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Discontinuity in games

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I recently got done watching Memento, very good movie. For those who haven''t seen it, the plot doesn''t follow in normal chronological order like most stories. While it all pieces together, it''s not about Plot A happened, Plot B followed, and Plot C finalized it - it was broken up, and in the end, ultimately tied together to provide for some interesting thinking and piecing together. Pulp Fiction also comes to mind, as it too does not follow chronological order. Anyway, enough of that - onto the actual point. Most games'' plots, order of events, etc. follow a strict chronological order, but what about the possibilities of breaking parts of the game up, all the while keeping it together? Since games are interactive in nature, the concept has lots of room for expansion beyond the conventional form used in films. Developers could create games in such a way to allow the players freedom to manipulate various events of the game, thus, making the game more dynamic than usual. For example, instead of role-playing games following the normal storyline in chronological order it can be broken apart, allowing players to complete individual parts of it separately, while everything ultimately affects the final, or overall, story or result of the game. Anyway, the movie just got me thinking about putting this idea into games. I was just wondering what everyone else thought on the matter and what else could be done with it of course. -SP

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Things like this are already being done. Morrowind comes to mind - I haven''t played it, but I''ve heard it''s almost totally open-ended.

It depends on the type of game your creating. I would imagine RPGs are the main target of such a design.

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I hate movies that are "done kinda funky". As for games, FF8 did it with those Laguna sequences. I didn''t like it there either.

At least when considering RPG''s, I would recommend staying away from this. When I play an RPG, I don''t appreciate being forced out of the role I have come to identify with. Even in a party/squad based game, one of those characters is "me". (in a purely un-neurotic sense, of course)

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I don''t quite know what you mean by ''done kinda funky.'' To me, films like Memento or Run Lola Run (another non-sequential film) are different to most in that they aim to be more artistic than they do to entertain (not that the two aren''t mutually exclusive). If you''ve ever watch Arthouse film, you''ll see elements of it in those films.

And I agree, just as games can move toward mainstream movies, they can move towards arthouse movies too. I wouldn''t want to see games of Memento or Run Lola Run - that''d be like someone trying to turn the Mona Lisa into a cartoon character - but the idea of games which are more ''artistic'' is something I like the sound of. It''d have to be done well, of course, otherwise it wouldn''t sell...

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Pulp Fiction, Memento, Run Lola Run, all came from independent filmmakers. I think the same thing will probably be true in games. It''ll probably happen in a mod or a small indie game. If it happens to catch on, maybe you''ll see it spread to a major mainstream retail game.

As for extending the idea, I think if you let the player change the story based on their actions, you''ve got some potential for some crazy innovative storytelling.

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Pulp Fiction was not an independent film maker and Run Lola Run is not non sequential. Pulp Fiction is a big budget film (look at the actor lineup, speaks for itself) and Run Lola Run just shows the same sequence 3 times but each time different things happen.
Memento wasn''t exactly broken into bits an shown out of order.. it was in fact quite in order, just backwards. The movie is cut and chopped up so that it starts at the end and goes to the beggining, and it has a little cut scene of the main character talking on the telephone with someone (which takes place somewhere in the middle of the timeline) in between each jump back point to an earlier part of the movie.
For those of you who think these kind of movies are dumb or stupid then you''re limiting yourself intuitively. The way that Memento is organized gives you a feel of how the main character feels in the movie almost (he cannot create new memorys) So you don''t know whats going on untill you finish the movie. Its a creative organization technique employed by the director. Ingeniuos in my opinion.
This kind of discontinuity to game plots could be interesting. It would be neat to see how it would be implemented. In movies, this kind of technique is mostly done with conspiracy thrillers where you know something big is going on but not quite sure what. Games with these types of plots have only begun to emerge onto the market. Personally I think it would suit a game with gameplay like eternal darkness.. which sort of does follow the discontinuity technique, but in a different method so to speak.

"The human mind is limited only by the bounds which we impose upon ourselves." -iNfuSeD

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I would have to take exception to that. (Note that I''m not angry, I just think you sold me short on it.) I''m in no way limiting myself. I just don''t like it. To me, since this is my only available basis for conclusion, it interferes with the immersion factor. I don''t go to movies to think (excepting mysteries). I read books for that. For example: I watch Starship Troopers to see Denise Richards in tight slacks and see some bugs get blown to smithereens. I read Starship Troopers to get Heinlein''s take on life in a militaristic society (and incidently to get a validation of my opinion that what most kids need is a good swift kick in the rear to make them straighten up).

I didn''t like it the times I''ve come across it. The original post was looking for people''s feelings on the subject. I don''t feel compelled to extoll the virtues of something just because the word "artistic" gets tagged onto it. Some do. Cool for them. I''m still not impressed.




ShadeStorm, the Day_Glo Fish

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Remember Chrono-Trigger? (of COURSE you do...)

It''s not exactly non-sequential, but the ability to go back in time and change the way things are in the future is nifty, and I haven''t seen any other RPG''s do anything similar.

And they pulled it off quite well without it feeling gimmicky.

For example: Any film that plays it''s sequences backwards, is going to get compared to Memento. In Memento, it was an original idea. Anything else that does it is going to be considered gimmicky, in the same way that if you made another low-budget black and white thriller with a shaky camera, people are going to accuse you of using the same "gimmick" as in the Blair Witch project...

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Games already do interesting things with time, cause and effect. It''s called restoring saves.

Run Lola Run actually reminded me of a game-like experience. When Lola failed to achieve a satisfactory outcome in the sequence of events starting with the phone call, she hit a cosmic "reset button" and reloaded to the end of the phone call. In the end, she managed to construct a scenario in which she succeeded.

