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Procedural Rhetoric in Game Design


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#1 AngleWyrm   Members   -  Reputation: 554

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 05:37 PM

Hurricane Katrina was a disaster that killed over a thousand people, and after-action reports described the response to it as a failure to prepare on many levels.

 

Several video games present procedural rhetoric that dis-incentivises preparedness. It comes across as a prank played upon the player, that the player either cannot or should not plan ahead, that the future is a fog of undiscovered country, essentially revelling in jump scare mechanics.

 

It seems to me that a better way would be to specifically reward the player for actively engaging in foresight and planning for the future. So that the moment of arrival can be a great reward for the player who did engage in such activity.


Edited by AngleWyrm, 25 July 2013 - 05:41 PM.

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#2 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 19665

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 06:17 PM

This is potentially an interesting design topic - hopefully people keep it design-focused instead of a bash-games + defend-games debate. Thanks for posting it!

 

I'm not a heavy gamer (hours-wise), and haven't particularly noticed situations where games discourage preparedness. Could you give some examples?

 

I, in discussion with other gamers, sometimes lament how some games don't make resources (like health potions and ammo) scarce enough to be worth conserving, and throw so much resources at you that you're almost always at max ammo / healthkits.

 

What are some examples you've encountered where games discourage preparedness, or prank the player for being prepared?

What are some examples you can provide for rewarding players to be prepared?

 

Other than rationing your resources, or grinding exp, what other examples of preparedness can players do in the average game?

 

Games should be challenging, but unless the game is upfront that it's requiring you to ration your resources, it shouldn't maliciously punish a player for not being prepared, if the player is able to just improvise and overcome the same challenge. So success over the challenge itself can't be considered the "reward" for preparedness... at least not the only reward.

 

If success isn't the only reward, what other ways do you suggestion rewarding preparedness verses merely rewarding for success?

If I overcome a challenge by improvisation, and the reward for overcoming the challenge is an item, I get that reward for overcoming the challenge regardless of whether I improvised or prepared.

 

I think thinking-on-your-feet (improvisation) also is worthy to be rewarded. Button-mashing, bullet-spraying, stumbling-through-the-game is different from spur-of-the-moment and skillful improvisation.

I see three paths to overcome challenges:

 - Clever improvisation (Maybe should be rewarded extra)

 - Winging-it: Brute force/stumbling-through/spray-and-pray/button-mashing

 - Foresighted preparedness (Maybe should be rewarded extra)

 

How would you detect and reward foresightedness over a player just winging it?

How would you detect and reward improvisation?

 

Note: For I'm not saying a player "just winging it" is a play-style that should be discouraged or that it's a playstyle that's less deserving than other playstyles. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm assuming the game design of a specific game is trying to promote foresightedness or skillful improvisation as part of that game's gameplay-experience.


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#3 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10080

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 06:24 PM

Note: For I'm not saying a player "just winging it" is a play-style that should be discouraged or that it's a playstyle that's less deserving than other playstyles. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm assuming the game design of a specific game is trying to promote foresightedness or skillful improvisation as part of that game's gameplay-experience.

Is it actually useful to try and force the player into a play-style they do not favour?

My general train of thought is that you actually want to reward the spray-and-pray gamer with more resources, because he needs them more than a careful planner, and restricting them doesn't increase his enjoyment of the game...


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#4 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 19665

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 07:33 PM

 

Note: For I'm not saying a player "just winging it" is a play-style that should be discouraged or that it's a playstyle that's less deserving than other playstyles. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm assuming the game design of a specific game is trying to promote foresightedness or skillful improvisation as part of that game's gameplay-experience.

Is it actually useful to try and force the player into a play-style they do not favour?

 

Sometimes, yes. Not every game can satisfy every play style and appeal to every player, so I would argue that it is sometimes more financially convenient or artistically important for indie developers (or even larger developers) to focus real deep on a specific audience, especially if your game is trying to convey a certain experience that you are trying to get across. I think this is what The Witness is trying to do. I haven't played Journey (no PS3 - wish they'd port it to Windows and Steam), but I'd argue one of the strengths of Journey is the experience they are trying to simulate/stimulate. If a specific play-style is needed to help generate that experience, and it's not going to alienate too many of your customers, it might be worth it to go all the way and create a "masterpiece" for that specific sub-sub-sub-genre or niche.
 
