1. SPS Accounts:
    Do you find yourself coming back time after time? Do you appreciate the ongoing hard work to keep this community focused and successful in its mission? Please consider supporting us by upgrading to an SPS Account. Besides the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a good cause, you'll also get a significant number of ever-expanding perks and benefits on the site and the forums. Click here to find out more.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
You are currently viewing Boards o' Magick as a guest, but you can register an account here. Registration is fast, easy and free. Once registered you will have access to search the forums, create and respond to threads, PM other members, upload screenshots and access many other features unavailable to guests.

BoM cultivates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. We have been aiming for quality over quantity with our forums from their inception, and believe that this distinction is truly tangible and valued by our members. We'd love to have you join us today!

(If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact us. If you've forgotten your username or password, click here.)

What makes a game's story "epic"?

Discussion in 'Playground' started by diagnull, Apr 29, 2008.

  1. diagnull Gems: 5/31
    Latest gem: Andar


    Joined:
    May 31, 2007
    Messages:
    122
    Likes Received:
    0
    So, I've been thinking lately about what an "epic" adventure is, or is supposed to be. The word "epic" gets thrown around a lot to describe various games, but I'm not sure what most people think that means.

    When I thought about it, the 2 things I thought of that define an epic adventure (to me, at least) are:

    1) A story where the conflict has far-reaching implications. Meaning, the fate of a country, a planet, the whole universe is at stake.

    2) The player characters has a specific connection to the story and no one else can resolve the conflict (although others can help the hero, of course.)

    There may be more, but it seems to me that those are the two big requirements.

    Based on these 2 things, I would call the following games "epic":

    - Baldur's Gate (2 more so than 1)
    - KOTOR I and II
    - Jade Empire
    - Morrowind, I think (didn't play far enough to get the main plot really going)
    - Most of the Legend of Zelda games
    - NWN - Shadows of Underentide *MAYBE*...but it's kind of a stretch

    I would say the following games are NOT "epic":

    - Icewind Dale
    - Neverwinter Nights - Original Campaign and most user mods
    - Most of the original Gold Box D&D games
    - A lot of the Wizardry type console games.

    Most of these games feel like anyone could be the heroes of the story, it's not specifically your PC that HAS to do it. You just happen to be there.

    So, that's my theory on what an epic game is...

    Agree? Disagree?

    What do you think makes an "epic" story?

    -D
     
  2. Barmy Army

    Barmy Army Simple mind, simple pleasures... Adored Veteran

    Joined:
    May 26, 2003
    Messages:
    6,586
    Media:
    2
    Likes Received:
    162
    Scale.

    Anyone can fit a lame story around a game. It's fitting a game around a story that most developers are scared to do.

    So far, I can only think of games with what I'd consider a great 'epic' story: Planescape: Torment and Baldurs Gate 1. The story of BG2 is nowhere near as good as the 1st. Most games are 'here's a bad guy, he's kidnapped your sister/mate/girlfriend and/or murdered your dad, go kill him'. Stories that go beyond that generic crap is what I consider an epic story.

    However, you have to consider that most games don't need an epic story.
     
  3. Loreseeker

    Loreseeker A believer in knowledge Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,603
    Media:
    69
    Likes Received:
    30
    Gender:
    Female
    Soul.

    There's no need for the fate of the world to be at stake, for planets to burn or deities to die (imo). These elements might help, but they do not decide. Tell me a tale whose end I want to know, make me wonder what I should do, let me meet sojourners I'll care about. Make me believe that "the sun is green".

    Storytelling (Heart).

    Decisions (Mind).

    They say that possibilities are infinite, but that a choice kills all but one. Choice is therefore an important part of an epic, for me. The ability to alter a destiny, to overcome the odds.

    It took five games, but I found Legacy of Kain series story to be epic.

    Planescape - sure.
    BG series - as a series, with mods.

    I might think differently in a few months (probably), but I've only recently completed MotB. The Old King Bear and Rashemon are very dear to me, so that story is epic to me too, but this is a biased opinion. I became quite attached to some of the characters from the original campaign (Sand, Casavir, Khelgar, Neeshka) and played through the whole thing just to learn what happened to them, so I'm letting my emotions cloud my judgement on this matter.

    Epic stories... books do that, imo, and games have a hard time with it.

    Even if they achieve scale, (on which I agree with Barmy) the feeling of purpose, the joy of success, rarely outgrows the campaign you're playing.
    If it does, you have an epic.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2008
  4. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2004
    Messages:
    4,088
    Media:
    57
    Likes Received:
    47
    "Epic: An extended narrative poem in elevated or dignified language, celebrating the feats of a legendary or traditional hero."
    (American Heritage Dictionary)

    Replace "poem" with "game", then have fun trying to find a single game that is not epic.

