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Other ways for punishment than restarting


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#1 loyallaughter   Members   -  Reputation: 464

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Posted 28 February 2014 - 02:59 PM

I was thinking about ways action games, platformers, racing games and many others punish the player for playing "bad"(in terms of skill).

One thing they generally have in common is this rule: "If you lose, the game will send you back to the start of the level/this part of the level." While this is of course the easiest way to punish the player, However, I was thinking about other ways to punish the player for this, or maybe to punish him not at all. I came up with a solution for a fighting-based game:

whenever the player gets hit, the game becomes a little bit easier, whenever he defeats an enemy, it becomes harder. The punishment of setback would be replaced by shaming the player with his character being hurt, sound effects, music, points and maybe even an alternative ending(though this can backfire). This would also make sure the player will always stay in his Flow Channel, causing less frustration and never-finished games. The bad side is that this only works for fighting games and takes away the risk from losing.

 

This would certainly be a new approach, but the disadvantages maybe exceed the advantages ...

 

Are there any other ways for dealing with this problem? Do you have any ideas?


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#2 Dodopod   Members   -  Reputation: 474

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Posted 28 February 2014 - 04:02 PM


whenever the player gets hit, the game becomes a little bit easier, whenever he defeats an enemy, it becomes harder.

Games with dynamic difficulty are often vulnerable to playing bad on purpose. Be careful of that.

 


Do you have any ideas?

You could do like System/Bioshock and have the player regenerate from a save station without reseting anything in the level. Or Descent where they also drop all their upgrades where they died. Or like Chip's Challenge and offer to let the player skip the level if they fail too much. Or like Kirby's Epic Yarn and have the player losing beads/points/something other than lives.



#3 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 2475

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Posted 28 February 2014 - 04:09 PM

I understand your concern of sending the player back to the beginning of the level or having him go through a "You lost all of your lives, Game Over" screen. 
He will still try to play through the same level anyway, so it is a waste of time. Instead of having all the ceremony, just let him try again in the quickest way possible.
 
To answer your question, it seems that the most engaging way to have negativity in your game comes not through punishment, but through rewarding. That is, the negative force in the game comes from the player not getting the reward rather than being punished for failing.
Bill Roper, a game designer who worked on several Blizzard games, discusses this as the "Carrot vs. the Stick" principle. 
In this horse racing metaphor, it is the difference between having some form of punishment that forces you forward (the "stick") and some form of reward that drives you forward (the "carrot").
 

 
It falls onto you the burden of adapting this to your game design.

EDIT: Another source for inspiration and theory is the free GDC content archive. I suggest you turn off all filters except "Design:"
http://www.gdcvault.com/free

Edited by Kryzon, 01 March 2014 - 03:02 PM.


#4 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 2475

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Posted 28 February 2014 - 04:48 PM

You could do like System/Bioshock and have the player regenerate from a save station without reseting anything in the level. Or Descent where they also drop all their upgrades where they died. Or like Chip's Challenge and offer to let the player skip the level if they fail too much. Or like Kirby's Epic Yarn and have the player losing beads/points/something other than lives.

Or like the Crash Bandicoot games, where they gave you that extra protective mask when you died consecutive times. Or like the Heart of Darkness game, where they would reveal which special move was needed in a certain part after you had failed on it several times.

#5 Ludus   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 28 February 2014 - 08:03 PM

The game I'm currently creating is a platformer built around speedrunning. The primary goal is to beat a level as fast as possible. Because of this, I punish the player by slowing him down. If he gets hit by an enemy or obstacle, he stumbles and loses momentum. If he happens to fall in a bottomless pit or gets hit by a fatal attack, he will restart shortly before that particular obstacle almost immediately, but the timer won't reset.



#6 ivan.spasov   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1719

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 08:17 AM

I think you need to shift your focus a bit. The thing is - you don't want to go and "punish" the player for not being as good as he should. Instead, you should look at it from this prespective - you are giving the player a chance to reiterate what he failed at, so he can master the needed skills to go past that. This is what the entire situation with "sending you back" does - it reverts the player's progress to a point where he has to rethink and improve on skills in order to go further. To illustrate - the games, that actually really frustrate the player are those that throw you way back after you die or mess up the mission. It's frustrating because you have to repeat things that you already have gained the skills to do and you can't focus on the things you need to obtain ... so you fail again and again and ultimately - quit the game. The proper way to do this would be to split your level or mission/quest/task sequence in segments that help in building the player's learning curve. Once a segment is fully passed, the player should not have to play through it again if he messes up in the next segment. The segments should be fairly short, as having long segments often defeats the idea of having them in the first place.



