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How video game level architecture fundamentally differs from reality


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#1 Dr. Penguin   Members   -  Reputation: 301

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:39 AM

There are a lot of stories I can tell you to motivate, why I'm interested into a discussion of this topic. Maybe the most accessible is the one from Arthur C. Clarke's novelization of "2001 - A Space Odyssey". Unlike Kubrick's masterpiece of a scifi mystery movie, Clarke's novelization puts a lot of effort into almost over-explaining various aspects of the movie. As interpreted by Clarke, the story ends with the surviving astronaut Dr. Bowman flying into an alien portal and landing in a hotel room. The astronaut realizes upon further inspection immediately, that the hotel room is something created by aliens and in no way of earthly origin. The books in the room have only unrecognizable gibberish being written in them, the phone receiver doesn't give a signal when picked up and drawers in the furniture are immovable. Bowman later finds out that the aliens actually created the room, based upon a set from a transmission of a TV show they intercepted.

 

There is something very similar to that in video games. Analogously, many games try to recreate aspects of reality, but due to constraints in development, these recreations have their own weird architectural rules, which unveil themselves upon further inspection. In most cases there aren't any better alternatives given anyways), I want instead to take the chance and discuss these design decisions in the context of immersion. Eventually this might help us creating more immersive themes and levels for video games. Be aware: The design tropes I will mention are in no way supposed to be bad design decisions. In a lot of cases they are even necessary and can't be easily circumvented. 

 

At the moment the following design stereotypes come to mind:

 

Level boundaries:

The common agreement is, that invisible walls should be avoided at all costs. Instead it is better to tell the player that he can't go outside of the level because of an obstacle. The most common obstacle in video games are rocky walls. Even going so far that most levels I remember are actually situated in canyons. Obstacles posed by human infrastructure and architecture are also possible, such as a building or a fence, however they should always give the impression that even translated into a real-life situation they would still be a serious obstacles. Sealing a narrow street with just a car wreck would be for instance a bad design decision, because you'd be asking yourself why you just can't jump over it?. Although I must admit, any professional free climbers might think about rock walls the same. ^^

 

Non-homotopic level of detail:

Ever noticed in games with open levels, that important areas, where the player is supposed to reside for a longer time, are more detailed than the rest? "Gee, that area I'm driving to looks so lovely. Surely I'm not supposed to fight any enemies there".

 

Level linearity:

The most basic design decision encountered in most video games. You can't take a path you're not supposed to, actually transforming entire fictive cities into a giant concrete tunnel.

 

Lack of interactivity:

This effects linear games as much as open world games. In linear games, the lack of interactivity hinders you amongst other things from taking paths, you're not supposed to take. In open world games, this hinders you from getting into areas you are not supposed to go (e.g. entering houses). Lack of interactivity is however a much broader concept, it applies whenever you are supplied with tools, which would allow in a real-life situation to manipulate your surroundings. E.g. "There are trees everywhere in this level and I've seen an axe lying around near the abandoned car park. Whenever I myself reloading a weapon, I see that I actually have hands. So what could possibly hinder me from taking the axe and cutting down the trees?".

 

Relevant posts: [1], [2]

 

Performance-oriented level architecture:

Ever noticed that a level is created basically in a way, resembling several large and separated rooms, in which the sight on the other rooms is prohibited? That's done so that the engine can fade out what's happening in the other rooms, effectively boosting the performance of the game.

 

Within walking distance:

The name of this concept might be not the most suitable, but describes the best how a lot of levels are designed. Basically, whenever you want to go from point A to B, there is always an option available, which allows you to finish your journey within less than 5 minutes. In non-vehicle based games, this necessary leads to the fact, that every interesting point of the level lies within walking distance.

 

Relevant posts: [1]

 

One thing I'm questioning myself, is whether or not the significantly higher movement speed of a player also has a subtle, unconscious influence on the level architecture. I can't tell for now, but if you have anything to add, please let me know.

