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Battling Agoraphobia


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#1 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1547

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 04:38 PM

When too much game leaves you cold... I have a number of friends who gave up on Morrowind for reasons that I can only classify as agoraphobia, the fear of wide open spaces. Another quit Fallout when he claimed to get two broken arms and said that the world had too much stuff to deal with. Still another quit Civilization after saying, "I don't understand what I'm supposed to do... you can go anywhere!" Like alot of people I've come to feel constrained by the strict level-based, mission/quest-based games out there. When I get an open ended game I tend to head in one direction as far as I can until I get killed. But I have to admit that for awhile encountering some sections of Morrowind (the huge spaces of Vivec) caused me to falter a bit. What helps to combat agoraphobia? People tend not to want to read manuals or sit through tutorials. A friend suggested that the greatest fear a gamer has is getting stuck or in over her / his head. To that end he's suggested that open-ended games have some sort of sample mode, maybe in the form of teleporters or even saved games that allow you to get a taste of the wide variety of challenges and situations a game might offer. One thing I was thinking you could do is to stimulate the player's appetite for freeform gaming by enforcing linearity. At the start of the sci-fi game I'm working on, for instance, everyone would be immigrating to the new capital of the galaxy. You'd be a young serf stuck on a generation ship, and told where to go and what to do all the time even as your peers griped how you all should be free. As you went about your assigned tasks, you would hear stories and see events that reflected the universe at large, but you'd be barred from participating. To get out, you'd either have to escape or wait until the series of enforced tutorials was over. This starting mode would serve to build your character interactively and whet your appetite, theoretically. Then again, this is probably a dumb idea, as I'm not all that sure that the answer to agoraphobia is claustraphobia.
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#2 falkone   Members   -  Reputation: 444

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 04:42 PM

The thing that I don't like is when the game presents a very wide range of choices to you, and then expects you to choose a specific thing. What I enjoy most is the ability to go where you want and do what you want (fishing, hunting, gambling), but also to be able to come back to continue on quests when I feel sufficiently relaxed. This way, nobody has to leave the game to relax.

#3 Numsgil   Members   -  Reputation: 501

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 04:54 PM

I think it's not so much agoraphobia as being overwhelmed with possibilities. In Morrowind, to continue the example, if you journeyed into the middle of nowhere, you were stuck with where to go. East? North? West? They were all the same expanse of nothingness.

So the remedy is not so much limiting choices, as making the choices have differnet weights. Maybe going west you know theres a town or dungeon, while east is uncharted, while north is a gaint volcanoe, etc. You can see the applications to any game suffering from over-expanse.

As long as the choices create immediate and different consequences, the player may proceed in a manner that fulfills either in-game or personal goals.

#4 Stagz   Members   -  Reputation: 196

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 05:56 PM

I've encountered similar effects in a few games, but being an adventure gamer at heart, I set off to find out what I can do. I know that there are plenty of people out there that dislike style of game play, and become more immersed in the 'to the point' mission style games.

While the level based games require quick decisions, the world based games require more strategic thinking. Take Fallout for example.

To win this game, you need to decide where you want to go, find the clues to get an item on your map, and head over there in a hope to get to your final destination. If you miss a clue on the way through, you could end up back tracking a while to get what you want. If you kill someone off, you could make the game much harder to finish. Before you do anything, you have to decide why you are doing it, and weigh up the consequences.

Mission based games are generally much more clean cut. You will usually work your way through each level, killing everything in site, and be rewarded with a new mission at the end.

The problem here, in my mind, is that the end user doesn't know/cant be bothered trying to find out the consequences of their actions. As a result are too afraid to do something/go somewhere in case they screw up their game. Staying in the same place is no fun, so the player gets frustrated, and gives up (or downloads the walkthrough).

I think that the solution is to have a very clear direction on where the player is headed. If there is more than one place to go, let the player decide on their outcome, then be presented with a path to achieve this. I think that this is the purpose of the 'PIP Boy' (is that it's name) in Fallout.