It would be interesting to play a game where the "save" mechanic was tweaked in this way, by integration into the plot. The idea is that at certain junctures, the main character is capable of "locking" a state, and then if things don''t work out returning to the "locked" state. Perhaps at certain points the character uses a limited precognition to foresee events up to a certain point in the future, allowing players to "preview" the upcoming section of the game and decide a strategy for the "real" run. Or perhaps one could have "parallel runs" where the character sends multiple copies of himself out from the current juncture. He would then be able to have the first few "run copies" clear a path so that the last "run copy" could make it to the next juncture. Limited numbers of "run copies" at each juncture could make for interesting puzzles.

The Memento storytelling method might not work well for a game, but the idea of reversing motion or time could be very interesting as a mechanic. Max Payne had "bullet time"... why not take this a step further and have a "rewind meter" so that if things aren''t going well, the player can burn "rewind" to take actions back and replay a certain sequence?

Just throwing some ideas out... I think a lot can be done with time and causality once you really begin to explore the possibilities.

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The trick behind this artistic direction is to leave the audience feeling the same as the main character and thus identifying him. The mystery behind it keeps you interested and wondering about every little detail. How this could translate to a game would be a little more difficult, but still doable. A couple of people have mentioned FF8. I agree that it was poorly done, but it''s probably a nice example of how to do something like that.

Take this imaginary design just made up.
Your main character is some kind of investigator exploring into some event (murder, explosion, whatever). While investigaing, he gets into standard bullet-time wire-effects trouble. However when talking with witnesses of the event, the gameplay alters so that the witness becomes the character of focus and the setting changes to before the event. Then the player gets to play as the witness, and gets to do his own bullet-time wire-effects. As it goes you have the sense of mystery trying to piece this puzzle together, and also you have the benefit of a non-linearity with some of the accounts, seeing as how some of the lesser stuff would be unimportant in terms of their sequential organization.

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

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quote:
Original post by iNfuSeD
Pulp Fiction was not an independent film maker and Run Lola Run is not non sequential. Pulp Fiction is a big budget film (look at the actor lineup, speaks for itself)



They''re all big actors _now_ but how were their careers going in 1994?


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iNfuSeD: By non-sequential, I meant a non-linear plot (i.e. one thing happens after another). The two transitions when the ''cosmic reset button'' is pressed cause the linearity of the story to be interrupted: therefore, I would classify it as non-sequential. I guess it depends on your definition though.

ShadeStorm: each to his own, I guess, but I disagree with the idea that ''if you want to think, read books; if you want to see explosions and stuff, watch movies.'' You''re not questioning the fact that some books are mindless rubbish and some movies are thoughtful; but I think that by ignoring them (well, maybe except for the trashy book part ) you''re missing out. But as I said, each to his own.

SpittingTrashCan: I don''t think she really *constructed* the outcome: most of it seemed to depend on whether she jumped over the dog at the beginning. The idea, IIRC, was that a load of small changes were made each time - i.e, a coin comes down tails instead of heads - and it was a way of seeing how all these little small things can have such an effect on things as a whole. But I digress.

There''s nothing that says non-linearity has to be implemented through gameplay - a ''bullet time'' feature or similar. A design I had for a HL Mod involved a sequence where the player played through a flashback - it was to be accomplished by simply having a level out-of-place with voiceovers from the main character.

Superpig
- saving pigs from untimely fates
- sleeps in a ham-mock at www.thebinaryrefinery.cjb.net

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quote:
Original post by CheeseGrater
They''re all big actors _now_ but how were their careers going in 1994?



You mean John Travolta''s and Samuel L. Jackson''s? And Vin Rhymes, Quinten Tarintino and Bruce Willis? I would say they were alllllll well established in 1994.



"The human mind is limited only by the bounds which we impose upon ourselves." -iNfuSeD

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Did anyone else not enjoy Run Lola Run? I found it very gimmicky and got the feeling the makers thought it was much more clever than it really was. I found most of the ideas and things that happened very childish and thoughtless; the only thing it had going for it was the mutliple timelines.

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As mentioned, FF8 used this non-linear story telling, that intertwined and eventually met.
This would have worked in a movie perhaps, I didn''t feel it worked in the game though, because (as is the point with an RPG) you tend to identify with a single character, when you were suddenly forced into another role, you tend to resent it.
I think it may have worked if you were playing an era in Squalls past, perhaps something mysterious that''s hinted at in the "main" timeline, but he doesn''t like to talk about.
I believe, doing it in this fashion, it could certainly work well for videogames, and add a whole new dynamic to games, especially if crossed with the chrono-cross style past-affects-the-future effect. Although that''s where any kind of engine to support it would get to almost impossible complexity levels, unless events you can change are hard-scripted into the storyline, which somewhat removes the whole point

Andru™ a registered trademark of the Globex® corporation.

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There''s a major problem with implementing an unordered (for lack of a better word) plot in a game as it''s done in some movies. Games, unlike movies, are interactive, and as you give the player more power to interact with the game world your ability to predict or control what they''re going to do goes down (exponentially I''d say). In other words, if you want the overall plot to make sense you''ll probably have to limit the player''s actions in some way.

As an example, suppose your game is some sort of adventure/rpg and it''s possible to kill other characters. What if the player meets their father in one scene, then later plays through a childhood scene and somehow kills him? The plot just blew up.

Of course this is assuming you want the plot to actually make sense and you''re not trying to go all David Lynch on the player''s mind.

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