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Being Immortal, Can it be Fun?


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#1 Rybo5001   Members   -  Reputation: 487

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:44 AM

So I was thinking about Batman: Arkham Asylum and how fantastic that game and it's sequel are.

Then it made me wonder, could a Superman game ever be fun? There have been attempts but none ever successful (some of you, like me, might have painful memories of Superman 64?).

Can playing as Superman, or any similar character who is basically unbeatable, be fun? You wouldn't have a life bar and there'd never be a game over; how could we as game designers make this fun?

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#2 Inferiarum   Members   -  Reputation: 717

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:58 AM

There could still be a game over.
E.g. your mission is to safe people from some danger and you fail. -> game over

#3 Krypt0n   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2183

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 04:15 AM

superman wasn't about fighting most of the time, neither is batman, I think that's what seems obvious when you think about game mechanics and the reason so many comic remakes fail. trying to fit comics into some genre is what is worse for it. you could just as good say 'hey, he has a bat car/jet/..., lets make it a shump. and while it could be even fun to some degree, it's not really exploiting what batman is about.

so, superman is not a fighting comic/movie, although we remember those showdowns, I think it was most of the time investigation and an increasing danger. you have to put a lot of effort into figuring out whats going on, that's what made superman so good. you have all the strength, yet all the weakness of a living form. you cannot be at two places at the same time, you cannot make things 'unhappen', you cannot protected your family 24/7.. superman is still not almighty.
the showdown was usually best, when it seemed to be impossible for superman and then he flew faster than light back in time or moved his arm/body so fast, it vaporized and could pass some....
you have to read the comics to get a feeling what it is about. batman isn't really about beating up bad guys (although that also happened), it's about gadgets that to some degree seem silly, yet believable in the scope of the comic, so you enjoy him using those. but most importantly, batman is a stealth badarse, I think no other company before got that right.
superman is indeed more difficult to fit into a game, it is about finding solutions to difficult problems, to gather informations, to....

One idea I'd have is, imagine a super villain says 'I gonna destroy the city in 24h'. let's assume the player does not spoil what's going on by reading online some solutions. so, now there is a city (can be procedurally created). you know, there is somewhere a threat, you know, there is probably some villain hiding. you can now go everywhere, you can see through walls, yet you can't know where he is nor how he will destroy the city.
walking around and looking through falls is kinda random, you won't scan hundret of thousands of houses and check 10million ppl. you can't just look for an a-bomb. you have to find smarter ways, e.g. if there is a robbery, instead of catching that one guy, you could try to follow him, he probably has some connections to sell those.maybe you'll find some bigger place they sell the stolen goods, there is probably a leader of that place, you could follow him, maybe....

but it's probably not that exciting anymore for most of the people and setting up a city with tons of solutions isn't really do-able, you'd have to really simulate it to give the player the choice of solving that.

#4 lonewolff   Members   -  Reputation: 426

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 04:23 AM

Sure, being immortal is fun.

Think about it, we are all immortal until proven otherwise ;)

#5 ToddF   Members   -  Reputation: 161

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 06:28 AM

Speaking of Immortals, how come no Highlander game since the 1980s (crap Atari version)?

I would have thought that could be fun, building your fighting strategy around finally getting to land the head shot etc.

Or have I missed a Highlander game that's come out since......?

#6 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 8081

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 10:19 AM

Can playing as Superman, or any similar character who is basically unbeatable, be fun?

So we are talking about invincibility, rather than immortality per se?

Yes, I think an invincible character can be fun to plan. In fact, video game characters are (with few exceptions) effectively invincible already - checkpoints, save games and auto-recharging health bars are all a form of invincibility, where defeat is only a minor setback, and you re-enter the fight refreshed and reinvigorated.

Apart from a few odd games with perma-death (Diablo's hardcore mode, for example), death is really little more than a delaying mechanic in contemporary games.

Tristam MacDonald - SDE II @ Amazon - swiftcoding        [Need to sync your files via the cloud? | Need affordable web hosting?]


#7 lonewolff   Members   -  Reputation: 426

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 02:33 PM

Speaking of Immortals, how come no Highlander game since the 1980s (crap Atari version)?

I would have thought that could be fun, building your fighting strategy around finally getting to land the head shot etc.

Or have I missed a Highlander game that's come out since......?


I didn't even know there was a 'crap Atari version'. I would have bought it anyway, knowing that I was Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod!

#8 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4133

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:29 PM

Superman isn't as much as a detective as Batman, so a puzzle game with a theme of cleverness might not be appropriate, but instead Superman is all about being a helpful nice guy, so he would fit right into that kind of game where the goal is to solve the personal problems of the other characters.

Edited by sunandshadow, 06 December 2012 - 03:29 PM.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me.

