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Episodic versus serial

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#1 lars

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Posted 18 November 2015 - 15:02

Waiting for Book 4 leads one's mind anywhere.

 

Mine has been going back, a long way, I think towards when DF was published (so +10 years).

I have a souvenir, but cannot find a reference.

This souvenir states, or my souvenir states,  that the idea was to develop a future version/sequel of DF but in a serial format rather than an episdoic one.

Ex:

  • The lord of the rings films are episodes in a story.
  • Friends are composed episodes in a serie.
  • And Games of Thrones looks like a serie of episodic inspiration, but is most likely a mix of the two.

Am I the only one with this souvenir, or does anyone else have the same souvenir ?

Secondarily does your preference go to the episodic or serial format? (It is understood that many like neither :-))

 


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#2 magic88889

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Posted 18 November 2015 - 18:56

Isn't serial and episodic essentially the same thing?  I think you mean, episodic vs just a single release.  If so, we've had that conversation before, at length, more than once on this forum.

 

For me, I could go either way.  Depends on the story.  Both have their pros and cons.



#3 tummy ooh aah

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Posted 18 November 2015 - 19:07

Serial vs. Episodic is usually a discussion reserved for television - I.e., regarding whether episodes are self-contained or contribute to a larger story arc. Monsters of the week shows like Buffy and sitcoms are usually episodic. Shows like Breaking Bad or The Wire are serial - telling one long story.

In terms of this applying to episodic games, it could be kind of an interesting thought, but not with DFC, I don't know how that could have ever worked because it needs to tell the second half of a story. Having a truly episodic game (as opposed to episodic release) would mean a series of vignettes, in all likelihood. Could be really interesting for a follow-up game more about the DF/TLJ world, but I don't see how it could have ever worked for Chapters. I'm quite curious about this souvenir - does it actually use the word "serial"? Because it may have been referring to the release format only, not the structure of the story itself - "episodic" can of course relate to either.

#4 Ringtail

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 00:28

Lars - when you say "souvenir," do you mean "memory"? Just trying to figure out if you're talking about a physical object (which is how "souvenir is typically used in English), or something else.

My memory is that there weren't a whole lot of details about Dreamfall Chapters back in 2006-7 - the Telltale-style format hadn't really developed fully, so they probably didn't have a firm idea about the number of episodes, flow of the story, etc. I know that some folks on fan forums had ideas about what episodes might look like (including both longer serialized stories and shorter standalone things), but I don't remember Funcom or Ragnar ever making firm statements prior to the Kickstarter.

The best place to look would have been Ragnar's personal blog, but I think posts from that time got wiped out due to computer issues a few years back.

#5 Ringtail

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 00:40

Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe there was some discussion about Chapters pre-Kickstarter. I vaguely remember the early idea for Chapters was that each installment would be about one of the "chapters of life" - that the "spring" episode would be about "birth", and so on. I think there are still vestiges of that in what Chapters eventually became.

#6 khh

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 08:12

Do we all agree with the definitions here? I would say that Dreamfall Chapters as it exists today is serial rather than episodic, as defined in this thread by tummy ooh aah, since the episodes build heavily on each other, has a much greater focus on the overarching plot rather than an episode long plot, and can't be played out of order. While time passes in between many of the instalments, they do feel to be like they're intimately connected to one larger story.

However I'm not sure if Dreamfall Chapters as it was announced way back when would have looked the same. The idea I got was that the episodes would be somewhat more loosely connected, and that they would each have a special, individual focus on some aspect of life. I'm not sure about how many episodes were planned, though.
 

The best place to look would have been Ragnar's personal blog, but I think posts from that time got wiped out due to computer issues a few years back.

The Way Back Machine might have a copy. I probably won't have time to look through there today, but I'll try and do it tomorrow if no one beats me to it.
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#7 Vainamoinen

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 13:13

Do we all agree with the definitions here? I would say that Dreamfall Chapters as it exists today is serial rather than episodic, as defined in this thread by tummy ooh aah, since the episodes build heavily on each other, has a much greater focus on the overarching plot rather than an episode long plot, and can't be played out of order. While time passes in between many of the instalments, they do feel to be like they're intimately connected to one larger story.

 
Exactly, and I welcome the distinction serial / episodic, which we didn't make in former discussions.
 
