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Peace is just so uncool

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What attracts you to non-violent games or repels you from them? What, if anything, would get you to try one or the other? A couple of questions: How much of playing a game that uses non-violent problem solving for you is a factor of culture and attitudes? That is, that peaceful solutions to problem solving are "cool" or "uncool" (ie, more cowardly than violent solutions). Violence, I think, for many of us hardcore gamers, is soul-satisfying. It can be a great way to bleed frustration. I even think that our attraction to it may be proportional to how much we control in real life-- kneejerk rebellion, so to speak. What I wonder about is whether creative, non-violent problem solving can be "packaged" to be appealing to more hardcore gamers, and if so, what has to be done? If not, what do you think the resistance would be?

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Well, not sure how useful my response will be, because as a rule I don't like games that are violent just to be violent. I can handle shooting hundreds of aliens if there's a story behind it all (and not just "Aliens landed, let's kill 'em!"), but that's about as far as I go. (Oddly enough, I like a few fighting games, most notably various versions of Mortal Kombat. I think half the fun of those for me though, is competing with another human.)

I personally like puzzles. Not nearly impossible ones, not ones where the clues are hidden so deeply you never see them (*cough* Myst 3...), but things that make you think a little. Problem with puzzles, once you figure them out, it doesn't take you long at all to do them the next time you play.

Humor is also good. Normally I hate games where you have to run and jump and kill stuff, but I love the Tak games (for gamecube) because they're hilarious. I'm kind of afraid to play Tak 2 any more because it's so freakin HARD, but if I ever do brave it it'll be because of the humor.

Probably a lot of the reason I'm like this is that IRL I'm a wuss who can't even play basketball. I've never seen much point in physical activity, and that carries over to my gameplay preferences. Maybe some people in my situation would want to bash all the zombies they could find, but I'm not one of them. Coming from an intellectual yet quirky family is also a major factor, I'd think. I can't say how much the general culture has affected me though, because I'm a hermit and I have a love/hate relationship with humanity in general. :P

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hmm, non violent games...

Well, I like to build things, as such I must admit I like things such as SimCity, and my roomie is trying to hook me on the Sims2 (which will probably work unless i manage to avoid installing it for the next few months). Of course, I also enjoy hitting my sim cities with disasters, but only really to see how well they can cope, testing the design and all :-)

Nonviolent aspects of games can be fun, but for me they usually have to be constructive or a visible means to an end (such as make a peaceful alliance with the neighbor so that I can either blow up the other neighbor or quietly build my military in order to better assault my neighbors.

Eh, im tired and Im rambling. Back to work on schoolstuff...

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Original post by Wavinator
What I wonder about is whether creative, non-violent problem solving can be "packaged" to be appealing to more hardcore gamers, and if so, what has to be done? If not, what do you think the resistance would be?

I'd say the key here is that hardcore gamers crave the action and immersion, which this is something that typically goes hand-in-hand with violence. Another thing with games is that they allow you to do things you can't do in real life, and while this attracts the general gamer it's not enough for the hardcore gamer. With violence though it's not a case of can and can't, but should and shouldn't. It's far more exciting to play something you know you can but shouldn't do as opposed to something you could never do no matter what.

I think this is somthing that The Sims has managed to achieve without violence, hence it's popularity. It's a game about everyday things but lets you do the stuff you know you shouldn't in the real world. "What's that hun, the kids just died from hunger?..... So?"

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It seems to me that most hardcore gamers (ones that I have meet anyway) play games that require uber processing/graphics hardware. They even tend to brag about how good their system is.

Most puzzle games (again, ones I have played), even if you add a bunch of eye candy, do not require the really high end hardware. So I think for some people it would be kind of like "I have this uber hardware system, why should I play a rinkey dink little game like that".

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What attracts you to non-violent games or repels you from them? What, if anything, would get you to try one or the other?


I really liked the old Kings Quest IV, Space Quest type games, I think the worst thing you had to do on one was to kill a monster by throwing a canister of dehydrated water at him.

What attracts me most to non-violent games (mostly puzzle games) is:
- I can play them on my own for a short time.
- There is usually no direct competition between players except maybe who gets highest score.
- The rules are usually easy to pick up.

What attracts me to violent games are usually ones with:
- A decent story line, but usually one for one time through.
- Direct competition with other players, like Unreal Tournament.
- A great verity of maps/levels.

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Original post by C-Junkie
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Original post by Kars
canister of dehydrated water
A what now?