 

Anyways, I collected these tropes and concepts from my own personal experience, so some of they might not be the best formulated, might overlap with other concepts, might even be better described with more broader terms or even are part of a hierarchy of tropes. But these proto-tropes give us something to discuss about. It would be great if we could further discuss about them and add much more to the list. So if you noticed further level design tropes in video games, or you anything to add, feel free to share it in this thread.

 

Edit: Some more contributions to the list.

 

Non-functional infrastructure and architecture (as pointed out by Stainless):

Infrastructure and architecture which doesn't make sense from an engineering point of view. For instance: Buildings without a proper design to account for water supply, lacking of any  sanitary installations like bathrooms, etc.

 

Relevant posts: [1], [2]


Edited by Dr. Penguin, 31 July 2014 - 07:54 AM.


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#2 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7407

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 01:45 AM

 

Level boundaries:

The common agreement is, that invisible walls should be avoided at all costs. Instead it is better to tell the player that he can't go outside of the level because of an obstacle. The most common obstacle in video games are rocky walls. Even going so far that most levels I remember are actually situated in canyons. Obstacles posed by human infrastructure and architecture are also possible, such as a building or a fence, however they should always give the impression that even translated into a real-life situation they would still be a serious obstacles. Sealing a narrow street with just a car wreck would be for instance a bad design decision, because you'd be asking yourself why you just can't jump over it?. Although I must admit, any professional free climbers might think about rock walls the same. ^^

 

Non-homotopic level of detail:

Ever noticed in games with open levels, that important areas, where the player is supposed to reside for a longer time, are more detailed than the rest? "Gee, that area I'm driving to looks so lovely. Surely I'm not supposed to fight any enemies there".

 

Level linearity:

The most basic design decision encountered in most video games. You can't take a path you're not supposed to, actually transforming entire fictive cities into a giant concrete tunnel.

 

Lack of interactivity:

This effects linear games as much as open world games. In linear games, the lack of interactivity hinders you amongst other things from taking paths, you're not supposed to take. In open world games, this hinders you from getting into areas you are not supposed to go (e.g. entering houses). Lack of interactivity is however a much broader concept, it applies whenever you are supplied with tools, which would allow in a real-life situation to manipulate your surroundings. E.g. "There are trees everywhere in this level and I've seen an axe lying around near the abandoned car park. Whenever I myself reloading a weapon, I see that I actually have hands. So what could possibly hinder me from taking the axe and cutting down the trees?".

 

Performance-oriented level architecture:

Ever noticed that a level is created basically in a way, resembling several large and separated rooms, in which the sight on the other rooms is prohibited? That's done so that the engine can fade out what's happening in the other rooms, effectively boosting the performance of the game.

 

Within walking distance:

There's one major drawback of your consideration. Are you talking about simulations or games ?

 

Many people forgot that a game is defined by rules and limitations and level design need to meet these requirements and nothing else. If you talk about interactive movies/novles or simulations, this might change, but as long as you are talking about games, then this are no tropes but valuable tools to implement the rulesset.

 

Think of soccer or chess, both games with a very simple level design. Yes you can leave the playfield, throw the figures around, but then the game will be aborted and you are no longer playing it.

 

If you take it to a more realistic scenario like a battlefield , then the playground just needs to meet its rule. Eg BF4, if you leave the battlefield, the rule is, that the game will be over for you in 10 seconds. I never saw it as problematic or immersion breaking to get killed this way, it is a rule and I accepted it.

 

PS: The real issue with modern games is, that many try to be everything. An open world simulation, including an interactive movie while delivering innovative game mechanism which will make it a killer multiplayer game.


Edited by Ashaman73, 30 July 2014 - 01:48 AM.


#3 Stainless   Members   -  Reputation: 934

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 03:08 AM

One of the things I really, really despise is artistic design.