I don't pretend to be much of a game designer. I feel like my real strength is in crafting worlds, not gameplay mechanics. That said, the primary experiences I'd like to encourage in my own games are awe/majesty (especially coming over a large crest of land and seeing the world sprawl out before you, and knowing you can visit any point you can see), exploration and discovery (finding areas that just feel special, or just being in a world and knowing that you *can* go wherever you want, without feeling like you are *forced* to, and without feeling like you are missing out from every road you don't take), danger and overcoming challenges (more specifically, sudden unexpected and intense danger, and then the thrill of surviving and living through it), and adventure/journey/travel (tying the 'danger' with the 'exploration' and with goals and purposes in a story which is just your part of a larger story of the world you are in. Hero's journey-type experience).
 
Those are just some that I'd like to target, but there's a huge array of experiences that games can convey. To throw out a number without actually considering or calculating, I'd say there are hundreds of "experiences" (for lack of a better word - there's definitely some intertwining with 'emotions', but experiences are more general than that, and are distinct from emotions. They're more like events that often invoke an emotional response).
 
My personal opinion is that games are best used to convey an artist's experiences, and that 'immersion' can be greatly used in service to experience. If a specific play-style is needed to strengthen immersion in aid of experience, or if a specific play-style is needed to convey or help convey the experience directly, I think it should be heavily considered.
Just enforcing a play-style because it happens to be my favorite play-style would be a bad idea, but using playstyle as a trade-off to gain in another area is definitely an option that should be on the table for designers.
  
I feel like I need an appendix here, even if just to solidify in my own mind these thoughts which I've never put to words before.
This isn't directly related to the topic, but since it's about game design and just a side-note, maybe others will find it useful inspiration for creativity.

Sidenote

 

I'm not into art just "for the sake of art", but feel that art has value for what it brings, not merely for what it is. I don't fall into the "toiletseat hung on a wall is as much art the monalisa" crowd. laugh.png

 

I wouldn't sacrifice gameplay mechanics just to be "artistic", but if I choose to use art to bring value to the player by providing and sharing experiences, then I'll sacrifice gameplay mechanics in service to those experiences, where I feel the tradeoffs (such as enjoyability or accessibility) aren't too costly.
 

My general train of thought is that you actually want to reward the spray-and-pray gamer with more resources, because he needs them more than a careful planner, and restricting them doesn't increase his enjoyment of the game...

Agreed. Intelligently detecting that a player is low on ammo and providing more is a good idea, and reducing the amount of ammo available on harder difficulties is also something worth doing, because the constraint on the resources is where alot of the enjoyment comes in for me personally.
 
I'd rather have less ammo and healthpacks, instead of the usual "throw more enemies at the player", and instead of the usual "same enemies, but x4 the damage". If there was some way to detect the player's preferred play-style, and ramp up the difficulty in a way that the player enjoys more (More enemies, less ammo, player moves slower, enemies do more damage or move faster or have more health), that'd be a huge step forward in some game genres.

 

Is interesting to note that some games add extra ammo on harder difficulties, because they add extra monsters - which is an important consideration as well.

 

For some games, it's almost like we should offer players the opportunity to choose their preferred play-style just as we offer them a selection of preferred difficulty levels. If we can learn to dynamically modify difficulty to adapt to the player (which we are increasingly close to doing), and also dynamically alter the pacing of the challenges (also very close to becoming common-place), then we could just present the play-style as the only option the player needs to mentally consider.


Edited by Servant of the Lord, 09 August 2013 - 10:26 AM.

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Of Stranger Flames - [indie turn-based rpg set in a para-historical French colony] | Indie RPG development journal

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#5 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 7498

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 08:09 PM

I think what AngleWyrm is getting at is that many games rely on uncertainty for their sense of surprise, rather than on good writing, clever design, or emergent artifacts. They keep the player guessing by manifesting the unguessable, rather than being genuinely clever. They use a series of small-scale, cheap plot-twists which may be surprising, but are ultimately intuitive and unsatisfying. Thus, the player's lack of ability to plan ahead, and a feeling of always catching up to the latest information.

 

Without citing specific examples, the worst offenders throw you up against odds that you would only be prepared for through either serendipity or an obsesive-compulsive drive to exhaust all previous areas, you (being unprepared) die, you load a previous save knowing what's ahead, and you then seek out an advantage before coming back.

 

I think that meaningful choice is always an interesting vehicle for gameplay, but the amount of meaningful choices to be had is limited when a game becomes a series of unanticipated events. More-so as the period between the choice and the outcome increases. I'd much rather face and prepare for a set of plausible contingencies, than respond to events beyond my control or anticipation.

 

Alas, there are very few games that reward the player for undertaking preparations. Survival-Horror often rewards conservation of resources, which is not quite the same thing. Building games sometimes reward preparation in various ways: I'm rewarded for building my nuclear power plant on an island in SimCity when it had a meltdown. I'm rewarded in RTSs when I build an outpost to monitor enemy movements or key routes. I'm rewarded in Minecraft for securing a safe-zone around my dwelling. But even the modern RPGs like Fallout or Morrowwind, which should be a last bastion of forethought (as their Pen and Paper forebears are). don't reward preparedness in ways that amount to much more than lip-service.



