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Brink story criticisms are 'absolutely valid' - Splash Damage

Senior game designer bemoans the difficulty of interactive storytelling

Although Brink was a solid shooting experience for many reviewers, its average score was somewhat middling for the FPS genre.


The Splash Damage title took something of unique approach to the marrying of single-player and multiplayer. Kudos for that, but it did mean that weaving a substantial narrative was problematic for Splash Damage.

Narrative was one of the main criticisms levelled at Brink during the review stage and, upon reflection, senior game designer Ed Stern has said it's an "absolutely valid" red flag for critics to raise.

"There is a fundamental mismatch - I mean it's tough enough, we're trying to come up with a story that works multiplayer, and that's hard," he told OXM at the Develop Conference in Brighton last week.

"There's a fundamental disparity between storytelling and interactivity. The whole point of a story is that you're told things in a certain order and at a certain pace, and if you surrender all that it's hard, it's really, really hard.

"It's an absolutely valid criticism of Brink that the player experience isn't actually about the back story, that what you end up doing 99 percent of the time is this frantic multi-player chaos and stuff," Stern admitted, but went on to say that what the game does do with story should still be praised.

"We've tried to make the objectives meaningful, we've tried to make them multiply meaningful.

"So, for instance, there's this one objective: on one side they got told there's a bio-weapon that needs to be secured, on the other side they got told it's a vaccine, and they could both be right.

"Now that I don't think anyone's done in a multiplayer game before, its always, you know, the anonymity of 'Oh yeah, we're going to do this'.

"There's a basic mismatch between narrative and fast paced multiplayer action," he continued. "We tried to bridge it but it's really hard to bring those two things together, there are only a certain number of settings that works for."

Stern cited Portal as one of the few games that manage to bridge the gap successfully:

"I just don't think there are any other stories that make a much sense, where the whole action of the game is the sum of your interactions with the environment - [in] what other possible setting is that true? Other than it's a series of test rooms. I cannot get my head around it. Sometimes I just think that all my work does is make me a more finely attuned fan of Portal 2."