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About Avi

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    That Kid in High School Whose Parents Were Out of Town a Lot
  1. Edit, you make an excellent point, and I think there's actually an easy way to blend both our points. The media has the largest influence over anything that we have not given serious thought to. The less thought we have given to it, the more easily influenced we are by something we randomly see. This accommodates the fact that if a child is picking up a large amount of information concerning a certain subject from outside sources (parents, peers, teachers, observation) then they are not likely to be influenced much by seeing the same subject portrayed in the media. On the other hand if the child is picking up very little information from outside sources then there will be a high degree of, often unperceived, influence from the media. This goes for adults as well, but in the case of adults we can drop the exclusive mirroring of the child. For adults it concerns how much serious thought the adult has given the subject. If the adult has not given the subject serious thought then their perspective on that subject defaults to that of a child (first to outside sources, then to media). If the adult has given serious thought to the subject then they will be far less susceptible to either outside sources or the media. So yes, I definitely think that game mechanics count as a form of potential media influence. This plays back into what I've said concerning that most of our education system is actually based on a punishment/reward mechanic almost identical to that used in games. It's funny because I started strongly disliking the use of punishment/reward in games at roughly the same time I figured out that's what school was. In other words, as soon as I started putting serious thought into whether punishment/reward was really an adequate human motivation, I lost interest in all punishment/reward related things. In that instance I would definitely say my initial psychological programming towards punishment/reward mechanics was started much earlier than I started playing games. However kids now often start punishment/reward based games before they start school. Many of those games are said to be educational which means the children start to reinforce very early that real learning is based on punishment/reward. I would definitely be interested in hearing more of the mechanics you have considered and the influences they might have.
  2. Haha true. I think that there are many discussions well-suited to short posts, but there are also discussions which demand a level of complexity that makes length necessary. These points just couldn't be laid out well or clarified in a paragraph. It's unfortunate that many forums have begun to demand short posts instead of distinguishing between topics where shorter and longer replies are appropriate. Since I tend to like the long-form topics, I spend a lot more time on forums where those sorts of topics are the norm.
  3. You extrapolated a lot. In fact, you still make a lot of comments but don't bother to actually reference anything. I never said cutscenes and dialogue don't add to the game in any way. Unless you think gravy adds nothing to meat, which was my metaphor, I have no idea where you got that from. Enhancing the cinematic feel of the game, the atmosphere, and explaining the story is not the primary element of the game no matter how you dress it up. I fail to see how gravy is an inadequate metaphor or implies uselessness. Of course it's up to you to provide examples for your point of view. Even if you think I haven't adequately defended mine, it's up to you to fully support that as well which you still haven't. You're still making a lot of vague or falsely extrapolated statements about what I said instead of addressing anything that I actually said. Notably you haven't even addressed the categories which was the point of my post. You just keep taking issue with some way that I've apparently slighted specific games by writing that. The last section of Open World Exploratory was the only one that I said wasn't well-defined yet, and you're attacking it (with an example about GTA that doesn't even relate to my post) as if it represents the entire thing. HL falls easily into the genres. It's a Linear SBG. I don't see how that's hard to figure out at all. The challenges that HL presents are exclusively presented through the story. There's no way they're variations on some sort of challenge premise or common theme. As I said multiple times SBGs can still present challenges (and most often will of course), but it has to be integrated into the story as told through the gameplay. That's great that you think this particular thing is a waste of time, but you've still done nothing to prove it. You still haven't addressed really any of the main points of my posts. You haven't really addressed anything other than your extrapolated versions of a few minor things I said. You don't even bother to attempt to defend the points you raise (so what's the point of raising them?) because, apparently, I haven't adequately defended mine (which you still haven't managed to demonstrate and is also the fairly childish "you did it first" defense). I'm glad you're interested in the non-repetitive open adventure stuff, but that's honestly not what this thread was about. All of this is also apart of my process in working out how that would work anyway. That sucks if this kind of process is one you feel you can't participate in, but it's also not my problem. Anyway I do still appreciate your previous posts as your commments have been helpful to me. I'm really not sure what happened here, but you seem to have "gone off" a bit and in the past two posts have been refusing to support your points or defend your criticisms. So if you want to bail, that's obviously fine. Thanks for your prior input, and perhaps when I've worked this out further (which I will) then it will be more clear to you what I'm saying. Or perhaps you'll just be interested in seeing any potential games I'm apart of in which case it's always nice to have another person who is. So thanks (genuinely) again for you sharing all of your thoughts (many of them have been quite helpful), and hopefully at some point if we engage in continued discussion the ending will be more fulfilling.
