Dead Space Developer On Gears Of War: 'Literally The Worst Writing In Games'

A lot of games set out to tell engaging stories. Some use a narrator, lots of cutscenes or branching dialogue systems. Others embed plot points in the environment. Success rates vary, of course. But what's the worst storytelling in video games? Why, Gears of War, says Dead Space story producer Chuck Beaver.

Eurogamer pulls out a few quotes from an interview on EA's official blog where Beaver slams Epic's shooter series for its writing. In the original article, Beaver says the following:

Story can only ruin a game for those people who care about story, so it's a conditional answer. For instance, Gears of War. It contains atrocious, offensive violations of story basics. Yet it doesn't seem to ruin it for many, many people. It's literally the worst writing in games, but seems to have no ill effects.

He also takes the publisher's own efforts with Dead Space to task as well, though:

We knew so little about story back then, and overruled our writers on a lot. Dead Space was just a simple haunted house story that we later pasted a personal aspect on top of — a lost girlfriend who is really dead.

Dead Space 2 was a huge challenge. All these elements from the original game that were poorly thought through, like the Marker Lore, Necro ecology, etc, had to move coherently forward into the next narrative. The first story we had was a wreck of unrelated events and broken structure, so we cut our teeth getting that into shape, and didn't fully make it.

Plus, we got lost a bit in complicated lore and plot elements that didn't come through. And don't even get me started on the final boss sequence that they put in without me in the meeting! That was fun.

However, Beaver's most telling quote isn't about any one game:

Games are games first, and need to engage on that level. Story is a giant competitive edge to add to your offering, but pure story can't rescue craptastic game design.

That makes a weird sort of sense when I think back to the Dead Space games. They're more triumphs of tone and atmosphere than narrative successes. Similarly, Gears of War's success comes from delivering adrenaline-rush action sequences where you feel threatened from all sides. You don't need a good impetus to be drawn into those experiences but a video game can be more memorable when it has one.

BREAKING INTO THE INDUSTRY: CHUCK BEAVER, DEAD SPACE STORY PRODUCER [EA, via Eurogamer]


Comments

    I always think the story in Gears is unfairly maligner. The characters are shallow, but the story is compelling and the universe pretty well thought out.

      Humans Vs a strange alien life form, a huge battle ensues where both are deadlocked, in comes a 'third" force that is undeniable powerful and threatens to wipe them out. Where have I heard this: Halo, Mass Effect, Star Craft.....no the story and universe was shallow as well, but people come for the action with story merely there to provide the context and excuse to kill what they want: the aliens.

    Coming from EA employee? Gears of war was corney but it was an enjoyable story.

    I think writing in games is less delvoped than say sound or art is because tradionaly the writing was done by progamers and producers rather than outside professionals.They didn't get a top Hollywood screenwriter in for Zelda and they didn't hire a best selling novelist for Doom.Only fairly recently have outside talents been hired.

    I thought the story of GoW (in 3 especially) showed a pretty admirable sense of irony. It's like they started with the 'bromance' or 'dudebro' attitude, and managed to build a whole world out of that heightened ridiculousness. The story's a bit gash, but it manages to work somehow, mostly I guess because of what Beaver says at the top - it's never used as a crutch for the game. GoW never really pretended to be much more than a series of arena fights with the occasional boss-battle and gameplay variant thrown in.

      For me, Gears wreaks of homo-erotic muscly men that would hang out in the showers together. The overlying story wasn't out-of-the-ordinary bad, it was just clichéd, like every alien vs human sci-fi movie/game. The dialogue left me cringing and wanting to skip as much as possible though..

    Beaver's right. The GOW series seems like it was written by a 13 yr old. I don't hate the games, but I feel too embarrassed to play them in company.

    I love reviewers who have nothing but praise for Gears and laud its story, then in their review of less well-received games like Crysis 2 or Syndicate they'll bad-mouth those stories.

    More like something else turns them off at the start of their experience with a game and from then on that game can do nothing right in their eyes.

    The worst culprit in my opinion is the Metal Gear series. I swear a bunch of monkeys was locked in a room with nothing but a typewriter for a hundred years to come up with that story.

      Metal Gear has a fantastic story but is one of extreme hyperbole to get its point through that may alienate a lot of viewers who may only be able to see things on the service. For example Metal Gear uses very well thought through allusions to American history that many will look over: take Snake, the Snake was the symbol of the American revolution or "freedom" and yet here we have a story of Snake going on and on about patriotism for a country with no borders ie "freedom". I mean was the fact that all the AI nodes in MGS4 were all named after American figures a coincidence, I don't think so.

    What a crock of shit. They are a comparatively well written series of games.

    I remember when that Chazz guy got pissed off Kotaku spoilt the 'story' for him. Can't help but agree with the dev here, worst story ever.

      Using your real name now are we?

        Nah mate wasn't me, that story is a thing of legend. I've seen it mentioned heaps in comments. I never expected to see you on the comments section though.

          Hmm, funny how it's only come up several times and it's always been from a no-name, no gravatar person who brings it up who never appears again.

            is there a transcript!?

    Someone call the hyperbole police!

    They're good as a foul-mouthed bromance that takes itself seriously to the point where it has to be a piss-take.