I also think that the worst thing that you could do to combat this is to enforce linearity. Who wants to be forced to jump through hoops every time they restart the game. Perhaps a better way would be to have an initial 'quest' that the user can chose to do, but is always presented, which will lead them through learning the world.

Another thing that can be done to avoid this frustration, is to reduce the amount of game time lost by making the wrong decision. This could have unwanted side effects, like putting too little value on decision making.

Another point that I think needs to be made is that this problem is the inverse to a player becoming bored. Case in point Everquest - just try soloing all the way through the game :).

I think that the solution to this problem lies in a balance between the bordom/frustration levels of the player.

#5 Addictman   Members   -  Reputation: 218

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 07:58 PM

I don't know too much about your sci-fi game, but an idea is to have some anchor throughout the game, which would keep the player onto the plot, yet give him time to explore the vast world(s). Dependant on the plot, these anchors could be dreams of the character, a well-known adversary popping up at intervals. Basically something to keep reminding the player what he is, in the end, trying to achieve. My biggest problem with games running an open plot, is that I sometime along the way lose myself, and more or less forgot where I've been, where I should go next, what I am trying to do, etc. The quest logs of these games tend to be long, littered with small side quests. Many of them are not related to the plot at all, which mostly annoys me.

I would also, if you plan to have an open solution, use "locks" frequently. With this, it could mean as simple a thing as a locked door. Basically, it is some barrier that keeps the player from advancing further at a place. It might not sound like a too good idea on paper (dont we all hate locked doors?), but it is important to sometimes be able ot say: Ok, the player is here. When he is here, I can be sure he has done this, and that.

It boils down to this. I dont think you can solve agoraphobia with claustrophobia, but you can perhaps solve it by creating an illusion of complete freedom, whereas you constantly make sure that the player knows what he is supposed to do, when the *player* sees fit to do it. Before he sees fit to do it, he/she can explore and perform side-quests.
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#6 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1810

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 12:30 AM

I for one found Morrowind extremeloy boring. I think it was mainly do to the fact that I never seemed to be achomplishing anything, as well that most of the game time seemed to be spent walking from place to place. On the other hand I was always a great fan of the fallout series. But what made the two so diffrent? I think the answer is being kept busy in fallout there was plenty to do in each area as well as random encouters enroute to other areas. There was also a definate sense of progress and results to the players actions. Where as in Morrowind I spent most of my time doing odd jobs for guilds none of which seemed to have much of an effect on anything, as well as that I could not progress in the story because I hadn't reached some arbitray level.

So I guess my answer is to keep the player feeling like there making progress. Exploration is fun put that exploration should always make the player feel like their making progress, beyond simplely gaining levels. If the player voyages off into the deep unknown's of space then they should recieve an approprate reward for their exploration. If they go around the inner planets killing pirates then they should be recive a diffrent reward that is approprite to that path.


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#7 Pxtl   Members   -  Reputation: 354

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 12:51 AM

The problem is that many of these "Freedom" oriented games have horrible learning curves as the player tries to figure out what they're supposed to do entirely by trial and error. As a wage-slave, I don't have time for crap like that anymore - I gave up on Zelda: Ocarina of Time for similar reasons (made it to Hyrule field and then spent a few hours trying to figure out where to go next, then gave up).

Some games do an okay job of it (the Final Fantasy titles are pretty good at giving you freedom but also giving you clear goals) but many do not.

#8 knowledge   Members   -  Reputation: 174

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:14 AM

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
I for one found Morrowind extremeloy boring. I think it was mainly do to the fact that I never seemed to be achomplishing anything, as well that most of the game time seemed to be spent walking from place to place. On the other hand I was always a great fan of the fallout series. But what made the two so diffrent? I think the answer is being kept busy in fallout there was plenty to do in each area as well as random encouters enroute to other areas. There was also a definate sense of progress and results to the players actions. Where as in Morrowind I spent most of my time doing odd jobs for guilds none of which seemed to have much of an effect on anything, as well as that I could not progress in the story because I hadn't reached some arbitray level.