#6 The Moldy Crow   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 158

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 09:43 PM


I'd much rather face and prepare for a set of plausible contingencies, than respond to events beyond my control or anticipation.

 

Oh my god this. That was really insightful, what was said earlier about keeping you guessing by doing the ridiculously improbable. I think what you're describing is a good antithesis to that. 

 

It's what I really like about games like Dishonoured where you know that there are two or three "styles" of play, and the mechanics cater to you adhering to those styles.

 

The only problem with this is that the player is railroaded onto one of a few paths, as opposed to having actual mechanical freedom.

 

It's a tricky issue. On the one hand you can enhance the experiences you know that most people are going to have, or spend the time fleshing out a system that allows for more outcomes, but fewer tools.

 

More directly to OP's point, The Witcher has always rewarded if not required planning. It also does a really good job of not allowing you to predict encounters based on metagame elements, i.e. they're giving me lots of loot, so there's probably a tough fight coming up.

I think you could put it simply like this: I'd rather be given the capacity to prepare myself, than be prepared by the game. 


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#7 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 09:48 PM

If you take a game such as Minecraft, you'll see that it tries to balance the effective randomness of procedurality with some clear rulesets for what to expect within a certain range of possibilities. In some areas, Minecraft succeeds expertly at it. In other areas, Minecraft is absolutely horrendous.

 

Minecraft is rather good at giving the player some pre-emptive ideas on how difficult the next tiers of challenges are. The Nether area is fairly brutal for a poorly geared player, but Ghasts that shoot fireballs with their distinct screams is a tell-tale sign that you've just entered an area that'll eat you up if you don't tread very carefully. So the player will prepare a little, and then he'll move on out. But if he then chooses to fight the neutral zombie pigmen, he'll quickly figure out a new tier of difficulty and retreat back home. Assuming that he knows how to enchant gear, find diamonds and make diamond gear, the player is able to reach a point when even the Nether is effortless.

 

That last sentence, regretfully, is also a testament to Minecraft's greatest weakness. You can't realistically play Minecraft to the fullest unless you also use the Minecraft Wiki website as a supplement. With such a daunting number of crafting recipes and no clear ways to actually learn them (except randomly putting items in the crafting window and trying to "figure them out"), it's a prime example of how Minecraft fails to present the player in-game with his boundaries. In other words, Minecraft has a lot of content that is rarely, if ever, going to reveal themselves to players who don't also use the Wiki effectively. Now, using the Wiki is no effort at all, but I just think that it's sloppy for any program to rely on other programs in order to work to its fullest.

 

Personally, I'm a great and strict fan of gameplay-promoting lore and tutorials. At the same time, you don't want to tell the player something he should be able to figure out quickly on his own. For instance, I like the idea that players are forced into gameplay bottlenecks that promote imagination and trying to figure things out. But if there's no way for the player to realistically figure something out, it's going to be a diminished experience for the player. Not only that, but there's going to be a lot of superfluous, unused game design floating around (which btw is also true for these "infinite" procedural worlds that nobody will ever be able to explore even 1% of).

 

Will Wright got it right. Possibility space is the key. But not just what the player is potentially able to do (with no ways of learning about them), but specifically what the player is actually able to do because he or she knows exactly where those boundaries are (or is guaranteed to learn about them at key progression thresholds).


Edited by Malabyte, 25 July 2013 - 09:51 PM.

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#8 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 08:04 PM

"Prepared-ness" is a weakly descriptive term, which makes it hard for me to parse out exactly what you mean. I'm going to interpret it as "anticipating future events and taking specific actions the player would not otherwise take so that he or she can meet those challenges".

 

I think that the big issue with preparation in games is that it requires operational knowledge of what will happen, which is trivially easy to gain by failing and then reloading, at which point any possible preparations have been revealed and will be undertaken as a matter of course (as opposed to contingency planning). With the complete knowledge already gathered, prep becomes indistinguishable from the thing for which you are preparing.

 

Giving this information in advance is tricky. If the danger is clearly and conspicuously presented, then prep is more or less a simple chore, not a choice. If the dangers are too vague, then prep is impossible. If I have to happen across some character or sign to know of the danger, or the danger is cryptically hinted at, then I have to take arbitrary actions just to have the opportunity to prepare.

