The writer of Final Fantasy XII and a host of other RPGs has spoken of her shock at being told by other production staff that RPGs “don’t need storylines” as the players aren’t looking for them.


Miwa Shoda, a game designer and scenario writer who for many years has worked for Square Enix, is best known for such RPGs as Final Fantasy XII and Legend of Mana. As a “scenario writer” she explains she is responsible for the design of the story and world, but also quests, tutorials and scripting.

Speaking about her experiences designing games in a lengthy exchange on Twitter, she reveals her shock at being told that RPGs don’t actually need a storyline:

I’ve worked all over the place and gained a great deal of valuable experience from all sorts of people, and learnt approaches to writing games I would not have been able to do on my own, but the one approach I could never understand is the notion that “games don’t need storylines.”

Now, I don’t think all games need storylines. But when I was told that RPGs don’t need storylines, I was really shocked. They said players weren’t after a storyline, so the bare minimum of events would suffice.

I’ve enjoyed RPG stories ever since I was a child. A thrilling adventure in a new world, with interesting companions. Events are how you enjoy that, together with a storyline, or so I thought.

So I can’t believe it when people say a storyline is unnecessary in an RPG.

Since she has primarily worked for Square, and then Square Enix, it would not be unreasonable to assume that they were the ones to tell her of the unimportance of the RPG storyline.

That some JRPG developers think storyline is unimportant probably explains a great deal, not least the pathetic string of overwrought cliches and endlessly recycled science fantasy settings which generally pass for storyline and setting in Japanese RPGs.

Bioware and company’s reaction at learning that their carefully crafted stories are actually superfluous, at least according to a mercifully unnamed JRPG developer, can only be guessed at.

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    Avatar of Kortaku
    Comment by Kortaku
    22:19 26/05/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    Hmmm, doesnt that posit the opposite of FF13? Almost all story and no gameplay eh.

    Comment by Blank
    Avatar of Shanyy
    Comment by Shanyy
    23:35 26/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If you agree with the comment above but have nothing to say, just give a plus instead of posting one character. Or a whole meaningless sentence. Oh, wait... Nevermind...!

    RPG's needs no more storyline, they need much more sex, breasts, milf, loli and pantsu. Not the intornat pirates are responsibile for ruining games but the game staff themselves.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:07 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Actually, I thought FF13's story was really weak, too...

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:37 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)


    You're the reason that makes this world sadder...

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:00 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    FF13 had a story ? Felt more like they put a bunch of shit together. They only improved the graphics...

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:48 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hey Shanyy, I think you're the one who should read your comment. Your literally asking for more sex, loli, pantsu, milf, and boobs. You're not asking for RPG, you're literally asking for ERO game, so why bother with JRPG when you can just buy ero game and have yourself get laid by 2D girls?

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:29 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You're retarded previous anon. He was being sarcastic.

    Avatar of EyE
    Comment by EyE
    09:14 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    they have no incentive to change the story since their targeted consumer won't stop buying games. So they try to attract new consumer with the best and effective storyline

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:19 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    There are two reasons I play video games: interesting gameplay and interesting story. I'll play a game with a minimum of story (i.e. Mario) if the game mechanics engage me enough that I don't care; similarly, I can deal with some stale mechanics if the story is interesting enough. You can have one without the other, but it's usually less engaging that way.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:05 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Many European games are usually developed with low budget. But the mechanics, gameplay and storyline are equally as good as JRPGs. Well, I shall not talk about the new world since they conceived that new idea than graphics pwn.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:29 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Persona 3 and 4 are perfect examples of how gameplay + story can create an unbelievably fantastic game even when the graphics are weak.

    Avatar of destroyah3034
    Comment by destroyah3034
    12:43 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'll tack onto the comment above at 12:29. You can add the Star Ocean games to that list as well. Well written games, with a good mix of graphics and godly soundtracks.

