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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wikipedia On Half-Life 2's Narration

Throughout the entire game, Freeman never speaks, the action is viewed through his eyes only (i.e., there are no cut scenes), and there are no discontinuities or jumps in time (from his point of view).

There has been some criticism of these narrative holdovers from Half-Life, since they effectively limit how much of the backstory is explained. Due to the lack of cut scenes, the player never directly sees what has happened in Gordon's absence.

Ultimately, it is not clear to what extent Gordon exists as a separate character outside of the player's influence. Since the start of Half-Life, Valve has made sure that the player's and Gordon's experience are one and the same. An example of Valve's player strategy is shown during the scene in Eli's lab. Investigation of certain props (most notably the newspaper board) triggers Eli to give some explanation to their meaning and history, thus indicating that Gordon presents emotions that the non-player characters can detect.
-- Half-Life 2[Wikipedia]

Course, my problem there is ... I wouldn't consider that as an "emotion". Staring blankly at a bulletin board - while it's technically neat that it will trigger something - isn't really the same as showing remorse or confusion or even interest. It's just staring blankly at a bulletin board.

It's like that old joke - what's the difference between a mime and Gordon Freeman? The mime has personality.

I recognize this is somewhat of beating a dead horse - but it's a follow up to the vein of story-telling and risk-taking that's been coming up of late. I don't disagree that for purposes for immersion, Valve's approach has merit. Of course, they also avoid accurately depicting a worldwide holocaust that ended with the brutal enslavement and mass slaught of essentially the entire human race. While the world Gordon wakes up in is certainly creepy - he's managed to conveniently power nap his way through the worst event in the history of the planet (that he inadvertently helped cause).

Would you accept a movie or television show that offered that kind of plot device? If next week half the cast of Heroes were shown hanging out in Las Vegas commenting on how dreadful that New York apocalypse was? [spoiler alert!] 24 could easily be accused of plenty of things - but when it set off a nuke on the show, it showed the aftermath. It might not have been entirely accurate and left behind quickly ... but it was there.

Part of me is pondering this because Dreadnought is actually kinda similar as I have it planned right now. All the interesting stuff takes place before the game. The game itself will have a plot centered firmly in walking around destroying things. So down the way, if I get stuff working, I might have to examine the accused and the accuser.

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