  4. Alright Smash, two posts in one starting with the first one. Your first post makes some interesting points, but I have to say that what you're describing sounds like virtual reality. So I agree that AI is not a replacement for a human. I agree that open world does not necessarily mean more immersion, just adds some more possibilities. For your second point, I'm actually not necessarily talking about widely different outcomes. I actually think in the span of widely different outcomes, less is better. Going back to the police station and school children example which could be a pivotal choice in the game, I think it works best with primarily those two choices. I don't think adding all of these wildly different choices would really add anything to that. So a story with 15 different outcomes is possible, but I actually think most of the time it would be less than that. There should be a reason for every option and every conflict between stories in the game. It shouldn't just be based on creating as much choice as possible, and if there is a reason for every choice then I think most of the time it will result in a small amount of important choices per story as well as a smaller amount of important conflicts between stories. Now for the rest of your perspective, you actually have one of the more interesting perspectives on games that I've seen. Do you have a similar detachment to film and novels? There's really no solution in games for the fact that there's no real-world impact to your decisions. Games in that aspect, like other fictional mediums, depend on your willingness to accept the circumstances you're presented with as some sort of worthy reality. Games are just an interactive fictional medium. That's why I think you're starting to talk about virtual reality here where those characters could be far more dynamic and have an impact on your story like you talk about. It's a really interesting point, but I don't think games should be about yourself any more than movies or books should. Yes, it's an interactive medium, but it's still an interactive medium where you participate in a creation that is fully already there when you start. I don't see any point in the future at which games will become something other than you being the hostage to the designer. That would be virtual reality where you would be immersed in a fully dynamic fully responsive world which I actually would consider a different medium. So the discussion here is really about the best ways to immerse the player in the experience that the designer has crafted for them rather than a discussion about total immersion which I think demands VR. On to your second post. Again, I said that games driven by story should still be challenging. I said exactly that within the post. Now, of course there are also games that will blur the lines between CBG and SBG, but I hardly think that means we should dispense with the categories. We don't throw out two genres every time someone manages to merge elements of both. Sometimes it just results in a single unique experience (like a book merging sci fi and fantasy), but sometimes that actually starts a new genre which I think is great. You may be right about Braid though I think there are those who would disagree. I honestly don't really care enough about it to get into a really long discussion about it. It's not in any way pivotal to the points I'm making here. As for your comments concerning hardware and software, we could have that debate forever. It happens in every medium. Many people working the technical side of computer animation believe that computer animation directors should understand most of the technology, but most of the top computer animation directors don't understand at all and come from an entirely creative background. It may frustrate the tech people sometimes, but the directors themselves cite it as having been an advantage for them as it allows them to consistently think more creatively and then bounce that off of the tech people. I think infinite arguments could be made for both sides. Either way, I have no desire to learn to program more than I already know, and I honestly don't think it will be an inhibition for me. You probably disagree, but I also think we could debate this back and forth at great length and still come out the other side having made a lot of interesting points and both with the same perspective we started with. This debate really does happen in a million incarnations in every medium though. Film directors who don't do camera work. Computer animators who don't draw. Composers who don't do their own orchestration. Conductors who don't play an instrument. You can really go through it with everything. The reality is everyone thinks what they do is the most crucial thing to understanding the medium they work in. The further reality is for every one of those debates there are extremely competent and successful individuals on both sides.
  5. I'm going to take this as the crux of your post, and you can correct me if I'm wrong. You reference the point a few times though, and it seems to be your frustration with the idea of genres or categories as well. I've respected your thoughts in pretty much all of your previous posts. Especially the posts that my last two were in response to. Those seemed like well-thought out responses to what I had been saying. It seems like here you just have a personal vendetta against the idea of any kind of structural thinking related to game design, and you're trying to take it out on the ideas here. I don't know if that's true, but honestly I can't even find a solid idea in your post. It mostly rambles through some different stuff, and then it makes this overall point that it never defends. I'm honestly not sure how well you even read my post considering you blatantly misquoted it multiple times in things that I had actually directly addressed. I get it if there was something I was vague on, but there were multiple things you said supposedly "in response" to me that I actually said too. There were also things that I didn't say at all. This just doesn't seem like a well-thought-out reply, and it doesn't seem like you worked very hard to understand the ideas I was presenting. It just seems like you've got a vendetta against anything you see as limiting to the medium. Do you also think the use of logic is limiting in discussion? Do you think that film has never used genre conventions or story templates to great effect? Do you think novels never draw upon archetypes, classic stories, genre conventions, etc? What about fairy tales, folk tales, fables, and the like all of which have conventions in themselves? Do you think it's useless that we ever tried to classify and understand those kinds of stories? Do you think composers have never drawn upon different world or time period styles of music, or even different genres of music? Do you think they would be able to if they couldn't figure out the primary rules those different kinds of music utilize to largely remain that kind of music? Are you actually completely anti-structural? Because that seems to be most of what you're talking about here, and I'm having a hard time finding any other main point in your post. Anyway sorry if it's offensive to say this post doesn't seem particularly thought out, but I'm only saying that because it doesn't seem up to your usual standards.