I see you've never played Space Quest before:P

The old Sierra games were great in that respect. King's Quest 1, for example, you had 3 challenges, in which you could take the violent approach to the game and win, but you wouldn't get as high of a score if you took the non violent approach.

It's all about allowing choice. Let the player kill everyone if they want too, just don't reward them. Adventure games & RPG's are good candidates for such. An FPS on the other hand...

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A tangential thought: Non-violence is harder to implement than violence.

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Original post by Dobbs
A tangential thought: Non-violence is harder to implement than violence.


It may be. If so, do you think this has given that kind of gameplay a bad rap? For instance, a hardcore gamer says to himself, "I've tried these types of games before, and they were always unsatisfying."

(This, of course, doesn't apply to certain established genres like racing, puzzle or sports games which stand alone by themselves)

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Original post by Nytegard
It's all about allowing choice. Let the player kill everyone if they want too, just don't reward them. Adventure games & RPG's are good candidates for such. An FPS on the other hand...


Yes, I think it all depends on what's considered violent and how whatever gameplay you implement is rewarded. You could, for instance, be netting and intangling people like Spiderman and not necessarily considered violent (but with the punching...)

You raise a good point about how people are rewarded. If you lost something you wanted while being violent that would certainly alter your motivations.

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I'm relatively tolerant to newish game systems, but they must fall under the microscope as oldish ones, and I'm willing to lay down that the main thing that any system - violent or no - absolutely requires is a rewards cycle.

Let's take, for instance, MMORPGs, where the cycles are at this point part of a well-studied phenomenon whose eventual goal is something akin to addiction. The violence starts out as extremely repetitive and so a ridiculously unfun affair, but it has short-cycle rewards in the form of XP and lewt. Further, as you gain new powers the playing out of combat becomes more nuanced, so it begins to take on a life of its own. Some games take this to the next level via a meta-game whose focusing directive is one of taking on as many enemies of as high a class as possible at once. In this type of play, tanks are measured by how many foes they can weather attacks from, nukers by how many they can fell in one blow. Others use Player Versus Player, although the rewards from this latter type of play appear to need more careful consideration than those of simple player versus AI (PvE).

Nonviolence, despite its immediate dissimilarity from combat, takes on most of the same phases - simple and unfun but rewarding tasks leading into more and more substantial rewards and challenges as the crafter improves in their chosen work. Several metagames come out, including classic economic greed and pride-in-the-work style play. Eventually, the player reaches a level cap, and the significance of their chosen noncombat role seems to dimish at that point. If they are of a sufficiently crafty bent, maybe they go play A Tale in the Desert or something, I don't know. Either way, the primary content for post-cap players does not appear to be focused on nonviolence in most MMO worlds.

I think that the challenges that you find in building nonviolent play are highlighted above: How do you continually appeal to the intellect of the player? How do you engage them early? What metagames can they play that will bring them meta-rewards? Most importantly, how do you feed your puzzles, quests, and crafts into the rest of your game?

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I think you're right: It isn't as fun to negotiate halfway with a bad guy as it to shoot him in the face.

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a game without violence?

that's like writing a story without conflict... conflicts are the stuff of life.

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Thief was a game that wasn't without violence but it at least tried to push the player to avoiding physical combat.

The conflict was to move around without being seen. So, the conflict in the game was to avoid physical conflict. Kinda ironic hehe

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The Civilization games were totally awsome and weren't (really) focused on war. When I played, I usually tried to stay away from a lengthy war as it wasn't good for me, yet, I probably lost more sleep to Civ III than any other game. If you rush into war, you'll probably end up losing the game because your other rivals will take advantage of you burning your resources on war. Splinter Cell was also fun and wasn't really violence oriented, sort of, ok, you kill people but you try to do everything without any real conflicts. You aren't armed for heavy combat and your best bet is to sneak by undetected. I think if you give the player the option but have advantages and disadvantages to using violence to solve their problems, it makes the game more interesting, you have to think more. Well, that's my 2 cents anyways...

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In a free-form universe, it can be difficult to make convincingly fluid solutions to problems. In a game like King's Quest, there are non-violent and violent solutions, but there are really only two or three things to do. The fact that one is violent and the other is not is more a matter of story than gameplay.

If you have to get past a challenge in a text-based adventure, for instance, you can either hit it with a bullet, hit it with a magic wand, or examine it twice. You could just as easily replace the bullet with snowflakes, or the wand with a cement truck, or examination with incineration. Storytelling can account for the reaction.

