The New Writing in Below Zero isn't Very Good

Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 509 Advanced user
So recently I've been watching the story progress and honestly I have to say it isn't looking good, especially when compared to the old story, and the general quality boost to every other aspect of the game. So I feel like I should at least just get my opinion out there somewhere and list a few reasons as to why I'm not a fan of this new story, so let's get on with it; (note that some of this stuff isn't in the game yet outside of text in the files)

No characters:
Perhaps the biggest issue is that the story has no characters, with every one of them feeling really "safe" and generic, and lacking in personality. All of the large Alterra crew act the same, with the most characterization they get being either "misses their family" or "misses their family and is also horny", with nothing outside of that, made even worse by the fact that there's nine of them to not be able to keep track of in the slightest (the number of them probably being an issue even if they were distinct). I legitimately could not tell you which character is which based on their names. Even characters such as Robin and Al-an are affected by this, being a particularly prevalent example due to how much dialog he has now.

As is Al-an feels like a combination of a small part his old personality, a Star Wars alien with funny alien words, Jar Jar Binks, a Boov, the PDA from the original, and a redditor, wrapped up in a really safe pop culture alien bun. When he does show personality his dialog is less coherent and contradicts itself, such as him being said to be the lead of a science team and then him dismissing fundamental flora as "worthless" and "purely decorative". I'd also like to briefly mention that making him a "somebody" is entirely unnecessary and feels very forced, and it's much more charming if he's just some random dude on the research team. But most of his dialog is just random one-liners with no soul to them, just text for the sake of it. He has basically lost all of his truly alien aspects, just seemingly a regular human except they use George Lucas names for their things that are just copy/pasted human stuff.
I'd also like to briefly mention that Al-an being this huge important figure is so unnecessary and much less charming or interesting than him just being a random person on that expedition. Al-an is basically a different character entirely at this point, and very much a less interesting one.

As for Robin most of her specific issues are that her dialog is pretty standard and/or stilted and obviously speaking towards the player instead of acting natural when talking to herself, and her current voice feeling less consistent and somewhat unfitting which seems more like a direction problem than anything.

Bad Jokes:
The humor in the original SN was generally more subtle when it appeared with at least some nuance to it, not just feeling like the most generic jokes one could think of, and didn't overstay its welcome when it did show up. The jokes in BZ meanwhile are much more frequently thrown in your face and often don't land, being such wonderful comedy as, "guy hates birds for some reason" and "multiple poop and fart jokes" and many other low hanging fruits, which is such an immense downgrade and simply doesn't fit with the feel of Subnautica, at least not with how it's currently presented. Again honestly the best way to describe this is modern Star Wars writing, and not the good modern Star Wars writing.

No Stakes:
One thing I find odd is the decision to make basically every other character in the story dead, which has the consequence of lowering any sense of tension within the story immensely. You no longer have supervisors watching you like a hawk as an active threat to both you and your companions, trying to sneak by or fight them off whenever possible. Now you just kind of meander around until story, never really having a threat to you outside of the relatively easy to harness environment, which was also still a factor in the original story.

Nothing Happens:
Nothing even happens within the story itself, the events of BZ mostly have you wandering around cleaning up corrosive bird feces (because that's a cool and funny joke) for marge so she tells you where to go because that's her only purpose so that nothing else can happen in that place and so on and then the game ends. Even in the events prior to the game nothing happens, with the Alterra people just kind of sitting around hating their job until they die. It even tries to have a plot with marge interfering with the Alterra people's stuff, but they just don't care and go back to playing Fakin' It because apparently that's the only thing that actually happens in this story.

Worldbuilding Has Suffered:
One of the biggest strengths of Tom's writing is the world building, and unfortunately the old detailed and fascinating history of this future world with all these intricate factions and cultures seems to have also been pushed to the side and replaced by the previously mentioned funny Star Wars names like Tworlock and generic future stuff with no real interesting thoughts presented within them. Even the biological information which was pretty hit-or-miss in the original has taken a dive in quality. The most interesting piece of lore is the Sea Monkeys being attracted to you with Al-an in your head, but there doesn't seem to be any interesting details like that elsewhere in the game.