    I can barely remember what happened in Dead Space. Average.

    I liked GoW's collective story. The books are a good read, too.

    Probably the weakest part of the entire thing is, and I am going to be spoiling GOW3 if you somehow haven't played it yet don't want it spoiled, the part that is the weakest is:

    The ending! Specifically, how convenient it is that there just happens to be a perfectly functional winbutton that kills all the bad guys* and leaves humanity fine and alone at last. So convenient!
    Coming second is Dom's death, only because HE COULD HAVE JUMPED OVER TOO. Or the guys could've got into the trucks and Dom could've drove off in his truck and they'd meet up and be fine.

    Oh well! Still not literally the worst writing in games. Not even close.

    "Story is a giant competitive edge to add to your offering"

    Ugh.

    This is like Michael Bay saying a movie made by someone else had crappy plot.

    I don't agree that shoe-horning some references into a convoluted storyline makes it great. Those horrible Alien vs Predator movies were full of nods to the original, but that didn't help them in the slightest.

    MGS can mention historical events and people all it wants, but it still comes off as hokey. Just like how its cutscenes merge cartoon drawings with real-world videos. It doesn't mesh well.

    Good novelists like Chuck Palahniuk can create ridiculous plots but skillfully include enough background and atmosphere to ground them in our world with a moderate suspension of disbelief.

    Kojima tries to do the same thing but his subplots and characters belong in kids' cartoons. They don't fit in with real world events. What's worse is that with each sequel/prequel he goes and writes himself into even more circles and further convolutes the story just to sqeeze in a ridiculous new plot. That way he doesn't have to retcon anything in his story (though he doesn't mind retconning real world history). A good story isn't just a checklist of disparate references. Regardless of how obscure they are.

    Kojima apparently gets in a military advisor for each game but doesn't seem to use the guy's advice. Snake pretends to be all soldiery in certain cutscenes and then spends most of the game gossiping on the radio. With the enemy no less!

    And what does that guy with IBS contribute to the series? Doesn't he marry one of the main characters or something? Gimme a break. Big Boss keeps coming back from the dead. The original Boss is a female supersoldier (in the 60s no less) that likes to run around the jungle in low-cut jumpsuits.

    Everyone lowers their guns and reveals their life story before killing each other. When they do kill each other, they always have a melodramatic death-gurgle about how they were just misunderstood or misheard something. That's the kind of exposition that hacks use.

    I've seen less embarrassing Troma movies. Stories like MGS and GOW are part of the reason why non-gamers don't see games on equal footing with movies and other art forms.

    Even after that rant, I have to explain that I do somewhat enjoy the MGS series. Some folks have put a huge amount of work and passion into it. I just hate seeing the juvenile aspects of it selling them short.

      For someone who uses the name "NotADouche" you really come across as a douche. Like the English and/or Art major kind of douche who sits in a coffee shop with their macbook working on his script kind of douche. The kind who wears a beret and skinny jeans that are too tight and short with skate shoes and no socks.

      You criticise things like Kojima "retconning real world history". Really? Something that happens in every medium many times over because they are creating a FICTIONAL story and that's an issue for you? Fiction being fictional? You bring up the military advisor (someone brought in to advise on MILITARY aspects such as weaponry, tactics etc) and relay his use to helping develop the story. Then you throw in the term "hacks" while continuing on to mention Troma films? And OMG mate, there is heavy use of dialogue? Well, we can't have that!

      Go back to Starbucks, continue writing your script and then get your job at Macca's selling me my fries.

    Chazz, don't hate those Arts students just because they get laid more than you. Hate 99% of the population instead. I mean I've never been an arts student or a script writer but I'm sure I fit in there somewhere. In fact, given where I've been I'm sure arts students hate my kind.

    You're right, I probably am a douche. You took the low hanging fruit. Good for you. You might want to note that you have a tendency to come across as a douche yourself.

    What's your counter-argument? Read your post again. There's no bloody point aside from taking a swipe at me.

    It's all good and well to use the anonyminity of the web to cast aspersions about me and try to project an air of toughness about yourself, but you should realise that you really don't know who you're talking to. I quite quite frankly don't give a shit who you are or what planet you're from.

    You talk to me like I'm a wimpy arts student. I wonder if you'd act so tough talking like that to someone right in front of you who very obviously wasn't a starving artist?

    Maybe you should just fix people's computers instead.

      HA! You bring sex into it whilst making an attempt at taking the higher ground? That doesn't really work. Nor does your pseudo-psychologist babble. Hell, if anyone is trying to act tough it's you with your not so subtle threats of a physical nature. The contradictory nature of it is rather amusing.

      Either way, it doesn't matter. What does is that I noticed how you did not address a single thing that I said in regards to your ridiculously misinformed rant.

      But please, go ahead and continue to tell us how military advisors are involved in plot and character development and that retconning history for the sake of a fictional piece of work is absurd. Why not bring up Troma again whilst saying that games like MGS and GoW are why people don't view games as art. I mean, really? Your line of thinking is seriously bizarre, I'm talking plot of Class of Nuke 'Em High bizarre. It makes no sense at all.

    Ladies, ladies. Take a deep breath, pop in your tampons and relax...

      rofl.

      that was the best laugh i have had in a while. thank you *applause*

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