#7 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2641

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 08:52 AM

Prince of persia did it nicely I think, where you could rewind time if you were about to fail, or had a companion that picked you up if you fell down.

 

The point of that game is to progress through the next part of the puzzle, and having the player not having to redo the same puzzles too much kept the flow up.

 

I guess that's just making sure the "save spots" are close enough.

 

A little bit of frustration is good though, it can trigger the player to enjoy it more when (s)he finally succeeds, but it is a fine balance...



#8 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2195

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 09:31 AM

I think part of the problem is that to many players less than perfect is failure.

If you give them a rusty sword for beating a level but gold sword if the beat level and all 3 bonus objectives then to many people not getting the gold sword means they failed the level and they will restart and try again.

 

The challenge is to find a way to get the player to accept a sub perfect or even a sub optimal playthrough.


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#9 Dodopod   Members   -  Reputation: 474

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 09:46 AM


to many players less than perfect is failure.

Oh, can I relate to that. In just about any game with quicksave, the every time I take a hit, reload. When I played SWAT4, I remember being glad the game put me back at the beginning of the level every time I lost, just because it kept me from doing this. Of course it was also insanely frustrating, and I gave up part way through the expansion.



#10 Mister Donovan   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 11:12 PM


The challenge is to find a way to get the player to accept a sub perfect or even a sub optimal playthrough.

 

This is an old game, but Wing Commander required the player to go on missions with various NPCs. If a NPC died, he or she was gone. I think missions also had varying levels of success. If you failed a mission, the story line would turn dark, and you would have to go on an alternate mission path to work your way back. I remember some of the missions being so challenging, that I would just sit back and say, "Whew, that's as good as I can do, let's see where I go from here."



#11 c-Row   Members   -  Reputation: 280

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 02:40 AM

Racing games sometimes use a mechanic known as "rubber banding", whereas cars behind you get faster while those ahead of you keep a slower pace to allow you to always catch up with the lead while keeping up the pressure from your pursuers. The biggest challenge with this approach is not to make this too obvious to the player since it can easily break immersion if cars behind you suddenly drive alot faster.

 

What about a mini league rather than a knock-out tournament from the start? Think of the group matches at the FIFA world cup - if you lose your first match you are simply awarded less/no points but you would still have the opportunity to battle your way back to the top of your league before the knock-out part starts, adding a sense of accomplishment in the process.



#12 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 1535

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 03:45 PM

Oh, this is a bit out there, but there are games that insult the player every time they do something wrong.  Usually they also punish the player in other ways, but that might make for an interesting mechanic as the sole punishment.



#13 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1480

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 09:03 PM

action games: I always felt that taking damage should be rewarded a bit. A meat shield (or tank) is just as important as a nuker or sniper. Obviously action games cover a very wide spectrum of games but generally I consider these to be any twitch controls combat game that explores melee and spends at least some time in 3rd person if not the entire game. If someone takes some hurt they should be able to take a bit extra hurt next time.

 

platformers: This is more of a game idea then a punishment mechanic but it would be interesting to play a rock climbing platformer where you have a team of climbers and when one falls you need to risk a climber with no safety line to retrieve the dangling character while the other climbers hold and secure the safety line. Not exactly accurate but nerve racking. 

 

racing games: Could explore teams of racers, if a car crashes or gets dropped out of the race the player has the rest of the team to use.

 

flight sims: I always thought it would be a neat mechanic to jump into the shoes of the enemy that killed you and explore the game's story from another perspective. As far as I can tell, in the history of aviation combat there has never been a three or more sided conflict, which could add to the story, complexity and diversity of gameplay, flying the enemy's planes. 



#14 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1792

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 01:45 PM

Dodopod makes a good point:  His save-scumming is a good example of a player actively choosing a setback in place of the game's normal punishment.  "I have less health?  One of my NPCs died?  The big gun fell in the lava before I could grab it?  I didn't get the 5x combo multiplier?  Fuck it, I'm backing up and trying that again."  So players are either conditioned to retry endlessly until they nail it, or some dudes are just fanatical about that, but it's a pretty common attitude.

 

What if the penalty is just slower progression, with a comparable opportunity immediately presented?  Look at the rhythm games.  If you're dancing on those arrows and you miss one, you don't feel compelled to back up a little and try that beat again, you just muster your composure and get back at it, going for the next ones as they cascade down the screen.  If you want 100% success, of course, you swear and restart the whole level, but for the most part you're willing to absorb the penalty (score penalty in this case) and soldier on.

