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Dauntless

The means? or the end?

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I started writing this in the Highlander topic, but realized it was way to tangential, so here it goes in it''s own thread... While thinking about developing a linear style of adventure or FPS game, I got to thinking about the multiplayer aspects. It seems that the vast majority of players out there prefer the replayability of non-linear games, or of multiplayer style games (i.e. MMORPGS or team based shooters). But I realized that this isn''t really what I would want to do, even if it would make it sell more copies. The reason I don''t like MMO and multiplayer style of games is that it really isn''t about an experience anymore, it''s about beating someone, or getting as much experience as possible. In other words, the ends are more important than the means. That''s why I miss a REALLY good and interesting storyline in a game, even if it is linear. Because really...what''s more gratifying, a game which makes you think and absorbs you into its game world, or a game where you can brag about how many people you''ve gibbed or that you have a 50th level character in Evercrack. I think many games today just pander to people desire to show off something or beat something. Look at how powerful Magic the Gathering (the card game, not the computer game) got by getting people to buy a zillion packs so they could get that killer combo. Great marketing idea, but to be honest, I played MTG when there were just alpha cards, and I didn''t find the game fun then either. And I saw how the mentality was of the people that played it. They played it and bought packs to create the "killer combo" to beat other players with. It was no longer about "playing with the hand you were dealt with", but about winning at all costs...including some players that literally would spend thousands of dollars trying to collect rare cards. I don''t think the computer world is much different. I thought of a multi-player aspect to the game idea...ala Highlander style, but I think MP stuff is just TOO competitive. Again, people have lost sight of what competition is about. People focus on the end of competition...i.e winning, and not on the means....i.e. "it''s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game". So I''m not against competition per se...just the vast majority of people online that do it. With a small circle of friends in a LAN party, hey, that''s all fun, but with nameless strangers, I think there are too few players out there playing for the experience of it...rather than the gratification. So, given that multi-player titles sell better than single player counterparts, how many other designers feel that it compromises artistic creativity, or the vision and experience that they would like to share with the player?

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Well spoken. I myself am a fan of the artistic creativity afforded in a singleplayer game. As much as I want to call it a fad, multiplayer games do offer direct competition, which is in human nature. Obviously, it can''t be avoided, but currently a lot of american developers seem to skip over the idea of artistic creativity. They pass that on to the level designers and the GM/DMs that police the games. And, like all american trends, follow the money. Everquest raked up some good cash, everybody will try to get a piece of the pie. This is where the indies come in. It''ll probably be a middle-class experience, but the more satisfying bet is to remain an independant developer and stray away from publishers that send consultants with checklists before approving an idea.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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The initial enjoyment of those games, it seems, comes off the momentum of having played other games that had good stories. Except that the kinds of habits necessary to play games like Everquest start to slowly occupy those spaces, and we "forget" what made the game fun in the first place, and our interest falls into an addiction.

It seems to me story driven games are much more addiction-proof. There is less repetition to them.

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I just got back from watching Lilo & Stitch, and it makes me all the more appreciate a good storytelling experience. I''m as macho as the next guy (well, maybe less....I hate sports), but I have to admit some parts of the movie actually got my eyes watery. I can''t feel the same emotional and, for lack of a better word, spiritual high, from playing a game that I can from a good movie or book.

I think that unless you have a linear form of storytelling, I don''t think you can grab the players attention and absorb him as much as you can with a non-linear or competitive style of game. In non-linear styles of game...where is the direction? One of the main points about any good story...is that it has a beginning, a middle and an end. But in non-linear games and competition games...where is the end? You could argue that there is no end, because they aren''t stories. But my point would be that those kind of games focus too much on the goal and destination, and not enough on the journey.

And really, that''s what good storytelling is about...taking the viewer/participator on a journey. To stimulate their minds and make them wonder. That''s why I like Disney movies, because they instill not just values, but they make you think really. Competition should be about learning to beat yourself, not your opponent. RPG''s should be about acting, and playing out roles....not trying to make it to 50th level or get that ultra rare sword. And I wonder, do players play like this because it is human nature, or because designers do not implement features that contribute to actual role playing instead of roll playing, and learning to be the best YOU can be, instead of learning to best everyone else?

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I think everything is needed in moderation.