Conclusion:
Despite what problems I did have with Tom on a few occasions with plot holes or biology his writing was still consistently interesting and compelling for most of it, and being totally honest here I feel none of this writing is better than the original BZ writing in even one aspect, and I would rather it have just been completed based on what was already there since it was basically done anyway. Writing is the one aspect I feel has actively gotten worse since
even between the start of the year and now while every other part has been even better than I could've imagined, even with the issues I do have, so I'm sorry for the really negative post but I'm just disappointed more than anything.
Post edited by Morph_Guy on


eternaSomeoneInIntslowsnow_Sora_

Comments

  • Boxcar336Boxcar336 30728 zip.Members Join Date: 2020-09-02 Member: 263736Posts: 2 Fully active user
  • eternaeterna Members Join Date: 2020-09-06 Member: 263818Posts: 2 Fully active user
    I feel the same way - it's really dissapointing to see the new writing, originally intended to be an improvement over the mistakes of the first draft, to turn out as such a trainwreck. I hope they realise that before it's too late.
  • SomeoneInIntSomeoneInInt EarthMembers Join Date: 2020-09-06 Member: 263819Posts: 2 Fully active user
    Couple of points:
    No characters:
    I can agree with points on characters, but I feel like you want them all to be some kind of super human beings, while in story the point IS that they are just ordinary people + some of them just exist to guide the player(Murgl and Alexis)
    Bad Jokes:
    Can agree with fart jokes(tho there is only one), but i dont understand that is wrong with birds joke. He just paranoid about them because they ruin his stuff. Its never supposted to be d e e p joke. hmm, maybe this thing is telling about character more, so he stands out more? Same way i can say that sandwich and is it worth it jokes are bad.
    No Stakes:
    I agree, but dont see it as big problem.
    Nothing Happens:
    To be honest the way you say it, i can tell it about every single story in video games(not only in them too). And i noticed a strong pattern in which you oversaturate some things. Everyone are dead, while only two of ten died, lot of bad jokes while there are only +- two inefficincy and one fart jokes, everyone hates their job, while only two kinda disliked it. Sounds like bad wordbuilding to me.
    Worldbuilding Has Suffered:
    I didnt find any info on THE FUTURE world in Below Zero that can be " funny Star Wars names and generic future stuff with no real interesting thoughts presented within them", because there are none. Biological data are mostly not exist right now(only some Toms databanks). In original only interesting worldbuilding is Sea emperor and Peepers relationship, too.
    Conclusion:
    While i agree with some points, it sounds like you oversaturated some points both in original and in Below zero context. Sorry if comment sounds salty, i have nothing against you and your opinion, just pointing out some things. Will read with love your respond(if there is going to be one).
  • eternaeterna Members Join Date: 2020-09-06 Member: 263818Posts: 2 Fully active user
    on the topic of world building:

    Al-An does bring up some star-wars grade worldbuilding while describing the Architect culture, which is a thing now aparently.

    In the original, there was a lot of worldbuilding in databanks describing Alterra and other factions (e.g. trans-gov profiles, or connection to NS2), which is probably what OP means.
  • SomeoneInIntSomeoneInInt EarthMembers Join Date: 2020-09-06 Member: 263819Posts: 2 Fully active user
    edited September 2020
    ok, but what does "star-wars grade worldbuilding" mean?(thats funny but i never watched any Star wars movie, maybe i should...). I still think there are none future stuff in Bz, maybe except Mercury 2 lore(which is not confirmed).
  • RickAllenRickAllen FloridaMembers Join Date: 2020-09-24 Member: 264176Posts: 1 Fully active user
    It's worse than bad writing. The story has no basis for it's actions. So a scientist suddenly becomes a murderous terrorist? So her sister decided on her own to go solo to a hostile world illegally in order to talk to her sister? There basically isn't any logic to what the characters are doing and why. They go from being benign do-gooders to criminal murderous thugs at the drop of a hat for stupid simplified reasons. All logic fails in this story line.
  • LightdevilLightdevil AustriaMembers, Subnautica Playtester Join Date: 2015-06-10 Member: 205381Posts: 195 Advanced user
    I haven't completed the story so I skipped a bit of what you've written down, I don't really wanna get spoiled in case the story doesn't fundementally change because of your opinion, but the parts I read I almost entirely disagree with. I haven't had a single moment where my immersion was broken. Not even at the bird feces pda. It was kinda ridicous sure but my suspension of disbelief was fine.
    slowsnow
  • Morph_GuyMorph_Guy Members Join Date: 2016-04-21 Member: 216034Posts: 509 Advanced user
    RickAllen wrote: »
    It's worse than bad writing. The story has no basis for it's actions. So a scientist suddenly becomes a murderous terrorist? So her sister decided on her own to go solo to a hostile world illegally in order to talk to her sister? There basically isn't any logic to what the characters are doing and why. They go from being benign do-gooders to criminal murderous thugs at the drop of a hat for stupid simplified reasons. All logic fails in this story line.

