus was the home planet of the Zerg that they had left long ago. Then they decide they want to use Earth as villains instead, so here comes a new history where Earth was not lost but actually watching (somehow) and suddenly decided to take action.
    I can understand the sentiments, but I have to disagree on a personal level. "Personal" is the keyword though, because I spent the better part of an hour trying to develop a system of when such storytelling elements are net positive or negative, then gave up when the same techniques were giving me different conclusions in different medias.

    So, on this level, I categorize WC3 as "net positive" - the elements of demonic corruption were always there since at least WC2, so it utilized pre-existing elements. Likewise, it doesn't diminish the effects of the previous games because their ripples are still being felt, what with the orc bloodlust/camp/heritage angle for the Horde, and the Alliance infighting/political manauvering angle on the other hand. And it adds net character depth to Medivh for instance, going from villain figure (WC1) to sympathetic figure (WC2) to redeemed figure (WC3).

    Likewise with the UED, a pre-existing element was used. Difference is IMO, there were other pre-existing elements that could have been utilized instead (e.g. KMC or UP). In contrast with WC3, not only was the Burning Legion a pre-existing element, but it had no pre-existing elements that could have been used in the same way at the time.

    Course this is subjective. But even if we're referring to backstory, written, implied, or whatever the case, it goes well beyond the above games, at least as far back as Lord of the Rings. Retroactive lore (as opposed to actual retcons) isn't a net negative or positive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon
    When all we can rely on is going back to the UED or some other "heretofore unknown and even more powerful presence that had an ancient plan that affects or informs the actions of the present no matter what" in order to self-justify itself in the name of escalation, all I can see is more trouble. The irony of all this is that if SC3 should come to light, then it would be expected that things should escalate more (most likely in a contrived manner) lest it become stagnant and if not that, will become stagnant by rehashing themes that were well liked initially but most likely turn out to be in a pointless manner. Huh, it seems sequelitis has something for it, afterall.
    Why does it have to escalate though? That I spent the first post showing how and why we shouldn't have escalation aside, escalation isn't a requirement of storytelling, whether it be in games, or even RTS games. Escalation is an effective storytelling tool in general, but sooner or later it has to plateau.
    Last edited by Hawki; 03-24-2013 at 03:56 AM.

  2. #12

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post
    Why does it have to escalate though? That I spent the first post showing how and why we shouldn't have escalation aside, escalation isn't a requirement of storytelling, whether it be in games, or even RTS games. Escalation is an effective storytelling tool in general, but sooner or later it has to plateau.
    Sorry, I must have missed the part where you talk about escalation specifically...

    Escalation, whether it be in measured, small steps or in one giant leap, is vital in creating tension in any story. Sure, there are stories that can do without it ("slice of life" stories) but with a property like Starcraft, which is action oriented, any potential sequel will have an unspoken requirement to escalate in order to justify itself. Without it, there is the distinct possibility that it would just be "more of the same" leading to stagnation of the story. I know for a fact that you would hate that more than anything.

    I think Starcraft has escalated too quickly and has hit its peak in terms of direction (although I mean Sc2 in this context, IMO I'd say it already happened since BW even despite the hanging Hybrid/Xel'Naga plot thingy which I thought was not that overly important to begin with since the story can carry on and/or end without knowledge of Dark Origins) such that it has no choice but to plateau. A plateaued storyline is not really a good launching point for another sequel though because it more often than not, turns out to be nothing more than pandering to the base/fanservice or a hollow rehash of past glories. Sc2 already shows signs of both of these...
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  3. #13
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    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Good point about escalation. Considering how SC2 is about some evil Xel Naga who wants to kill everyone there isn't much room for an RTS to go. Trying to tell a more low key story will look lame. An RPG or FPS could get away with telling a more low key story but those games won't be an RTS.

    One of the problems with SC2 I think is that Metzen wants to tell a more personal story but I don't think the RTS is the right format for that sort of story. For example more cutscenes showing flashbacks and Raynor talking with Horner or Tychus about Kerrigan would have addressed many of the complaints about the story. Problem is who wants to see that stuff in an RTS? It's about battles! Not about the commanders' personal issues.