 

Imagine an underground dwarven barracks. In order for it to be fit for purpose it has to have things like toilets, water supply, workshops, dormitories, food hall, armoury, etc etc etc

 

So as an engineer, designing a level based on one would be fun and simple. You start with a piece of paper and go. This needs to be close to this, but as far away from that as possible. This needs to be near the entrance, this needs to away from the entrance. And you eventually come up with a design that would work in a real world.

 

Then you give the same job to an artist and you get great vast halls with statues and pillars and water falls and glowing crystals and .......

 

No place for the dwarves to shit, no place to sleep, half a dozen goblins could wander in and kill everyone in their sleep... aaahhhhhhh

 

Hate it.

 

You see it in city design as well.

 

If I had to climb a spiral staircase around a tower to get to the city walls, then march around the city walls to another tower, then climb down the stairs, go through two guarded doors, go around a house that appears to have been built in the middle of the road, just to get a beer, I would move to a city designed by engineers.

 

Game things that represent things in real life should be desinged to work in real life as well as the game.

 

Not doing this breaks the suspension of disbelief you want as a game designer much more than technical limitations.



#4 Dr. Penguin   Members   -  Reputation: 301

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 06:33 AM

There's one major drawback of your consideration. Are you talking about simulations or games ?


 

Many people forgot that a game is defined by rules and limitations and level design need to meet these requirements and nothing else. If you talk about interactive movies/novles or simulations, this might change, but as long as you are talking about games, then this are no tropes but valuable tools to implement the rulesset.

 

Think of soccer or chess, both games with a very simple level design. Yes you can leave the playfield, throw the figures around, but then the game will be aborted and you are no longer playing it.

 

If you take it to a more realistic scenario like a battlefield , then the playground just needs to meet its rule. Eg BF4, if you leave the battlefield, the rule is, that the game will be over for you in 10 seconds. I never saw it as problematic or immersion breaking to get killed this way, it is a rule and I accepted it.

 

PS: The real issue with modern games is, that many try to be everything. An open world simulation, including an interactive movie while delivering innovative game mechanism which will make it a killer multiplayer game.

 

 

In no way I'm suggesting that any of those "tropes" I have listed are actually bad design decisions. I might have also incorrectly called them tropes, calling them stereotypes might probably be more appropriate. The example I mentioned for instance about the "performance oriented level architecture" does in no way imply that the engine of the game is bad. However it does imply, that it's easier and more native to create themes for games based upon the engine, which are centered around indoor themes, rather than outdoor areas. You can still design outdoor themes for this engine, however if you want to assure a good performance of the game, the engine will set tight constraints on how you design and structure these themes.

 

It's of course more efficient to restrict the actions of the player and interactivity to reinforce the set of rules by the game. I think in no way it would be a fun experience to play a game of soccer with the enemy team suddenly leaving the soccer field, half of your enemy team making a camping trip to the mountains instead of capturing bases in Battlefield or the enemy player ordering his pawns to grow wheat and do pasture on the chess board fields. So of course we could include distractions and mechanisms which have no effect on the core gameplay. But these would be instantly related with a penalty regarding costs in development and players who don't participate in the actual game. So we need to restrain interactivity to make the games work and to ensure a certain degree of effectiveness in design.

 

But however what I see is, whenever it comes to games with a society-based setting, meaning that you are supposed to be a certain person, with a certain role and certain powers, I often find myself in the situation thinking "If this wouldn't be a game, I actually could do this". It actually doesn't occur for me with abstract games, I never questioned why I can only move tiles vertically and horizontally in 2048. That's because this game never even suggests that there is more to its world than moving tiles vertically or horizontally. But whenever a game tries to convince you that you are more than just a rifle floating in midair, you'll find yourself from time to time being remembered that you are just in a game world.

 

So what I'm talking here about affects simulators as well as a certain subset of video games.

 

 

One of the things I really, really despise is artistic design.