#9 GameCreator   Members   -  Reputation: 579

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 05:22 PM

Don't forget kryptonite!

#10 MarkS   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 875

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 08:13 PM

Since Superman was mentioned, it should be noted that he is neither immortal, invulnerable nor invincible. As GameCreator mentioned, kryptonite will do him in.

After I beat an RPG game, I like to play with God Mode on, if the game has a God Mode. It make it possible to explore areas without dying all of the time. Apart from that, not having the ability to die and having to start over kind of detracts from the experience of playing. It would make a dreadfully boring game.

#11 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1636

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 09:24 PM

The "player character" is invincible in RTS games, and he can still lose. You don't die, per se, but mismanaging a situation can result in defeat conditions being met. I could see Superman having to choose between the landslide in Chile and the failing airline engine, only having time to respond to one or the other. How many buses crash, how many fires rage, while he's on a date with Lois Lane? He can hear the radio transmissions, he knows what's going on around the world, he just doesn't have the time or attention to deal with it all.

So build the game around that. Let players decide whether to trudge through yet another escort mission. Make them allocate their resources like in the old XCOM games, where sometimes Dubai burns to the ground because it wasn't convenient for you to risk men and materiel to save all those people. After all, Superman's not going to find out who's behind the terror attacks by jumping in front of every bullet. Maybe he has to go into orbit and intercept some satellite communications to do the greater good. Maybe his publicist is on his case about all those bullets that made it all the way to the orphans they were aimed at while Superman was interviewing a suspect or X-Ray spying on a secret meeting. Maybe he's out there punching and lasering all the time, but the internation league of supervillains is absorbing that damage and keeping their infrastructure intact, so people are mad about that and the government threatens to take away his secret agent status and stop giving him access to their intelligence.

Lots of dilemmas that don't involve physical danger. And don't get me started on all those rings that need to have a car flown through them.

#12 All Names Taken   Members   -  Reputation: 416

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 10:25 PM

Wasn't there one game where Superman's "health" was Metropolis' ... the more the city is destroyed the closer you come to failure.

But than one of the things I find fun is when superman fought foes that could harm him, Metallo, Doomsday, etc. I remember one idea suggested while discussing such was simply to have a superman game as a series of epic boss fights against foes who could harm him.

Or perhaps rather than health you have a sort of ... morality system ... Superman is all about doing whats right with near limitless power, so what should harm him is failure to do things right (letting that plane crash) or worse, doing whats wrong (killing a bystander or even a villain).

I also disagree that Superman can't have puzzle solving gameplay ... I think it should all be about how he rescues people (or hinders badguys) ... use ice breath on this burning building, use heat vision to drop this girder in the robbers path (but not on them) ... keep track of everyone with x-ray vision.

Edited by All Names Taken, 06 December 2012 - 10:27 PM.


#13 Chad Smith   Members   -  Reputation: 1041

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 10:54 PM

Apart from a few odd games with perma-death (Diablo's hardcore mode, for example), death is really little more than a delaying mechanic in contemporary games.


Speaking of that, even though it is off topic, I've always wanted to try out the DayZ mod for Arma 2 as it has a feature like this. Basically see how long you can survive in real time against real people. If you die, then you have to create a new character and start from the beginning with little supplies.

#14 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4067

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 06:03 AM

Since Superman was mentioned, it should be noted that he is neither immortal, invulnerable nor invincible. As GameCreator mentioned, kryptonite will do him in.

And depending what "Superman" you refer to, kryptonite is not even rare or the only thing that does him. For example, in the Smallville TV series, there live two or three "freaks" in every town who have special abilities that are sometimes stronger than Superman's ability in that respect, and people have lumps of kryptonite on necklaces and rings, and use it as ammunition for machine guns or for producing a special "mad scientist serum" ... it's apparenly not a rare substance by any means. Oh, and then there's of course witches that possess the bodies of innocent girls 400 years after their death, and they pwn! Superman, too. I believe to remember that a strike of lightning can strip superpowers, too (or transfer them to someone else).

But even in the "more canon" versions, there's always someone like Zod, too.

Edited by samoth, 07 December 2012 - 06:04 AM.


#15 Rybo5001   Members   -  Reputation: 487

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 06:30 PM

I think some people are missing the point of my question, I didn't literally mean Superman himself! He was an example, I meant any invincible character.

And the aspect of fun I meant being from a challenge, such as combat, would combat be fun if you knew you could just stand there and take hits without being hurt?

#16 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1636

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 12:04 AM

You'd have to be able to rate success in some way other than, "not getting your butt kicked", but it could definitely be done. Style points, time limits, combos, minimizing or maximizing collateral damage or completing a non-combat task in the midst of combat could all play into the solution here.