It may be a bit mean to have Ragnar talk at panels about episodic games while we declare Chapters to be non episodic in its narrative nature, but there it is, not for the first time. :)
 
 
 
 

When we look at Chapters, there simply are different principles at work. The narrative guides the characters into static situations at the end of the Books in order to justify leaps of weeks and months. That's why we see Zoë rescued from the explosion rubble at the end of Book 2; we already know she got out of this alive. That's why we see Kian go on a long trip at the end of Book 3. The immediate, precarious situation, what makes the cliffhanger, is explicitly avoided.
 
That may be among the central reasons why, although the Books are delivered like episodes, I don't think the narrative is really episodic. A quick comparison to Telltale's games shows a completely different concept of the episodic. At the end of those chunks of game, one of the protagonists may have an unknown attacker's sword at his throat, get his brain stolen, transform into godzilla or may be bitten by a fucking zombie. THOSE are core cliffhangers!  :lol:


The relationship between individually contained narratives and overarching plot has always been ambivalent with Telltale, yet at least back then, the ideal was always clear. Back in the day, the individual chunk not only had to be satisfying, but also develop an individual atmosphere, be its own thing. At the same time, cliffhangers always were aimed at by Telltale, and cliffhangers only work well if the overarching plot is strong.

It could not be any different: The more intriguing the segue, the weaker the segmentation.

Tales of Monkey Island was already very, very strong in that kind of 'dual' philosophy, but Telltale's peak eventually turned out to be The Devil's Playhouse – which really did communicate a different kind of narrative genre with each episode, yet still featured an ongoing, cliffhanger rich narrative over five episodes.

Change has occurred since then though, that's where McDonell is right. The Telltale of today often deals with franchises which, in themselves, carry a philosophy of serialisation that doesn't allow much for the kind of clearly segmented story entities. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones can not develop the kind of epic continuous story feel if the narrative feels too, well, episodic. Maybe we find the same development in TV series – whenever those wanted to convey an 'epic' feel to the story, it became a two parter with a cliffhanger in the middle. I think that's what we're seeing in episodic games today.

In the same vein, Dreamfall Chapters may suggest to us the individual narrative chunks with the term "Book" per episode, but in fact, the continuous epic narrative that the 13 chapters structure suggests is the feeling that the game is actually going after.


First of all, Book 1 was not a "complete, meaty experience" in a narrative sense. The entire part was expositional. The stage is carefully set, the characters are carefully introduced, the story ahead is foreshadowed; but not really anything happens in the story. Zoë wakes up and the rest of the Book is spent meeting a few people and trying to understand what kind of person Zoë is right now or wants to be. Not that this isn't extremely well done, far from it. But it hasn't really got much to do with episodes.

In actual episodes, there is an individual arc of suspense. No such thing in Reborn.
In actual episodes, there is at least some kind of cliffhanger at the end. No such thing in Reborn.

The ending came extremely sudden for me because by then I just wanted to play 'until the story starts', and that didn't really happen.

So, no, Book 1 wasn't really an 'episode'. It was just a 'chapter'. Imagine a TV series starting with an episode like that - "what was that show about again?". Not a question you'd be able to answer if the TV series was Dreamfall Chapters.

My outlook here is positive, nonetheless: It's not as if TLJ saga fans weren't used to a sizable overload of character exposition at the beginning of these games. Future Books might actually adhere to an episodic structure (we were at least 'promised' cliffhangers after all).


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#8 trentjaspar

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 20:02

Lars - when you say "souvenir," do you mean "memory"? Just trying to figure out if you're talking about a physical object (which is how "souvenir is typically used in English), or something else.

 

Yes, what we'd call "a memory" in English (a specific recollection) would be "un souvenir" in French.

 

Details.


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#9 magritte

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 22:48

Do we all agree with the definitions here? I would say that Dreamfall Chapters as it exists today is serial rather than episodic, as defined in this thread by tummy ooh aah, since the episodes build heavily on each other, has a much greater focus on the overarching plot rather than an episode long plot, and can't be played out of order. While time passes in between many of the instalments, they do feel to be like they're intimately connected to one larger story.

Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly agree that DFC would be more accurately described as serial than episodic.  