 

Imagine an underground dwarven barracks. In order for it to be fit for purpose it has to have things like toilets, water supply, workshops, dormitories, food hall, armoury, etc etc etc

 

So as an engineer, designing a level based on one would be fun and simple. You start with a piece of paper and go. This needs to be close to this, but as far away from that as possible. This needs to be near the entrance, this needs to away from the entrance. And you eventually come up with a design that would work in a real world.

 

Then you give the same job to an artist and you get great vast halls with statues and pillars and water falls and glowing crystals and .......

 

No place for the dwarves to shit, no place to sleep, half a dozen goblins could wander in and kill everyone in their sleep... aaahhhhhhh

 

Hate it.

 

You see it in city design as well.

 

If I had to climb a spiral staircase around a tower to get to the city walls, then march around the city walls to another tower, then climb down the stairs, go through two guarded doors, go around a house that appears to have been built in the middle of the road, just to get a beer, I would move to a city designed by engineers.

 

Game things that represent things in real life should be desinged to work in real life as well as the game.

 

Not doing this breaks the suspension of disbelief you want as a game designer much more than technical limitations.

 

Good point you mentioned! Although I don't agree on video game level architecture having always to emulate real functional architecture, but inconsistencies just shouldn't be too obvious. I actually remember an article or reader's letter from a gaming magazine about 10 years ago, pointing out how in a Star Wars game (I think it was Jedi Knight I), Darth Vader's personal room was situated right above a garbage incineration chamber.


Edited by Dr. Penguin, 30 July 2014 - 06:53 AM.


#5 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 8929

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 07:11 AM


No place for the dwarves to shit, no place to sleep, half a dozen goblins could wander in and kill everyone in their sleep... aaahhhhhhh

 

A lot of video games do this. However, if you've ever attended a good D&D group game with a decent DM, you'll notice that level design in D&D is heavily geared towards pragmaticism, and that's it's often better off having a bunch of worthless 'everyday rooms' than this gigantic pillar in the middle.

The big reason why that is is because the DM has an ongoing ability to affect the narrative of the game, and make use of 'empty rooms' to meet your needs as you see fit.

 

Several years back, I've initiated an experiment that attempted to motion a video game with 'lesser DMs', essentially, people whose job it would be to modify the game on-the-fly to keep it in-line with the narrative that the players had undergone. I believe this kind of interactive experience has a lot of potential, but the ultimate reason why it failed was this:

You need a 'lesser DM' for roughly every 4-10 players. In a game played by 1M, you'd need roughly 170 000 DMs (more than probably on the payroll?) which is unsustainable.

That being said, there are a lot of players interested in the role of a DM, so if you provided advanced tools for your game that acted 'on-the-fly', you may be able to convert 5% of your game population into lesser DMs. Heck I'd probably be one of them!



#6 GoCatGo   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 1633

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 08:59 AM


Within walking distance:

The name of this concept might be not the most suitable, but describes the best how a lot of levels are designed. Basically, whenever you want to go from point A to B, there is always an option available, which allows you to finish your journey within less than 5 minutes. In non-vehicle based games, this necessary leads to the fact, that every interesting point of the level lies within walking distance.

 

The ol' Fallout 3 Paradox.  How did this wasteland get so... densely populated?  biggrin.png

 

I'm currently struggling with this problem.  There is a fine line between Stuff! Everywhere! and a hiking simulator.  I don't want either, and I'm not finding the middleground.  The game I'm working on is a horror-themed adventure game and it just seems so jam packed.  "Where's the windmill I read about in the journal?  Literally right over there.  Mystery solved."


Indie games are what indie movies were in the early 90s -- half-baked, poorly executed wastes of time that will quickly fall out of fashion.  Now go make Minecraft with wizards and watch the dozen or so remakes of Reservior Dogs.


#7 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1389

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:22 AM


I'm currently struggling with this problem. There is a fine line between Stuff! Everywhere! and a hiking simulator. I don't want either, and I'm not finding the middleground. The game I'm working on is a horror-themed adventure game and it just seems so jam packed. "Where's the windmill I read about in the journal? Literally right over there. Mystery solved."