  6. Mats, I've been with you on your previous posts, but I've gotta say I'm not even sure what you're saying in this one. I'm going to take this one piece by piece. I disagree entirely. Every other medium I think has highly benefited from attempting to understand the usage of the available elements in various genres. Why should games be any different? If nobody analyzed super- and sub-genres as you say then things like the heist story, the western, or even the hero's journey would not exist. Also you didn't bother to even try to prove your point or so much as give an example of it. You just said it and moved on. There's not much I can address there. How, exactly, is this a summary of my main points? I didn't say this at all. I said the primary method of storytelling in SBGs should not be cut scenes and heavy amounts of dialogue. I never said that there should never be a cut scene used for any reason or that any effective use of a cut scene is impossible. This is exactly what I said. I said they shouldn't throw it out, but it should be gravy. The game should put the highest amount of effort into exploration of the challenge, and a story can still provide a nice way to interlink challenges. That was all in the post. Where are you getting this from? I honestly have no idea what you're talking about. I reference certain open world FPS games in the open world section. I heavily referenced linear RPGs and talked about how I think they would work best. I don't know where I supposedly limited all of these options, but none of this was in my post. HL had some interesting challenges, and I did enjoy it for what it was. I still have no idea what your point is with this example. Is there something specific you're trying to contradict with this? I think Warcraft 3 functions on having a decent story and a fun base game mechanic, but then uses the story to primarily never innovate on the challenge. It's too extreme to say you're playing just for the cut scenes. Of course it's going to sound like nonsense if you put it like that, but I have had people tell me they've played through levels of games to get to the next story bit (which is usually told through cut scene or heavy dialogue). The entire section about GTA I don't understand at all. Where on earth did I say GTA needs to be malleable and dynamic to be better? The only time I even mentioned GTA was in trying to classify it. I think this is bullshit. Sorry to be harsh there, but this is like inventing the novel and then saying we shouldn't really look at different kinds of stories and what has worked in them because writers should just be completely free to experiment how they want. Trying to understand what works and classify it doesn't impose some ridiculous boundaries upon the designers. I'm pretty sure designers aren't like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udEmgbgxT98. It's about developing a greater understanding which can then be experimented with and built upon. Of course there will never be a solid set of perfect rules that should always be followed, but saying that means we shouldn't try to understand possible rules, sets of rules, and classifications is nonsense. If anything would hold the industry back, it's this. You said this in response to me laying out a possible set of categories, genres, and sets of rules which could provide a start towards a foundational understanding of games. Discussions like these could actually move the industry past silly arguments of whether games should have stories and the like which are caused by no one having a definition for what a game could be. So you've said twice now that the categories and genres aren't helping anything, and are even hindering it, but you do literally nothing to even demonstrate your point, not to mention prove it. You make three blanket declarative statements on this throughout the post and then just move on to your own opinions without addressing them. What does this mean? It's very vague, and I can't figure out what it's trying to say. No insult taken considering I literally said exactly this in the post. Never said this at all. I was referring to long dialogue sequences that you have to sit through whose sole purpose is to advance the story where they basically take you out of the gameplay at the same time. I didn't say it exactly that way, but I did specifically refer to long sequences of dialogue, not dialogue in general. I actually referenced effective potential use of dialogue at least once. (...continued in next post)
  7. 2. Open World Multi-Linear This is what I've been discussing a great deal which is the open world games that offer multiple linear storylines fully integrated into the gameplay that happens within the world. Both Fallout 2 and Morrowind would seem to fit into this area. Also Baldur's Gate probably would as well though it uses the mechanic of a linear series of multi-linear open worlds which is interesting. The downfall of some of these games, as both of us have mentioned, seems to be when they still integrate a repetitive mechanic (like the combat or leveling system) which is more of a CBG element and works poorly in what is essentially an SBG environment. The gameplay still needs to be fully integrated with the story as far as I'm concerned, and stepping out of the story entirely to just kill some spiders or level up so you can face a higher monster I think is pointless. That would be more of a CBG-oriented challenge, but it's an extremely poor challenge. I also don't think that sort of challenge fits well within an SBG world. Note that I'm not saying an SBG can't have gameplay that presents a challenge. It just has to be gameplay that's integrated with the story/world. Morrowind actually did ok with this simply because of the much more rare usage of the area full of monsters you had to get through for some stupid quest reason. However the strongest SBG of any variety I think would provide any challenge through fully story-integrated gameplay. The other element to address here is the quality of the linear stories. Fed Ex quests are shoddy mechanics as far as story integrated gameplay goes. That's probably the weakest you can get in story-integrated gameplay because it's just breaking up a sequence of dialogue to have you fetch something so the sequence of dialogue can continue. The linear stories should each be engaging which also demands some kind of interesting integrated gameplay as I've already discussed. Finally, there's the dynamic element that we've also been discussing. I happen to think that this is the only sort of game that offers a real opportunity for player choice. It can be done a little bit in linear SBGs, but I think the failings of that were well-illustrated in the discussion of Deus Ex. It's my opinion that linear SBGs should focus on creating unique and engaging linear gameplay rather than illusions of player choice. You may disagree. The opportunity in the multi-linear open world is to allow for varying degrees of choice in each linear storyline. As I mentioned in my example to Ritchie, it's easy to allow an option to either kill a straggler or help them go free without adding much development cost. I also thought the mechanic of the guilds actually having direct conflicts with each other was interesting in Morrowind. I really liked that you couldn't go all the way in every guild because eventually each guild would ask you to do something that would mean expulsion from the other ones. I think that same sort of mechanic can be used to allow other dynamic linear stories to conflict with each other as illustrated in my example of police station and the school children. I think the addition of somewhat dynamic story adds a lot to this sort of game. 3. Open World Exploratory This seems to be the kind of game that Ritchie is referring to, though perhaps not to the largest possible extent. I think at the highest extreme of this would be Minecraft. The point here is creating a world that you can simply interact with. There's little to no focus on active stories which may bring it out of the realm of SBG into a category of its own, however I think the worlds often tell enough of a story simply by their existence to potentially warrant their inclusion. The difficulty in addressing this sort of game is at what point you go from multi-linear to exploratory. Even a fantasy world where you can only interact with individual characters who live their own lives, but who do have their own stories that you can be involved in to some extent, would still seem to be multi-linear. That's why I'm unsure whether to put this under SBG or make it its own category. It would seem to be difficult to call minecraft either SBG or CBG, and as soon as you add some linear stories to the world (even if they're just very small ones that don't have a large effect on the overall world) then it would seem to become Open World Multi-Linear SBG rather than Open World Exploratory. Sandbox Shooters like GTA, Just Cause, and Red Faction: Guerrilla all illustrate this problem. The only other thing to address which applies to both sort of open world games is that I think the player should be able to have some sort of effect on the world. It really bothered me in Oblivion that I could rise to the top of the assasin's guild, and no one anywhere cared. Everything I did in the game had no effect at all on anything else in the world. I think this is important to a multi-linear open world game, but I think it's crucial to an exploratory open world game. I suppose it's possible to create an exploratory open world where you really just walk around looking at stuff, but I also think at that point you'd have to debate whether it's a game if there is no interactive mechanic other than movement and possibly talking with people. Minecraft obviously allows you to have a massive effect on the world, but I think any exploratory open world game should allow you to have at least some kind of effect. Alright, so that's my layout of what we've been talking about so far and my thoughts on it. I think this goes a lot farther to articulate what I've been trying to say both in this thread and others. Like I said, I was trying to combine a lot of stuff into being one thing, and it really wasn't. I think this presents things much more effectively as well as my thoughts on a variety of different games. It also makes a lot more sense in terms of my comments on editing where the function of editing in each type of game would be different. In CBGs it would be based on ensuring every level (if there are levels) or element provides a unique and interesting challenge that fulfills the premise. In linear SBGs it would be based on ensuring that each element of gameplay adds to the story. In multi-linear open world SBGs it would be based on ensuring that each element of the world creates a cohesive believable world that the player can interact with, and that each story is presented in an effective way through the gameplay (the player's interaction with the world). Finally, in Open World Exploratory games, it would be based on crafting a cohesive world which is interesting to explore with arguably some gameplay elements allowing you to interact with it in an interesting way.