    Epic is just a buzzword. I can't really remember when it started appearing in every PR announcement, but considering what it means now when you see it on a game box (ie not much) I'm not that fussed about trying to define which games are epic and which ones are not.

    Per the definition I posted your first requirement fits, but I'm not sure the 2nd one is required. Take IWD. By actually being there your PCs become connected to the story, and over the course of the game they become the only ones who can do something about it. Another point: take BG. Your PC is directly involved in the story but he doesn't have to go kill Sarevok or rescue Imoen. Someone else could have done it if they'd wanted to or could be bothered, which incidentally would have cut the 2nd game's length by half. The same can apply to every single "epic" RPG, with the exception of PST, which incidentally is the least "epic" by both definitions (it's much more personal than saving the world, and TNO is anything but a "legendary" hero). Really the "only you can save mankind" trick is usually forced into the story to make the player feel special, but I don't think this justifies epicness.
     
  5. diagnull Gems: 5/31
    Latest gem: Andar


    Joined:
    May 31, 2007
    Messages:
    122
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hmm. Maybe "epic" is not the word I'm looking for then...

    I guess I'm trying to figure out why some games have heart (as Lorekeeper suggested) and some don't.

    It seems to me that the games that I feel really "work", are ones where the main character and\or the world around them undergoes some fundamental change. Things aren't the same as they were before.

    Fallout is a good example...after all your adventures, your are just TOO different from the other vault dwellers. Or KOTOR, where after the big reveal on your past, you get to decide how that affects your choice of Dark or Light path.

    Compare that to NWN SoU: At the end of the game, you are basically the same...minus a mentor that you barely knew anyway. I didn't finish the OC, or Icewind Dale for that matter, but I suspect they end pretty much the same, with the PC not *that* much different than they started.

    Which is probably why I didn't finish IWD or the OC, and why I did finish KOTOR and Fallout (and BG of course.)
     
  6. Loreseeker

    Loreseeker A believer in knowledge Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,603
    Media:
    69
    Likes Received:
    30
    Gender:
    Female
    Regardless how they end, don't you think that you should have finished them in order to judge them?

    It's normal to have an opinion of a game far before you finish it, but if you are trying to evaluate a story, in my book, you should know how it ends.

    Just a suggestion.

    Btw, I'm a seeker, not a keeper. :)
     
  7. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2003
    Messages:
    6,815
    Media:
    6
    Likes Received:
    335
    That's strange - in my younger (pre-marriage) days, that was exactly what most girls would say to me as an excuse not to go out with me on a second date. :D
     
    Caradhras likes this.
  8. Loreseeker

    Loreseeker A believer in knowledge Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,603
    Media:
    69
    Likes Received:
    30
    Gender:
    Female
    Most of them, Splunge?

    Either imagination was not a trait you sought in women back then, or you were a walking abnormality in the time/space continuum. A known side effect of instant microwaved coffee :p :roll:
     
  9. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Messages:
    5,423
    Likes Received:
    30
    I wonder if Diablo or Diablo II or Ultima IV woud count? In these games, the fate of the world is in the balance, but does the player constitute the chosen one?
     
  10. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2004
    Messages:
    4,111
    Media:
    99
    Likes Received:
    101
    Gender:
    Male
    Not being the Chosen One but the protagonist was clearly a hero.

    Ziad summed it up quite accurately actually.

    I believe "epic" is being used for any game that imply some sort of vastness or greatness (that's certainly what is referred to in DnD with terms such as epic levels or epic campaigns) but at the end of the day it has become a rather hackneyed term.
     
  11. diagnull Gems: 5/31
    Latest gem: Andar


    Joined:
    May 31, 2007
    Messages:
    122
    Likes Received:
    0
    Whoops! Knew I should have doublechecked that!

    I don't know that I'll finish the OC, but I intend to finish IWD one of these days, so maybe it's not fair to use those as examples....
     
  12. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2004
    Messages:
    4,088
    Media:
    57
    Likes Received:
    47
    There was nothing wrong with the world in Ultima 4 actually (IIRC it's the only CRPG in which absolutely nothing is wrong). I was about to say "but the player is the chosen one" then retracted that. The goal of the game in and of itself is to become the chosen one, and once you do the game ends. I found that very refreshing actually, after all the other games which require you to become the chosen one in order to go beat up the Big Bad Guy (or Gal).

    The Diablos are a bit strange to classify.
    Actually the ending of Diablo 1 has an interesting twist (perhaps unintentional?) on the chosen one scenario, as up to the very end it follows the "it's you but it could have been anybody" pattern, then the ending turns your until now generic hero into the bad guy (ie the anti-chosen one) of the next game.
     
Sorcerer's Place is a project run entirely by fans and for fans. Maintaining Sorcerer's Place and a stable environment for all our hosted sites requires a substantial amount of our time and funds on a regular basis, so please consider supporting us to keep the site up & running smoothly. Thank you!

Sorcerers.net is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.