I too was very bored with morrowind. At first the game was great fun, but once I had to trek so far to get places(often by myself) it really pissed me off. I wanted to advance the story, it wanted me to walk cross-country. And the walks were boring. It wasn't that I didn't know what to do, or that there was too many possible things to do, just that doing things was too tedious and boring a process.

Not all open-ended games are like this though. Examples of open-ended games I've played that got it right are Maxis games(The Sims, SimCity, etc.), and the Civ/Alpha Centauri series. These games had some tedium, but their balance was much better than morrowind.

#9 Kars   Members   -  Reputation: 184

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:48 AM

I think the biggest problem with (at least some) open-ended games for some people is that you have to spend so much time in them to get anywhere. And Morrowwind had, what, five types of monsters?

One of the problems I had with Morrowwind was, that I would be doing a main/guild quest and get side tracked on another small quest that just sounded interesting. I would then get sidetracked on yet another small quest or have to break for a few days. When I finally decided to get back to the main/guild quest, I would open my trusty log, then page back...... page back...... page back, etc until I finally found where I left off.

One thing you could do to fix this, especially for a sci-fi game, is to be able to organize the log. I.e. pull up all entries based on a specific quest, when you give up on a side quest you can mark it as a lost cause, do searches, etc.

As far as the quests go, maybe give a hint (call a friend on the cellphone) button some where so if the player gets stuck.... This happened to me in Morrowwind several times. One time I was in the right cave and went through it inch by inch about 20 times gave up, came back later and search it again. Finally went to a walk through and it told me what room in the cave I should be in. I got there and still couldn't find the place...... then I looked up and smacked myself in the forehead. After that, if I had the slightest difficulty finding my objective I just went to the walkthroughs.

Another possible option is the ability to buy a map. Not a completely detailed map but something that shows the major cities. When you get to the major city then you can buy a local map with more detail, not building by building but by area. Slums here, red-light district here, list buisnesses, etc.


#10 Dobbs   Members   -  Reputation: 164

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 03:32 AM

I find that too many choices early in a game is most overwhelming because I have no prior experience, nothing to base my decisions on except gut instincts that can turn out wrong because I'm not on the same wavelength as the designer.

For example, should I not buy missile countermeasures early on, and spend the money on more cargo bays instead for trading? What if the first time I launch it turns out everyone is armed to the teeth with missiles?

I think a skippable, seamless in-game tutorial would work best. Morrowind had the right approach to this by giving you an initial assignment to reach the guy in Balmora, who gave you missions and taught you a bit about the state of the world. Unfortunately it was far too brief, not in depth enough, and far too isolated compared to the sheer size of the world.

I think your game world could have a similar approach. The player needs to be introduced to the various modes of travel and the random encounters they entail, exploring new areas, combat, psionics, etc. Set up a mini scenario that involves a number of these in bite size chunks, and without significant threat to the player (ie if they screw up a bit it's not going to cripple their ship or put them in the poorhouse). You can frame it like "the player is a newly commissioned military captain assigned his first mission." That mission is a bunch of script generated (instead of randomly generated) events.

You are ordered to go to such and such a system to investigate an SOS signal from a previously unknown colony. En route there's a system malfunction that drops you out of hyperspace and has to be repaired. If you don't want to break the game's immersion, "help" can come in the form of communicating with your commanding officer back at base to ask for advice on how to solve the problem. You repair the system, get going again, and arrive at your destination. The strange signal turns out to be a siren's call luring ships in for a pirate attack. You have some simple combat and destroy the pirates (if the fight is going badly the script could generate reinforcements that jump in, or you could send a message to hq asking for backup, whatever). After the battle you go on an away mission to the surface and use some skills to enter the pirate base and destroy whatever is generating the signal. Unfortunately your ship has taken damage during the fight and have to make a quantum jump back to base, and this time you encounter siegers (sp?).

I'm just going on memory from your many posts so I'm sure I got some terminology/technology wrong, but I'm sure you get the idea.