    Yeah that's definitely a big part of the writing problems and I guess I should've been more clear about it in the "Nothing Happens" section. People just do nothing until something happens or they randomly decide to do something for no reason.


  • slowsnowslowsnow BerlinMembers Join Date: 2020-04-11 Member: 259925Posts: 2 Fully active user
    No characters:
    I can agree with points on characters, but I feel like you want them all to be some kind of super human beings, while in story the point IS that they are just ordinary people + some of them just exist to guide the player(Murgl and Alexis).

    Have to disagree. Nobody wants them to be super human beings, just a bit interesting. If NPC has no story to tell it's just an object. If story is not interesting they are just waste of focus and time of the player (and developers off course)
    Bad Jokes:
    Can agree with fart jokes(tho there is only one), but i dont understand that is wrong with birds joke. He just paranoid about them because they ruin his stuff. Its never supposted to be d e e p joke. hmm, maybe this thing is telling about character more, so he stands out more? Same way i can say that sandwich and is it worth it jokes are bad.

    Also in my opinion Jokes in original subnautica were much more subtle. Nobody blames anyone for not getting it, but IMHO it was adding good bit of quality to the original SN game and now in BZ it's missing.
    Worldbuilding Has Suffered:
    I didnt find any info on THE FUTURE world in Below Zero that can be " funny Star Wars names and generic future stuff with no real interesting thoughts presented within them", because there are none. Biological data are mostly not exist right now(only some Toms databanks). In original only interesting worldbuilding is Sea emperor and Peepers relationship, too.

    Here i also can't agree. Worldbuilding, from what i have seen so far, is significantly worse than in first SN - you do not have (yet?) the nice mesh of interconnected stories, relationships and elements which makes the story whole. Maybe itäs too early, but TBH to see it missing at this point doesn't give me the feeling it will get better. If there would be at least something so you could see let#s say 10 - 20 % of whole, that would be good. For now it's mostly empty world with some points and locations and key-elements, but which is not tempting and inviting to be explored. If you say that "only interesting worldbuilding is Sea emperor and Peepers relationship" probably you missed a lot what was important for many players beside of that. The relation between architects and leviathans, architects and virus, storyline of ship which was stranded before, all the altera intrigues and internals. All that made world to a network interesting to explore and build the big picture. Unfortunately for me I could not find anything even close to that in the BZ (yet?).
  • vlatko1979vlatko1979 AustraliaMembers Join Date: 2020-10-20 Member: 264861Posts: 4 Fully active user
    I recently tried Below Zero after they added the voiceover. The game looks marvellous, it has all the right qualities and conditions but the story is really bad so far. I know the game is in early access so I am hoping this story is just a placeholder as the way it is experienced now, very dry! A crazy lady finds out her sister died and goes alone with a drop pod and a PDA and nothing else to an Alien frozen world! The story of Subnautica was like something from a James Cameron and JJ Abrams movies but the story of Below Zero and the way it is told so far is like a C grade Bruce Willis movie from 2019. :(

    There is nothing compelling in the opening why you should try to survive in this game under those conditions.

    The artificial intelligence voice in Subnautica was so good, perfection, and the stuff it was saying was so good too that I had pressed play to listed to some of those so many times over, like " "Detecting multiple leviathan class lifeforms in the region. Are you certain whatever you're doing is worth it?" OR "Copper is an essential component of all powered equipment. Your probability of survival has just increased to: unlikely, but plausible."
    I mean how good is that, humorous but serious, perfect combination A+++.

