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Shinkage

Nothing wrong with a good story.

64 posts in this topic

quote:
Original post by Shinkage

Great, I''d be doing something meaningful in an abstract and meaningless system. Plus, it''s not even true that what you do in Quake and Tetris change the game. Kill some person in Quake and they respawn seconds later. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has changed in any significant way. Score a couple rows in Tetris and what happens? The blocks just keep on falling EXACTLY like they did before. Wow, that''s meaningful for sure...



I''m not talking Sophia''s Choice or saving the universe!!! You''re focusing on capital ''M'' meaning again, Shrinkage.

Your choices are meaningful because they change a system of interacting parts (which is the core of a game). Tetris: Wait for the L block? Where to put the T block? Can you move the I block over in time?

Quake: Dodge? Direct attack? Jump? Turn? Anyone behind? Go for the superhealth? Railgun or rocket launcher? Stay or go?

Can you see that you have a wealth of choices here? This is what a game is! A restrained narrative can not now, nor will it anytime soon, provide these choices.

quote:

I''m going to make a wild guess here and say that you''re extremely intrigued with the upcoming game Black and White? It seems to be just along the lines of what you want. Perhaps The Sims as well?



Bzzzzzzt! "I''m sorry, thanks for playing. But as a parting gift, we have this lovely consolation prize: A sample from Wavinator''s game library, including Unreal! Starcraft! Alpha Centauri! And one of those rare nonfantasy RPGs, the awesome Fallout 1 & 2!!!!!"

quote:

Both these games exemplify what you seem to think is needed in games.


What?!?!? Explain this, pls!

quote:

To be honest though, I find The Sims quite boring and I''m really not terribly interested in Black and White.
Fallout 3 though? Can''t wait.


Uh, we agree here, so where the heck are we still disagreeing?


quote:

In fact, I think games with stories are the only medium in which any choice can be given to the player at all. Like I pointed out above, how much choice does it take to mindlessly blast something in quake or score yet another row in Tetris?



Haven''t checked those links, eh? Waddarya afraid of?
Here''s Greg Costikyan:

"What does a player do in any game? Some things depend on the medium. In some games, he rolls dice. In some games, he chats with his friends. In some games, he whacks at a keyboard. But in every game, he makes decisions.

At every point, he considers the game state. That might be what he sees on the screen. Or it might be what the gamemaster has just told him. Or it might be the arrangement on the pieces on the board. Then, he considers his objectives, and the game tokens and resources available to him. And he considers his opposition, the forces he must struggle against. He tries to decide on the best course of action.

And he makes a decision."

The choice/decision is valuable and valid within the context of the game as a system of interacting, changing parts. It''s a game because the player can change things.

Here''s Costikyan again on why games aren''t stories:

"Again and again, we hear about story. Interactive literature. Creating a story through roleplay. The idea that games have something to do with stories has such a hold on designers'' imagination that it probably can''t be expunged. It deserves at least to be challenged.

Stories are inherently linear. However much characters may agonize over the decisions they make, they make them the same way every time we reread the story, and the outcome is always the same. Indeed, this is a strength; the author chose precisely those characters, those events, those decisions, and that outcome, because it made for the strongest story. If the characters did something else, the story wouldn''t be as interesting.

Games are inherently non-linear. They depend on decision making. Decisions have to pose real, plausible alternatives, or they aren''t real decisions. It must be entirely reasonable for a player to make a decision one way in one game, and a different way in the next. To the degree that you make a game more like a story -- more linear, fewer real options -- you make it less like a game."

quote:

With a story though it becomes an entirely different matter. You are presented with the choice between saving your wife or preventing the destruction of a city. What do you do? Now that has meaning.


No it doesn''t. Not anymore than does getting a headshot in Unreal. Both are, as you said earlier, "pushing pixels around."