    I mean if the UED invade again what can be done with it? A rehash of BW except this time Kerrigan doesn't backstab everyone? The UED's real goal is to use the Voice in the Darkness to kill everyone and take over the universe?
    Last edited by Laurentian; 03-24-2013 at 04:33 PM.

  4. #14

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon
    Escalation, whether it be in measured, small steps or in one giant leap, is vital in creating tension in any story. Sure, there are stories that can do without it ("slice of life" stories) but with a property like Starcraft, which is action oriented, any potential sequel will have an unspoken requirement to escalate in order to justify itself.
    Not necessarily. You can easily have a de-escalation and tell a compelling story. It doesn't require a "slice of life" to do so, and the RTS genre doesn't prohibit this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurentian
    Good point about escalation. Considering how SC2 is about some evil Xel Naga who wants to kill everyone there isn't much room for an RTS to go. Trying to tell a more low key story will look lame. An RPG or FPS could get away with telling a more low key story but those games won't be an RTS.

    One of the problems with SC2 I think is that Metzen wants to tell a more personal story but I don't think the RTS is the right format for that sort of story. For example more cutscenes showing flashbacks and Raynor talking with Horner or Tychus about Kerrigan would have addressed many of the complaints about the story. Problem is who wants to see that stuff in an RTS? It's about battles! Not about the commanders' personal issues.
    I 1000% disagree. I disagree because character-centric RTS games have been around long before SC2, and heck, even SC1 is an example. I disagree because it's the type of statement that discourages people to even try to go against norms. I disagree because I care about characters far more than events, with battles being a means to progress the plot rather than being the end all and be all of said plot. Hence why my preferred RTS don't encompass Age of Empires, and my preferred RTT games don't encompass Total War, because such games have no real characters or story to speak of. The notion that "such stories don't belong in an RTS" is just as moronic as any such "stories don't belong in whatever genre." Games don't need stories to function. But the notion that they shouldn't have them is rediculous.

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurentian
    I mean if the UED invade again what can be done with it? A rehash of BW except this time Kerrigan doesn't backstab everyone? The UED's real goal is to use the Voice in the Darkness to kill everyone and take over the universe?
    Maybe you disagree, but I spent the entire first post showing how a UED invasion could be handled without it being a BW/SC2 rehash.
    Last edited by Hawki; 03-24-2013 at 06:26 PM.

  5. #15

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurentian View Post
    One of the problems with SC2 I think is that Metzen wants to tell a more personal story but I don't think the RTS is the right format for that sort of story. For example more cutscenes showing flashbacks and Raynor talking with Horner or Tychus about Kerrigan would have addressed many of the complaints about the story. Problem is who wants to see that stuff in an RTS? It's about battles! Not about the commanders' personal issues.
    I'm mixed about this. I think there is room for personal stories in an RTS format because without them an RTS can become very bland and difficult to become invested in aside from those who derive investment only from the pure mechanics of the gameplay. It only becomes a problem when the focus is too tight on the personal story at expense of everything else.

    To me, SC1 got the actual balance between the personal story of it's characters whilst also feeling the weight of waging an intergalactic war. One could easily extrapolate more about the intergalactic war from the perspective of those engaged in it or focus on the personal realtionships of the characters without being told by the story to do either. Sc2 leans very heavily into making one engage in the personal side of things at the cost of the greater picture. When you take the personal focus away, all we have is a contrived mash-up to fight a comic-book villain. If one wanted to focus on that "greater picture", the premise becomes very spare and cloistered to the degree that only hardcore fans can appreciate it whilst alienating everyone else. Is it any wonder why someone says they don't really don't care about Amon and why it's feels contrived to them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurentian View Post
    I mean if the UED invade again what can be done with it?
    Not much more than another round of attempted conquering really given their all-out gambit in BW. I think the UED or the concept of "Earth" is a fantastic idea but one executed inappropriately in BW in that they escalated things too much and too quickly. The mere presence or thought of having the Terran's progenator's coming to the K sector in itself was escalation enough without also making them so powerful as to single-handedly toppled the Dominion (which then turned out not to be the case) and capture the frickin' baby Overmind to enslave everyone!
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  6. #16
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    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post