 

Procedurally generating situations for which players can prepare sounds difficult to me. How does the game analyze what the player is "trying" to accomplish, if anything, by taking a given action? How many possibilities can the game throw at the player, and how clearly can patterns be discerned? How bad are the consequences for the player wrongly anticipating the future? Going with the bullet-scarcity example above, a panicky bullet-sprayer will find more spare ammo to replace what is used and never need to prepare. A bullet conserver, on the other hand, will have an inventory generally more filled with ammo and so will lose out on other items they can't carry as well as the plentiful bullets there would be if not for their own caution.

 

For me, the best mix of factors to model preparation in a game might be:

 

-Some degree of choice in what dangers I'll face

 

     +I can go to Thief Hideout Mountain or Zombie Canyon

 

-Clear information, complete or otherwise, on what I might encounter

 

     +I'm headed to Zombie Canyon, suggesting there might be zombies in my near future

 

-Successful preparation requires some thought on my part about what might work

 

     +I have to draw a connection between some item, ability, or other game feature and the danger I expect so that I can plan what I think will be effective

 

     +Preparation does not involve having everything laid out. To prepare for Zombie Canyon, I should not be required to speak with Zeke the Zombie Slayer and suffer through his associate's course on zombie-killing to prepare, learn how to prepare, or be able to prepare

 

-Preparatory steps which are used for more than just facing one obstacle and/or are only partially effective against that obstacle

 

     +A healing potion can restore HP for my character or hurt zombies (an item like "Zombie Repellent" is too obvious and too specific to feel like a choice I can make)

 

     +OR a healing potion can help against zombies in a way other than just hurting them (such as, slowing them down or making their attacks weaker)

 

-Forced choices between competing dangers and their preparatory steps

 

     +Some constraint prevents me from prepping for all or a wide variety of events at once, meaning I must always make an explicit choice to be ready for one danger or another

 

-Significant, but not extreme, outcomes whether I've prepared well or not

 

     +I miss out on something cool, or have a much more difficult time, if I have not prepared for Zombie Canyon before going there. The game should not end, nor become unwinnable, because I prepared badly

 

     +Preparing well provides something cool, or makes clearing an area easier, but does not provide such an incredible benefit that it becomes de facto mandatory to prep

 

-A variety of well-defined situations (or combinations of situations) for which I can prepare


Edited by Khaiy, 26 July 2013 - 08:07 PM.


#9 AngleWyrm   Members   -  Reputation: 554

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 09:32 PM

There's been a couple misconceptions I'de like to clear up. Procedural rhetoric refers to the procedures that a player performs within the game, and the things that the developer conveys with them about how reality operates or should operate.

 

Such as learning that stealing everything that isn't nailed down is a customary and normal behavior in most RPGs. Or going from place to place killing anything that moves. Or that your boss will betray you and turn out to be a villain.

 

The other misconception is about what is being designed. Several arguments have been put forth that living a purely reactionary life, merely responding to the immediate environment, is a personal choice or preference. The perception that this behavior is chosen or preferred is entirely because of experience. And guess where that experience comes from? It comes from games designed to promote that behavior. Game design is at it's core about designing human behavior and interactions.

 

I've been asked to give more specific examples, so let's look at the 4x space game genre. Most of them will let you design a ship, but none of them will let you choose a sane destination. For example, Endless Space only gives you a limited set of destinations, and your research on what type of planet to colonize will be started before arriving, without knowing what to choose. Some suggestion as to star color is given, but the probabilities don't reflect enough knowledge to make it actionable.

 

Or let's look at the FPS genre. Stumbling across supplies just randomly scattered about. Don't fret, you'll get all you need for free when you need it, with no significant effort on your part. Rather a strange behavior to ingrain into people, wouldn't you agree? Or how about the business of turning players into scavengers, looting every garbage pail and back alley in search of a tiny little bit of supplies and collectible shiny,. That's a little...odd, isn't it?

 

Or let's look at the RPG genre. A is generically better than B is better than C. It lacks the very basics of what constitutes a 2-player game: Taking into account the disposition of the opponant.


Edited by AngleWyrm, 27 July 2013 - 04:31 PM.

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#10 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1840

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 10:20 PM

How about the insurance industry?  Make it like a backwards lottery ticket:  Let the player "sell insurance policies" to generate revenue that he can use in the game, and then when a disaster hits, his ability to respond effectively to it can impact future attitude to (and thus value of) the insurance system.  So if I'm running a SimCity and I get a bucketload of cash by selling insurance against earthquakes and fires and godzillas and UFOs, I have to use at least part of that income to actually prepare for the associated catastrophes.

 

If disasters happen, I'm accountable for the damages caused, and so it's in my best interest to minimize those damages by invest my fat stacks of insurance premiums into countermeasures, so that the event won't break the bank.  It would encourage me, as a player, to build safeguards into my design.

