Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
Wavinator

No Tragedy Please, We're Heroes

This topic is 4860 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Writers stroll were game designers fear to tread... Assumption: Games that include life elements (like Fable, the old Imperium Galacticas, or The Sims) can't handle elements of personal tragedy if they apply to the player unless said elements are part of a fixed story. Reasons: 1) Almost no game gives the player an out-of-story emotional tie to the game, a reason for dealing with emotional elements; as a result, any negative emotional event that affects them personally are considered meaningless. Nothing affects gameplay, unlike with combat, where losing half your health may be a big deal. 2) Personal tragedy is messy, and therefore makes a gamer more squeemish than a good beheading or bullet-riddled corpse. This means any gameplay around it has to deal with dozens of factors people consider unpleasant. 3) It's different when it's happening to you. If you strongly identify with your character you don't want them going through hardship. 4) Cultural bias: Tragic elements, while cathartic to witness in others, in the West (especially America) often hint at some sort of incompetence or deficiency. If your wife leaves you or your child's a druggie, you did something wrong. Conclusion: Fiction has free reign where game designers dare not travel. Agree? / Disagree? Why?
Consider this gaming scenario: You're an immigrant to a new life of adventure on a fantastical colony world. You get a lot of adventuring freedom, and one aspect of the game involves building up home and hearth. You go through some bragging / wooing / questing gameplay to attract a mate, the game's timeframe skips, you get some appropriate in game options to raise a family (think genetic engineering). Midway through the game, you've spent so much time away from home that your spouse decides that they're leaving you. They can't take the abandonment and worrying. They're ARE taking 1/2 your treasure and the two kids. Oh, and they've taken up with your arch rival. Gameplay-wise, it's a non-starter. Why? Because as a hero, nothing emotionally messy is supposed to happen to us. This becomes silly emotionally if it doesn't affect your character or stat; or it becomes formulaic if it does ("send spouse x units of flowers to prevent divorce...") Am I right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
This is a question if wondered myself and the conclusion I've reached is that games are about gameplay and the story is merely a back drop placed in which the game takes place. The game is rarely tied to story in any real way. It triggers various scenes and may shape the current level but ultimate the story seldom exists beyond the scope of tying the end of the current level into the begining of the next one. Further the story is general inconsistant and disconnect from the gameplay. I can't count the number of times a game has allowed me to destroy whole armies with my invcible band of warriors only to have one die in a cut scene from an attack that wouldn't merit a healing potion if it occured in battle. Or how in FFIX the evil queen can use summon monsters to destry entire cities and yet those same summon monster can't be kill an enemy in battle. Its those sort of inconsistancy that lie at the fundamental seperation of a game and its story. How to keep the gameplay and story in synch without alienating people? How do you get the player to accept that they don't have unlimited time to complete a task and how do you keep the gameplay able with time limits on events? With a massive amount of additonal scripting?

The difficulty with the scenario you've presented is how do you keep the player coming home to take care of the family? When at the same time the game demands they continue moving father and father away with no need to return anywhere?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Or how in FFIX the evil queen can use summon monsters to destry entire cities and yet those same summon monster can't be kill an enemy in battle.
Dude, the queen obviosly has a hugeass Magic stat, while poor little Garnet has like 10. :D

Now, its my opinion that fiction in games is a great place to mix up the gameplay by thowing these moments of uncertainty at us. Surely, taking away your wife, 50% of your resources, and your two kids is a shitty situation that everyone will try to dodge if there was a game element for it. However, it seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to say that fiction has no place in gaming just because a few bad situations were written before. Also, it ignores all of the absolutely great situations that have occured.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think that the player is disinclined to suffer the consequences of somebody else's poor judgement or performance, even if it's their character who's at fault. I'm always disappointed when my character gets captured in a cutscene and all my guns get taken away. I was hoarding that shotgun ammo all through the last level, and now some miniboss just took it away from me? I didn't screw up, so you shouldn't mess with my achievements.

If, on the other hand, I botch my extraction rendezvous, trigger an alarm, and get mobbed by top security forces, then I'm rightly boned. If I could surrender then, rather than dying, Iid be willing to tolerate the loss of some equipment if it meant a chance at surviving and/or infiltrating the base via a clever jailbreak.