  8. Mats: Yes, you're right about Fallout 2. There are still elements that I probably wouldn't be happy with. I think what has been getting confusing here is that I'm actually developing multiple ideas at the same time, but I didn't entirely realize I was so I've been writing as if they are the same thing. What I've been writing about to some extent is a sort of foundational criteria for modern game design. So via what we've been talking about here, there are two major categories of games that we've discussed. It's possible there are more categories than that, but I'm not sure what they would be. I also can't specifically think of a game that doesn't fit into one or the other. The two categories are Challenge-Based Games and Story-Based Games. A CBG is more like the sport definition of a game, but I think we have to redefine game here to mean any interactive media. So the point of a CBG is to present a challenge. It can do this in really any genre. Puzzle: Portal, Crazy Machines RTS: AI War Platformer: Mario ...just to give a few examples. I also think FPS is often challenge-based as well. The only genre that I would say cannot be CBG is RPG. I just don't see how you could have an RPG without it being story-based. It wouldn't be an RPG anymore. Also Action-Adventure needs to be SBG for the adventure component. I think adventure games could also be either CBG or SBG depending on whether the focus was integrating the gameplay into the story or if the story and world just served as more of a vehicle for the puzzles. So I think there are two things reasonable to demand from any CBG: 1. A strong and interesting premise. This means that there's a reason that the challenge being presented is particularly intriguing. Portal and AI War are particularly strong examples of this. I don't think anyone could argue with Portal having an incredible premise for a puzzle game. AI War also has an amazing premise for a strategy game because the AI presents completely new game mechanics for strategy. That's the portion where the premise becomes interesting. A strong premise sounds intriguing on its own, but it also needs to automatically introduce a unique challenge. The premises for both Portal and AI War do this. They're not just interesting ideas, but they automatically introduce a new use of game mechanics into their respective genres. 2. A thorough exploration of the premise. This means that the premise has to be really explored through the gameplay. AI War presents an extremely well laid out use of the concept of a nearly unstoppable AI. You can play the game and know that they really took the initial idea all the way into a complex series of interesting mechanics. They didn't just stop at a nearly unbeatable AI with a couple of small ways to beat it and then release that as the game. The actual mechanics of the game are all interesting ideas in themselves. Portal also doesn't just stop at some randomized teleport mechanic. They clearly put in effort to come up with new and innovative puzzles based on the premise. Now this may seem obvious to say, but it's easier to examine in those games. What about some of the larger RTS or FPS games? Some of them have an interesting premise. Setting a game in World War 2 or on an alien world should theoretically give you a lot to work with as a premise in an FPS, but the premise isn't really explored. I started Halo, and I was excited. Then I was bored. Same with CoD. I don't think that's an inherent flaw in FPS. I think it's because both of those are CBG, and they aren't exploring much in the way of potential challenges that their premise presents them with. Like I say, adding a rocket launcher or a tank isn't much of a new challenge or a particularly interesting usage of the possible game mechanics the premise affords. So those two things are CBG in a nutshell. Of course it could be explored to a much larger degree, but I don't think that in doing so it would get away from the necessity of those two primary elements. On to SBG: There is one cardinal rule for SBG: An SBG must tell its story through the gameplay. If the story is told through cut scenes or long chunks of dialogue with the gameplay in between, it's not an SBG. It's a CBG with a little bit of a story added in between challenges just to add something extra. The problem there is I think many CBGs actually think they are SBGs. Most action RPGs of one sort or another are not SBGs. They are CBGs with some extremely repetitive challenges and usually a terribly unexplored premise. This is where I've been coming from on a number of examples. Warcraft 3 is a CBG. The challenge is either to make it through the linear map alive or to build a base and destroy the other guy's base. The challenge is also incredibly repetitive, doesn't add much in the way of unique and interesting elements throughout the game, and doesn't do a lot to explore its fantasy world premise in the gameplay. Just because there are tiny figures of dwarves and some spells doesn't really mean anything. So these pseudo CBGs masquerading as SBGs fail as a CBG but sometimes get away with vaguely entertaining gameplay and the desire of some players to reach the next cut scene. I think that's absolute crap. Throw the cut scenes together and release them as a short film if that's the goal of the game. Otherwise do something actually interesting