 

The system, in a perfect world, would just give the player free money, but it would punish them brutally if they squandered it and the big one hit.  Sure, you could buy ten mansions and forty yachts with the revenue from those "sucker bet" insurance premiums, but if you're ever called upon to pay out, it could break the bank.  Now, you have a good reason to protect your city/sims/empire/civilization/constituents, because you're facing a direct threat to your own assets if you get kicked in the butt.

 

It would be like the opposite of taxes:  Additional free money based on a slider bar (or bars) that the player can move around.  If my gameworld is designed to be resistant to meteors, I can make meteor insurance pay a high rate and so attract more of my residents to buy meteor insurance.  If a meteor rolls up, my fancy, expensive rock-blasting system will prevent all damage.  I'll save money, and the "close call" (doubtless blown way out of proportion by my buddies in the media) will stimulate more people to buy policies.  So my preparedness makes me a ton of money before it's called for, and then after it works it makes me two tons of money, so I feel great about spending money to establish it.


#11 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 09:10 AM

...looting every garbage pail and back alley in search of a tiny little bit of collectible thingy? That's a little...odd, isn't it?

 

I'd almost think you're one of TotalBiscuit's handles right now lol. I was watching his "WTF is... Tomb Raider" video on Youtube, where he addressed the exact same thing as you do now. I have to agree, it looks really odd when you're called upon to do a bunch of completely unrelated tasks that will do nothing but reward you with a completely useless item.

 

At least they could have the decency to make the items useful in some sense or another. I remember back in GTA San Andreas, there were essentially 4 different collectibles you could get. If you managed to get them all, some in-game permanent bonus would occur. The collectibles included spraying turf tags, collecting horseshoes and oysters, and taking photos of Photo Ops. The tags and photo ops made sense with regards to the plot of Los Santos and the city style of San Fierro, respectively. As for the oysters and horseshoes, they didn't make the same sense but, in order to collect them, the player needed to be smart and take advantage of various game mechanics such as the Jetpack flying and other things.


Edited by Malabyte, 27 July 2013 - 09:13 AM.

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#12 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 05:38 PM



There's been a couple misconceptions I'de like to clear up. Procedural rhetoric refers to the procedures that a player performs within the game, and the things that the developer conveys with them about how reality operates or should operate.

 

Such as learning that stealing everything that isn't nailed down is a customary and normal behavior in most RPGs. Or going from place to place killing anything that moves. Or that your boss will betray you and turn out to be a villain.

 

The other misconception is about what is being designed. Several arguments have been put forth that living a purely reactionary life, merely responding to the immediate environment, is a personal choice or preference. The perception that this behavior is chosen or preferred is entirely because of experience. And guess where that experience comes from? It comes from games designed to promote that behavior. Game design is at it's core about designing human behavior and interactions.

 

I've been asked to give more specific examples, so let's look at the 4x space game genre. Most of them will let you design a ship, but none of them will let you choose a sane destination. For example, Endless Space only gives you a limited set of destinations, and your research on what type of planet to colonize will be started before arriving, without knowing what to choose. Some suggestion as to star color is given, but the probabilities don't reflect enough knowledge to make it actionable.

 

Or let's look at the FPS genre. Stumbling across supplies just randomly scattered about. Don't fret, you'll get all you need for free when you need it, with no significant effort on your part. Rather a strange behavior to ingrain into people, wouldn't you agree? Or how about the business of turning players into scavengers, looting every garbage pail and back alley in search of a tiny little bit of supplies and collectible shiny,. That's a little...odd, isn't it?

 

Or let's look at the RPG genre. A is generically better than B is better than C. It lacks the very basics of what constitutes a 2-player game: Taking into account the disposition of the opponant.

 

 

It's probably just me, but this seems radically different than your initial post and doesn't address preparation so much as game design and technological limitations.

 

In your RPG example, stealing everything that isn't nailed down is preparation. You don't know what you'll need, and so you allocate your money to the things you're pretty sure you will need. Stealing everything is how you hedge against an incorrect prediction, and also how you get some special items. Whether you choose to engage in constant larceny is up to you, but it's never a "prank" played on the player.

 

Your other clarification seems to me to be a complaint about limitations on game design, which also strikes me as an interesting topic to discuss. I disagree that game design is at its core about human interactions. Although the types of games I prefer do try to simulate this, Tetris is still a game. And one which amply rewards preparation and foresightedness while brutally punishing failure to do so.

 

Games aren't deep enough to model complex systems completely enough to fool the average player into thinking that game mechanics are not, at their base, the Blue Door requires the Blue Key to unlock. How would I take into account the disposition of my opponent when I know that there are data representations of my goal and my tools, and that the possible components of those representations are finite?

