Some games eschew character interaction to tell story, and instead leave epistolary scraps of information
lying around the game world for the lonely player to find and pick up, or ignore at one's leisure. These are Story Breadcrumbs.
This, of course, means you might occasionally miss one that's important
When a video game has an Apocalyptic Log
, it's almost always split up to be pieced together non-linearly. Is often presented in Anachronic Order
. Compare the non-videogame Scrapbook Story
Contrast Exposition Break
, Dialogue Tree
and All There in the Manual
- In Beyond Good & Evil you either talk to every character multiple times and read every message sent to you, or experience a less impactful story and become confused over how exactly their world works. That is probably the biggest flaw in an otherwise great game.
- The Bridge has only scattered scraps of text and images to help you make sense of what's happening. Practically nothing is ever fully explained.
- In Left 4 Dead, you can piece together what happens, somewhat, by various messages written on the walls.
- In Pokémon Red and Blue, the abandoned, wild-Pokémon-overrun Pokémon Mansion on Cinnabar Island holds a scattered number of journal entries describing the capture of Mew and the mysterious birth of its child Mewtwo, whose "vicious tendencies" apparently cannot be curbed. Well, not without a Poké Ball...
- The System Shock and BioShock series both have often-eerie audio recordings from before and after the disasters happened that you can easily listen to while still walking around.
- The Metroid Prime series has you scan computers and equipment to find logs from the Space Pirate villains, the Federation, and various alien races.
- The first Prime game is such a severe example of this that it's possible to complete the entire game without a single clue of what you're doing or why you're doing it. Literally all the story is in logs and scans. The later titles include some cutscenes and basic plot development, but most of the exposition is left to you to find.
- World of Goo tells much of its story through the Sign Painter's... signs, which just as often contain gameplay advice. Then there are the occasional messages found on other signs.
- Doom 3 has the PDA recordings.
- In Kingdom Hearts, the Ansem Reports and the Secret Ansem Reports detail the creation of the Big Bad and the game's enemies. They can be found in various places in the first game and various plot milestones in the second.
- Unreal told its story through messages from the various races and personnel involved, ranging from survivors that came from the prison ship you crashed in, to the diaries of the natives of the planet you landed on, to orders from the enemy aliens' army. One entire level revolves around trying to find someone who might be an ally, solely told through logs detailing her escape from both the enemy aliens, and the natives. The expansion pack broke some of the mold off by having the player character speak and narrate between levels, but there are still logs to be found.
- Marathon tells its story by means of computer terminals that give text-based infodumps. Certain terminals are required to progress, but others are secondary ones which simply give more information about The Verse and what is going on.
- Gears of War 2 has little trinkets you can find that tell the stories of dead soldiers.
- Myst and its sequels. As a series about magic books, mundane journals fill in a lot of story padded by background information.
- The post-apocalyptic Fallout series features various audio recordings and computer diaries.
- Resident Evil, not known for complex plotting, has plenty of completely optional story in journals left lying around. They actually make for an engaging back story.
- The Secret Reports from The World Ends with You.
- The enemy logs in Iji, unusual in that the player's actions can influence the contents.
- Dead Space, of course.
- Alien vs. Predator 2 (the game, not the movie)
- Tyrian does this. Since game is a scrolling shooter with branching levels, and the plot cubes drop from enemies in particular levels, it is pretty easy to miss a cube somewhere. Unless, that is, the hot-dog ninja was supposed to come out of left field.
- The PC version of Mario is Missing! has all of the Excuse Plot set up for you in the opening, but during the actual gameplay, you can check newspapers for developments on things like what is currently happening with the penguins, as well as Mario himself keeping in contact with you on how he's doing and how the Koopas are reacting toward your efforts to stop the funding of their "melt the South Pole with hairdryers" plot.
- The Conduit uses secret messages and radio and television broadcasts in-game to provide background information and updates on events throughout the game.
- Common in Interactive Fiction. A good example is Theatre, which has scraps from a character's diary lying around the titular theater.
- In FAMOUS has "Dead Drops", recordings left by the agent you've agreed to rescue that help flesh out the backstory.