...that is, unless you''re willing to concede that meaning only exists in the context of the game as a system. Then saving your wife has meaning, because it changes the game. It alters the game as a system. (And so too does getting the sniper rifle in Unreal.)

quote:

I''d like to see a game that plays through like a David Brin or Ian Banks novel, but remains completely interactive and impacted by the actions of the player. This requires what seems to me to be a whole new form of writing--perhaps it could just be called non-linear writing--where the bulk of the narrative work lies on these nodal points where the story changes and the interaction between them.



Okay, do you really understand from a technical standpoint what you''re asking for? Do you understand the plot branching problem? Depending on your branches and nodes you end up with an exponential number of plotlines to write!




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First off, yes, I'm am aware that designing the kind of game I would most like to see is, for all intents and purposes, impossible. That doesn't mean it can't be my "ideal" game.

Ok, now, you say that games such as Quake and Tetris give you a plethora of choices, such as what move to use, or where to put a block. What I don't understand, is why you think these choices can't exist just as meaningfully within the context of a narrative? They do not seem to be in any way mutually exclusive things. You're talking about how the actual mechanics of the game play out and I'm talking about the broad direction the game goes in. There is no reason a game can not play through an epic story line and not provide the EXACT same gameplay mechanics you are evangelizing. Just think of the actual story as a sort of layer on top of the gameplay mechanics, and not something that is or should be manipulated by what you do in the game. I don't know if this makes sense...

I concede that meaning in games is in terms of the gameplay system. I suppose getting a sniper rifle can constitute a "meaningful" action in the system of Unreal. The extent of that meaning, however, is very limited. What happens when you die? Everything goes back to the way you started and the game goes on just as it has since it started. Very little actually changes significantly in the long term. It does, however, have short term meaning. Perhaps this is a very important distinction--short term vs. long term meaning.

You keep on referring me to those links like if I read them I would be speaking and thinking differently. I did not read completely through all of them, but the simple fact is that I simply did not agree with what what they said. Just because they're there doesn't mean I have to take them as truth or in any way integrate them into my views on the subject if I disagree with them.

Just noticed, my handle is S H I N K A G E not S H R I N K A G E. Please

Edited by - Shinkage on September 26, 2000 5:37:38 PM
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Shinkage (True Shadow, I believe?) is right. There was a Tetris Plus released for the playstation, and though it sucked, it had a narrative worked in.

The Marathon series from bungie was a rather plot-rich FPS. The nature of these games does not preclude narrative by any means. The only obstcale to improvement by the presence of a narrative is the poor quality of game writing, which has pretty much always been there.
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Yes Landfish, yes! This makes me happy

PS Heh, let's see if I can get this right the second time. Shinkage, in the context from which I get it, can mean New Shadow or True Shadow I believe. If you're interested in that context, e-mail me so we don't clutter this up with uselessness

Edited by - Shinkage on September 26, 2000 11:54:04 PM
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So what are you saying, on what level & to what depth do you want this linear story?

Do you want the player not to be a participant in this story, just watching it, in this case what sort of gameplay do you envisage?

What would be the point of putting a sort of story to tetris, how would this be shown? What would you have Cut Scenes showing fighting blocks? You would need a password system anyway, so that people could continue the story from last bookmark .

(BTW Black & White does share elements with Fallout, ie. it has little moral scruple / quests that you find ie. a farmer prays to you for help because the starving villagers are stealing his pigs! So do you punish the farmer for being greedy, let the villagers get away with it- thus encouraging thieving!, ignore the situation, kill them all etc. and all via direct interaction! Also depending on whether you are a good / bad god, you have to eventually defeat a god which has the opposite scruples to you ie. bad/ good, talk about personalisation of story / gameplay.It looks to be a very good game.)



There is a guy in the South village called Tony, he's a Ninja.
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/OFF TOPIC/ Shinkage, maybe you should tell everybody what the name means... from my search on it, I was hesitating between "Shadow of death", and "the other side of truth" ... guess I wasn''t too far.
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quote:

Just noticed, my handle is S H I N K A G E not S H R I N K A G E. Please



Doh!!!! Arghhh!! Blast it, I do this all the time. I swear, if there was some RPG stat called "Chance to Correctly Pronounce Name: xx%" mine would be negative! (You should have seen how I was mispronouncing Landfish''s nick... Lungfish, anyone... )

Shinkage. Got it!

quote:

First off, yes, I''m am aware that designing the kind of game I would most like to see is, for all intents and purposes, impossible. That doesn''t mean it can''t be my "ideal" game.