#11 Spoonbender   Members   -  Reputation: 1254

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 04:21 AM

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
I for one found Morrowind extremeloy boring. I think it was mainly do to the fact that I never seemed to be achomplishing anything, as well that most of the game time seemed to be spent walking from place to place. On the other hand I was always a great fan of the fallout series. But what made the two so diffrent? I think the answer is being kept busy in fallout there was plenty to do in each area as well as random encouters enroute to other areas. There was also a definate sense of progress and results to the players actions. Where as in Morrowind I spent most of my time doing odd jobs for guilds none of which seemed to have much of an effect on anything, as well as that I could not progress in the story because I hadn't reached some arbitray level.


Amazing! Someone else who feels the way I do about those two games. :D

Anyway, it's not that I have agoraphobia as such (loved the old Elite games, and played them for months. You don't get much more open ended than that)

But Morrowind turned me completely off.

I think Numsgil is really on to something though.

The problem is not having too many options, it's not having any data to base your decisions on.
In Fallout, I knew that I could go to A to finish one quest, to B to finish another, or to C just to check it out. I could go anywhere, yes, but I also had a few hints about what I should expect to find at each place. To begin with, you're looking for a water chip, so Vault 15 is a logical place to start your search. Sure, you could go any other direction, but why would you?
You always know that "if I want this, it would probably be a good idea to go there.

In Morrowind, you rarely had anything to tell you where to go. Practically every npc in the game said the exact same things, the quests were similar no matter where you went, and, well, you could go any direction, but you didn't know what you'd find there, so you had no way to choose, other than close your eyes and pick a direction at random. How are you supposed to know whether city A makes more sense for you than city B, or even just walking straight into the wilderness?

Even in Elite, you could go anywhere, but you had a lot of factors to base your decisions on. You wanted to make a profit, so you had to pick a system where you could sell your goods at a good price, or you wanted to fight, so you'd pick somewhere with lots of pirate activity.
Basically, you knew roughly where to go to find what you wanted.

I think that's important.

#12 Inmate2993   Members   -  Reputation: 222

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 05:51 PM

If you played FFX, you'll remember the first thing you noticed when you entered the sphere grid. Titus started next to a lock. It was friendly enough to be named Level-1 Lock, but it presented a course through the grid that more or less had to be followed with a few branches here and there before you reached another Level-1 lock that had a set of paths behind it. After a while of playing, you'd soon realize that the level-1 lock at the start was serving a dual purpose, to push you at the beginning of the game along a set course, but also to allow Kimarhi onto Tidus's path.

I personally shifted everyone through Lulu's low level magics path. But thats beside the point.

The point is that you could ease the player into choice by making the first one for them but allowing them to go back and make the alternate choice later. Or not at all.

On another note, sometimes the boundaries can help. Play Star Control 2: The Urquan Masters. The universe in that game is freaking huge if you spend the time to mine a lot of the stars. But from the start you can see the enitre map and the names of all of the stars. Most FF games also let you see the whole world map. It may make it look big and daunting, but it also gives you a good view of where you'll be going next so that you can start investigating your choices.

Its probably scary to be asked out of nowhere "STOP THE NUCLEAR BOMB IN NEW YORK" or "STOP THE GENOCIDE IN BRAZIL" and not being told whats going on.

#13 Wysardry   Members   -  Reputation: 239

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 12:29 AM

The whole point of Morrowind is that the player is free to so whatever (s)he wants, and I for one welcomed that freedom.

It isn't that freedom that is the problem, nor the wide open spaces between cities, it's the lack of things to do between towns and the slow speed of travel.

Daggerfall was a much bigger game, but it allowed you to buy a horse and/or use fast travel.

I haven't played Morrowind anywhere near as much as I played Daggerfall when I first bought it, and the main reason is the increased time it takes to explore new areas.

#14 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1810

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 02:18 AM

I think that people have pretty much hit the nail on the head. It question of infromation and time. The player should ideally have some basis to make their decision on where to go on. Picking at random is hardly and ideal approach. Second is the time it takes to get their if I spend 2 hours wandering through the wilderness trying to find the place I decided at random to go only to arrive and relize that I made a bad decisions thats two hours that I've lost.