- Halo 3: ODST features audio recordings scattered around New Mombasa, telling the story of a girl trying to rescue her father during the Covenant invasion of the city. The thirty of them can be collected from certain pay phones, ATMs, and other kiosks; no matter where you find them, though, you'll always get them in order.
- In The Secret of Monkey Island, the titular island is littered with notes from Herman and the Cannibals addressing each other, and sometimes Lechuck, which were used as their communication methods, and varied from things such as that the catapult was very dangerous and should be dismantled to complaining that the Monkey head makes too much noise at night.
- The first Diablo had a setup like this. Books placed on pedestals throughout the catacombs under Tristram would tell you the story how Diablo came to be buried under Tristram, along with other events that precede the game. That said, the game's manual contained all the same story elements in more detail.
- The Nintendo DS shooter Moon has at least two separate sets of logs the player can find on computer consoles throughout the facility. The problem was that these logs contain shocking information that will later be relayed to the characters in the normal course of the story. Basically, the game spoils its own plot twists.
- The plot behind the Soul Series of Fighting Games is given almost entirely through character, weapon, and stage profiles. Further complicating the plot is that these profiles generally only say what the relevant character knows; If the character doesn't know his opponent's name, that opponent is just called a "mysterious swordsman/monk/bandit/soldier/etc," and figuring out which character that is (if it is a named character at all) requires context work.
- In Shadow Complex guards that don't immediately see you will often talk to one another, dropping hints on what's going on with the plot.
- An Untitled Story has some story breadcrumbs hidden in The Secret Library. Some of them are provided by Ghosts, the Sky Town citizens and three birds who are found outside of Sky Town.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is like that. Important backstory is hidden in obscure dialogue options, which may or may now show up depending on your gender, Force alignment, influence with each particular companion and even the number of previous walkthroughs. It takes at least two of them to get even a vague idea of what's going on and even more of those, combined with lurking through the dialogue files, to get all subtleties.
- Hunted: The Demon's Forge has corpses you can question for bits of backstory and enemy descriptions.
- Many background events in Prototype are explained only in optional Web of Intrigue nodes.
- Neverwinter Nights is prone to this with "book" items that you can read using the "Examine" command, which tell brief stories about the history of the Forgotten Realms, which is where the games take place. None of these stories are ever really useful to the plot, but the books are worth a couple gold if you sell them.
- TRON 2.0: Jet, like the player, knows very little about the "off the books" experiments and dirty politics involved at Encom, or the even dirtier plans and experiments of rival company F-Con. It's through in-game emails the player downloads and reads that reveal what's going on in the analog world.
- Demons Souls and Dark Souls 1 and 2 are both one of the most extreme examples of this and one of the most prolific. The series is renowned for its decidely minimalist method of storytelling, with almost all backstory and plot development (occasionally even information vitally important to understanding the plot) being told either through the short inventory item descriptions, sparse dialogue with NPCs, or occasionally just hinting at things through the level design. Even then, the information provided is still spotty and the players are left to fill in much of it with their own imaginations, thus making multiple interpretations of the game possible. This, along with kickass difficulty are two of the biggest reasons the fans enjoy the games.
- In The Cave there are cave paintings you can find that describe the backstories of the three characters you are currently controlling.
- In Mega Man ZX Advent, when Grey/Ashe copies their first enemy Mega Man form (from Atlas), they get a strange vision about someone detailing "The Game of Destiny". Later on you'll find more ciphers like this, and eventually you'll discover who's behind all this and his intentions.
- In-Universe example: because of the rapid decay in dimension boundaries during Project X Zone, the protagonists never get a chance to sit down and compare notes or actively follow any leads, forcing them to pick up what clues they can as they go along.
- Gone Home is entirely this. It drops you off at your abandoned home with only your family belongings to tell the story of what happened.
- Dear Esther subverts this. You have no control over which ones play and when.
- Much of Fisher-Diver's story comes from the diary entries left behind with the guffins scattered about underwater.
- No Man's Sky uses relics from the past and ruins to help tell its backstory while letting players determine for themselves what it means.