K, just making sure.

quote:

Ok, now, you say that games such as Quake and Tetris give you a plethora of choices, such as what move to use, or where to put a block. What I don''t understand, is why you think these choices can''t exist just as meaningfully within the context of a narrative?



I think we''re finally close to understanding one another. Just a hitch, tho'': If you can''t change something, you have no choice. I think what you''re talking about is a case of a game with a story in it. You can change the game parts, but the story moves you ultimately in the same direction. You play awhile, then you stop interacting and watch a movie or scripted sequence.

There''s nothing wrong with this. Fallout uses this system. The problem I have with this varies to the degree that you can''t change your overall experience. If you''re stuck with playing the game parts without being able to impact the overall experience (story or setting), then you''re having two seperate experiences: one interactive, the other passive. However, if, like in Fallout, you can affect the overall experience (e.g., kill the Ghouls & take the waterchip vs. trying to find a common solution, etc.) then I think this is great. This is where branching plotlines comes in full.

quote:

There is no reason a game can not play through an epic story line and not provide the EXACT same gameplay mechanics you are evangelizing. Just think of the actual story as a sort of layer on top of the gameplay mechanics, and not something that is or should be manipulated by what you do in the game.



Okay, the devil''s in the details: What are you doing when you''re playing? At some point story melds with gameplay. Why are you killing Foozle? Who took the Sword of Slaying you''re looking for? Why are you breaking into the Dragon''s Lair?

If you have story completely immutable and seperate, then why is it in the game? If you say to motivate the player, or to give context and importance to his actions, then we''re back to square one: Making decisions which have no impact is pointless. You might as well be watching a movie and occassionally clicking your mouse.

quote:

I concede that meaning in games is in terms of the gameplay system. I suppose getting a sniper rifle can constitute a "meaningful" action in the system of Unreal. The extent of that meaning, however, is very limited. What happens when you die?


The enemy side gets the flag. You have to go out naked and find the Flak Cannon. Your rep goes down. The other side is one step closer to winning the match. Your tactical plans are ruined.

I think this is very meaningful and long term.


quote:

You keep on referring me to those links like if I read them I would be speaking and thinking differently. I did not read completely through all of them, but the simple fact is that I simply did not agree with what what they said.



Okay, I wasn''t sure because you''d made no specific comment / reference to them. This is some very sophistocated work, and I pointed to it because they''re the writings of some pretty smart people in the field. We don''t have authority figures (thank god!) but I think it would be foolish to ignore the expert work of people who have come before us. (If you''re gonna be a trendbreaker, at least be able to articulate what trends you''re breaking and why! )

BTW, if you know of any links that analyze this issue from your perspective I''d be happy to read them! (I''m always looking for a well argued counter-perspective!)



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quote:
Original post by Landfish

There was a Tetris Plus released for the playstation, and though it sucked, it had a narrative worked in.




The fact that it sucked wouldn''t have anything to do with the fact that story had no relation to gameplay, would it? I mean, c''mon! You''ve got to __WORK__ to make Tetris suck!



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I'll say simply that you aren't exactly the first to mispronounce my name here. Not by far...

Wavinator, I keep on reading through your argument and keep on failing to see your connection between how a completely linear plot can negatively impact gameplay. As long as the plot is well constructed and fitting to what the player is doing, there's absolutely no reason that it should be a bad thing. The actual gameplay mechanics aren't affected by it. Take Halflife for instance. I'll say up front that I don't think its plot was particularly interesting, and only somewhat well executed. It was, however, much more than had ever been accomplished in an FPS before that point though. The actual gameplay in it, however, was completely independant of plot. The only reason plot existed was to provide some sort of suspension of disbelief as to why you were blasting your way through hundreds of enemy creatures. My question is, would Halflife have been a better game had they removed the (obviously) completely linear plot from it? My thought is no...