with the challenge and the premise. I'm not saying CBGs of certain kinds can't have fun little interlinking storylines between challenges. I'm saying those cut scenes or dialogues better be gravy on top of some fantastic gameplay. So an SBG is only an SBG if the story is through the gameplay, not long-winded dialogues or cut scenes. Now I think there are three primary kinds of SBGs. 1. Linear A linear SBG is any game where the gameplay progresses the story in a completely linear fashion. Braid would be one example of this kind of game. Many adventure games would also probably fit in this category (discussions of the success of the gameplay in conveying the story aside). I think it would be difficult for an FPS to fit in this category, though not impossible. The reason is it's hard to create an FPS where the focus is on the story rather than the challenge, and the story actually happens through the gameplay, not cut scenes and lengths of dialogue (which, as addressed before, are just challenge vehicles). However it was done with a platformer so I don't see why it couldn't be done with an FPS as well. Linear RPGs are difficult here because many of them are really CBGs with the cut scenes and heavy dialogue. Because of this, the gameplay often ends up being quite boring. Dragon Age and Mass Effect have a few story elements integrated somewhat into the gameplay, but not much of the story really happens through the gameplay. You just go somewhere and have a long dialogue with someone then go somewhere else to kill a bunch of stuff. Then there's a cut scene or another long dialogue. That's a thinly veiled CBG, not an SBG, and as far as I'm concerned those games should be SBG. I don't see anything interesting enough about the challenge to maintain those RPGs as CBGs. (continued in next post...)
  9. Mats, I mentioned earlier that I really didn't intend to say no game has ever done any of these things. I also mentioned somewhere that Fallout 2 is among the games that I haven't played yet which based on what I've heard may actually do a number of these things. Fallout 3 was completely redesigned from the model of the earlier Fallouts though. I've heard from a number of people who loved 1 and 2 that they didn't like 3. I also only had limited experience with Baldur's Gate when I was younger and need to go back and play it again. So I'm definitely not saying these subjects have never been dealt with, but I also think that within those games (like Morrowind) I'll find some elements that worked really well and some elements that I don't like. I remember getting fed up with some of the combat areas in Baldur's Gate 2, but I really need to go back and play it. There's a lot that I'm drawing upon here which I don't have sorted out yet. The FPS issue really applies to the evolution of the combat in an FPS. Adding a rocket launcher is cool, but it doesn't really do that much to provide a new challenge. I also did find HL2 enjoyable for what it was, but I also had no desire to play through it a second time. As I mentioned, this is an arena I think the Far Cry series has been more successful on (though I have yet to play through all of the games). They seem to really focus in those games on being dedicated to it being an FPS and providing new and innovative scenarios within the scope of the game. What I meant earlier about not liking an FPS just being hard is that adding a few big guys in Fallout 3 is just a cheat to me. To simply say that one area is easier because there's less guys and one area is harder because there's more seems like my gameplay experience has been cheated. That's really all I get? More guys in one place and less in another? Then there are games with levels that are made slightly more complicated than the last one, but it's still just really not changing anything. Instead of just adding a tank to make it harder or adding that annoying guy who throws grenades, how about providing some new and interesting scenarios that are unique to the game world created? How many FPS games even really utilize the premise? It just feels really anti-innovative to me, and I find it boring. I'd like to start a shooter with an interesting world and premise and play through a level and find it really cool and interesting and then get to the next level and say, "Wow! No way! They're doing that now!" It just seems like I get to the next level of most shooters and find the same thing I did in the last level re-dressed a little bit. The same thing with stepping around the corner of a hallway. Doom 3, anyone? I will explain this more and much better later as it keeps developing. Not really like Sid Meiers Pirates, but there's a core issue here (or a few of them) that I haven't managed to hit upon yet. I may try to write it into a paper or an essay at some point just because the demands of the format may force me to flesh out what I'm thinking with this a little more. However, more than that, these discussions help to flesh out a lot of things, and also thinking about the design of some actual games helps as well. I'll probably post more about what you asked tomorrow and try to create some more solid examples for RPG, FPS, RTS, etc. The thing that I know is that the editing thread is entirely correlated with what I'm talking about in this thread. I just haven't figured out how it all pulls together yet.