So if the player at the start of the game has a choice of 8 destinations to travel to, then they you should provide enough information as to what they can expect by going to those places. As well is should take very little time to get to them so that they don't as that if they decided they've made the wrong choice they don't have to spend a great deal of time backtracking.

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#15 DrewCaliburClark   Members   -  Reputation: 329

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 04:45 AM

I think the games that get it right aren't truely as open-ended as they appear to be. The best games of this type, are the ones that give the illusion of freedom, within a well planned, ever progressing structure that the player can't truely deviate from. I could give a lot of examples, but what they all had in common was a clear progression of the storyline that the player couldn't get truely lost from, while letting the player feel like he was free to explore, do side quests, fight for fun and experience or money, whatever. But clearly, there was a purpose to everything the player did and could do, and the game was still being advanced even when the player wasn't actively focusing on the main quest or plotline of the game.
Personally, I could never get into most MMORPGs. I don't like being dropped into a world and being told: "do whatever you want". I want a clear goal, I want a clear structure, I want a clear purpose for playing and results to my actions. I especially hate that screwed feeling that comes from entering a level/area and not being prepared for it, because the game didn't make me do what was needed in previous areas before advancing. Good structure and game design makes for a much more fun experience.

#16 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1547

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 09:11 AM

Thank you for all the input, folks. I haven't been replying because I just wanted to absorb the feedback here.

The discussion reminds me that there are at least two different types of gamers: Those that enjoy sandbox play and those that enjoy structured activities. Neither is right, but if you dump one into the environment of the other they'll be very dissatisfied.

Quote:
Original post by DrewCaliburClark
I think the games that get it right aren't truely as open-ended as they appear to be. The best games of this type, are the ones that give the illusion of freedom, within a well planned, ever progressing structure that the player can't truely deviate from.



I don't think the answer, despite my frustration based response of claustraphobia, is to impose linearity or to create gates and walls that can be unlocked only by advancing the plot. What if you don't want to follow the plot? You will have turned to a freeform game because EVERY OTHER GAME OUT THERE forces you to follow along.

I do, however, like the key-based approach which can help funnel you to areas where the designer THINKS you will have a better time given your character's level of advancement. I'm opposed to the idea of only being able to unlock parts of the level as a result of advancing the plot, but I have no problem with only being able to access areas as either part of plot advancement OR part of character advancement (if you don't win the key from a mission, you can skill up enough so that you don't need it). Admittedly, this may harm the story, as you'll be rewarded something you don't need in later levels, but I think that's the price of freedom.

Quote:

I want a clear goal, I want a clear structure, I want a clear purpose for playing and results to my actions. I especially hate that screwed feeling that comes from entering a level/area and not being prepared for it, because the game didn't make me do what was needed in previous areas before advancing. Good structure and game design makes for a much more fun experience.


I understand the desire to have your actions be purposeful within the larger context of the world. However, what mechanism, if any, would encourage you to take on complete responsibility for the situations you get yourself into? (Sorry if that sounds like a loaded question, it's not). IOW, open-ended gaming is like camping IRL: Part of the fun of adventuring itself can be choosing your route, making preparations and outwitting the environment.

My philosophy is to not waste your time but also allow you to get in as deep as you want. If the game lets you get in over your head, there must be mechanisms in place where you the player think "I could have done better" rather than "damn this game, it never should have allowed me to do this."
--------------------Just waiting for the mothership...

#17 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1547

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 09:20 AM

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
I think that people have pretty much hit the nail on the head. It question of infromation and time. The player should ideally have some basis to make their decision on where to go on. Picking at random is hardly and ideal approach. Second is the time it takes to get their if I spend 2 hours wandering through the wilderness trying to find the place I decided at random to go only to arrive and relize that I made a bad decisions thats two hours that I've lost.


I think you're right about this. You need to get a sense of a place at a glance, and at least have SOME idea of what might be there. I think you can still have terra incognita, but there need to be ways of getting information about a new place, maybe via maps, probes or lore. It would seem, though, that this information needs to come to the player quickly, rather than having to be searched for. Having a virtual internet / comm system you can always tap into seems to be the way to go.

