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TSwitch

How violent is too violent?

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Myself and a friend of mine intend to make a game. Another FPS. (Stay with me, here...) After a few ideas, and actually spending some time on one of them before dropping it as too involved/difficult (a gunfighting game) we happened upon a touchy yet interesting plot/game idea. With all of the past and present mass violence, we were trying to decide if a "mad gunman sniper" game was too much, and if it were, how could we dilute it to make it more acceptable, if that were possible. We''re primarily looking to make this as real as possible, which obviously brings up a whole truckload of dilemmas about how the level of violence a game such as this would affect the player. But when we were brainstorming the game''s basics, it struck us as a novel idea, and sometimes we all feel like venting on something, better that it is a collection of triangles than something real. Yes, some people will say that this kind of activity only desensitizes us, and I don''t disagree with them, but I, like most people here (I hope) are still chilled when we see a body of some sort. (For example, when I saw U-571, when that guy was shot by the German prisoner, that bizarre look on his face absolutely screwed with my head.) Some of the things we came up with to dilute the violence were not outwardly killing your victims, merely wounding them to the point of incapacitation, as well as having the bad guy (you) never win, showing at the end of each level/round/game how bad violence is, say, with a slowly rising camera shot on the central open area that fades out to white/black. My friend insists that there should be a way for the player to pack up his sniper rifle and escape to maintain some continuity so you don''t think of your player as disposable. While I think the connection between a player and his character is important, I don''t think that making people think they can get away with murder is an acceptable way of obtaining it. We''ve pretty much racked our brains on the subject, or at least I have, and that''s why I''m here. Any constructive comments or ideas are more than welcome. The fact that the game idea is violent is nothing new to me, repeating it will have no gains for either of us. -TSwitch

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Right now dont hold back. It looks like a US senator is getting pissed at violent games but making a more violent game means more fun online play. It will be rated M and there is no way you can restrict selling rated M games.

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quote:

With all of the past and present mass violence, we were trying to decide if a "mad gunman sniper" game was too much, and if it were, how could we dilute it to make it more acceptable, if that were possible.



Seems like your hang up is purely a personal one more so than one that can be answered by others. Your view of what's 'too violent' in games will widely differ from other people's views of what's too violent. The only way to make a game acceptable to everyone is just not make it in the first place. There will always be someone who finds something offensive about your game no matter how benign.

quote:

Some of the things we came up with to dilute the violence were not outwardly killing your victims, merely wounding them to the point of incapacitation, as well as having the bad guy (you) never win, showing at the end of each level/round/game how bad violence is, say, with a slowly rising camera shot on the central open area that fades out to white/black.



You could certainly get away with the recycling 'targets' idea (the GTA series has always done this), but I don't think it really does much to lessen the perception of violence in the game idea (after all I don't think GTA's immersion level was lessened by this happening...you just had new targets - ambulance drivers -to waste).

quote:

My friend insists that there should be a way for the player to pack up his sniper rifle and escape to maintain some continuity so you don't think of your player as disposable. While I think the connection between a player and his character is important, I don't think that making people think they can get away with murder is an acceptable way of obtaining it.



If I may ask, what is the overall goal in your game. If it's actually sniping as many people as you can, then your friend is absolutely right, you need a possibility of escaping capture. Personally I would get really frustrated with a game that punished me everytime I actually did well. Seems like the only 'win' scenario would be to lose by not sniping anybody. Not much of a game then is it? Certainly the threat of capture should be an element to such a game, but it shouldn't be the only outcome.

If you want to make a non-violent game, then come up with a new idea. If you just want to lessen the killing without a purpose aspect, then make the main character a S.W.A.T. sniper and have all of your levels be a 'snipe the bad guys to free the hostages' setup or something similar. While SOF portrayed many acts of violence during game play, the violence wasn't undirected. There were specific goals, and penalties for stepping out of line (ie killing too many civilians, shooting your partner, etc). As soon as you did that it was reload time.

It's nice to see someone who is actually worried about the impact his work will have on the 'mass audience', however I don't think there's a way to sugarcoat your idea in it's current form to make it less offensive to those who are offended by such things. You could always market it with an MA rating. I know it doesn't really do anything to stop 'children' from playing it, but it's about as good as any measure you can take other than modifying/forgetting about the original idea.