I'll confess that I have a similar design decision in a game of my own; I've experimented with a sort of broad, node-based travel, and I think that it does work rather nicely, but I'm worried about the amount of content that it would seem to call for in my case.

 

A thought that occurs to me is this: What about a map-screen, or some means of fast travel? You read about the windmill, perhaps solve a small puzzle to place it accurately on the map (the journal might mention various directions and landmarks; by pinpointing the landmarks on the map and indicating the correct directions, you end up with the appropriate placement), and a new marker is added. You can then click on the marker to travel to the locale of the windmill.


MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


#8 GoCatGo   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 1633

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:30 AM


A thought that occurs to me is this: What about a map-screen, or some means of fast travel? You read about the windmill, perhaps solve a small puzzle to place it accurately on the map (the journal might mention various directions and landmarks; by pinpointing the landmarks on the map and indicating the correct directions, you end up with the appropriate placement), and a new marker is added. You can then click on the marker to travel to the locale of the windmill.

 

I do like this idea.  There was some old crime investigation game that used time as a game mechanic.  You could fast travel anywhere, but it cost you time, and you only had a week or so to solve the whole thing.  I think you may have kicked me out of this rut! 

 

Fallout 1 had a similar "overland" map you could traverse since it took weeks to get some places.


Indie games are what indie movies were in the early 90s -- half-baked, poorly executed wastes of time that will quickly fall out of fashion.  Now go make Minecraft with wizards and watch the dozen or so remakes of Reservior Dogs.


#9 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:48 AM


Eventually this might help us creating more immersive themes and levels for video games.

Many of the things you list don't really hurt the immersion. Before you started to think whether you could use the empty barrel to jump on that fence and jump that awning so you can walk the rooftops to a building that had the door locked the immersion was already broken.

 

When you are traversing the environment looking for where they have used a gimmicky wall or wall-like structure to limit visibility and give occlusion culling a chance you are not immersed whether you can find any or not.

 

Indeed the more you know about game development, design and business the harder it is to relax and sink in to a game world while you are distracted by various things that peak your professional interest.

 

The immersion is not about "I am me, the player. I am here in this environment that I can freely interact with like I would in real world." At least it's impossible to build a game around this goal.

 

To me immersion is about assuming the role of the character and getting adapted into the game world rules however arbitrary they might be. "Oh shit, I will die if one more zombie bites me and I know I can't walk past this one because the corridor is so narrow he will always be able to grab me. I don't want to die. I don't have many bullets left but I have to spend some here..." If they weren't immersed they would just try it since they saved the game 9 seconds ago and can always try again.



#10 Lithander   Members   -  Reputation: 245

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 09:52 AM


I often find myself in the situation thinking "If this wouldn't be a game, I actually could do this". It actually doesn't occur for me with abstract games, I never questioned why I can only move tiles vertically and horizontally in 2048. That's because this game never even suggests that there is more to its world than moving tiles vertically or horizontally. But whenever a game tries to convince you that you are more than just a rifle floating in midair, you'll find yourself from time to time being remembered that you are just in a game world.

 

The addiction to high fidelity becomes a limiting factor of it’s own. All that high quality content is very expensive to make. Development of a AAA title keeps large teams of specialists busy for years. Millions of investments are at stake in a hit-driven business. Smart money looks for franchise potential. An environment like that doesn’t promote taking chances.
Worse, for the sake of quality you rely on content that is very inflexible. Static level geometry, baked lighting, hours of canned animations, hand-animated or performed by human actors, thousands of lines of text has to be voice-acted, too. Don’t forget the lip syncing! In a fierce competition you can’t afford the player to miss out on millions worth of content just ’cause you want to provide some room for meaningful decisions. So the real challenge is to fake the player into believing he’s in control, when in truth every turn of events has been carefully planned and scripted to maximise asset-use. Interaction is predetermined or insignificant.