    But I do trust the developers and if they could deliver a Masterpiece before they can do it again.
    _Sora_
  • SimeBSimeB CroatiaMembers Join Date: 2020-03-11 Member: 258661Posts: 5 Fully active user
    I agree that story was better in old subnautica, allso sound of reaper leviathon, or greating of the cyclops...

    But i allso think that BZ is more ejojable to play and i find my self going back to it rather than original one even with it not being finished.
  • KyzarvsKyzarvs UKMembers Join Date: 2019-08-08 Member: 254142Posts: 18 Advanced user
    I posted in the latest update thread about the story - the massive plothole of Robin saying that she's thought enough ahead to be vaccinated, but didn't think (even after being stranded somewhere else with nothing but rope for 6 months) to bring any blueprints - there's below zero(!) motivation that makes sense to rediscover tech that she should have thought to bring.

    I've just (literally, it's on my other screen now playing out) finished the Sam part of the story and it's extremely dissapointing. Robin is more than happy to side-quest for weeks helping Al-An whilst having metaphysical discussions and chuckling along at sea-monkies, finally get to Sam's 3.5% of story and have a little speech about closure, that's it. The whole premise of the story was lost-sister and it's relegated to about 90 seconds of dialogue in the whole game?

    The game mechanics are great - Love using land a lot more (I built a second base under the bridge you have to fix and put a moonpool & water filtration in the water and large room on land), the biomes are very different to S1, but the story... oh man. I've spent hundreds of hours on S1 (over 325 according to Epic), I'll play BZ again I'm sure, but with Robin voice off if possible and probably not bother to complete it often.

    It won't make sense to the story (not that that seems to matter), but I presume we won't get player capsules in this one? Shame, I thought they were an inspired idea.
  • shakky89shakky89 NorwayMembers Join Date: 2020-02-20 Member: 258125Posts: 8 Fully active user
    I agree alot with OP. While there were points that i liked (the birds were funny. I liked that bit), The other characters are as shallow as the other crewmembers in SN. Thing is, in SN, they were just small VO logs. Here, they have stuffed so much dialogue in that it feels boring. If they are going down this path, they need more flavor! Like the detail about the one who cheats (or powerplays not sure) in DND. Thats close to interesting. They are just "NPC 1, 2 and 3".

    And a voiced PC takes away alot of the "alone in alien world" feeling. Before the update, finding al-an was nice. Sort of a companion. But now, Al-an is "generic superior alien #1" with adequate snarky and uninteresting "oh, bodies are so useless mr. anderson" "we have an advanced uplink hivemind, so we dont consider ourselves individuals, BorgPicard. Btw, i was head scientist, unique, gifted and have many other traits that signifies an id and individuality".
    Possibly the worst line so far "i have detected an artifact belonging to my people. -well, lets check it out. I hope it will be helpful." "as do i". It`s fine for a pre-first draft. And if its just filler for meaningful dialouge, its not a problem. But if this is the finished dialogue? Scrap it.

    My personal opinion is that Al-an is not alien enough. Man, an alien in my head. With a hivemind concept of existence. How will we find common ground? How will we communicate concepts of trust or analogies to further our understanding? Does he even perceive analogies?! -Turns out it was super easy, barely an inconvenience.

    I love the concept. Fishies look great, great music, ambience, leviathans and biomes. I even love the immersion breaking of the jukebox. But i miss so many of the better elements of the old story. The space station? SO cool! The looming "is it ally or enemy?" And the reveal of the defense grid/shield? It was AWESOME. I could not wait for the rest of the story at that point! ...But of course it was not coming.
  • shakky89shakky89 NorwayMembers Join Date: 2020-02-20 Member: 258125Posts: 8 Fully active user
    edited November 2020
    ...And now i have completed the storyline up until there is no more content.
    so SPOILERS for the rest of this entry.

    While i see some redeeming moments, especially when you find more of the bodyparts for ALAN, the whole story feels very unsatisfactory. Like, what happened to Sam? She fell down with Parvan? That`s it? The climax of 10-15 hours of that storyline is a PDA entry that ends with "aaaaagh". What an anticlimactic fart. It makes all the PDAs i collected, all the completely uninteresting characters that were/are Sams colleagues even more aggravating. When i finished i was thinking "just scrap it". All those characters, the employee review.. It felt bloated and unnecessary, at this point. You should at the very least have Parvan shoot Sam or something. To give it the tiniest hint of spice.