Just because there is ONE element of a game the player can not affect, does NOT make that element bad. As long as there remain elements that can be affected that can stand by themselves, nothing is lost to elements that can not be changed. You seem to be operating under the assumption that there is some rule stating that EVERY aspect of a game MUST be COMPLETELY interactive, and this simply is not true. I see no evidence, either speculative or proven, that would indicate this.

quote:
If you have story completely immutable and seperate, then why is it in the game? If you say to motivate the player, or to give context and importance to his actions, then we're back to square one: Making decisions which have no impact is pointless. You might as well be watching a movie and occassionally clicking your mouse.


That's just incorrect. Why might I be as well just watching a movie? Perhaps this statement is true if ALL the game contains is a linear plot with no interactive elements, but otherwise your conclusion is incorrect.

quote:
This is some very sophistocated work, and I pointed to it because they're the writings of some pretty smart people in the field. We don't have authority figures (thank god!) but I think it would be foolish to ignore the expert work of people who have come before us.


I have gathered one thing from those links you posted that directly relates to this debate, and that is that they all claim games are fundamentally non-linear. Actually, fundamentally seems to be a good word to use here. Looking it up, I get some good synonums--basically, mainly, primarily. Not one part of the definition, however, says COMPLETELY. And that is the point I am trying to make. There is no saying that a game need be COMPLETELY non-linear.

Edited by - Shinkage on September 27, 2000 7:36:31 PM
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Shinkage,
Didn''t it suck in Half-Life when you couldn''t save the characters being attacked, when the scientist hiding in the bin didn''t get out and follow you when you had killed all the dogs, and when there was only ONE path to the surface.
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No, I don''t recall thinking it sucked particularly. Not that I would be against them having programmed the scientist to get out or making more than one path to the surface.
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Perhaps I can bring the middle ground to the discussion here:

I consider a game with a solid, well-written, but entirely linear story, like a Tetris game with exceptionally well-rendered blocks and lovely backgrounds. You can''t affect it, it''s just "there", but it does make a difference in how you perceive the game.
A game with no story then ( and this is a big step for me ), would be like tetris with really basic blocks and no backgrounds. It''s the same game, and it''s still fun, but it doesn''t have the same "Ooooh!" value. That''s why HalfLife worked - it was just fluff, but no-one had ever spent that much time on the fluff in the FPS genre.
Plus, a story is probably more emotive and tightly connected to the game play... you might not be able to save the scientist, but it makes you feel that "if only you''d been that bit quicker, you might have helped him!". The story drags you in with PERCEIVED interactivity, to put that menacing stare on your face the next time you blast one of those aliens to kingdom come ( "THAT''s for the scientist, you bastard!" ).
Only, replaying the scientist scene will ruin the suspension of disbelief, when you find out that you really couldn''t have saved him at all, nomatter how good you are. So perhaps we should be talking about LIMITING replay, and not increasing it .

Also consider half-life with full story interactivity. You start the game, and manage to stop that reactor thing from exploding. End of game.
Not very interesting...
The Half-Life universe is built around certain events unfolding that you CANNOT prevent... it''s going to be very hard to find a way to make games that don''t have any "impossibilities".


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~
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Shinkage,

Just a quick question: Do you play any games that have replay value? If so, which ones and why do you like them? If not, why not?

I thought I''d ask before I post anything else.

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The only games I play with replay value are those that involve some level of real thinking. Anything like Quake or Tetris just simply gets real boring real fast for me. That whole "Gee this tunnel looks familiar" thing just drives me crazy.

Civilization II. That game I would play again and again for hours on end. Crazy replay value. The nice thing about that game was that the setup would be entirely different every time you played it (random maps and placement) so two different games could unfold drastically differently. As hard as I think though, I can''t recall another replayable game that I actually enjoyed the 10th or 20th time around.