  10. Ritchie, color me intrigued. I bet we'll find common ground on the game editing thread. It's not explained anywhere near well enough. It goes off on too many unrelated tangents because I can't figure out how to fully articulate the main point. Here's the crux of it. In a film, every character moment is intended to add to the understanding of the character. Every scene or line of dialogue adds something to the story of the film. Every camera angle and set piece is evaluated. These are the visuals. The designs and the color schemes are all there. Film is a visceral medium and each visual is arguably hand-picked to advance and enhance the overall story and film. That goes, of course, for the sound and music as well. In games, the GAMEPLAY is the primary element of the medium of games. It's this amazing opportunity to do something that can only be done with games, and I think most of the time it's being squandered. What develops the story or overall game is often a cut scene or a block of dialogue that you don't have any participation in, and the gameplay is just left to be the same over and over again. Written fiction utilizes the text to develop its vision. Film uses visuals and sounds to develop its vision. Yet so many games just create gameplay that's fun to play, fit a story in with dialogue and cut scenes, and then leave it at that. This goes back to what Jonathan Blow was saying because Braid is a great example of this being done really well (I'm just not personally fond of platformers). Anyway totally off-topic. So you've got the technical skills. That's good because I'm not a programmer. I suppose I get to be show-offy now. I work for a start-up company dealing with innovations in the way business is handled today with eventual goals of interdisciplinary collaboration between the sciences, mathematics, and other fields for a wide range of research and developing viable business solutions to real world problems. I've been on computers since I was 3 and know enough to have built my own. I don't program though, beyond a basic knowledge of how it works. I took a couple of years of engineering in high school. I've studied every aspect of animation. I spent three terms at AnimationMentor studying character animation under Pixar, Disney, and Valve animators. I've been acting for six years and am getting around to writing a book on the foundation of acting theory and a problem that puzzled me for a long time which is why Stanislavski's theories cannot be fully reconciled with the work of Michel Saint-Denis. I've performed in some minor professional productions (not broadway or anything like that). I've studied writing and narrative theory fairly extensively though I want to go a lot further into it than I have. I also study philosophy with emphasis on theories of self, reality, ethics, and logic. I'm also interested in the ways that different people think and the capacity of language as well as individuality in learning and expression. For instance, I think dance and painting are both just as much languages as English is. I also think it's terribly arrogant to exclude them as lesser languages from much of philosophy and academia simply because we can't capture them in words (which should be a given). I've also studied film and directing. I play piano and compose music though I would be hesitant to share at this point. My interest is mostly in film music and musicals as well as some rock. My highest strengths are in philosophy, storytelling, writing, directing, acting, and composing. When I was 9 I actually did want to be a game designer. In my early teens I moved to film and primarily animation. There are a number of things that frustrate me about a lot of games (as is probably obvious), and I want to see if I can start putting faces to names and figuring out some solutions. Perhaps, as you say, it will be an utter failure and collapse on itself. Perhaps it will achieve a few things and not others. Perhaps I'll find out I'm really not suited for game design at all, but at this point I find the mechanics of interaction fascinating as a medium and want to explore them. Also, I agree with you about a collaborator. Part of the reason I've spent so much time in film, theater, and games is that collaboration is really part of the point for me. I don't like sitting around trying to bounce my ideas off my computer screen. I love sitting down with a creative group of people to work on a project. I also find I have more of a vision for games than I do for a lot of other mediums. Camera angles and location scouting have never really been my thing even though I love the visual aspect especially in animation and the creation of the world (which, incidentally, is what I always said I loved about animation). So games may be the ideal marriage of a few different abilities. It's not like I ever get that much of a chance to use in-depth psychology and logic in other mediums, but they're naturally there in interactive mechanics. So do PM me whatever idea(s) you feel like sending, and perhaps I'll send you back this rather crazy idea that I've been kicking around for a few days which I think is kind of awesome but definitely don't want to talk about here. I also may send you another concept I was working on with that. I agree with you about developing worlds, but I think it's pivotal to add interactivity to them as well as ways that the gameplay changes (in small ways) based on what you do. I really think that stuff is easy. For instance how hard is it to add a small choice to that Planescape quest where you can either entrap the girl for money, send her back to her own world, or possibly even use her soul to empower yourself. Nothing really has to be added to do that except a few extra dialogue options and maybe one extra character or effect, but I think it adds so much to the game. More on that sort of thing in later discussions. Also, this weird sort of proxy third person posting style you've created is interesting.
  11. Games have very poor editing, if they're edited at all. I think it's important to look at a number of things in this instance. The first is what we consider acceptable in music, film, and writing. Each one of those mediums is carefully edited. Both film and writing have hired editors for whom the sole job is to make sure that the work flows as a cohesive whole, and nothing unnecessary is left in. In music, it is not acceptable to simply repeat the same phrase over and over again without it becoming tedious. It's also not acceptable to rewrite the same song twelve different ways and call it an album. When all of the songs on an album sound the same, most people consider it a bad thing. In film, the same movie cannot simply use the same narrative device over and over again without most viewers walking out or turning it off. An action movie gets boring if it's just the same hero-in-peril situation repeatedly throughout the entire movie. A romance falters if all of the scenes follow the same lovey-dovey format. In books, writers pore over their scenes to make sure each one is an important advancement to the story, character, or world. The focus of the novel is often always in mind, and some writers who write freely in the first draft go back through multiple iterations to figure out what they're trying to say and what they've written that will best express it. So why do we accept an entirely different model out of games? I don't think this is inherent to the medium. In fact, I think perpetuates a number of things. The first is the stereotype of what a gamer is. People who play games are often looked down upon by those who don't, and I think a large part of the reason is that a large portion of gamers don't care how much a game wastes their time. This perpetuates the idea that gamers are jobless and lazy because they will spend 40 hours doing the same thing over and over again without giving it a second thought. Now of course this isn't entirely true, but it is true to an extent. How much time are we willing to waste with games? In Mass Effect, is there really a function to going down the next hallway or into the next building to kill more enemies in the same way? You just did that in the last level. I'm not talking about the experience of shooters not being valuable. I'm saying why is it acceptable for a developer to redress the exact same gameplay in 20 different levels over the course of a 40 hour game? In Warcraft 3, why is it ok that basically every level in the game has you doing one of two things: a level without a base and a level with a base? There are only occasional additions to some mechanic which I actually consider it quite pitiful that it makes it more fun because most of the time it barely changes the gameplay. In Dragon Age, why is it ok that no matter what quest you're on, you're basically just going through a linear level killing whatever monster it's populated with? This is just punctuated by areas with characters with dialogue, shops, and possibly the occasional side quest which still is just the same thing in a slightly different direction. If you think about it, how many FPS, RPG, or RTS games are like this? How many games are like this in general? In this instance I think it's extremely