 

On an unrelated note, wasn't there a Wario game back in the day where you never "died" per se, but every time you got hit by an enemy attack it changed you, like a pervorese take on the power-ups in Mario games?  Fire attacks made you burn indefinitely, water made you wet, impacts made you short, stuff like that, and there were challenges that required a certain condition in order for you to pass them, so you'd go get set aflame in order to pilot the hot air balloon, but if you fell in water or got smothered by a falling block, you'd have to haul your wet/tiny self back to the guy with fireballs and get lit up again.

 

I suppose that backtracking is just a manual "checkpoint", but it feels a little more fluid than teleporting back and hearing the game laughing at you.



#15 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6684

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 06:47 AM


When I played SWAT4, I remember being glad the game put me back at the beginning of the level every time I lost, just because it kept me from doing this.

In games like SWAT4, the core game mechanism is planing your moves upfront and not the action part. If you fail, your whole plan failed and let the player continue at this point would ruin the whole core game mechanism. You can think about it like 'Create a plan and test it out, while the test will include some random outcomes, you can't plan upfront'  game.

 

 

 


Racing games sometimes use a mechanic known as "rubber banding", whereas cars behind you get faster while those ahead of you keep a slower pace to allow you to always catch up with the lead while keeping up the pressure from your pursuers. The biggest challenge with this approach is not to make this too obvious to the player since it can easily break immersion if cars behind you suddenly drive alot faster.

This approach of adaptive difficulty level has been implemented in valves L4D (AI director). The hard part of this approach is to measure the level of challenge of the player. I got really cool experiences in MMORPGs where my team got almost, just only almost, wiped and those experiences were the most satisfying ones. 

 

In other words, you need to push the player off the cliff just enough, so that he can hang there for a moment before you drag him back on safe ground.

 

 

 


the "Carrot vs. the Stick" principle.

Too often game designers start with the stick, trying to punish the player all the time, even trying to enforce the player to play the game in a certain way. But you just need to remember, that the player will not like punishment or any restriction at all, he want to have a cool, still challenging,  experience.

 

The big problem with challenges is, that it depends a lot on the indiviual. There are people who dislike challenges at all (they what to play/read an interactive story) and people who really seek hard challenges (people who like roguelikes). In my opinion, the acceptance of a hard challenge depends a lot on its duration and accessibility. Once you fail, you want immediatly to start over. If you need to spend a lot of time to retry the  challenge, or the challenge was too time consuming, that a restart just let you feel sick, then the player will most likely abort it and leave.

 

An other observation is, that a hard challenge don't necessarily need an high reward, because beating this challenge is quite satisfying on its own, though a missing reward could kill the experience. Therefor some special reward would really help.


Edited by Ashaman73, 14 March 2014 - 06:49 AM.


#16 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2195

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 07:11 AM


 One of my NPCs died

 

Losing an NPC is a interesting as its seems like an always reload situation.  Take XCOM for example did any us actually carry on if we lost a character during a round?  Or did we just automatically reload that turn?

 

But what can you do as the designer?  Make it so that npc are immortal?  That way the player can always use them later on. But the player still has one less character to do the mission with and depending on how far a long they in the mission they might as well reload.

 

There could be content that requires a dead NPC like turning them into cyborgs or zombies.  But do you tell the player that before hand or keep it a secret and risking them experiencing those customization options?  

 

Is there any situation or design that would convince the player to accept losing an NPC?


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#17 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 666

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 11:56 AM

I was thinking about a game where killing isnt the idea -- and neither is YOU dying like a fly all the time  for seemingly the least mistake (particularly if you go through the threats for the first time and dont know where the 'suprises are - versus the game idiocy of static choreographed situations that will do exactly the same thing over and over til you DO figure that situation out )

 

To have alot more outcomes for your 'mistakes' which themselves just change your game situation  and offer different problems not to solve. (versus "GAME OVER - reload the save and try again"...)

 

You mess up in a combat and you get wounded (and stay that way)  and now you cant do half the things you could do and the ones you can are impaired requiring you to change your goals and usage of tactics to be more  conservative or use avoidance... possibly to be more creative if you arent in that state too frequently or there are too many different modified states )

 

But that all depends on many more options of actions (and many different situations with their own sets of actions)

which in turn depends on expected results (closer to things working/reacting/manipulated more like real world to pick things to do - not arbitrary 'sorry you cant do that' limitations) - alot more factors involved and needing adaquate visualization of all the factors to know what is going on/to read that richer environment  (game companies dont like complexity, and players prefer to be lazy too - so as long as the companies  sell the current pablum.....)


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