    I 1000% disagree. I disagree because character-centric RTS games have been around long before SC2, and heck, even SC1 is an example. I disagree because it's the type of statement that discourages people to even try to go against norms. I disagree because I care about characters far more than events, with battles being a means to progress the plot rather than being the end all and be all of said plot. Hence why my preferred RTS don't encompass Age of Empires, and my preferred RTT games don't encompass Total War, because such games have no real characters or story to speak of. The notion that "such stories don't belong in an RTS" is just as moronic as any such "stories don't belong in whatever genre." Games don't need stories to function. But the notion that they shouldn't have them is rediculous.


    Quote Originally Posted by Turalyon View Post
    I'm mixed about this. I think there is room for personal stories in an RTS format because without them an RTS can become very bland and difficult to become invested in aside from those who derive investment only from the pure mechanics of the gameplay. It only becomes a problem when the focus is too tight on the personal story at expense of everything else.

    To me, SC1 got the actual balance between the personal story of it's characters whilst also feeling the weight of waging an intergalactic war. One could easily extrapolate more about the intergalactic war from the perspective of those engaged in it or focus on the personal realtionships of the characters without being told by the story to do either. Sc2 leans very heavily into making one engage in the personal side of things at the cost of the greater picture. When you take the personal focus away, all we have is a contrived mash-up to fight a comic-book villain. If one wanted to focus on that "greater picture", the premise becomes very spare and cloistered to the degree that only hardcore fans can appreciate it whilst alienating everyone else. Is it any wonder why someone says they don't really don't care about Amon and why it's feels contrived to them?
    Well I should point out I don't think that "RTS' are about battles" I was more critiquing the fans as most critics of SC2 seem to have that attitude. I do think that focusing on macro things like battles does make telling stories outside of those battles more problematic. For example in WOL and HOTS the story is about how Raynor and Kerrigan love each other and hate Arcturus. Fans loved that story right? And there are complaints that it came out of nowhere. They could have addressed it with more cutscenes (as supposed to tie-in novels) but I doubt the fans would approve of that. I suppose if it had been better written there might be less criticism but still that story isn't really about the battles.


    The Protoss and Amon don't really factor into this story at all. But SC is about three races fighting each other so the Toss have to be involved in the overall story somehow. The Story is imbalanced.

    Also by admitting that the story of in the end is about intergalatic battles does that not mean that RTS are about battles? That telling too personal stories muck with the RTS format?


    Maybe you disagree, but I spent the entire first post showing how a UED invasion could be handled without it being a BW/SC2 rehash.
    Problem is I don't see Blizz having much interest in a "UED might be allies" plot. The story needs war and any "peace" will have to be short lived.
    Last edited by Laurentian; 03-24-2013 at 07:34 PM.

  7. #17

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurentian
    Well I should point out I don't think that "RTS' are about battles" I was more critiquing the fans as most critics of SC2 seem to have that attitude. I do think that focusing on macro things like battles does make telling stories outside of those battles more problematic. For example in WOL and HOTS the story is about how Raynor and Kerrigan love each other and hate Arcturus. Fans loved that story right? And there are complaints that it came out of nowhere. They could have addressed it with more cutscenes (as supposed to tie-in novels) but I doubt the fans would approve of that. I suppose if it had been better written there might be less criticism but still that story isn't really about the battles.
    The RaynorxKerrigan thing has always been a strange beast to me. As in, how the fanbase percieves it. I can sort of understand the notion of Raynor seemingly abandoning his vow to kill her (admittedly see it as Third Juror Moment myself) was a betrayal of character but the notion that there was never anything between them is rediculous. It was clear throughout all of SC1, even beyond Rebel Yell. In regards to how it's portrayed in SC2 though, I don't think there's that much segregation. In WoL, Raynor pines for Kerrigan, but his actions are always in the context of the war itself. He'd still encounter Kerrigan throughout the campaign regardless of any previous relationship, and the artifact would still be used on Char regardless of a past relationship or not (as opposed to SC1 where Kerrigan is his sole motivation for going to Char - strange how no-one brings that up). In WoL, RaynorxKerrigan is always in the story. Arguably, it's at the forefront of the story, which some people may dislike. But it's always in the context of something larger.

