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Avi

Immersion in Gaming

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but it cant just be like fallout did it, for one thing one wouldnt write as long and as many posts just to say "I like open-world games like fallout 2, what if FPS games or adventure games were like that too", for the other it does use a combat mechanic that you would probably deem tedious and repetitive, and you are stuck in a sort of linearity of difficulty. and it has an objective. and levels. and enemies.

I did read your "editing" post as well and I still feel like you compare the best in other media to the worst in games, to make a so far kinda vague point - youve made a lot of examples of boring games and it just seems the argument is that games should be designed to be somehow interesting generally. if a game has repeating mechanic that mechanic obviously has to be fun for the player so he/she wants more of it, or have variation enough to keep it interesting. thats pretty obvious. when its not fun enough, that doesnt mean that a game that changes a similarly boring mechanic throughout the game is good. it doesnt mean that the concept of a consistent game mechanic is doomed - if its fun. I thought HL2 had some good mechanic twists (grav gun especially, and that ant egg) and varying environments and enemies to be fun all the way through (for me). it did make me say "wow thats a cool idea!" several times (as did psychonauts) I wouldnt play COD though, that looks boring. or another halo, thats always the same old it seems. a lot of stuff in the mainstream is formulaic bullshit. that goes for books, music, movies and of course games. I dont get if youre saying that games HAVE to have gameplay _variation_ to be good. or be open, or have a deeper meaning, or all. or just be interesting in _some_ way. (but thats not something to argue for/about is it.)

as you see Im still not "getting it" and you of course have no obligation to convince me. lastly, out of interest can you tell me very shortly (in some key words) what you do think is good/bad of the following games:

*psychonauts

*super metroid

*actraiser

*pirates (you didnt really say)

*quest for glory (your choice which)

*small worlds

*sim city

*another world

oh and I do hope you make that game, you seem like you could get along and have a nice skillset between you! would be interesting to hear what it turns out to be but I guess thats not happening here (yet). if you remember and want to say "I told ya" PM me when/if you guys get it done! =)

Im an animator too btw, is your stuff online somewhere?? (mine isnt, btw haha. cause Im not very good)

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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...)

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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.

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Avi,

I think the realm of interactive media you're sort of alluding to in your first post in this thread is still sort of in its infancy.

There are lots of things and people and companies beginning to change that (like what Nintendo did with their DS and Wii; full-grown, non-gamer adults now play games. that's impressive), but at least relative to what I (and apparently, you) see possible, we're still vastly underutilising the power of games (interactive media) to create meaningful, interesting experiences that can be educational, artistic, explorative, immersive, etc, without necessarily being like traditional games and the elements they contain.

Things are changing, though (it'll become more clear in a few more years; I could elaborate, but just watch the change occur instead : ) ).

Another aspect of immersion is design. For some reason good, user-centric design isn't well understood or really practiced and applied to many systems (not just games, but websites, software, products, and more). It's quite possible to take advanced concepts and features and such (typically enjoyed by hardcore users) and make them accessible to casual users. Blizzard do this to some extent and seem to sell a few copies of their games. ; ) But it's not just something that can be done not just in games, but also with websites, software, and products (like a TV, a keyboard or mouse, ect).

This is also something that will probably improve over time, since we're pretty rapidly getting to the point where we have lots of technology and information, and we're going to want nice design to make accessing and using all of it a nice experience. When a company does come forward with products that are nicely designed, they do very well. A good example of one such company is Apple.

I'm not saying you can design things such that everyone will like them—people have different preferences—but there is lots that can be done in a design sense that can make an experience continually (or at least more) immersive, while still being interesting and meaningful to people who enjoy things to be more challenging (in the case of games) or powerful (in the case of software, or websites).

Some hopeful news: a really nice side effect of lots of technology, tools you can use to build things, and easy access to like minded people (via said technology) is that it empowers artists to create things (case in point: Kickstarter; YouTube; the internet as a whole). These type of people aren't always the type of people who can (or want to) make the creations they design or envision happen in a technical sense, but when they have the tools or people who can do the technical implementation of said designs and visions, they do awesome things. (See iPhone and iPad apps as an example of this, or some of the very creative videos being shared on YouTube.)