I also think online play mirrors the world in startingly accuracy, something not many wish to admit. Can you say that most people do not live for the ends? As a toddler we''re not allowed to do much, as a child we''re pushed into school, as an adult we are busy with a job. We always live to achieve something later, people do this in games as well because they know no differently. That''s what we''re supposed to do right? Enjoy the moment, but only because it will get you something later.

I''m always desperate for parties in MMORPG''s, unusual, considering my fiercly anti-social nature. I usually don''t care what happens, just goof off, explore, run into places way too far for me and get slaughtered. Then again, if it looks like I''ll never reach as far as I''d like, I leave.

Most things do have logical explanations for them, the lack of role-playing for instance.
If a game had enforced role-playing, you lose all the casual players. You lose all of the people who don''t want to look like "geeks". You lose all the people who, frankly, just don''t have the imagination to begin to seem like anyone else.
Sure, it would be a nice means as a designer, but the ends would be devastating.

As for competition, we have have the desire to beat something. Those who can''t do good at sports, take a shot intellectually. Those who can''t do either, get very depressed. Considering 2 main sides spread across millions of people, games provide a massive cushion for all of those who can''t win in other things. There are so many different types of games, eventually most everyone finds something they can really whoop people in.

And of course, not eloquent way to end this post, so... yeah.

------------
aud.vze.com - The Audacious Engine <-- It''s not much, yet. But it''s mine... my own... my preciousssss...
MSN: nmaster42@hotmail.com, AIM: LockePick42, ICQ: 74128155

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Is there any reason why you can't have both? There are fiercely competitive single player games (competiting aganst yourself, or an AI), and there could be(if there isn't already) a more story\world driven multiplayer game. I generally like stuff somewhere in between, that is, I don't want to "play" a storybook or semi-interactive movie, but I don't (usually) want to just worry about leveling up or getting the most kills.

[edited by - impossible on July 29, 2002 12:36:53 PM]

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i would like to see single and multiplayer seperate in the same way that pc and console games have.

the situation is exactly the same: once the approaches are distinguished, each type can become more "perfect" in it''s own components and processes.

when each type has been further developed, we can mix the best elements. it''s a question of evolution: more specialised = more quickly improved.

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I agree with many of the points you''ve made, Dauntless, but I also agree with what Impossible said: It is possible to satisfy BOTH the Means AND the End.

Gameplay should be about enjoying the game, there''s no doubt in my mind about that. Sometimes I find myself playing yet another round of Counterstrike or Unreal Tournament simply because I can''t let the other guy win, not because I''m not sick of playing the same dumb level over and over. Obviously this demonstrates playing to an end, but not enjoying the means.

But why couldn''t there be a multiplayer game that is truly fun to play and really draws the player into the story? Co-operative gameplay is part of this, but even in competetive games, the gameplay can theoretically be about a good story. I.E., why the competition -- perhaps one side is good and the other evil, or whatever. Even the "Only Room for One" cliche can be developed into a really good game that can be enjoyed inthe meantime.

Also, you''re lumping "non-linear" games with multiplayer games -- in my opinion, you''re talking about Apples and La-Z-Boys. Non-linear, single-player games can (and SHOULD) be every bit as intriguing and focused as a linear single player game -- in fact, the best non-linear game will be one wherein the player experiences a linear story (because he/she made the choices that led him/her along that particular path). A good designer will ensure that, regardless of the path chosen, the end result will be that the player experienced a powerful story.

Oh, and to those out there that think Storyline in games is pointless, I have only one thing to say, and I quote this potent expression directly from one Lucy, of Peanuts fame (created by Charles Schulz): "BLEAH!!" (Can also be interpreted loosely as "You suck.")


Brian Lacy
Smoking Monkey Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?
brian@smoking-monkey.org

"I create. Therefore I am."

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quote:
Original post by deClavier
Massively Multiplayer Online Dance Choreography could be a new and worthwhile direction.


I do believe solidsharkey.com just made fun of this concept using everquest or something to demonstrate.

Anyways, I would like to catch all of the those that believe in linear story-driven games, and remind them that story is not a replacement for the gameplay, but a complement to it. Same goes for the religion discussion also going on. With that in mind, 30 minute long cinemas are probably not a great idea. Be careful how you would incorperate the story into the game.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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I just think the majority of players focus too much on the end result of a game and not enough on the actual play. I''m not making a blanket statement that ALL players do this, nor am I saying you can''t have a game that is enjoyable about both the means or the end. what I''m saying is that, at least from my own personal experience and observations, players focus too much on the end and not enough on the means.