I also agree with what many have said here: Wandering for long hours to get from place to place can kill an open-ended game. Morrowind actually has 4 different means for teleporting about the map, but they can't compare to Fallout's overworld quick travel system.


Quote:

So if the player at the start of the game has a choice of 8 destinations to travel to, then they you should provide enough information as to what they can expect by going to those places. As well is should take very little time to get to them so that they don't as that if they decided they've made the wrong choice they don't have to spend a great deal of time backtracking.


A side question, though: If you can just nearly teleport anywhere around the map, how do you awe the player with the size of the territory they're in. If Daggerfall or Morrowind had allowed you to teleport to every place of interest, you'd never get a feel for the size of the land. However, maybe this should be player's choice? Maybe you should get a bonus for using overworld travel, which is speed, and a bonus for walking around, which could be treasure and hidden locations?
--------------------Just waiting for the mothership...

#18 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1547

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 09:37 AM

Quote:
Original post by Wysardry
It isn't that freedom that is the problem, nor the wide open spaces between cities, it's the lack of things to do between towns and the slow speed of travel.



Quote:
Original post by Kars
And Morrowwind had, what, five types of monsters?


You know, Morrowind might be a bad example because the spaces between the cities really almost were empty, at least in terms of the land itself. And once you got strong enough to fight the monsters, fighting yet another worm or rat was a nuisance. Now they tried to make up for this with the huge number of caves and tombs, but I started avoiding them when I became concerned that I was cheating myself of some quests when I discovered plot-specific items on dead characters.

Morrowind I think suffered from a lack of repeatable, engaging activities when in the wilds. This could have been hunting, but pelts were near worthless; it could have been potion-making, but potions were near worthless for the effort involved. An open ended game must fill the empty spaces with something that's challenging and fun and can be done over and over until you get ansy and want to move on.




Quote:

One of the problems I had with Morrowwind was, that I would be doing a main/guild quest and get side tracked on another small quest that just sounded interesting. I would then get sidetracked on yet another small quest or have to break for a few days. When I finally decided to get back to the main/guild quest, I would open my trusty log, then page back...... page back...... page back, etc until I finally found where I left off.

One thing you could do to fix this, especially for a sci-fi game, is to be able to organize the log. I.e. pull up all entries based on a specific quest, when you give up on a side quest you can mark it as a lost cause, do searches, etc.


Yes, I very much agree with this. btw, for Morrowind one of the later patches fixed this, but I think it was too late by then for some.

Quote:

As far as the quests go, maybe give a hint (call a friend on the cellphone) button some where so if the player gets stuck.... This happened to me in Morrowwind several times. One time I was in the right cave and went through it inch by inch about 20 times gave up, came back later and search it again. Finally went to a walk through and it told me what room in the cave I should be in. I got there and still couldn't find the place...... then I looked up and smacked myself in the forehead. After that, if I had the slightest difficulty finding my objective I just went to the walkthroughs.


I've got randomly generated missions and environments planned, so this is going to be tricky, but I'll see what I can do to embed the hint system into the gameplay itself. When you get stuck, it's usually because you can find a trigger, be it an NPC to talk to or a door; or you're lost.

I think the spatial aspect can be handled with some notion of scanning for specific items by class (keys, activation plates, etc.) and that can fill in the map at the price of making enemies aware of you. As for NPCs, I've got a fallback gimmick involving elusive AIs in the gameworld who thrive on being information brokers, and this would be the same as the game revealing to you pieces of the real data that goes in to making up missions.


Quote:

Another possible option is the ability to buy a map. Not a completely detailed map but something that shows the major cities. When you get to the major city then you can buy a local map with more detail, not building by building but by area. Slums here, red-light district here, list buisnesses, etc.


Maybe there should also be a traveller's service as well: Sign up with them for a modest fee and you automatically get the map wherever you
--------------------Just waiting for the mothership...