Overall, be easy about it. Perhaps you'd enjoy contributing some of your sensibilities in some way to certain projects or people who would appreciate them, or creating some things of your own. That way you can focus more into the world you would like to (or already) see.

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@Avi thanks for heads up about the thread being moved! that would have been confusing.

yeah, that was part of what was confusing for me - I was under the impression that you were arguing for some one master point. okay.

well I dont think that coming up with these super- and sub-genres after the fact really adds much to game design philosophy generally. its fairly arbitrary. your main points still seem to be what you dont like about some boring games, how youd like to see them improved. which is fair enough as such, of course. I dont agree that calling out cutscenes as always being a waste of time is true. there are many aspects of a story or certain situations that works best as a cutscene, depending on the gameplay. I dont think mechanic-based games should throw story out, it doesnt add anything to just say that its "just plastered on". it is what it is. theres room for story in action games. you can have a open world action platformer or FPS, you can make a linear RPG, a story-based epic linear football game. (yes tecmo cup!) HL seems a perfect example of a challenge-based game where youre driven by linear story (which is also perfectly told through the gameplay). you said you played it through and enjoyed it for what it was - still a repetitive mechanic. dodging, shooting, jumping. it was just done well.

if you play a game JUST for the cutscenes theres obviously something wrong or you dont like that type of game but obviously just LOVES the story. thats not how it was designed to work though, theyre supposed to be rewards at the end of fun and challenging missions, not a bribe to get you to grind through an awful game.

I dont think GTA/RDR has to be a malleable dynamic world to be better, it has more to do with the fact that youre presented with what seems like an open world and then youre possibly disappointed that its in fact mission based and you arent free to affect the world. but that was never part of the mechanic or gameplay of those games. so I agree that it falls in between expectation and actual gameplay, but that doesnt mean that the correct answer is that it has to be open. (personally I hate GTA but played red dead a little bit, and although I would have enjoyed it more if it was a free open world game thats just not what its trying to be)

in fact Id say it would be better if ALL designers would look away from genres and golden rules and only focus on what works in that particular game, in all its aspects. I dont mind building new games on top of old ones or using old mechanic, if you bring something else thats interesting to the product. therell still be gray zones and cross-influence. there are slightly branching stories, some have gameplay and story fairly separate and it still works great (first MGS, countless others including most strategy games) and for the record, putting minecraft in a subgenre of story-driven games is...ridiculous. no insult intended. as is deciding that you cant tell the story through dialogue. what kind of general rule is that? course you can. you can do anything, you just have to do it well. what if you have a mini-game that is all about talking with a bunch of old dudes and finding out more and more about some story in the past and how their lines intertwined. I mean, thats just off the top of my head and not much of a game, but you know. it could be some kind of interactive little thing with a present-time twist at the end.

I know you havent asked for my advice but Ill give it anyway: think less about genres and more about actually making a game that is all you want it to be. the game that does that dynamic multi-linear world or fun, varying mechanic to the hilt. we sure can use more of those games! Id sure want a non-violent/non-grinding open world RPG type game. its a good call, just not a general rule of all game design.

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First of all, I fully agree with Mats's last post. Why can't a game be both challenging and driven by story? There are lots of examples to the contrary, and Radiant Historia is the best one I can think of right now. Also, Braid is a story-driven game? If it was the case, I would have never finished the game in the first place since the story was too cryptic, stupid (in my opinion) and completely irrelevant to the brilliant puzzle-solving gameplay. Besides, only the last level actually contains story development, everything else is presented through books and the epilogue. In fact, I'd argue that Portal is much more story-driven than Braid.

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.

Hardware and software are two wildly-different things. I highly suggest you to learn programming and study computational complexity if you're serious about game design. Both are very important assets in my opinion because it allows to really grasp what is easy, hard or impossible to achieve in computer science. WarioWare D.I.Y. on DS is a very good introduction to programming and can also be used as a simple prototyping tool, or if you feel ready to go with the real stuff, I recommend learning Java first.