    HotS is a bit different admittedly. Kerrigan could have skipped the space missions entirely and gone to Korhal and left Raynor and the Raiders to rot if she wanted to. Rescuing Raynor is her sole reason for attacking the Moros. Mengsk can be toppled without any Raiders support. Still, again, while the Raynor rescue and Raiders presence on Korhal does influence the plot, it doesn't dictate the overall plot, so to speak.

    Edit: Though I will admit that Raynor's supposed death is arguably the powder keg for all of Kerrigan's future actions - revenge against Mengsk, takes her to Zerus to follow said revenge, introduces her to Amon as a result of that path. Make of that what you will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurentian
    Also by admitting that the story of in the end is about intergalatic battles does that not mean that RTS are about battles? That telling too personal stories muck with the RTS format?
    I think this was more directed to Turalyon, but whatever.

    Battles can be a means or an end. Games usually feature conflict of some kind, but the nature of that conflict can vary. To use the FPS genre as an example, in many games, a conflict is the de facto plot point - Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc. Every action taken is in the context of said larger war. In contrast, in Metroid: Prime, there is no larger conflict. Samus has to battle her way through enemies, but that's irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. The story is one of exploration/discovery. Still a FPS, but the way it goes about it is different.

    You could easily tell a story with RTS mechanics that doesn't involve an actual war. Taking the game mechanics of Warcraft III, I could have a story of Arthas leading an expedition of soldiers searching for a McGuffin, encountering Mal'ganis's undead along the way, who are also searching for said mcGuffin. I'm not saying that story would be particuarly compelling of course, but it would still be a story that wouldn't involve any bona fide war.

    I will admit though that as RTS games usually involve multiple units being controlled, war is the de facto plot point. I can name some TBS games that don't involve an actual war (e.g. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin and Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword) that use identical gameplay to story installments in their respective series that do involve an actual war, but the RTS genre is harder. Could cite The Frozen Throne as an example, but really only for the Sentinels/Watchers campaign. Every other campaign involves a war of some kind or another at the end of the day.
    Last edited by Hawki; 03-24-2013 at 08:21 PM.

  8. #18

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post
    I can understand the sentiments, but I have to disagree on a personal level. "Personal" is the keyword though, because I spent the better part of an hour trying to develop a system of when such storytelling elements are net positive or negative, then gave up when the same techniques were giving me different conclusions in different medias.

    So, on this level, I categorize WC3 as "net positive" - the elements of demonic corruption were always there since at least WC2, so it utilized pre-existing elements. Likewise, it doesn't diminish the effects of the previous games because their ripples are still being felt, what with the orc bloodlust/camp/heritage angle for the Horde, and the Alliance infighting/political manauvering angle on the other hand. And it adds net character depth to Medivh for instance, going from villain figure (WC1) to sympathetic figure (WC2) to redeemed figure (WC3).
    My problem with the WarCraft III new history isn't so much with the Burning Legion, which as you say had some basis in existing lore, as it is with the Night Elves. Now, granted I am far less invested in WarCraft than I am in StarCraft, so I have different standards, but if the new history had been about the Orcs being the Legion's pawn in their schemes to get something from Dalaran or Quel'thalas, then I'd have been far less annoyed about it. The notion that the Alliance is only involved in the story because, as I previously mentioned, Kil'jaeden couldn't find a way to open the Dark Portal on Kalimdor and are historically irrelevant should be insulting to Alliance fans. The Reign of Chaos campaigns themselves, in which the Orcs fail to make any significant appearance distinct from the Alliance should be insulting to Horde fans.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post
    Likewise with the UED, a pre-existing element was used. Difference is IMO, there were other pre-existing elements that could have been utilized instead (e.g. KMC or UP). In contrast with WC3, not only was the Burning Legion a pre-existing element, but it had no pre-existing elements that could have been used in the same way at the time.
    The UED also introduced a ton of plot holes. But overall, I don't dislike the notion of Earth appearing in the setting (though I did like the whole 'lost in space' angle), what is upsetting is that they just show up as a generic alien threat. As the long-lost Terran home, there are plenty of ways that Earth could have been used interestingly. Just as there are many ways in which the Hybrids, as the 'perfect beings' both the Protoss and Zerg failed to become, could have been interesting. But again, generic alien threat. And for these generic alien threats we get a rewrite of history in which some things we were attached to are lost.
    Zeratul: I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities...
    Aldaris: Did not! That doesn't even make sense!
    Zeratul: Shut up, I totally did!