 

There’s always a balance to maintain between player and authorial control. If movie-like aesthetics is your goal the current approach makes sense but let’s not forget that photo realism isn’t required to create immersion. Our mind is capable of forming a mental concept of things not actually present. Media is engaging the recipient on a creative and emotional level by guiding his imagination. On the surface books offer only language encoded in little symbols but the story that unfolds is not constrained by that. In comic books the action takes place between the frames. Our mind provides closure to missing elements. We build an internal model of the fictional world based on the input we receive. As long as we can interpret and integrate it effortlessly the degree of abstraction does not matter. But all parts of a piece of fiction have to fall into place or immersion is broken. Of course there’s room for surprises but they have to make sense in hindsight. What happens has to accord to the laws of the imaginary, second world. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken, and you’re back in the primary world.
In modern video games, the contrast of pseudo-realism and the emptiness behind it’s surface makes suspension of disbelief hard to maintain. Welcome to Uncanny Valley!

 

(This is from a rant that I wrote a while ago but I think it fits this discussion, so excuse me for not trying to reword it)


Edited by Lithander, 30 July 2014 - 09:53 AM.


#11 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 11:30 AM

^ One very fine rant indeed and fits this topic like a glove. Take my +1 smile.png


Edited by ShadowFlar3, 30 July 2014 - 11:31 AM.


#12 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2114

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 01:12 PM


The ol' Fallout 3 Paradox.  How did this wasteland get so... densely populated? 
 
I'm currently struggling with this problem.  There is a fine line between Stuff! Everywhere! and a hiking simulator.  I don't want either, and I'm not finding the middleground.  The game I'm working on is a horror-themed adventure game and it just seems so jam packed.  "Where's the windmill I read about in the journal?  Literally right over there.  Mystery solved."

 

Some parts of Fallout 3 had the ability to wander nicely, pick some crafting ingredients, kill the odd radscorpion. But agreed that most areas weren't like that. If you looked at the world map when you were a decent way through the game... wow. The city portions drove me nuts with how buildings collapsed "just so", turning huge areas into mandatory "go back in the tunnels with all the ghouls" sections.



#13 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 19498

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 01:40 PM

The ol' Fallout 3 Paradox.  How did this wasteland get so... densely populated?  biggrin.png

 

I'm currently struggling with this problem.  There is a fine line between Stuff! Everywhere! and a hiking simulator.  I don't want either, and I'm not finding the middleground.

 

The Elderscrolls 3: Morrowind had alot of travel between different towns and dungeons. Sometimes it'd take 15-20 minutes to hike to a location you were needing to go for an optional sidequest or that you happened to read about and wanted to visit. But it didn't feel too much. Maybe it was slightly nearer to the 'hiking simulator' than it should've been, but overall it was a good balance. (Warning: It's been nearly a decade since I played it, so my memory might be influenced heavily by nostalgia)

 

Morrowind had limited quick-travel, which I thought was cool. You could only quick-travel (via Mage Guild teleportation) to major cities, or quick-travel by boat to (some) coastal villages, or ride on silt striders to (some) towns. A good portion of your time was spent walking around exploring and traveling, but in an actually enjoyable way.

 

There was really only one thing that made the travelling not enjoyable - that lack of variety of enemies to fight. Sure, you'd encounter the occasional bandit, but mostly you just got woken up at night by rats that you can 1-hit KO, or get attacked by the most annoying flying creatures ever that'd always interrupt your travels with non-challenging and purely annoying inconveniences. Rarely did you encounter an exciting travel enemy.

 

This kind of open-world game doesn't work as well for heavily-linear plots.


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#14 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 3031

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 05:36 PM

main_myst.jpg

The Myst series, especially the latter titles, offers a lot of coherent environments.
But I'm not sure if you will find kitchens or bathrooms in there.

To quote a professor, "a game should not be more realistic than it is fun."
We're dealing with video games after all, a product of entertainment.