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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.

well I dont think that coming up with these super- and sub-genres after the fact really adds much to game design philosophy generally. its fairly arbitrary.

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.

your main points still seem to be what you dont like about some boring games, how youd like to see them improved. which is fair enough as such, of course.

How, exactly, is this a summary of my main points?

I dont agree that calling out cutscenes as always being a waste of time is true. there are many aspects of a story or certain situations that works best as a cutscene, depending on the gameplay.

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.

I dont think mechanic-based games should throw story out, it doesnt add anything to just say that its “just plastered on”. it is what it is.

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?

you can have a open world action platformer or FPS, you can make a linear RPG, a story-based epic linear football game. (yes tecmo cup!)

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 seems a perfect example of a challenge-based game where youre driven by linear story (which is also perfectly told through the gameplay)

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?

if you play a game JUST for the cutscenes theres obviously something wrong or you dont like that type of game but obviously just LOVES the story. thats not how it was designed to work though, theyre supposed to be rewards at the end of fun and challenging missions, not a bribe to get you to grind through an awful game.

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.

in fact Id say it would be better if ALL designers would look away from genres and golden rules and only focus on what works in that particular game, in all its aspects.

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.

I dont mind building new games on top of old ones or using old mechanic, if you bring something else thats interesting to the product. therell still be gray zones and cross-influence. there are slightly branching stories, some have gameplay and story fairly separate and it still works great (first MGS, countless others including most strategy games)

What does this mean? It's very vague, and I can't figure out what it's trying to say.

and for the record, putting minecraft in a subgenre of story-driven games is…ridiculous. no insult intended.

No insult taken considering I literally said exactly this in the post.

as is deciding that you cant tell the story through dialogue.

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)

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you can do anything, you just have to do it well.

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.

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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.

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I know I extrapolated a little, but you were basically saying about cutscenes and dialogue that its added onto the gameplay and is just a bonus - it doesnt actually add to or help the actual game in any way. I think thats an oversimplification. in MGS for instance (Im referring to the first one since its the only one I actually like) they add to the cinematic feel of the game and reinforce the atmosphere, and they explain most of the story of course. thats not just "gravy", that helping telling the story and is serving a pretty integral part in a cinematic game. they dont make the gameplay any better but they do serve the game as a whole to make it better.

I dont think its up to me to come up with examples for my point of view when you havent been able to fit a single one into your SBG scheme. okay? every single example you gave was accompanied with "but it doesnt really fit because of these elements". not the clearest way to describe it then is it. you only classified GTA? as what in the end? did it end up a multi-linear SBG even with those mechanics and quests? or are you saying that it would have been without those quests? or if it had been more open and what you did influenced the world (like youve mentioned many times as important). this is why I brought it up. you werent clear at all why you mentioned it where you did. HL _obviously_ also because it doesnt seem to me to fall here nor there in your genres.

Im not against analyzing game design or structure in general, Im saying that this particular thing seems like a waste of time. ok? I was interested in the non-repetitive (possibly non-combat based) open adventure stuff, what that mechanic would be and what kind of stuff you had in mind. but that seems to be the one thing you dont want to elaborate on. anyway we two are having a communication meltdown, so Im bailing out now. no hard feelings. maybe Ill pop by to see if you and ritchie end up coming up with something off the back of this.

PS. this is just a guess but I think Smash thought that you tried to boost your game design credibility with that reference to being able to build your own computer (I assume you mean assemble?) and that doesnt really have anything to do with anything. you dont have to be a programmer to have an opinion on game design, but since you mentioned it here it might have been taken that way. as for the analogy I think we re talking about a film director who doesnt just use a cameraman, but doesnt actually direct movies at all. at least yet.

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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.

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Jeez you guys write some long posts.

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.

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I haven't read everything in this thread (textbook example of tl;dr anyone?) but I read most of Avi's and I think the issue isn't with the games, as such, but the fact that you're interested in something else. Through everything you say it seems that you want to experience an interactive story and explore a world with little to interrupt your progress.