[edited by - SysOp_1101 on August 14, 2002 4:53:19 AM]

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look at the movie "Leon(The Professional)" and maybe that would change your thoughts of the black/white scene of good guys vs. bad guys. (btw that's the best movie ever made )

Anyway, I think the player should play as he wants, be a tactical cold-blooded hitman, or just a murderer-mianac, and that would affect his chances of escape.

it's much easier to get away if you plan everything right and then take your target down than that you just go there with your guns and start shooting at everyone.

Anyway, world is not black/white. I don't like much of any good people vs. evil people games because they make me sick with their almost propaganda-like storytelling...

[edited by - angelhart on August 14, 2002 5:13:00 AM]

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That''s all good input from you guys, and now that I think about it, SysOp, you''re right, this was mostly me being concerned, but my friend went along with it my whining. I''m not terribly personally upset by a violent game, I think it''s just that I don''t want to have people evaporating hundreds of people GTA3-with-a-bat style.

The player should be able to get away, but I can''t see how you could accomplish that. All I have is packing up your gun, changing your appearance in some way, and running out, acting like a pedestrian or leaving through some other backroute. The player may or may not have to locate one of these passages on their own, or be directed towards one as opposed to it being a scripted sequence. That way, selection of your perch would be dependent upon an escape route.

There won''t be goals or strategies in this game, for instance, after your first shots, people will naturally try to call the police. The stupid ones will do it in the open area, behind a car with a cell. If you pick them off, you delay the police''s arrival, up to a maximum time, at which point someone out of the map has heard the shots and called in. Then police units start showing up, initially just to remove civilians from the scene, and if you manage to pick the officers off, you delay them gathering enough manpower to blockade off the map to additional bystanders, and finally suppressing and neutralizing you with a combination of gunfire and pathfinding to get to your insane self.

After one of these missions, you get a special mission where you have some objective like assassinating a mayor character or only shooting 20 people with a white shirt in a specified amount of time.

We were going to use a custom model format that would use bounding boxes to note where the model''s head/chest/legs/arms were so that a round hitting it would generate a different visual effect (more blood, skull fragments) and have a different effect upon the state of the player.

Also, various NPC characteristics will be implemented, like confusion, panic and anger, which are affected by every shot you take. A bystander who sees another bystander shot will only panic more, an officer who sees another officer go down will become more determined to drill one through your head, and so on.

This game''s target platform is going to probably be something like at least a 700MHz Processor, a decent 32mb video card, 128MB of ram (just in case, I don''t think the entirety of the game data will be that much) and a magical PCI card that stops time so that the computer can do it''s calculations, then restarts time.

Maybe that last thing will go under "Recommend System". Not that this game is going commercial, we''ll just see how it turns out.



-TSwitch

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In some cases violent games are no different than (I'll repeat the term) popcorn entertainment.

However, Steven Spielberg used it to good effect in Saving Private Ryan (that guy walking back to pick up his arm freaked me out. The guy I was with laughed and thought it was cool, go figure)

When violence is there for entertainment value, I don't think it's so bad. But if the violence is involved with deeper emotions (like hatred of a central character, death of a loved one, etc.) then it becomes something more impactful and objectional, in my opinion.

I was having anxiety last year and tried the game Max Payne. Hmm, 3 minutes into the story, you see a dead baby under an overturned crib. Well, I feel a lot better now. I do think that was a little extreme.

I saw some screenshots of Soldier of Fortune 2. The blank stares of dead enemies in pools of blood I think is going a little far, too.

[edited by - Waverider on August 14, 2002 9:33:18 AM]

[edited by - Waverider on August 14, 2002 9:34:43 AM]

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Waverider, if you thought that opening was a little extreme... How about when you got that OD of that drug (What was it called? Something with a Z in it, I thought)? You walked around in a room where the walls were on fire, through hallways that got longer as you walked down it, and finally, you're back in your house, and when you go upstairs like you did in the start, the bad guys aren't there, but I think there was blood everywhere, and when you go to the baby's room, the hallway turns into a large black area, with a dimly light trail of blood you have to follow to the baby's room.

THAT was visually disturbing (as well as aurally, with your wife's screams in the bathroom), and I won't say I wann't freaked out by that. /me shudders.

That was a wierd game. I only played it through once, then got disgusted.

edit: I think that was in the right order.