 

I would agree that games in general have settled into a groups of connected behavior patterns (I really enjoyed this article on the subject) and that players become good at genres more than games. This reinforces design approaches which favor serving things up (the ammo restock right before a boss fight, for example) regardless of other game mechanics. This definitely reduces variety, but it isn't any less realistic than using dice to decide which army wins in Risk. Games aren't reality simulators. If you expect a game to faithfully teach you behaviors that are appropriate and effective in the real world I think you're looking at the wrong hobby. When I want to do something realistic and responsible, I'll do my taxes. When I want to be a demigod who vaporizes all challengers I'll play a video game, even if it requires simulated picking through simulated dumpsters.

 

Your examples don't match (my interpretation of) your point, which, as above, is probably a failure on my part. In a 4x game (I haven't played Endless Space, but am a huge fan of the genre) I can't imagine sending a colony ship to a planet without scouting the sector first. I prepare by first knowing what information matters (what makes one planet better than another?) and then investing my resources so that I can collect that information (build a scout, send it out). If I have to research new technology to make a planet desireable then it would be good preparation to wait until I know what planets are around before doing any such research. If the particular design of ES inherently prevents you from gaining information before committing your resources, then that's really bad design. But that would be the only example I know of in the 4x space which has such a badly designed system.

 

In an FPS, I agree with you. The design approach for the entire genre has de-emphasized preparation down to virtually nothing in favor of allowing players to respond "in the moment", with previous successes or failures making little difference.

 

It would not surprise me if I'm still not addressing your point. But it seems to me that your concern is about games relying on arbitrary conventions and being too easy if you already know the tropes and indecipherable if you don't.

 

If you are complaining of unrealistic games, well, a game where the character is a dragon or a single soldier is the decisive factor in winning World War II (or any conflict) is inherently unrealistic whether there are health packs and reams of bullets around or not.



#13 AngleWyrm   Members   -  Reputation: 554

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 08:23 PM

Just a quick note to those disgruntled by my use of the terms Free Will and Freedom of Choice: Consider this: If a movie makes you laugh or cry, does it offend you that someone else made you feel that way? If you play a game of hop-scotch, is it a problem that someone else invented the rules?

I'm a scientist; and my outlook on those matters is eloquently detailed by Sam Harris in this video

 

 

If disasters happen, I'm accountable for the damages caused, and so it's in my best interest to minimize those damages by invest my fat stacks of insurance premiums into countermeasures, so that the event won't break the bank.  It would encourage me, as a player, to build safeguards into my design.

Exactly, and a well designed behavior!

 

 

 

...looting every garbage pail and back alley in search of a tiny little bit of collectible thingy? That's a little...odd, isn't it?

 

I was watching [totalBiscuit's] "WTF is... Tomb Raider" video on Youtube, where he addressed the exact same thing as you do now.

And it goes even deeper than at first it might seem. I've seen walkthrough videos where the player is fully aware of the proper and best course to take, and automatically chooses to select every possible incorrect path first, "just in case." It can come across like some variant of gambler's disease.

 

In my previous post, I gave several examples of systems of interaction that discourage planning. 4x games imposing a gamble mechanic on the destination of ships. FPS games hand-holding the player with free supplies that might as well not be in the game at all. RPGs presenting systems of itemization that can be characterized as bigger is better, with no specific opponent in mind.

 
So I'de like to present some more positive possibilities.
 
For the 4x genre, Imagine being able to see the whole star map. Like in Star Control 2, or Masters Of Orion 1. Then add to this a star color mechanic that determines the type of planet(s) orbiting that star with a likelihood of at least 4/5. The player can then say with reasonable certainty what kind of planet will be orbiting it. Variation in destination type still exists with the layout of the stars. The conception of discovery could then be promoted to planetary contents, a sort of space game loot drop that might entail alien races, special resources and the like.
 
For the FPS genre, imagine a requirement to earn ammunition. For example, ammunition as a form of payment for accomplishing a mission for an NPC. Then assuming a mission-based game, the player could choose which mission to perform next based on their current stock and what a mission will pay vs the risk and how much it might use up.
 
For the RPG genre, imagine itemization that creates tools geared for specific types of threat, rather than just a generic +10 dps. Maybe there's a type of flocking mob and a high rate of fire bow would be good to take them out. Or an exploding mushroom that a long range precision bow shot would be best for.

Edited by AngleWyrm, 28 July 2013 - 09:34 AM.

--"I'm not at home right now, but" = lights on, but no ones home

#14 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 28 July 2013 - 08:35 PM

I've seen walkthrough videos where the player is fully aware of the proper and best course to take, and automatically chooses to select every possible incorrect path first, "just in case." It can come across like some variant of gambler's disease.