As designers, I think we should come up with more novel ways to get the players immersed into the actual gameplay and story, rather than the end results of "winning". In some game genres...what really is "winning" anyways? I think these are the points that need to be addressed.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
hmm, i agree but not totaly , what is hurting me in mmoRPG''s is the fackt that fighting is based on the level of the artifical player , and not the skills of the guy behind the PC, like i love Morrowind(non-linear , but story driven sp) , but i would have love''d it even more if the fighting system was like that of Rune, because , a good fighter could win of strong monsters , without being level 50, whitch isn''t possible in morrowind right now.

However , i agree that MP is to much competition , that is why i like co-op , but co-op in the same map gets much faster boring than for example Unreal tournament. For example if you played Serious Sam trough 3 times you''ve seen it all , but even after playing CTF-facingworlds 30 times you still can play it , and it still ain''t boring

On the other hand , competition ain''t bad , 2days agoo , a friend and I played NFS3 split screen tournament , with both the same car , we are both equaly good , and it was constantly chasing each other , we finished as me having 5 points more than my friend , and it was the most intense gaming experience i had , I was 3 hours fully concentrated,


i do agree , that the modern american gamers are mostly depend to much on level design

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To engage the players and make the experience more rewarding, you have to offer a few more goals than just "Save the world from the badguy." To give an example, ChronoTrigger (SNES) offered you the blank "Save the world" goal from more or less the get go. If thats all you really wanted to do, they didn''t stop you, the bucket was there, jump into the time portal and be done with it. However, for those of you that played it, do you remember the fight with Magus? Difficult. Just getting there was a job and a half. How rewarding did it feel when you beat him? I personally enjoyed it. Then hunting down that dinosaur? And then that whole biblical parallel scenario at 11000BC. A set of interconnected goals that in each were challenging and gave the players drive to accomplish each. I don''t think you can change the player''s desire just to get to the goal, but you can make the process such that the player remembers some of the details from the middle.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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Part of the reason we don''t have an "experience" in many online games is that they''re designed such that the entire idea is to attain the goal - to make money, reach a higher level, beat the other team/players etc..

If you look to MU* games, which are the easiest way to implement new multiplayer ideas today, many continue to work on the "combat and killing" aspect. Others refuse to have any gameplay except the satisfaction of building new areas/objects, using those of other people, and chatting with others. A number of them serve as a backdrop to role-play in, but these often end up using a host of helpers to serve the same need as GMs in a pen-and-paper game. Some of them attempt to mesh these things together, with varying results.

Fighting and killing, as always, is easiest to implement and easiest for a player to understand. It also easily allows all players, bad and good, to follow the same path. I can''t think of a way to solve the problem of bad players, except to hope that the world gets smarter or something(fat chance of that happening.)

Massively multiplayer games, I think, will always remain a competitive affair in the end(well, you could have one that''s a 24 hour invasion of AI monsters or somesuch and force cooperation, but you can only force them to cooperate so much.)

There is hope for multiplayer in general to overcome this, though. If small groups of people who are already friends play a game that is "minimally multiplayer" - one that follows the same sorts of paths as a single player game, but allows you to work with your friends, then we''ll end up with the desired effect - the experience, shared and improved by the inclusion of multiple players. Early arcade games often allowed a second, third or fourth player in this fashion - though they were always effectively cooperative killing games like Contra or Final Fight or Gauntlet.

I''m not sure I can find the right words to describe it, but basically what I''m thinking is that if you shrink the scale of players, you end up with more control over how the game works. With zero players, you have a movie, while with a million, you have utter chaos(and probably lag too.)

Oh well. This post feels like a mess to me.

Making the world furry one post at a time

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In the book Game Architecture and Design , the authors express their opinion that a game should not be a vehicle for telling the writer''s story, but should be a framework which enables the player to create their own unique story. Now, that''s just one opinion, and I wouldn''t treat it as gospel, but I think it''s a very good point. I remember playing Elite on the old C64 (way back when), and despite it''s simplicity, I found myself inspired to write stories based on what happened in the game. I have since played many single player games with rich pre-written stories, yet I have never felt quite as involved in any of those stories as I did with my own experiences in Elite.

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