    Seems that a Square-Enix killer startup company should hire her, since she knows what half of the equation should be. Legend of Mana was very entertaining back in the day.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:51 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    As far as i play most games they all are about

    -Freaking person want to dominate the world
    -Freaking thing threaten the world
    -Freaking thing jeopardize a VIP ;read the enemy got the princess

    what make it difference ? it the story obviously. Many games can stand the time because they have story in them. that what games fun to play not just hacking thing trough the stage. imagine if you play game like God of War 1 trough 3 without story line, you'll definitely thinking "WTF is this game about ?". all you know is just there is some muscular guy go around the stages hackin and slashing thing, is that even fun ? you'll be bored after 2 or 3 hours of gameplay.

    Many games stand the ravages of time by simply have storyline in them. hell i even bought cnc4 even though i know it'll be crap because i want to know the story

    they need to fire the production staff if they were like that.

    Avatar of Shanyy
    Comment by Shanyy
    15:55 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (-0.2)

    Fuck you all, I don't belive you can't read. IRONY, assholes. Imma outta here. Underage band.

    Avatar of Shanyy
    Comment by Shanyy
    02:54 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (-0.2)

    Maybe you're right. Even if you don't have any argument.
    The World isn't sad, just because you think it is (read: because you are).

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:05 05/06/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    if you can call that story though

    22:34 26/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That writer's pic: 3D Quistis Trepe sensei! Whip me please, sensei!

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:47 26/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    What world do these people live in? RPGs have always been about the story.

    Just think if every FF had no story except: "go kill this boss" "thanks for killing him now go kill the other boss"...etc

    Man that would have been fun hitting fight>attack repeatedly until said boss died. /endsarcasm

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:49 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Tabletops eh? That's a whole other thing. Don't confuse them with CRPGs. Whoever coined the term RPG to mean what today's CRPGs represent clearly didn't know what he was talking about. The only relationships between the two is that both follow a simplified mathematical model of reality. I'm pretty sure the quote from the article doesn't refer to anything like D&D, WH or WoD.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:36 26/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    What was the story in Diablo about anyway? All I did was skip the dialogues until I get to killing stuff.

    A good game doesn't need to have both an awesome story and great gameplay. Both make for a fun experience.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:46 26/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Also, someone seems to have forgotten the tabletop RPGs. Seriously, no story? No setting? D&D wouldn't have become legendary if all the DMs did was say "roll the d20 now".
    Even without delving into the tabletops, the PC/Console RPGs should all have a decent plot. That's the main essence of an RPG. With it come companions. Adventure. Unknown lands. Legends. Lore. Dungeons. Enemies, that you must defeat, using your mighty sword/dagger/bow, or simply burn their asses into a crisp with a fireball (I'm assuming the fantasy setting here) for whatever quest you're on.
    Heck, there are often several stories, that provide background for the main storyline/questline in a decent fictional setting. And they're saying to cast it all away?
    Add as much panty shots and jiggling boobs as you wish, but only as a bonus. Never dare to remove the plot. Ever.
    Disobey and you'll burn in the nine hells.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:01 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Are you talking about every mmo out here? :D

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:02 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Don't diss Final Fantasy 1 to 3!!!

    Avatar of BlaqCat
    Comment by BlaqCat
    00:26 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    She is indeed hot. I love a cute woman/girl with glasses. I dunno about her looking like Quistis though.

    Edit: yea with that hairstyle she looks damn similar.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:36 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The last I checked, you kind of need a storyline in an RPG. Otherwise it's "Go here, level up some more, kill that fucker, masturbate at the end."

    The storyline gives us a reason to go there, gain levels, kill that fucker, and then masturbate, Without the storyline I may as well just skip to the masturbating part.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:17 28/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's why the lady should work for Bioware instead. They have a habit of making video game stories that are nothing short of art worthy to compare to Michaelangelo's David.....

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:06 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Etrian Oddyssey would like a word with you.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:55 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's no RPG, that's a rogue-like dungeon crawler!

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:47 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Etrian Odyssey IS randomized. Every single time you start a new game, the dungeon from level 2 downwards are different!

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:40 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's not roguelike because it's not randomised, it's just a dungeon crawler, don't say shit you don't know anything about...

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:38 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ie. a type of RPG, I hate how people don't understand what a subgroup is anymore...