#17 DaveTroyer   Members   -  Reputation: 1052

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 01:13 PM

One idea I'd have is, imagine a super villain says 'I gonna destroy the city in 24 hour'. let's assume the player does not spoil what's going on by reading online some solutions. so, now there is a city (can be procedural created). you know, there is somewhere a threat, you know, there is probably some villain hiding. you can now go everywhere, you can see through walls, yet you can't know where he is nor how he will destroy the city.
walking around and looking through falls is kinda random, you won't scan hundred of thousands of houses and check 10 million people. you can't just look for an a-bomb. you have to find smarter ways, e.g. if there is a robbery, instead of catching that one guy, you could try to follow him, he probably has some connections to sell those.maybe you'll find some bigger place they sell the stolen goods, there is probably a leader of that place, you could follow him, maybe....


I think this idea is strong and really puts an emphasis on what the entire "immortal" game play could be.

It's not a matter of how much you can take, but a matter of how much time you can waste.
It really boils down to the same concept as children playing on the playgrounds. They give themselves rules and boundaries in order to add challenge. Otherwise you just have a bunch of kids running around screaming with their hands flailing in the air and that's no game.

So as we all know, we need to have some limits to make a game a game and not just a tech-demo. Posted Image

Lets look at Kryt0n's idea above and really see it tick.

Say we strip away all of the heroes powers. He's just some guy that can run, jump, drive vehicles, and does okay in a fight. The one power we'll give him is that he just doesn't die. Now you basically have every sandbox game but with a timer looming over the player to get just one thing done.

It may not be a good design decision to simply take away a mechanic that limits the players actions. A mechanic that helps guide the game into a manageable direction and make the players actions have consequences. If you don't give the player a reason to fear redoing a mission, then they will likely get bored because their actions have no real gravity to the game and they will just look up a walk-through.

But lets give the powers back to the character and add some moral ethos and you start to put more restraints on the player. Make it so the player must control their power and if they don't show restraint, they could kill any opposing force effortlessly. Then the player becomes a god-like tyrant that the people fear. The city turns on them and its citizens help the antagonist by hiding villains or firing weapons at the player to slow them down. This becomes a way of adding borders to the game; of outlining what to do and not to do.

Now, if we look at that game, it has an interesting dynamic, pacing, and enough restraints that the player won't get bored. Sure, they might get bent out of shape because they have all this power and can't use it unless they want to add difficulty or maybe get a bad ending, but they'll keep playing.

Hell, I'd play it! Posted Image

Anyway. Yeah, I figured this is a good time to bring up the importance of limiting the player in a game. If they have no boundaries (not necessarily physical, but rules) to hold in the player, then is it really a game anymore?

Also, I think the methods of monitoring or scoring the players success that many have brought up is a form of loose boundaries in the game. Like positive reinforcement to a dog. You give them a treat for doing well and the treat we could give the player is a higher score and leader-board where they can strive to reach the top. It's a good way of holding the player to a standard by giving them a better score for doing what you want them to do and compelling the player to continue those actions by holding them in direct reference to other players.

...or maybe I'm just thinking too much for a Monday. Posted Image

Check out my game blog - Dave's Game Blog


#18 Memetic1   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 07:32 PM

Well one example that I can think of was Planescape Torment that game still fills me with warm feelings. One way you could do it that I haven't seen mentioned is that while your character is immortal other people in your party aren't. I'm thinking Jack Sparrow from Torchwood. You could create allot of interesting dynamics that way. Also unscripted dramatic moments as well. Anyway just my 2 cents.

#19 dakota.potts   Members   -  Reputation: 455

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 01:24 AM

I have never played a game where I was immortal or incredibly powered and not been bored by it within an hour, regardless of what the goals or win conditions were. Whether this is a symptom of the immortality or poor execution is not for me to judge.

#20 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4067

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 08:22 AM

I think some people are missing the point of my question, I didn't literally mean Superman himself! He was an example, I meant any invincible character.

And the aspect of fun I meant being from a challenge, such as combat, would combat be fun if you knew you could just stand there and take hits without being hurt?

I can imagine that it can be fun for a while, but not permanently. There used to be a "god mode keycode" in many shooters when I was a teen (not played those for 15 years, do they still put such stuff in releases nowadays?), and it was big, big fun using it. Though of course, it was not for "winning" (which was really pointless) but really just for the fun of splattering senselessly.

Now of course, extra creative ways of killing your opponents might be a way to making being invincible fun. Much like gaining points for car stunts. Extra points if you didn't use superpowers and made it look like an accident. Remember the movie "Blown Away" where Tommy Lee Jones plays billards with that bomb under the bridge.

I wonder how large your actual fanbase would be, though. It might or might not attract a lot of people (and I wonder how large the angry soccermom mobs in front of your house would get).




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