important to point out a sometimes unacknowledged fact. Games are NOT their stories. Games are their gameplay. So to recycle the same gameplay through twenty different levels because the story is advancing in some occasional dialogue or cut scene is completely unacceptable. I'm not playing the game to read a short story or watch a short film (which is what those games really amount to in their storytelling). I'm playing the game for the gameplay, and many of them don't deliver at all. Another problem here is the issue of length in games. For some reason it has become the norm that a game must provide a considerably large length of play time. I think this is holding back the industry. If you aim for a large length of play time then you'll inevitably have to recycle ideas or use a lot of new ideas that are barely different from the ones that are already there. If you aim for a carefully crafted experience where every moment of gameplay is actually put in to enhance the game then you're probably going to end up with a much shorter game but also a much better one. I think part of this stems from a false perception of the financial aspect of games. The industry has been deluding players for years by saying it can take 3-4 years to make one of these blockbuster games so they have to charge $60 for it. They don't. It takes many films the same length of time. Pixar has spent up to 6 years in development of a film. They haven't raised the price on the movie tickets. The financial system of the gaming industry has demanded an audience who will pay over $50 for a single game. This cuts out a huge portion of those who appreciate varying kinds of media right off the bat because they simply would not pay that much for something. However it also creates a second illusion which I think is hurting game design. Players then say if I'm going to pay $60 for a game, it better be more than 2-4 hours. This is an adequate assertion on the part of the players, but the industry doesn't have to be doing this. Pixar has grossed more on movies than any of the top game companies have on games. They have incredibly long artistic development periods for every movie they produce. They also still only charge whatever the movie theaters charge per ticket (probably $7-$12). Their audience is considerably larger than any audience for a game. This financial model is holding the industry back both in design and size of potential audience. However I also don't know why players aren't demanding more satisfying experiences. I've spoken with many gamers who will play an FPS or RPG and be annoyed with how long it is because they'll hit a new level or quest and realize they just did this. That's horrible editing, and it's equally atrocious creative design. Again, I'm not saying one type of gameplay is better than another. I'm saying there's no excuse for a game that repeats the same gameplay over and over again throughout the game, no matter what that gameplay may be. This is not accepted in any other creative medium. How many games can we say that every element of gameplay over the course of the entire game has been carefully crafted to meet the demands of the game and give the player a great experience? Why does that sound demanding in the games industry? In every other industry, it's the norm.
  12. I think the above posts also addressed the comments of SG and Mats. Drgeert, I think that's a good example of what we've been talking about with a game providing something you want to get out of it. I think this would again be benefited further by many designers really focusing their games in terms of what the game and overall experience is about. Myst is quite good with really knowing what kind of game they wanted to make and crafting the entire experience around that. I'm also going to be making another thread concerning time and games because I think it's an issue in itself.
  13. (...continued from previous post) This really isn't that difficult. Certainly it takes time, but only as much time as designing a linear storyline for a game does. It's the idea of player choice in a single linear story which results in exponentially infinite variables because then every choice leads into five more choices. In this instance you have multiple stories with a few choices each (some smaller or larger than others), and the choices you make in some of those stories have impacts on some of the other stories. Now we're not talking about dealing with any kind of reality with realistic AI or a realistic amount of choices. We're talking about creatively designed fiction again. I don't want to be dropped into a fantasy world that's just completely open where I can basically just live some alternate version of real life that has fantasy stuff in it. I want the developer to provide me with what most fiction is which is a heightened and stylized version of reality suited to their purposes. The world they choose to create, the stories and choices they choose to populate that world with, the characters that are involved (many of which would have their own small stories or be involved in the larger stories), and the way the mechanics and gameplay functions will create an experience for me that is interesting for what the game is, not as a reality simulation. This isn't particularly difficult, or rather it's not any harder than current game design. It's just a different kind of design. Morrowind actually started to do this. That's why I liked that the monsters didn't scale level. The guild quests conflicted with each other. There was a main quest, but it wasn't tied inextricably to any of the other quests so it was really just another story in the game. There were lots of different stories all over the game world ranging from very small to very large. Many of them didn't have options, but even some of the smaller ones had interesting options. Those options could be a simple action you could take, and then a couple of additional dialogue options. It doesn't need complex AI and physics. They could already do this ten years ago, and it could have been done even before that. Now, I only addressed two things, and there is one more which is that you can't create a primary thread that pulls together all of the different storylines. The primary thread just has to be the world and what's going on in it. If you try to take all of those interconnected stories in this open world and tie them together in one larger linear story, it will all break apart again. That doesn't mean you can't have the illusion of a larger story. For instance the circumstances of what's going on in the world and how it happened can be a story in itself, probably one of the larger ones. The key word is "tied." There can't be one primary thread tying everything together, or you're back to the problem of linearity and choice. Also worth noting here is that none of this means there can't be an end to the game with seemingly definitive results. At the end of the night you've saved a certain amount of people, and the rest of the city gets overrun by zombies and dies. Within that are the people who you chose to help enough in their stories to allow them to escape. The final outcome of the game might be that the school children died, the governor was killed by an angry citizen, the police managed to form a strong militant force, and a good portion of the population was rescued. The town hall got overrun which means the husband who survived lost his wife. You probably met him earlier on the street, and that was another option you were faced with. Alternatively, the school children were saved, the police were overwhelmed without help and only a few were left firing out the windows of the station, the governor called in back-up and escaped with a few choice people, the husband found his wife but both died in the streets, and most ended up dying in the city anyway including the school children who you had saved in the immediate present but provided no future way out for anyone (which is what the police provide when you help them). None of this is the result of this immense list of choices. It's the result of some dynamic storylines in an open world with solid circumstances that are dependent on each other in ways where the results of one storyline affects another. You could play through the game once just to see if there's any set of options you could take that would actually save the husband and wife. So it's entirely possible. It doesn't require complex AI. It could be done with the AI from ten years ago so the AI now is just a bonus. Most of it can actually be done through dialogue options and actions taken (or not taken). The real improvement in AI is things like pathfinding and combat. You can still have an end to the game where you have had a definite effect. Each of the many storylines can be interesting in themselves. Certain outcomes to some of the larger stories could even change the gameplay to some degree. Outcomes to various stories will definitely change the world (the absence of a police force on the streets for instance, but much larger ways are definitely possible). It's all there. Just drop the emphasis on reality, and find a way to create a fictional heightened version of reality that exemplifies what you want.