 

Haha, boy can I recognize myself in that. rolleyes.gif It's not gambler's disease, it's just the feeling of completion that a lot of people have. The consequence of wanting to complete an overall objective can result in excessive gaming and, potentially, gambler's addiction. That's why I feel that developers need to take responsibility for their games and maybe have some laws rammed down their throats, because they're sometimes creating addicts that didn't already exist by exploiting human nature and psychology. Similar to how McDonalds exploit our instinctual desire for sugars and fat.

 

In their defence, however, I think they're just trying to promote the sense of exploration. Somewhat ignorantly and I agree that it doesn't feel right. I think one reason is that you can't go back once you've moved on. Like on Dead Space 3, I've missed a lot of the progression because of this. If I wanna correct that, I'll need to restart the game (afaik). Now I'm not going to, but others might and I know I would a year ago.

 

I think you're onto something, but I'm not sure if I'd do things exactly the same way. But that's alright, we do things our own way and hopefully it'll pan out.


- Awl you're base are belong me! -

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#15 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10080

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 05:59 AM

Haha, boy can I recognize myself in that. rolleyes.gif It's not gambler's disease, it's just the feeling of completion that a lot of people have.

My roommate plays like that - he will backtrack down every path, to break every vase in the entire game world. Whether or not there is any actual reward to doing so.

As a person who games solely for the story/progression, I find it incredibly painful to watch.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#16 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 19665

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 09:50 AM

 

I've seen walkthrough videos where the player is fully aware of the proper and best course to take, and automatically chooses to select every possible incorrect path first, "just in case." It can come across like some variant of gambler's disease.

 Haha, boy can I recognize myself in that. rolleyes.gif It's not gambler's disease, it's just the feeling of completion that a lot of people have. The consequence of wanting to complete an overall objective can result in excessive gaming and, potentially, gambler's addiction.

 


I do that - it's not always an addiction-like behavior.
I do it for two reasons:

  • Older games rewarded that behavior, by hiding good items that were actually useful in off-the-path and hidden areas. I actually like this.
  • I love exploring. Even when I know there's no rewards, I sometimes explore every nook and cranny of towns or areas just to find cool places to be. I am especially delighted when I think there isn't any reward, and I find a really cool spot nestled somewhere, and there is a reward. Double awesomeness. But even without the reward, it's enjoyable to do.

I don't obsessively 100% games though, and I don't feel forced to see and do everything. But depending on the nature of the game, I might decide to just go exploring for awhile, searching for cool areas - usually ones that give a nice vantage point to see the surrounding land. Rooftops or cliff-tops are a frequent goal.

 

Note: I don't like doing this in areas where every wall is colored exactly the same, so you're in a maze. I don't like mazes, I like areas. Exploring a maze = annoying. Exploring an area = enjoyable. Hiding items in mazes is torture, because then you don't have any idea whether you got them all, because everything looks the same. I only like exploring areas where you can get a decent bearing for your location.

Quest 64 rewarded you for collecting instant-gratification +1 'wisps' to either your fire, water, wind, or earth magic level (you'd get a new spell about every 4-5 levels on average). These wisps weren't always hidden very well, but they were often down dead-ends. I didn't mind that - infact, I wish they hid a second layer of objects that are even better hidden.
Quest 64 was the first RPG I played, and still a favorite.

There was just one area in a dungeon in Quest 64 that did the 'maze-like' annoyance: There was a really large cavern with a low view distance because everything was dark, and you'd walk on these pathways over water (you couldn't fall in), and you'll see glimmers of +1 magic levels in the distance, and not know how to get to them, and have to navigate the maze to find them. I've seen worse in games, but it was kinda annoying. That entire dungeon was identically-colored in the walls, but it was fairly linear, and each branching path had a sign pointing you in the right direction (with items down the dead ends), so it wasn't actually a maze.

King's Field (possibly my absolutely favorite game), rewards you for sliding along walls and interacting with every segment of the wall, hoping there was a hidden panel with an item in it. I didn't particularly like that (it was somewhat tedious), but they did reward you with good items frequently enough to make you keep doing it. I would rather secret areas be hidden behind paintings or bookcases or activated by secret switches, rather than randomly clicking on walls.

King's Field 2 held with that tradition of rewarding you for that, but added in spike traps that instakill you, effectively rewarding you OR punishing you, depending on that specific panel of wall. This makes it more of a lottery - random item or death. I didn't like KF2 that much...


Edited by Servant of the Lord, 29 July 2013 - 09:55 AM.