  9. #19

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by FanaticTemplar
    My problem with the WarCraft III new history isn't so much with the Burning Legion, which as you say had some basis in existing lore, as it is with the Night Elves. Now, granted I am far less invested in WarCraft than I am in StarCraft, so I have different standards, but if the new history had been about the Orcs being the Legion's pawn in their schemes to get something from Dalaran or Quel'thalas, then I'd have been far less annoyed about it. The notion that the Alliance is only involved in the story because, as I previously mentioned, Kil'jaeden couldn't find a way to open the Dark Portal on Kalimdor and are historically irrelevant should be insulting to Alliance fans. The Reign of Chaos campaigns themselves, in which the Orcs fail to make any significant appearance distinct from the Alliance should be insulting to Horde fans.
    I can't really feel this myself. Looking at past history:

    -Alliance: Stands firm in WC2 and BtDP. Necessitates the creation of the Scourge which succeeds where the Horde failed. If not for the events of WC1 and 2, the Alliance wouldn't even exist in the first place.

    -Horde: Ultimately, the Horde is on its own journey. It feels the aftermath of the previous games, and has to come to terms with its bloody legacy in its campaign. The Alliance makes appearences in the Horde campaigns, but so do the murlocs/Darkspears, tauren, and Sentinels, among others, and it ends with the deaths of Mannaroth and Grom, symbolically ending their bloodlust. The Horde is hardly tied to the Alliance at all.

    -Scourge: As mentioned above, if not for the Alliance's actions in previous games, the Scourge would have never been created. And if Ner'zhul hadn't gone through the portal he did at the end of BtDP, the Lich King (as we know him) wouldn't exist either.

    So yeah, I can't really call the previous games historically irrelevant. They dictate how things turned out overall, and are repeatedly referenced beyond RoC, both in TFT and the WOW games. To use a real-world analogy, some have argued that World War I only really ended in World War II, that WWII inspired change in the world that WWI didn't (for better and worse), but that doesn't make WWI completely irrelevant.
    Last edited by Hawki; 03-24-2013 at 09:23 PM.

  10. #20

    Default Re: StarCraft III - Story and Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post
    -Alliance: Stands firm in WC2 and BtDP. Necessitates the creation of the Scourge which succeeds where the Horde failed. If not for the events of WC1 and 2, the Alliance wouldn't even exist in the first place.
    That's my point. The Alliance wouldn't exist if Kil'jaeden had managed to open the portal on the right continent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawki View Post
    -Horde: Ultimately, the Horde is on its own journey. It feels the aftermath of the previous games, and has to come to terms with its bloody legacy in its campaign. The Alliance makes appearences in the Horde campaigns, but so do the murlocs/Darkspears, tauren, and Sentinels, among others, and it ends with the deaths of Mannaroth and Grom, symbolically ending their bloodlust. The Horde is hardly tied to the Alliance at all.
    In Reign of Chaos, the Horde (I'm not including the three missions with Blackrock Orcs, since they're explicitly described as not being part of the Horde) only appears in its own campaign and in the Sentinel campaign as part of a joint force with Jaina's followers. Even in the Horde campaign, they mostly fight against Creeps, Alliance or other Orcs. There are only two missions where they fight the Sentinels. Those two missions, about taking down Cenarius is the Horde's only solo involvement in the story of Reign of Chaos.
    Zeratul: I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities...
    Aldaris: Did not! That doesn't even make sense!
    Zeratul: Shut up, I totally did!

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