#19 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1547

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 09:43 AM

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Original post by Pxtl
The problem is that many of these "Freedom" oriented games have horrible learning curves as the player tries to figure out what they're supposed to do entirely by trial and error. As a wage-slave, I don't have time for crap like that anymore - I gave up on Zelda: Ocarina of Time for similar reasons (made it to Hyrule field and then spent a few hours trying to figure out where to go next, then gave up).

Some games do an okay job of it (the Final Fantasy titles are pretty good at giving you freedom but also giving you clear goals) but many do not.


What about the idea of an instant action mode? Most of the scenarios I envision you getting into will be as a result of semi-random encounters. What if you had VR pods that would allow you to face challenges in the game world quickly by getting in and out. If I can generate them as a result of you moving around on the map, it should be relatively easy to generate them in place when you activate some equipment.

I would say that you could increase your skills and level up doing this, but you would not be able to increase your reputation, which is as important in this game as experience is in your standard RPG. What I'm thinking is that you could level yourself up to a point (only as good as the VR sim is) then go out there and kick real butt, thus eliminating some of the back and forth and trial and error.

Of course, the sims could not be 100% high fidelity and cover EVERY situation you'd get into, otherwise they would be a powerful disincentive to not travel the map (putting them in might do that anyway, so it's a big risk).
--------------------Just waiting for the mothership...

#20 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1547

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 09:56 AM

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Original post by Dobbs
I find that too many choices early in a game is most overwhelming because I have no prior experience, nothing to base my decisions on except gut instincts that can turn out wrong because I'm not on the same wavelength as the designer.


This is a great reminder. Whenever I replay something like Civ or Morrowind I get into the game much quicker because I know what to expect. Some of this can only come with experience, unfortunately. But some can be controlled by the designer warning you through NPCs about certain risks or dangers, or by gracefully limiting options (money and resources is a good way, access to important NPCs might be another).

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For example, should I not buy missile countermeasures early on, and spend the money on more cargo bays instead for trading? What if the first time I launch it turns out everyone is armed to the teeth with missiles?


What do you think about super safe, heavily policed beginner areas as a counterweight to this? This solves the problem of safety, but it doesn't solve the noncombat choices that may also arise. But what I found with friends who were reluctant to adventure in Morrowind was the number one fear was of dying, especially when they didn't know what was lurking in the woods.

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I think a skippable, seamless in-game tutorial would work best. Morrowind had the right approach to this by giving you an initial assignment to reach the guy in Balmora, who gave you missions and taught you a bit about the state of the world. Unfortunately it was far too brief, not in depth enough, and far too isolated compared to the sheer size of the world.


Yes, I think somehow the in-game tutorial should have touched on EVERY aspect of gameplay, from thieving to sneaking to alchemy to magic and beyond. While I think it's important to let players discover some of this on their own, I don't think most people are going to try if they don't know it exists, and they certainly aren't going to plan. (In fact, I didn't know that theiving took in the value of the object until I read this thread).

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I think your game world could have a similar approach. The player needs to be introduced to the various modes of travel and the random encounters they entail, exploring new areas, combat, psionics, etc. Set up a mini scenario that involves a number of these in bite size chunks, and without significant threat to the player (ie if they screw up a bit it's not going to cripple their ship or put them in the poorhouse). You can frame it like "the player is a newly commissioned military captain assigned his first mission." That mission is a bunch of script generated (instead of randomly generated) events.

...

I'm just going on memory from your many posts so I'm sure I got some terminology/technology wrong, but I'm sure you get the idea.


Yes, and thanks, this sounds like the right way to go. It would be neat if this blended in with character creation in a very explicit way so that you could optionally start playing as soon as you loaded the game (as in make a character & then start, or start playing the tutorial and interactively develop a character). The scenario I was thinking might work for all character classes and set the story is that you're on a family owned ship coming to the starting area, and you have an aunt or uncle who's the captain showing you the ropes. Every character on board would represent some form of gameplay, and every event would touch on some sort of encounter.

--------------------Just waiting for the mothership...




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