Personally, I''d rather go through a game just once and really have an experience with it.
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Shinkage, I think I''m with you on that last statement...
I think it''s the "Save game/Reload" that brought out the interactivity weaknesses in the Halflife storyline - if that had not been possible, it might not have been so obvious.

Perhaps, all this talk of replay value works only for games that are simple, with no story? I''m thinking, a strong story-based game, that you can play ONCE, and then you have a really good book?


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~
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Good point Ket

I think that non-story games probably have more potential for replay value, but that doesn''t have to be so. I used to play a text adventure game called Zyll just about every day of my life for about a year or something. It was not exactly non-linear in the sense that many things changed each time, but it did allow for the player to explore things in whatever order you wanted.

I think most story-based games (especially the more recent ones) don''t offer a lot of replay value, but that doesn''t mean that it has to be that way.

"'Nazrix is cool' -- Nazrix" --Darkmage --Godfree
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Thoughts on Final Fantasy 7 read as a (Comic) book.
As good as Final Fantasy 7 is to "read" (I enjoyed it as a Comic Book where you could read the story for 1-2 hours a night if you did the game bits right.)

I think that it FF7 too long so it is mildly less exciting to replay ie. several hours until you get to the exciting bit you want to Read
NOTE 1. How about having a chapter system where you get passwords to skip to the start of a chapter ? Like flicking through a book. A save system wouldn't work as well, because people would lose their save games and then not want to play through the game to get to their favourite bit.

Gameplay. Whilst the first time you play a FF7 type game with that sort of battle system I think it is fun, because the combatants make you improve your strategy to defeat them. (Okay I don't like games that have powerful creatures that kill you, but in this context it was fun to reshuffle the materia (spells) between the characters), but on replaying it you will be able to kick the creatures ***** because you know the best strategy. Which makes it easier to "read" the story, but less fun to fight.

Edited by - Ketchaval on September 30, 2000 8:05:18 AM
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Good point Ket, but I think that if games were as well constructed as a good book, they''d be just as easy to pick up a while after you finish them and play through again.

The big problem with story based games as I see it is that their gameplay is generally not capable of standing on its own without the story, and thus becomes very tedious the second time around (if not the first). I wait for the day we see a game that has both a gripping story and finely tuned and very enjoyable gameplay so that the one compliments, not detracts from, the other.
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Shinkage,

If you think about it Final Fantasy 7 etc, and other epic "storybook" games are as long as a Charles Dicken''s epic book, but the content that they actually deliver is more like a very slowly read comic book (Ie. V for Vendetta / Sandman).
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I''d just like to point out that although the linear and non-linear parts of games are at different levels, all the games you have mentioned have both linear and non-linear aspects.
Even Quake (which I see is being championed as non-linear, non-story based) has linear elements. Can you get to one level without beating the last? Can you somehow avoid getting the key or flipping the switch or whatever you have to do to go farther? Are there any alternative methods to open doors, raise bridges, etc? Although you can do anything you want between opening the door, etc, eventually you have to open it before going farther.
Is this not linearity rearing its ugly head?

Where is your freedom to make a difference? Do your actions in one level even effect the next level? Or once you beat a level all your meaningful, important decisions are erased?

Even in CRPG''s you can decide what you will do between plot points. It is just that eventually you have to go rescue the princess or whatever.

The fact is, a game can only have so much interactivity given the current state of the industry: AI, writing, memory storage, etc.

I do realise however, that in most cases, designers could do better and give players more choices, but they cannot as yet offer complete freedom.
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quote:
Original post by Forneiq

I''d just like to point out that although the linear and non-linear parts of games are at different levels, all the games you have mentioned have both linear and non-linear aspects.
Even Quake (which I see is being championed as non-linear, non-story based) has linear elements. Can you get to one level without beating the last? Can you somehow avoid getting the key or flipping the switch or whatever you have to do to go farther? Are there any alternative methods to open doors, raise bridges, etc? Although you can do anything you want between opening the door, etc, eventually you have to open it before going farther.
Is this not linearity rearing its ugly head?



