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Of course they are, the single-player system depends on it (unless of course you're either Left 4 Dead or a generic puzzle game). But how have they evolved over the years?

From my perspective, the story telling of many games is enough, but not as satisfactory as it could be. For instance, in Kingdom Hearts, Sora's story background is typical of a rising warrior chosen-one wannabe that just so happens to have two iconic Disney characters for his sidekicks, trying to save Kairi from an evil character. That's great and all, but there's little difference in story except for Tetsuya Nomura's presentation of these core events. Many stories I've seen base themselves on a tried and true basis, originality coming almost purely from presentation.

So why is this bad? It isn't, by far. How it's presented has become perhaps the most critical aspect of any story-driven game. Let's take Kingdom Hearts as example again, this time from the viewpoint of Roxas. His first appearance is the introduction to KHII, and the player stays with him for about 3-5 hours. Chunks of his importance to the story is given, but as random flashbacks with little rhyme and reason. As such, playing the game not knowing who he really is was rather disappointing. But along comes 358/2 Days, the makeup story to fill in the spaces. The story focusing on friendship and loyalty, with the expected yet still incredibly saddening conclusion worked better than his role in KH2 because there wasn't anything referencing what he encountered before because it wasn't important. Although certain major plot points won't make sense if you haven't played KH1 or CoM by then, it's relatively easy to get the gist of it.

This has all been determined ahead of time by the developer, obviously, but this also leaves us at a standstill in progression. The most progressive story-driven experience so far is probably Heavy Rain for it's many, many ways of creating the story. But it's still all predetermined. After playing a few times the player knows what'll happen (in a lot of other games just one playthrough gets this result), and the experience is shaken down to a skill of remembering over discovery. Replay value declines or even stops from this.

The most logical advancement (and it has already been taken by maybe a handful of developers) is to make the story change and progress procedurely, but is always different from the last. Notice this is regarding story, not gameplay. Many good games are starting to change enemy locations depending on how the game is going or just by random placement, but that is something entirely different. For example of what I mean, let's say there's a dead person you're investigating the murder of. This might as well be an updated and more complex version of Clue (and with a lot more suspects). They could've died from falling, being shot, decapitation, blood loss, poisoning, et cetera. Any way of dying could be in play, and any weapon that could've done the job could be in play as well. In the city, there are maybe 1000 people that could've done it before narrowing it down, and to be able to find the suspect, you'd have to examine their characteristics. The way this works could go on and on, but the point is the numerous possibilities of almost if not absolutely everything can change the story element to a game. Creating the story as you play is great, and is something we may start seeing more and more of as gaming progresses.

Perhaps the next big story-driven game will make it up on the spot. That'd be rather neat.

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