#10 Ragnar

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 22:53

Do we all agree with the definitions here? I would say that Dreamfall Chapters as it exists today is serial rather than episodic, as defined in this thread by tummy ooh aah, since the episodes build heavily on each other, has a much greater focus on the overarching plot rather than an episode long plot, and can't be played out of order. While time passes in between many of the instalments, they do feel to be like they're intimately connected to one larger story.

 

Yep, this is absolutely true, and I wish we'd thought of this a year ago. Calling Dreamfall Chapters a serial adventure would have been much better than 'episodic'.

 

On the other hand, 'episodic' has been established in players' minds, and everyone understands the business model. It might have been more challenging to explain 'serial'.

 

I'm going to think about this for a bit.


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#11 the red of the kin

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 07:47

Actually Webster's dictionary asserts serial and episodic are synonyms.

But they do have slightly different acceptions. Serial episodes are strongly connected to the main plot, while Episodic episodes can be unreated among themselves.

My opinion is that while at first the player could get confused playing DFC if he/she didn't play DF, after a short while he/she feels comfortable in a story that doesn't "need" all previous...episodes. But this opinion is not final, since there are still 4 books to come.

I could compare  the TLJ saga to my beloved Stargate serie, where you knew there was one big plot but you never felt out of the loop except if you missed the season finale ;-)


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#12 toremygg

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 08:12

An aside from the linguist here: it's perfectly possible for two terms to be synonyms of the same concept in general language, and yet have differing definitions and concepts in domain-specific terminologies. :)

/end nerdish stuff


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#13 magic88889

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:13

Using those definitions:  An episodic game is really serial, because the episodes comprise one whole story.  And a game series (like say, the Fallout series) is really episodic, in that each part more or less stands on it's own.

 

It gets even more confusing when you consider some of these episodic games that have spawned sequels.  So now we have a game series, that's really episodic, each containing episodes that are really serial.

 

I hope that made some kind of sense, 'cause looking back over it I'm not so sure.


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#14 tummy ooh aah

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 12:45

And that's why (as I said) this terminology is usually reserved for discussions of television; it's kind of awkward applying these terms within the context of gaming, where the distinction is not well-defined or even really recognized at all, whereas it's totally vital to the classification of television shows. Can anyone even think of a game that in and of itself would be considered truly episodic (not counting sequels)? (Apologies in advance if this is a dumb question)

 

But I mean, you could even get into complicated discussions with television shows too - like, say, American Horror Story - which is serial within each season, but episodic in terms of the series as a whole - each season is totally self-contained. So yeah, it can get murky pretty quick.


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#15 Vanya-illin

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 19:12

Using those definitions:  An episodic game is really serial, because the episodes comprise one whole story.  And a game series (like say, the Fallout series) is really episodic, in that each part more or less stands on it's own.

 

It gets even more confusing when you consider some of these episodic games that have spawned sequels.  So now we have a game series, that's really episodic, each containing episodes that are really serial.

 

I hope that made some kind of sense, 'cause looking back over it I'm not so sure.

 

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‘The question is,' said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

 

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#16 lars

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 19:38

‘When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'

‘The question is,' said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

 

Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

Lovely

 

I fully support Humpy Dumpy 

:P

 

And the answer to Alice is yes, I think.

Both Joe's and McDonalds make/sell burgers.

I would take a plane to NewYork for a burger at Joe's, but wouldn't go a mile for a McDonalds.

So "a burger" can have many meanings.


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#17 lars

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 20:36

Interesting take on serial/episodic.

How to finish a story, and how ending connects to beginning.

Or not.

 

http://www.theverge....-2-movie-review


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#18 Vainamoinen

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Posted 16 December 2015 - 15:54

So SquareEnix tried to pull a thing that will sound especially hilarious to people after following the discussion in this thread. They're releasing the Final Fantasy VII remake in what they desperately don't want to call episodes.

 

 

The multi-part format [...] news that FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE will be a multi-part series [...]

http://na.square-eni...oshinori-kitase

 

Well, of course it's not episodes. The episode would need a self contained narrative arc like in the Star Wars movie episodes. This episodic release sounds much more like a serialized narrative just like Dreamfall Chapters.

 

 

The funny thing is that episodic games have acquired a bad image for exactly the kind of shenannigans SquareEnix now tries to pull off with FFVII®. :ph34r:


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