That sort of thing won't work when you're dealing with a more sophisticated system. Making a space naval battle immersive and convincing requires values for armor and shields, power ratings for nukes and lasers, and a good explosion animation for a capstone. Talking another government out of invading your space, or bluffing your way out of a government scan, or cloaking your transmission protocols, or tucking into a debris field and powering down your systems, or doing any one of the hundreds of other ways that you might avoid getting blown up by an adversary will each require a seperate dynamic. If they are less polished than the combat system, then gamers will find them off-putting.

The text adventure makes combat just like any other solution--a matter of typing commands into the program. There's no visceral thrill, and so the intellectual satisfaction you get from obtaining a peaceful result and the gameplay rewards of such an act are far more appealing than the primordial satisfaction of vaporizing all those whom oppose you.

Is there a way to make fighting less thrilling, less rewarding, so that players won't have to weigh the challenge and satisfaction of a carefully worked-out plan against the adrenaline-pumping thrill of finding a chink in the enemy's shield and putting a nuclear warhead there?

I hate to use Star Trek as a standard, but there was a show that could make a state dinner, with its intrigue and etiquette, stack up against the danger and intrepidity of a space battle. This was mainly because both events involved the main competitors sitting in comfy chairs and saying things in various tones of voice. "Chancellor, of you'll pull your ships out of Quigurgian space, you would not only reduce the strain on your military, but would gain the respect and admiration of the Federation, which can only lead to a more robust economy," was paired with, "Ensign, get down to engineering and tell them to reset the shields and photon torpedoes to the specifications on this disk. I know we'll be momentarily vulnerable, but those Harghenians don't." And "If you cannot see reason, then we will have no choice but to withdraw our technological support! One to beam up," was equivalent to "Fire starboard batteries, maintain shields at full!"

Every once in a while Kirk has to have a fistfight, or the Enterprise gets a hole blown in it, and these events are roughly equivalent in significance. The point is that if balls-to-the-wall dogfighting is the norm, and players can be comfortable there, then they'll be there all the time, because that's where the most rapid progress can be made. So, make fights dangerous, unpredictable and not necessarily more interesting than the less violent alternatives. Make the player feel ill-at-ease when fighting, so he'll have to find ways to avoid it if he wants to succeed.

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Original post by Wavinator
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Original post by Dobbs
A tangential thought: Non-violence is harder to implement than violence.


It may be. If so, do you think this has given that kind of gameplay a bad rap? For instance, a hardcore gamer says to himself, "I've tried these types of games before, and they were always unsatisfying."


Basically, yes. What are non-violent alternatives? Diplomacy is an obvious one in a lot of genres. I can't think of any game with a diplomatic aspect that I would by any stretch of the imagination call deep or nuanced, basically because it comes down to good AI and good writing, which are hard. Multiple human players could be an alternative to good AI, but beyond cards and such most multiplayer gamers are (I would wager) those hardcore gamers who have a history of dissatisfaction with non-violent games. Other non-violent gameplay? Stealth and physics come to mind, in games like Thief and Far Cry respectively where they allowed non-violent (more like not-as-violent in Far Cry's case) approaches to problems. Again there are technical hurdles in those areas, which I won't discuss, although they're being overcome more quickly these days than AI.

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(This, of course, doesn't apply to certain established genres like racing, puzzle or sports games which stand alone by themselves)


Agreed

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
Is there a way to make fighting less thrilling, less rewarding, so that players won't have to weigh the challenge and satisfaction of a carefully worked-out plan against the adrenaline-pumping thrill of finding a chink in the enemy's shield and putting a nuclear warhead there?


I think that's the wrong approach. We should try to find ways to make the alternatives more appealing, not make the standard approach less appealing.

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Every once in a while Kirk has to have a fistfight, or the Enterprise gets a hole blown in it, and these events are roughly equivalent in significance. The point is that if balls-to-the-wall dogfighting is the norm, and players can be comfortable there, then they'll be there all the time, because that's where the most rapid progress can be made. So, make fights dangerous, unpredictable and not necessarily more interesting than the less violent alternatives. Make the player feel ill-at-ease when fighting, so he'll have to find ways to avoid it if he wants to succeed.


I pretty much agree with you here but you've confused me because you seem to be saying two different things. One, make fighting less interesting. Two, make violence a less safe, predictable gameplay path. I agree with the latter, not the former. Why would you want to deliberately make one style of play shitty just to encourage another?

Maybe we're (I'm?) confusing two issues here. Making games focused on non-violent solutions, and making games with both violent and non-violent alternatives. Which are we talking about? Both?

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I'm a little fed up with violence and destruction in games.

I wish had the funds to develop that "National Park" management game (where you have to create and sustain, not combat and suppress).

