Originally Posted by zjs
While this journey that the player takes really makes an impression the first time around, and makes the game special, it is not something which has replay value, given that almost everything will turn out the same way.
I gotta disagree, I've love replaying The Walking Dead game. I think I just started a tenth play through and I still enjoy trying out different dialogue options. I know you can't change the outcome but I find it fascinating to see how characters respond to what you say and love seeing their reactions. In particular seeing Kenny flip-flop between your bro or not is really entertaining and realizing that Lilly doesn't actually care about anyone really hurts.
Last playthrough I found out if you say you should keep moving at the beginning of episode four it leads to this extra argument between Christa and Kenny I hadn't seen before. And in Crawford when talking to Clementine I stumbled uonn a dialogue option to tell her to remember something Katjaa said in episode one. It also helps that a lot of the dialogue is really funny. Pretty much everything Larry says is a riot and things like suggesting splitting up to Kenny at the beginning of episode three produces a really funny result.
I do agree that they are some missed connections and some decisions lack the desired impact. For one example, I thought who came with you at the end of episode four felt wasted. (You guys couldn't at least help pull me up after I jumped from the belltower?
) But for the most part, I think the limited control over the actual story is one of the things that actually makes it so effective.
If you could simply control the outcome, then the story would basically just be another form of wish fulfillment. Which there's nothing wrong with, it's something video games excel at, but I donít think you could make as strong a story without denying some degree of control to the player. And in the Walking Dead gameís case I think the incredibly limited story control is why people responded so strongly to it.
Take Lilly killing Carley (or Doug) for example. If the player could prevent that, if they could save Carley (or Doug) would the scene where she (or he) dies really be that tragic? If thereís a outcome where that could be prevented, would Carley (or Doug) getting shot being any more upsetting than any of the dozens of game over screens where you see Lee die when you miss a quick time event? Would it not just be a ďbad outcomeĒ people look up how to avoid?
Same thing with the actual ending where Lee dies. If there was another ending where he survives and escapes, where the ending where Lee dies be as emotional? Would it not simply be considered ďThe Bad EndingĒ. Wouldnít it just feel like you made a mistake, and being a video game, wouldnít you be compelled to go back and replay it so you donít make that mistake?
I canít speak for everyone else, but typically when games have multiple branching choices, I usually go back and play the game again to see what the other choices do. And that usually leads to me finding the outcome I like best. And that can be a lot of fun, but it doesnít get me as emotionally involved as a story I canít shape to my favorite outcome.
Even something like Fallout: New Vegas, a game I really love and would praise for the amount of impact a lot of your choices usually doesnít feel as emotionally involving. Itís a ton of fun to play, but the most emotionally memorable moments were actually the ones I didnít have much control over. Like finding out the truth behind Vault 11 or how Veronicaís sidequest always ends in tragedy.
The brilliant part of The Walking Dead game is it gives people just enough control over the story to really put themselves into it, but then repeatedly yanks it away to heighten the impact of what would have been otherwise static story points. The idea behind the decision to save Doug or Carley is to make Lilly snapping that much more shocking by killing whichever character you saved. And it usually is shocking because people typically save whoever they liked more, Doug or Carley. You have just enough influence over the story to see an impact (you get to talk and hang-out with Doug or Carley in the next two episodes) and then control is ripped out of your hands.
That still doesnít mean I think the game is perfect or there isnít room for improvement, but I actually think the concept of a story with a deliberately limited amount of control over it is actually a really genius idea. It allows the writers to craft a mostly consistent story without fear of having to subvert important story points for the sake of control but still gives players just enough influence to strengthen the existing emotional aspects.
I think the Stranger is a great example of how effective this technique is. His character really doesnít change no matter what you do, but peopleís opinions of him are all over the place. Iím a bleeding heart pansy so I was really sympathetic to him even though I thought he was wrong. If you acted cruelly he might make you question himself. Or if you didnít it might make you just think heís a hypocrite. Or maybe you just think he really is a villain who lied to a little girl to kidnap her.
The Stranger is consistent, but peopleís feelings towards him arenít, and the game letís you project those feelings onto Lee to create a scene more effective than if the writersí simply decided what the audienceís reactions to him should be. But itís still a scene the writer helped craft, because if you could convince the Stranger he was wrong or your decisions convinced him youíre not a bad guy, it would be just another video game goal to strive for. A difficult level to traverse, and not a tense scene youíre put in.
We can all argue about the most effective balance between story telling and player control. I certainly believe thereís things in the game that could have been done better. But I think actually giving the player so little control was actually one of the things I think makes the story great. And I think the acclaim The Walking Dead game has received is strong evidence in favor of the design decision to deliberately limit but not outright remove story control and gaming elements in favor of creating the most compelling tale possible.
Think about this. If last year you were told that a downloadable tie-in game with the Walking Dead comic made by the same company who did Sam and Max was going to win over eighty game of the years awards, would you believe it? I wouldnít have. Not before playing it anyways.