-TSwitch

[edited by - TSwitch on August 14, 2002 9:50:21 AM]

[edited by - TSwitch on August 14, 2002 10:20:53 AM]

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I think that what you are trying to do is going to be relatively impossible in the terms that you set forth. The very idea of a game based on a hitman (There''s your game name. ''The Hitman'') is going to be controversial. If you''re looking to not offend people, creating a game where your goal is to waste civilians is not the way to go.

The main problem is that you want added realism. When violence in video games look real, it becomes controversial. To lessen this perception, you need to either lessen the degree of violence, or you need to decrease the realism. A game like Super Smash TV is violent, yes. But it''s generally perceived as acceptable because everyone looks like a cartoon character. Take Bugs Bunny for example. How violent are Bugs and his cohorts, really? If you reduce everything to raw action, then almost all cartoons, movies, etc are violent to a degree because they promote conflict.

Now, you have a few options here. First, you can try and not offend people. This means that you will need to decrease the level of realism to a cartoonish level. You''ll also need to change the plot slightly, where the player is working for the ''good guys'' and isn''t just wasting people at random.

Second, you can say the heck with it, make it as real as you want, as bloody as you want, and offend as many people as you want. You''re a hitman, who when he doesn''t have a contract, likes to kill people for fun. When the medication wears off, you go berserk and just kill people till your insanity meter hits a ''normal'' level. If it gets too high because you haven''t killed enough people, then your brain anurism(sp?) acts up, and you die.

To choose this route, you are taking a lot of risks and I think you should weigh them carefully, because there are also some big gains. You will stir up controversy. It is possible that like GT3, your game will be banned in the more PC countries. Parents won''t let their kids play the game, you''ll get hate mail, harassing phone calls, and Mrs. Gore will get her panties in a knot and call the police to have you hauled in on non-specific charges of endangering the welfare of a child. Maybe not that last part, but humor me. The images it brought to mind were pretty funny.

On the other hand, going this route gives you one thing that is nearly priceless. Free marketing and exposure. Have you ever heard of the game ''Postal''? It''s about a disgruntled mail worker who goes postal. The makers of the game got a letter from the Postmaster General saying he objected to their game and didn''t want them to publish it. They released that letter to the public, got flooded with hits to their website, and sales increased by a monumental amount, because a public figure objected to the content. Have you ever played the game? It sucks. The graphics are bad, the play control sucks, and the plot, well... Let''s just say that the story continuity leaves a lot to be desired. But they sold half a million copies of that game, essentially for the sole reason that it was controversial enought to certain people that they publicized it for them. You can''t buy that kind of marketing appeal. They stood their ground and it paid off.

Another game was ''Panty Raider''. When I first read about the game, I was just dying to play it. A fraternity house goes apes, and starts raiding sorority houses for their panties. What a concept! Then, the womens rights groups started calling. The game quickly evaporated into some aliens coming to earth, and threatening you with the destruction of earth if you didn''t get them pictures of girls in their underwear because they got their hands on a Victoria''s Secret catalog under a rock on Pluto. LAME! They backed off, and what happened? They lost out, big time. I didn''t buy it after I heard what the ''new'' game was about. I would have before though, if nothing else but to show my support.

Lastly, you can choose something in-between. I think that in the end, you need to make a few important decisions about your game. First, why are you writing it? Second, what do YOU want to see in it, and what do YOU want to be able to do.

If you''re writing a game because it is fun for you to play, I think you''ll find that the game will be better because you enjoyed writing it. If you start catering to what some miserable, "Back in my day, we didn''t have these computers. We wrote letters, and we liked it!" type of person has to say about what direction he thinks society should turn, don''t bother. Because if you don''t enjoy writing it, that will show through in the shoddy programming job you will do and your game won''t be worth the CD it''s burned on.

Write your game for you. Not for someone else.


Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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quote:
Original post by angelhart
look at the movie "Leon(The Professional)" and maybe that would change your thoughts of the black/white scene of good guys vs. bad guys. (btw that''s the best movie ever made )



As soon as I saw the main hitman holding a pig sock puppet and making pig noises, I turned off the movie, and walked away.

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After reading all of this, I''ve decided that I''m going to make it how we wanted to. Thanks for your posts.

-TSwitch

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