I've also been thinking about a game involving managing professional firefighters or the logistics during emergencies (there's already some games out there that do that, I think the name's Emergency 1 to 3).


This is from a person who's played and indulged in violent multiplayer fragfests ever since he was 14 (and who's 25 years old now). Even before, I played games such as Dogs of War, Hostages, or Firepower.

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http://www.the-underdogs.org/game.php?id=91

features a political game where you must strive politically. If you demand too much however, you will upset the balance of power and go to a nuclear war, which is a loss for both players.

There's a game that doesn't reward war.

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Original post by Dobbs
We should try to find ways to make the alternatives more appealing, not make the standard approach less appealing.
Yes, of course you're right, and I see that I expressed myself poorly. I meant that the violent approach should be less appealing relative to other options. Generally, shooting is way better than sneaking, when it comes to fun, and games that are specifically designed to favor sneaking just adjust the scale; they don't equalize it.

An economy must be struck, though, between the common approach of biasing a game toward one style of play (Halo, which demands extermination of foes compared to Splinter Cell, in which violence is nigh useless) and the homogeneously crappy system that my earlier post implied. It's not really feasible to make a single game that does everything really well, as some old text-based games did (sometimes at the expense of freedom, but not always). Actually, I just started playing Second Sight, from Free Radical Studios, and it is very promising. I recommend it highly so far.

So we don't want a game that has only one dynamic fleshed out, and it's really, really hard to make a game that has them all fleshed out. Do we divert resources from violence to beef up other systems? Do we work on them one at a time without compromise, tweaking them to perfection, and see how far we get before the release-or-die deadline? Can we just steal systems from great games of each genre, and make our task one of combination and balance, losing the opportunity for innovation? It's a tough call.

The amount of work Wavinator's been putting forth here on these boards and presumably in other arenas is impressive. With the resources to actualize these notions, a profound step could be taken. Cheers, Wavinator. I wish you the best.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
In a free-form universe, it can be difficult to make convincingly fluid solutions to problems. In a game like King's Quest, there are non-violent and violent solutions, but there are really only two or three things to do. The fact that one is violent and the other is not is more a matter of story than gameplay.


Right, even drilling down further it's often a matter of one click over another (dialog / action choice), which is even easier. Slight more difficult, but in the same vein, is a puzzle setup that allows one or the other by location triggers. And because you don't repeatedly encounter these situations and they further story, it's usually satisfying.

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That sort of thing won't work when you're dealing with a more sophisticated system. Making a space naval battle immersive and convincing requires values for armor and shields, power ratings for nukes and lasers, and a good explosion animation for a capstone. Talking another government out of invading your space, or bluffing your way out of a government scan, or cloaking your transmission protocols, or tucking into a debris field and powering down your systems, or doing any one of the hundreds of other ways that you might avoid getting blown up by an adversary will each require a seperate dynamic. If they are less polished than the combat system, then gamers will find them off-putting.


Great point. Every one of these alternatives requires a grammar of actions/reactions and a unique algebra that governs the relationship between resources once any action is taken. Just as "shoot gun at enemy" describes symbols interacting to produce some result, "bluff to distract enemy" can be viewed the same way.

Both, however, require extensive detail and nuance to be satisfying. We're not satisfied with just a gun: We want ammo types, ranges, fire rates, etc. When it comes to non-violent symbols, it's even tougher because these things are often nebulous and abstract. You can't just go look up the stats of a "bluff" on the web the way you can an Uzi 9mm.

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I hate to use Star Trek as a standard, but there was a show that could make a state dinner, with its intrigue and etiquette, stack up against the danger and intrepidity of a space battle. This was mainly because both events involved the main competitors sitting in comfy chairs and saying things in various tones of voice. "Chancellor, of you'll pull your ships out of Quigurgian space, you would not only reduce the strain on your military, but would gain the respect and admiration of the Federation, which can only lead to a more robust economy," was paired with, "Ensign, get down to engineering and tell them to reset the shields and photon torpedoes to the specifications on this disk. I know we'll be momentarily vulnerable, but those Harghenians don't." And "If you cannot see reason, then we will have no choice but to withdraw our technological support! One to beam up," was equivalent to "Fire starboard batteries, maintain shields at full!"


[smile] Yes, I've seen some shows like this, and they're great examples of non-combat conflict.

For games representation REALLY gets the way here. It's comparatively simple to create different colors of lasers or designs on armor or car chassis compared to coming up with lots of varying and different spoken dialog. You can cheat, as The Sims does with their fake speech, but then you get an interaction between icons (a bubble with a donkey versus one with an elephant, and you're to infer they're fighting about politics). This is not satisfying.