  14. Hahaha Anemone. SmashManiac, I disagree entirely. This stems from the idea that when players want choices they want realistic choices. I actually don't think that having far better AI would add much to games at all. These are GAMES. What you're talking about is an issue with creating virtual reality, and that's an entirely different problem. The problem here stems from one major issue. Player choice in linear progression is not really possible. The choice will be obviously fake because the linear progression will still have to continue. Deus Ex was a clever attempt to inject choice into a linear progression, but you said yourself that it still ends up being linear. The simple solution to this problem is to drop linear progression from games where you want a large degree of player choice, which goes back to my point about designers making a choice between linear and open. Player choices shouldn't be realistic or have a strong effect on perfectly realistic AI. Then we would be very clever designers of alternate realities, but we wouldn't be game designers anymore. Andrew Stanton addressed this in directing Finding Nemo. In the early days, they figured out they could simulate ocean water so well that few would be able to tell the difference (even many of the tech people at Pixar couldn't). Then they had to figure out how to create the fictional believable environment they actually wanted. Reality is not the goal. So there are three things that I think are absolutely necessary to a game with this sort of design. The first is that it must be open world. Again, that doesn't mean the world even has to be large. It just has to be open. You can't require a linear progression from it, or you are going to hit exactly the same problem as before. It's worth noting that it wouldn't be impossible to create a linear progression of open worlds which could have some interesting effects if there was something worth doing there. The second thing is that you have to have multiple dynamic linear storylines. These stories don't have to be complex. They just have to be there. You could probably range between having 1 to 5 flexible variables in each story with between 2 and 15 possible outcomes. The crucial part is just tying it together. The world does a lot of the tying, however also pivotal is that certain options in each of the stories conflict with certain options in other stories. So if you make x decision in story 1, you are simultaneously making y decision in story 2, and vice versa. From my post in another thread: If you save the school children, the police station will be overrun. If you help the police, the school will be overrun. Not saving the police station will have further consequences later in automatically causing the outcomes of a few smaller stories you might have otherwise had options on, not providing back-up around the city when you later need it, and also defaulting some smaller options in a few of the other slightly larger stories. (to be continued...)
  15. Alright Ritchie, time to address the other person who writes as much as I do. I actually see Jonathan's point, but I think it's based on the inadequate formulation of story in games. Many games you could take all of the story out of and still have exactly the same game, and I think that's what he's referring to. Again, I think the need there is to look at story in games as potential story rather than kinetic story if the light physics reference makes sense. In other words, the story in games could be based on potentials rather than an actively unfolding story. I think the difficulty comes in trying to insert complex linear stories of the kind found in novels into games. It results in lots of cut scenes, unwieldy dialogue, and so on. Note that I'm not saying that linear games can't be complex, just that it needs to be handled with elements different from those used in the other mediums, and I think that's ultimately Jonathan's point. We're definitely talking about a flawed execution rather than an inherent problem. If you compared the timeline of games with the timeline of film, we might be just hitting the movie musical. A few great movies have been made with some filmmakers who will go down in film history, but many of the great innovators are just coming up. We'd actually literally be right around the time of Citizen Kane. Of course I'm not saying the timelines are actually related, but I'm just pointing out how young the medium is. I agree with you that we can create a game where the mechanics or challenges are also immersive. Like I said, I think mechanics are like paints. They're the natural facet of the medium. You pick the mechanics appropriate to what you want to achieve. Actually when I mentioned the opening of Fallout 3, I'm referring to the actual opening when you're still in the vault which is definitely not a sandbox. Once it went into sandbox mode I thought it resorted to a lot of the same old cliched mechanics excluding the one bit with nuking the town which still didn't really have repercussions. As for collaborating on a game, what did you have in mind? You can PM me the answer to that too if you don't want to discuss it here. SG: I do agree that experimentation is clearly increasing, and we're seeing a strong in-flux of new developers with new ideas as well as even long-term gamers demanding more from the medium they love. Some old developers with ideas they never got to explore are also seeing the opportunity to try and explore them.
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