But they're called 'games' because they are challenges within a structure of rules to be overcome in order to win and be rewarded. Just like a game of football or a board game - it's how it all started. Now that they are a media form of their own they're a lot more broad with what they do, but to me unless there are challenges and obstacles it isn't a game. It sounds like you want a really advanced sort of Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Also the e-Reader that pops up a puzzle analogy to me was weird because the disconnect is clear - an eReader does not require input. Videogames do not function without input. Comparing the two doesn't make a lot of sense.

The only recent gaming frustration I can compare is in Assassin's Creed Revelations, when I was issued a rather arbitrary mission. I needed a Janissary Guard uniform which I could only get by assassinating a particular Janissary outside a heavily guarded mosque and hide the body in a hay bail without being detected. Why that particular Janissary? Why that hay bail? Why, realistically, wouldn't I wait until their was a change over of the guards or until there were less on patrol? Why not even follow the guard after he has finished duty and kill him in an alleyway before he can get back to his barracks? Or maybe not even kill him but mug him and steal his uniform? But in spite of the free-roaming allowed in the game there was only one way to do that sequence.

THAT is the only kind of puzzle/challenge that bothers me. One that doesn't fit neatly enough into the story.

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Hey Avi, how do you define virtual reality in the first place? For me, it means interacting with a computer software without any noticeable interface from the user, and that definition doesn't match anything you've written so far.

I'm not quite sure about what you call detachment either, but it's true that I don't feel a lot of empathy in general. I rarely watch TV/movies and read novels other than comedy. For instance, in my entire gaming experience, I've only emotionally bonded with 3 characters: Aeris from Final Fantasy VII, Kratos from Tales of Symphonia, and Miles Edgeworth from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Not that I haven't shared emotions with other characters as well, but they never felt interesting enough to me to be even worth consideration.

Also, I don't understand your comment about games not being more about oneself than passive media. If you're the one doing the input, how can it no be about yourself? Even if you just influence rather than have total control, it's still your decisions and your interactions. If I didn't care about my input, I wouldn't play video games in the first place.

And finally, I find it extremely ironic when people think they can design better stuff by knowing less about what they're trying to create. It just makes no sense at all.

PS. this is just a guess but I think Smash thought that you tried to boost your game design credibility with that reference to being able to build your own computer (I assume you mean assemble?) and that doesnt really have anything to do with anything. you dont have to be a programmer to have an opinion on game design, but since you mentioned it here it might have been taken that way. as for the analogy I think we re talking about a film director who doesnt just use a cameraman, but doesnt actually direct movies at all. at least yet.

Pretty much, yeah. Impressive list of skills, but all of them seemed completely irrelevant to game design, except for the one that you explicitly stated you didn't have.

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Hey Avi, how do you define virtual reality in the first place? For me, it means interacting with a computer software without any noticeable interface from the user, and that definition doesn't match anything you've written so far.

(I think) hes just referring to that hes _not_ talking about just an open game that is just complete freedom and you can do literally anything, like in the real world. not VR as in simulating that youre there.

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Hey Avi, how do you define virtual reality in the first place? For me, it means interacting with a computer software without any noticeable interface from the user, and that definition doesn't match anything you've written so far.

(I think) hes just referring to that hes _not_ talking about just an open game that is just complete freedom and you can do literally anything, like in the real world. not VR as in simulating that youre there.

Sorry Mats, but I don't understand the meaning of your sentence. Besides, I'd prefer to have the answer directly from Avi anyway.

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Avi - I'd be really interested to see what you think of The Dream Machine as a step up for a model for good puzzles. I would say that in my playthrough of three chapters I never used a guide because I was so invested in this world that I didn't want to exit it. And, as well, the atmosphere and small details (the characterization of Victor through his wife's dream) made it feel like a compelling story I was moving through instead of a string of puzzles. Also I played Superbrothers a bit. Is this what you are getting at? I would say that game is made not to have challenging obstacle blocks but instead to convey a story and mood through music, basic action, and minimalist graphics. What games are closest to what you are getting at?

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