 

This may be useful: http://vgmaps.com/



#15 Stainless   Members   -  Reputation: 934

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 03:59 AM

I'm replaying an old game at the moment, Dragon's Dogma or something like that.

 

It has some awful design decisions plastered all over it.

 

The quest system has you trudging from place to place all the time, similar to Morrowind. You have the ability to fast travel between certain key locations, and you have a mechanism that allows you to teleport back home to rest and sell goods. Then return to the same location.

 

However they have made the monsters location based.

 

So every damn time I walk from A to B I have to kil the exact same monsters at the exact same place. This was challenging at the start when my puny little level 6 character had a rusty blade and no armour. Now I'm a level 36 bad ass with a blade sharp enough to split stone and armour tough enough to deflect a nuclear blast....... bit boring.

 

Early on in the game getting from A to B was a nightmare, some monsters are location based one shots. You could walk around the corner and have to fight a Griffon.

 

A Griffon is a special moster, they have a few, where the normal hack and slash is not enough. You have to do things like climb on it's back, hit it with spells etc.

A fight with one of these special monsters can easily take 20 minutes of real time. This is enough to send the game from early in the morning to the middle of the night. Sadly the low level location based monsters respawn at dusk and dawn. So you often find yourself killing a load of low level monsters twice while still fighting the one special monster.

 

It's details like that which for me ruin what otherwise could be a good game. They offend the programmer in me rolleyes.gif



#16 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 04:15 AM


They offend the programmer in me

But isn't that game design decision rather than programming decision?



#17 Dr. Penguin   Members   -  Reputation: 301

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 06:10 AM

 


Eventually this might help us creating more immersive themes and levels for video games.

Many of the things you list don't really hurt the immersion. Before you started to think whether you could use the empty barrel to jump on that fence and jump that awning so you can walk the rooftops to a building that had the door locked the immersion was already broken.

 

I actually didn't meant to leave the impression that the tropes I'm mentioning are hurting immersion. They are limitations in design which are caused by the underlying technologies, the focus on the game's narrative and intended experience, as well as limited resources in the development process. You can however design themes for a

game, which can either completely avoid showing these limitations or integrate them in a native way. Portal for instance might be one of a few FPS games with a theme which perfectly explains why your interactivity with its world is limited.

 

Indeed the more you know about game development, design and business the harder it is to relax and sink in to a game world while you are distracted by various things that peak your professional interest.

 

I acknowledge that. The majority of tropes I pointed out also probably don't come to the attention of most of the casual players. So the thread is also a bit of an academic discussion.

 


In modern video games, the contrast of pseudo-realism and the emptiness behind it’s surface makes suspension of disbelief hard to maintain. Welcome to Uncanny Valley!

 

(This is from a rant that I wrote a while ago but I think it fits this discussion, so excuse me for not trying to reword it)

 

 

Well said!



#18 ShadowFlar3   Members   -  Reputation: 1258

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 06:56 AM


Portal for instance might be one of a few FPS games with a theme which perfectly explains why your interactivity with its world is limited.

 

Because Portal's game world where the player completed puzzles was in fact made to be just that: an artificial environment where the subject completes tasks that test thinking and timing. The AI could very well be talking directly to the player instead of the player character. Portal eliminated the need for real world environment by making their game about imprisonment and cruel experiment where the environment was built specifically for the testing purposes.

 

Another such example would be Tranquillity Lane from Fallout 3 that is a virtual world where people were being trapped. The player character knows it's not real so in this limited cases there's no room for immersion in terms of assessing the plausibility.

 

While these are nice examples of how some games with unique starting points were made quite plausible not every game can be about forced experiment, oppression and imprisonment to justify obviously limited environment. In a game where you want to involve realism, adventure or free will / open world themes it's impossible to find a comparable plausible explanation for the limitations in game world such as absolute boundaries the player is contained within that the he eventually bounces against. 