I''ll give you that Quake is not entirely non-linear in this respect. But I think this is a matter of degree. Once you get past that bridge or door, the enemy encounters will be anything but linear, especially if you vary your actions. Heck, in games like System Shock the enemies might not even be in the expected place!


quote:

Where is your freedom to make a difference? Do your actions in one level even effect the next level? Or once you beat a level all your meaningful, important decisions are erased?



Not entirely. Play through without once saving and you''ll see what I mean. Your health varies, your ammo varies, and because of this how you interact with the enemies and environment varies. It''s quite a different game to face a boss monster with 10% health and a handful of bullets than it is armed to the teeth.

Now it is true that you *always* have to face the boss monster. So if you want a better example on non-linearity, I offer: A botmatch in Unreal, or a game of Civilization.



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quote:
Original post by Shinkage

Civilization II. That game I would play again and again for hours on end. Crazy replay value. The nice thing about that game was that the setup would be entirely different every time you played it (random maps and placement) so two different games could unfold drastically differently. As hard as I think though, I can''t recall another replayable game that I actually enjoyed the 10th or 20th time around.



Hahaha! Okay, now I''m thoroughly confused.

If you loved Civ, one of the most story-less, replayable, non-linear games in existence, then I''m at a loss for understanding how we differ. This game just *drips* with player choice. Can you imagine what the game would be like if it were linear? In fact, if you want to see an example, look at the somewhat disappointing Age of Wonders.


quote:

Personally, I''d rather go through a game just once and really have an experience with it.


I posted a thread awhile back about finishers vs. escapists. Some people just want to finish a game and move on to the next, and others want to replay the game through and through. (Nothing wrong with either one, just an observation)


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quote:
Not entirely. Play through without once saving and you'll see what I mean. Your health varies, your ammo varies, and because of this how you interact with the enemies and environment varies. It's quite a different game to face a boss monster with 10% health and a handful of bullets than it is armed to the teeth.


You see, to me this sort of "variety" is completely meaningless. I dare you to cite ONE SINGLE GAME that does not provide at least as much non-linearity as having to deal with character's health.

quote:
If you loved Civ, one of the most story-less, replayable, non-linear games in existence, then I'm at a loss for understanding how we differ. This game just *drips* with player choice. Can you imagine what the game would be like if it were linear? In fact, if you want to see an example, look at the somewhat disappointing Age of Wonders.


Your point? A single example of a game that is good and entirely non-linear does not make for solid proof that non-linearity is superior. In fact, Civ seems to demonstrate more than anything that what makes a game good is how well the game is designed. How tightly it's made. Age of Wonders wasn't bad because they added linearity, it was bad because it just wasn't a terribly good game. It didn't have that special something that was present in Civ.

quote:
I posted a thread awhile back about finishers vs. escapists. Some people just want to finish a game and move on to the next, and others want to replay the game through and through. (Nothing wrong with either one, just an observation)


I'd say that, again, this depends entirely on the game. Nobody wants to play a crappy game over and over again, but some of the most hardcore "escapists"--the ones who play games through and through--can be found playing Final Fantasy, a decidedly linear game. Again, it has nothing to do with whether the game has a plot or not, it has to do with how well constructed the game is and, if it does have a plot, how well it is written and delivered.

Edited by - Shinkage on October 1, 2000 12:37:24 PM
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I think that Final Fantasy 7 is good fun to make your way through again. This may be because it uses the available techniques to make it "if not immersive - ie. You don't believe that you are there , but believable - but it gives the feeling of a window into another world, watching another character"

It has great graphics (resolution aside), and good music which combine to make give a good impression of the world that they are simulating. Who can forget places (scenes) like Cosmo Canyon and the campfire discussion (even if you don't remember the text dialog) ?

I certainly wouldn't cite Quake as non-linear, if anything Fallout 2 is relatively non-linear. And you don't even have to complete the main objective, until you get bored with the rest of the world. It neatly ties in the player freedom to a controllable ending which also incorporates some of the important things that the player has done, and the ability to provide Closure (an ending?) to the story.

Edited by - Ketchaval on October 1, 2000 5:40:57 PM
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