    I am just assuming that it is all under asessment and revamping. Because the vague outline of "something happened to my sister" ends up as a wet fart. And there is still this lack of clear purpose because you have these two elements where you are looking for your sister and you suddenly have this alien in your head. Which Robin never questions. "whoop, im in your head. Please build me a body. I am conflicted. By the way i am superior and your species is "inefficient"
    -"Okidokey mr alien". Robin does not question him or his motives or does anything even close to what a real person would do. But she has time to question the flipping motives of the flippin` sea monkeys! Which i love by the way. But she is seemingly more sceptical of them than of the alien who "violently" entered her head!
    It`s a bit of a mess, really. And about as savoury as a dish with no salt or seasoning whatsoever. This storyline is a tasteless meatball.

    To be honest, i felt annoyed and then relieved after that whole plotline with the sister was finished. Because the alien i have been communicating with is a far more intriguing concept.

    But the overall story is bland. I just watched cohhcarnages YT channel when he played the original story. It is still much stronger and far more engaging. Yes, it had a few plotholes and some elements. But the overall story was far more satisfying than what i am currently experiencing.
    When the shield comes up, that still tickles my curiosity and wonderment. I still have questions about Jeff. Maybe he is like a government secret agent. Or perhaps had another architect in his head. Or perhaps an architect even took over his mind with a more agressive approach than ALAN. That story just needed a slight rewrite. This entire revamp is.. Weak.

    I realize this is very harsh. But im confident UWE are fully aware. They are very good at what they are doing, so i have full confidence in their ability to reshape it.
    Post edited by shakky89 on
  • shakky89shakky89 NorwayMembers Join Date: 2020-02-20 Member: 258125Posts: 8 Fully active user
    But how can it be salvaged?

    Just off the top of my head:
    - Robin needs to confront this alien. Perhaps even have them struggling for control or something. Have them at odds. Like they struggle over conscious control, crash a seatruck and wake up on a glow whale or with a sea monkey shaking you awake. It would be a perfect moment for their annoying thieving behavior to change. Even Robin and ALANs dialogue is too fluffed and uninteresting.
    - At several moments i felt comments from ALAN was missing. I get that he does not have all his faculties but some warnings about fishies or comments about the structures you see should come from him. PDA reports on the stuff you scan makes no sense if you have the actual species who built those structures there!
    - (this is not my idea entirely) Dont say Sam is dead. Declare her missing in action or something. Make it more ambiguous. It would make the story more compelling if Robin was looking for her sister to SAVE her, then find her dead. While not super orginial, more engaging than what we have at present. While searching you could build up their relationship and reveal Sams actions on 4546B, leading up to Alterra security guy Parvan shooting her. Either as an accident or out of agression. It could also build nicely on his message to his family. that he loses control and "doesnt know why i say the things i say sometimes". Finding her dead by Alterra`s hands would also be motivation to destroy their Kharaa research. Maida attacks the base and then Robin/we destroy the sample in the frozen Leviathan. Also, using the spypengling to obtain the antidote was a nice move. Maybe Maida should hint that Sam hid the antidote, but she was too clever for Maida to find it.
    - Rocket island is at this point, pointless. The satellite thingy is nice but a threat or issue i did not feel had any presence. Maybe have Alterra chase either Maida or Robin. Even something as simple as a seatruck chase sequence. Have them attacked and ripped apart by a chelicerate or something. Because as is, the whole "satellite" sideplot felt as a fetchquest. It could even be as simple as after the AWESOME introduction of Maida at rocket Island, a spaceship comes after her, shoots into the water and wants Robin to "freeze". Then you run out of the scripted event. That makes their presence feel more dangerous.
  • QqponQqpon Members Join Date: 2017-05-21 Member: 230653Posts: 3 Fully active user
    I didn't play the new update, but the message looks very convincing. I fear below zero, after an excellent first game, will just me remembered as a forgettable game.
  • SkysterSkyster Members Join Date: 2020-11-15 Member: 265476Posts: 1 Freshly registered user
Sign In or Register to comment.