The Holy Trinity of Gaming: Story, Graphics and Gameplay

By: Chris Giordano

It's quite obvious in the gaming industry that the middle has fallen out. Games today are either made with AAA quality by the same publishers that are already well known and respected, or, small indie studios make creative and unique games. Both are appreciated and notable for two complete aspects of gaming. Indie studios, generally, make great games that are tight and crisp mechanically in terms of gameplay. Whereas triple A studios, generally, make games that tell fantastic stories, are more or less story driven, and in some cases, offer large amounts of content to keep you busy. There is a strict divide between the two: immersive stories with beautiful graphics, or something abstract and obscure with tight gameplay. Here, I'll be discussing two indies and two AAA games in order to cover both ends of the spectrum: Psyonix's recent hit Rocket League, Housemarque's PS4 exclusive launch title Resogun, Naughty Dog's 10/10 The Last of Us,  and Telltale's emotional The Walking Dead. I'll start with the indies.  

B-e-a-YOUUUU-tiful!

Rocket League is an absolute gem. It's one of those games that proves all great games don't need to have a lengthy or emotional story, or a story at all as a matter of fact. It doesn't need a world map with multiple main and side quests in order to keep you busy. It's considered a sports game, and is much more simplistic than the FIFA, Madden, or NBA2K series. Rocket League is easy to pick up and learn, but incredibly difficult to master. And because of this, it is extremely addictive. You can't just play one match of it. Personally, I flew through my season of 30+ games in 3 days.

And because of that one point, when looking at the bigger picture, I draw parallels between Rocket League and Resogun. They are both beautiful games, very easy in premise and simple to understand. They're hella addicting. Something as simple as changing the difficulty in these games results in you coming up with a different way to play the game in order to get accustomed to it all. There is a complete difference in playing a 1vs1 match over a 4v4 match in Rocket League -- it's absolute mayhem. The same can be said with Resogun, changing the difficulty from Rookie to Master -- again, absolute mayhem. I understand that Rocket League is best played on a higher difficulty, because the AI is completely stupid, but I digress (and normally play 1 on 1).

Resogun's Master difficulty is a true test of skill.

In terms of triple A games, let me just be clear: The Last of Us is my favorite video game in recent memory. It's a beautiful and entertaining video game experience with great mechanics and an amazing story. The Walking Dead is completely story-driven and hooks you with its character progression and quick decision making. And, for the record, both are part of a select group of games that have made me cry. But that exact point is what I'm getting at. Clearly Rocket League or Resogun won't make me cry by telling me an emotional, heart-driven story, rather they'll make me cry out of frustration and stupidity - but let's move on from that. the former titles are more experiences rather than something more simplistic and bare-bones. Both The Walking Dead and The Last of Us are, simply put, amazing. But it’s their narratives and characters that keep you coming back to the game, whereas in the indie scene, there is importance placed on crisp game play rather than a compelling story. Naughty Dog specifically nailed everything with The Last of Us with outstanding core mechanics, story, graphics, and level design. It truly deserves the perfect reviews and accolades that it has been receiving. But in terms of game play, was the Last of Us truly fun? I mean, it was definitely a great third-person action adventure experience. But in terms of playing the game, Rocket League and Resogun are much more fun to play rather than The Last of Us.

My main point is this: why can't there be a studio who does both? Offering crisp, compelling game play with a fantastic story and delivers beautiful graphics. A game that is genuinely fun and addicting to play, but can also be significant in the gaming world with an emotional story with great characters. This is what I hope to see in the next coming years. Both games have their well-deserved place in the industry today. But they seem to be so radically different that it would be nice to see an emergence of games who have the ability to do both. This would mean having crisp, arcadey controls alongside a deep, immersive story and quality that we've become used to in reason years.

After thinking about this, I thought of Nintendo. They seem to be the developers who are closest to achieving this "Aha!" moment. I think back to Super Mario 64, and for the time, the graphics were not bad at all, and the game play was 100%. The story was basic, asking Mario to save Princess (Toadstool) Peach, but regardless, if Nintendo could create a game like that nearly 20 years ago, then why isn't there a studio who can pick up that formula and improve on it? Super Mario 64 is nearly almost everything I want: Good graphics (for the time) with crisp, solid game play and mechanics. All that was missing was an immersive story that can draws you in.

Graphics? Check. Game play? Check. Compelling story? Check.
And people wonder why FFVII is considered one of the greatest games of all time.
 

I just came to my own "Aha!" moment. There is one game that comes to mind when I think about all of this. A game that actually achieved good graphics -- again, for the time -- a compelling story, and fantastic game play. That game is Final Fantasy VII. This is the first Final Fantasy game I've played.There's not much more to say here, because FFVII is an absolute classic. The graphics don't hold up, at all, anymore, but everything else is still absolute perfection.

If only developers now can nail this trifecta of perfection into their games. Does it have something to do with the middle falling out? I think so. Because it is the indie studios who are willing to take risks in their games, but since they're a smaller team or whatever the situation may be, they can't necessarily create beautiful, triple-A graphics. On the other hand, triple A studios stick to what they know. I want to see something like FFVII again, only made with today's technology, graphical fidelity, and superb game play. Will they be able to nail it with the FFVII remake? A man can only hope.