It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.
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#17 AngleWyrm   Members   -  Reputation: 554

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 11:44 AM

In their defence, however, I think they're just trying to promote the sense of exploration. Somewhat ignorantly and I agree that it doesn't feel right. I think one reason is that you can't go back once you've moved on. Like on Dead Space 3, I've missed a lot of the progression because of this. If I wanna correct that, I'll need to restart the game (afaik). Now I'm not going to, but others might and I know I would a year ago.

Another possible reason that such systems continue to exist in games today might relate to the artists who do the work of level design. They spend a bunch of time and energy crafting every nook and cranny of a game world, and there could be an impulse to give the player reason to visit their work.

 

 

King's Field (possibly my absolutely favorite game), rewards you for sliding along walls and interacting with every segment of the wall, hoping there was a hidden panel with an item in it. I didn't particularly like that (it was somewhat tedious), but they did reward you with good items frequently enough to make you keep doing it. I would rather secret areas be hidden behind paintings or bookcases or activated by secret switches, rather than randomly clicking on walls.

 

The addictive gambling element might come from the history of video games as coin operated arcades, where the main goal was to get the player to continue inserting coins. So research into behavior and gambling resulted in the discovery that people are more likely to continue pressing the button if they feel there is a chance of reward with each press. Whereas if they are rewarded at specific intervals, such as the way most level-up progressions work, players are much less likely to continue pressing the button after being rewarded, because they know the next reward is much farther down the line. Another way to put it is that it's not as much fun to continue playing immediately after receiving a major level-up.

 

The online browser rpg Tynon handles this by providing the player with a myriad of different ways to level up your avatar, so that there's almost always something to shoot for that's just a few minutes down the road.


Edited by AngleWyrm, 29 July 2013 - 11:48 AM.

--"I'm not at home right now, but" = lights on, but no ones home

#18 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2709

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 03:31 PM

Many games have no place for deliberate preparedness efforts because disasters simply don't happen: it is an essential feature, not a moral choice.

For example, Street Fighter II characters are not attacked by monkeys or snakes in the Blanka jungle stage, they don't slip on wet tiles in the E. Honda public bath stage, they aren't hit by beer bottles in the Zangief ring stage, they don't need to avoid hurting a pedestrian or dodge a car in the Las Vegas street stage; yet the game doesn't appear unrealistic, because the player simply assumes the extreme safety of the environment as a necessary premise for fairness and simplicity, letting fighting moves and positioning be the only focus of the game.

Adding random hazards to a fighting game like Street Fighter II would make it worse, reducing planning because of the increase of randomness and (much worse) making the game unfair (the fighter who suffers less random accidents wins).
On the other hand, adding fair and predictable hazards (like falling from the edge of the ring or stepping on a spike) might be an interesting variation of the game's strategy (or an annoying complication) but it would be a very superficial change that doesn't introduce any sort of "preparedness", only some new types of mistakes to avoid and opportunities to exploit.

The same problems with the bad randomness of disasters making games shallow and/or unfair are shared by most genres; foresight to prepare for the worst is very hard to reward as an attitude or a strategy without turning it into a difficult task like any other. Consider a FEMA simulator in which you have a few years to prepare New Orleans for hurricane Katrina, then you run the actual emergency. Without a randomly generated disaster and/or a randomly generated city each time the player would learn an optimal walkthrough, not the principles of simulated hurricane preparation. Without resource constraints, there would be no meaningful challenge in planning. At this point we aren't far from a war game.

Edited by LorenzoGatti, 30 July 2013 - 01:17 AM.

Produci, consuma, crepa

#19 Malabyte   Members   -  Reputation: 589

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 08:35 AM

Adding random hazards to a ... game...

 

I remember Dustin Browder (Lead Developer, Starcraft 2) was talking about this in an interview once. Initially, he wanted to see Protoss Carriers and other units just fly apart as they got destroyed and there was even some talk about environmental effects to "add to the experience". Eventually, they decided that too much of this random stuff just wouldn't work, especially since an RTS is a game about calculated risk-reward and deep strategies that you expect to work. So while you can see environments and NPCs popping out here and there for the Single-player campaigns, there very little randomness in multiplayer.

 

I think this is one of those cases where an expectable core gameplay must be the thing that everything else revolves around and is dictated by. Random events are just annoying moreso than interesting.


- Awl you're base are belong me! -

- I don't know, I'm just a noob -


#20 Hawkblood   Members   -  Reputation: 723

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 12:46 PM

There’s nothing that simulates “being prepared” like the consequence of death. In game play language, this means “save game”. If you remove the multi-save system and replace it with a single save game (preferably not on the player’s PC), then the player MUST be prepared at all times or risk having to start over. There are a few games out there that have this, but only a few…..




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