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Make the player feel ill-at-ease when fighting, so he'll have to find ways to avoid it if he wants to succeed.


As you've rightly point out time and again, this is a difficult balance and achieving it depends entirely on what who you're trying to aim for.

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Original post by liquiddark
I'm relatively tolerant to newish game systems, but they must fall under the microscope as oldish ones, and I'm willing to lay down that the main thing that any system - violent or no - absolutely requires is a rewards cycle.


Yes, and opposition that requires some form of problem solving between you and that reward.

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Nonviolence, despite its immediate dissimilarity from combat, takes on most of the same phases - simple and unfun but rewarding tasks leading into more and more substantial rewards and challenges as the crafter improves in their chosen work. Several metagames come out, including classic economic greed and pride-in-the-work style play. Eventually, the player reaches a level cap, and the significance of their chosen noncombat role seems to dimish at that point. If they are of a sufficiently crafty bent, maybe they go play A Tale in the Desert or something, I don't know. Either way, the primary content for post-cap players does not appear to be focused on nonviolence in most MMO worlds.


Yes, I remember all the people in Ultima Online who would sit there chopping trees or tayloring so they could level up enough to do what had the most excitement: killing monsters. A friend who's been playing Morrowind has followed a similar track, patiently doing mission so that he can level up enough to be Vvardenfell's own unstoppable serial killer. I find this nearly incomprehensible until I stop and think about the challenge/rewards cycle.


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I think that the challenges that you find in building nonviolent play are highlighted above: How do you continually appeal to the intellect of the player? How do you engage them early? What metagames can they play that will bring them meta-rewards? Most importantly, how do you feed your puzzles, quests, and crafts into the rest of your game?


There are myriad answers to this, as is to be expected. But on the whole, I've long believed that non-combat activities can be made as exciting as combat activities by following similar rules and systems (depleting resources, some mechanism for urgency, moves that embody risk / danger and a challenge/rewards loop).

The more pressing challenge, I feel, may be less in creating a satisfying system-- although I'll stress that that is not trivial-- but more in getting buy-in from players. I'm not sure if I'm just channeling the recent political debates, but there seems to be an attitude in the general gamer population that peaceful problem solving is for wimps.

I like the idea of ultra-deadly combat being somewhat of an antidote for this, especially at an RPG level where the universe is much bigger than you. Yes, you'll be able to terrorize and reign supreme up to a point-- and then comes the army/diety.

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Original post by Thygrrr
I've also been thinking about a game involving managing professional firefighters or the logistics during emergencies (there's already some games out there that do that, I think the name's Emergency 1 to 3).


I'm very surprised that we haven't seen a first person firefighter game by now, especially when you consider that the fire could be made into a very dynamic "enemy."

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This is from a person who's played and indulged in violent multiplayer fragfests ever since he was 14 (and who's 25 years old now). Even before, I played games such as Dogs of War, Hostages, or Firepower.


Similar history. I wish there was some data I could get access to that tracked the number of long-time hardcore gamers who grew up playing violent games but got sick of the same-old same-old and quit the hobby entirely. I suspect it's very large-- not enough to replace the fresh blood coming in, but still large.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
Do we divert resources from violence to beef up other systems?


Possibly the best answer considering: If you want a good game that does X and only X, you'll go out and buy it. When I want a manic, andrenaline-pumping race through a city, I'll pick up Midnight Club. If, OTOH, I pick up Halo and expect its vehicle selection and gameplay to rival Midnight Club, I'm an over-expecting fool.

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Do we work on them one at a time without compromise, tweaking them to perfection, and see how far we get before the release-or-die deadline?


Release date: Sometime in the latter half of the 21st century, no? :P

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Can we just steal systems from great games of each genre, and make our task one of combination and balance, losing the opportunity for innovation?


I call this ice cream steak. People generally love ice cream, and they generally love steak. However, put them in a blender and few will want to choke it down.

Many times the gameplay elements of a game are good because of a interconnecting factors that make a transplant very dicey.

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The amount of work Wavinator's been putting forth here on these boards and presumably in other arenas is impressive. With the resources to actualize these notions, a profound step could be taken. Cheers, Wavinator. I wish you the best.


Thanks ICC, I always look forward to your analysis and insight. (Although please keep in mind in terms of volume of ideas that many of these posts are "probes"--attempts at understanding a meta, which if successful, might be distilled into MUCH more straightforward gameplay).

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