 

Because the criteria for plausibility is not simply "imprisonment" like in Portal's case, but something much more complex. "There are no toilets in these shopping centers". "Nobody would want to live there next to motorway." "Where does the mailman deliver the mail in this city block?". "There's not nearly enough parking space in the city." "The cars never stop driving." As the game developers seek to emulate a city or other set that is involved with huge amount of people going through it in various roles it's bound to be incomplete and unrealistic when the viewer gets critical enough.

 

Portal was ingenious in many aspects but I wouldn't have all games try to find a reason for the unavoidable limitations in game design. I value the illusion and rather play games where I think I have a huge amount of choice than games that were reduced to environment that directly states there's only one thing for the player to do (as there mostly actually is).


Edited by ShadowFlar3, 31 July 2014 - 06:58 AM.


#19 wodinoneeye   Members   -  Reputation: 818

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 09:06 PM

Something I advocate/proselytize (I WANT games to get better and think we are stuck in a rut) :

 

 

Current game limitations (size, detail, reality)  are being caused by game production limits (time, money, available skill, target hardware/software, expectations).

 

How to get past the current difficulties to produce (better?) more detailed games ? 

 

Answer - Massive Player participation in producing game assets and incremental reuse/accumulation/improvement of what is created for multiple/additional games.

 

 - "Assets" include basic 3D shapes/animations through AI scripting, upto game mechanics coding.

 

 - Players  manpower time, creative/technical skill   dwarf any company's resources by many magnitudes

 

 - Collaboration - let those who excel in certain tasks do those tasks at all levels of difficulty/specialization

 

Difficulties :

 

 - Idiot-proofing of the required tools is probably a bigger project than creating any 3 AAA games

 

 - Extensive Vetting process is needed to control production quality/appropriateness (Player again having to do majority of the work)

 

 - Risk adverse game companies balking at the initial cost/uncertainty of the whole Player Created Asset process

 

 - Cohesive vision by whoever designs the game (the company presumably) working within the 'committee' style amateur  workfoce.

 

Advantages :

 

 - Tools created (subject to Player improvement themselves) are applicable to production of many games/genres

 

 - Reuse (accumultation) of Assets between different games (massive templating) cuts a major cost (and allows smaller niche games)

 

 - Hardware and software marches forward giving us more to work with.

 

 - Tapping into player creativity - the production becomes a desired activity in itself

 

 


--------------------------------------------Ratings are Opinion, not Fact

#20 Stainless   Members   -  Reputation: 934

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 03:20 AM

So you want the players to create assets for the game. How could that work?

 

Let;s look at the process for say a single character. 

 

Start with a good 3D editor. We are talking 3ds Max or Maya for most of the industry. We create the mesh, attach a skeleton, attach cloth meshes, create collision meshes, create animations, create hair meshes. etc.

 

Then we attach the relevant parts of the mesh to the various physics systems, and we have a useable character.

 

Then we tell the game about it, put it into the correct place in the file system, link it to more physics systems, link it to audio systems, etc etc. and we have it in the game.

 

How could we do that outside the development environment?

 

Well we cannot assume anyone outside the industry will have a copy of max or maya, they are just too expensive for the common man to use. So we would have to support other 3d editors , That is nightmare number 1

 

Then we have to expose interfaces to all the physics components to the whole world, not something I would like to do as it opens the system up to abuse. Nightmare number 2

 

Then we have to get it into the file system. This is not a trivial task. How do you get a user created asset onto an Xbox, or a Ps4?  Nightmare number 3

 

Then finally we have got a user created asset into the game, and the game crashes. Who takes the blame for the crash? Obviously it's very probably the player that created the asset, but I bet you a years salary you would get technical support calls along the line of "I've done this and it's perfect, so you have broken the game and what are you going to do about it" Nightmare number 4

 

Allowing players to mod PC games is perfectly reasonable, and often actively supported but doing the same for modern AAA games on games platforms is probably never going to happen.

 

You can do in game editors for simple stuff, Little Big Planet is a good example, but they are the exception and will stay that way.






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