    Comment by Schrobby
    02:56 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    RPGs need no story? Did they loose their last brain cells? O_O

    RPGs and adventure games are THE story driven games...

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:29 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Uh did you really think FF13's story was really an original story? >>

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:08 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    when everything's been done theres only the execution left

    and she looks quite cute from that pic :p

    Avatar of An Otaku's Opiate
    Comment by An Otaku's Opiate
    03:35 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh, please. This is the weakest argument I've ever seen, and it's CONSTANTLY brought up.

    This comment portrays such a defeatist attitude when it comes to storyline. "Well, everything's been done before, so why bother even trying to be original?" Give me a break.

    There has been plenty of novelty in video games, not only in story, but in gameplay, artistic style, and other characteristics. Just because many of the most popular companies and games (including Squeenix and their pet series) stick to tired, but safe, formulae doesn't mean that there aren't those out there who attempt to break the mold; and for better or for worse, the games that actually do attempt to do something different don't usually end up being as popular.

    To dismiss originality by saying "it's impossible to do anything new" is incredibly short-sighted and cheapens developers who actually TRY to do something different.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:34 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The "story" of 12 is more or less a large build-up to nothing. 13 actually has some end-game.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:40 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I have no idea what you're talking about. 12 has a much better story than 13.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:08 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Of the eight FF titles I've played through, XII is the only one which's final boss I can't even recall =/

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:30 18/06/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    yeah now that i remember it, i never know the ending song's title

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:40 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Shit story, yeah.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Have you even played FFXIII? There is WAY more gameplay than cutscenes.

    Avatar of DFC
    Comment by DFC
    22:17 26/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Square Enix: "So I heard you like grinding games."

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:42 28/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Aren't Square Enix games usually story focused games. FF13 was all about story, so they pretty much took away any side distractions. So it would be fairly unreasonable say that Square Enix Doesn't believe in having good stories in RPGs. And a game can be a grind regardless of having a story or not.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:32 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Legend of Mana is one of my favorite games, I've even been replaying it recently.

    Also I play video games for story.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:13 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    After reading this, the idea of preorder FF versus XIII feel very unappealing.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:12 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    To be honest, I don't really play RPGS for story. If it has a good story I'll really like it, but it's not a must.

    I think.. characters do more for me than a story. :/

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:36 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    -.- Story = RPG
    NO story = NO RPG

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:01 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    the real question is is this even worth a so-called "controversy"?
    she doesn't say who told her this.

    even if it was at S-E, for all any of you know it was a grunt on the battle system programming team that said this.

    all of you automatically knee-jerk to the conclusion that it must have been someone like Kitase or Toriyama (or someone else that's a production lead, that actually has a say) that told her this, but there's no indication that it was

    and frankly it seems unlikely it was any production lead as when all is said and done, both FFXII and FFXIII had plenty of focus on story

    now with this weak controversy put aside the funny thing about this whole topic =

    the ironic thing considering the swarms of ""FFXIII had no story! she's telling the truth!!" that the sankaku horde here is screaming is find any other FFXIII thread on Sankaku and the usual complaint from the lot of you was that FFXIII was all story (some of you fall back on saying "all visual novel", thinking that saves your position, but what is a visual novel if not essentially all storyline and no gameplay) and no gameplay.

    its funny how you all contradict yourselves just for the sake of bashing FFXIII

    its enough to make someone wonder if any of you actually have a real opinion of FFXIII (and have actually played it. or are you those people HILARIOUSLY that believes you don't need to play a game to play the game. if that's the case, laugh at yourself for the sake of everyone else with common sense) or whether you're just jumping on the bandwagon to bash it no matter how you have to flip-flop your actual criticisms in order to do it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:27 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Actually, Shouda left Square Enix in 2007 (she briefly joined Cing after that but also quit within months to start her own script writing company). Considering how insular their development culture is, I actually doubt they're the company in question.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:34 27/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    This be why jrpg's are not rpg's and why I hate them the focus is to much on the gameplay and not on the storyline or to much on the storyline and not on the gameplay. You need a mixture...the way it is done in the west. Dragon Age got it right.

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