If my son joins a gang and my wife gets addicted to opium, then it's either a game problem or a story problem. If it's a game problem, then it's my fault and I can try to fix it. If it's a story problem, then I watch it in a cutscene and wait to see how it resolves itself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have a short and sweet post. I would have to say it depends! With the Sims, I played it only once, and on my first time, the wife was cooking in the kitchen, the stove caught on fire and then she burned up. The husband and child were mourning. That was pretty freaking depressing for me. I was like *blah* and haven't played since. This is probabally some weird 'exception' to your otherwise correct statements, but I would have to say it all really does depends on the user. We can't tell who will connect with who.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Drew_Benton
We can't tell who will connect with who.


I think this is the biggest problem.

In a book, you're reading about someone. I, the reader, feel depressed if his lover dies because I can empathise with him.

In a game, you're playing someone. I, the player, will not feel depressed if his (read: my) lover dies because I did not fall in love with her.

Basically, if I came up to you and told you "You love Anna very much. She died yesterday." you probably wouldn't care. However, if I came up to you and told you "I love Anna very much. She died yesterday." you'd probably feel sorry for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The key word here is immersion.

If I'm just playing for the gameplay, a burning death of my whole in-game family is just a game element. Ok, my character lost half my fortune and some NPCs (notice the highly nihilistic approach). Big deal. The game is still fun to play, so there's nothing to worry about.

If, on the other hand, I'm really immersed in the game world or the pre-written plot of the game to the degree that I have become the character, so to speak, and then my in-game family dies an agonizing burning death, it will hurt me as well.

It is similar to the problem with horror. Horror isn't about startling the player, as it is manifested in most games and movies. It's about making the player (and indeed the player, not the player character) doubt his sanity. It's about making the player feel truly insecure. True horror requires a lot of immersion.

I'll go as far as to say that in some cases non-plot tragedy as a result of emergent behaviour can make the player have stronger feelings than the plot-based tragedy. You can be immersed in the game world or you can be immersed in the pre-written plot. If you are immersed in the game world and not the plot and then a cutscene comes in and tells you your family was just massacred, it really kills the immersion. It all depends on why are you playing.

So I say it can be done, but requires a lot of immersion and that immersion must not be broken (e.g. with lousy UI etc.). And the player must want to believe — immersion can't be forced.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was playing one of the first Wing Commander games, and was fairly far along. Cut scenes allowed me to interact with the rest of the crew, and I came to be-friend them (in some wierd video-game-immersion way.) I liked them, I cared about them. When we went on missions, they would throw off comments and insults to the enemy, further giving them some personality. They would help me out, and I would help them.

And then Maniac died. Wiped out by an enemy Capital ship. Some would say he deserved it. He was cocky, pompous, and so full of himself. When the capital ship appeared on our scanners, he took off, eager to take it on all by himself. We had been seperated during our battle with some smaller fighters, and he was much closer to it than I was.

I ordered him back until I could reach it with him. It was suicide to go toe-to-toe with it alone. He ignored me. I was hitting full afterburners, watching helplessly as the battle played out in the distance. I kept shouting at him through the radio to pull back, but he wasn't about to retreat. No, not him.

As I got closer, I could see the captial ships guns pounding into his armor. I finally got into range, and was about to position my ship between his and the enemy to cover him for a few shots. Let my shields absorb the blows. With me in range, the captial ship would have to divide it's attention and I could hopefully spare Maniac an untimely death.

No such luck. Just a few more seconds away from him and his ship blew apart in a puff of fire.

I screamed at him. He was so stupid, so arrogant. Just a cocky kid. But he didn't deserve to die. I took out my frustration on the capital ship, sending every missile I had into it, flying circles around it firing my weapons over and over.

But nothing was going to crack those shields, and my own were gone. Scraps of armor were being shredded away, systems started to malfunction. I had to get out of there... no matter how bad I wanted to destroy that ship, it wasn't going to happen.

I flew back to my carrier, beaten, broken, and cursing Maniac. And then we had the funeral, where his empty casket was left to drift into space.

Of course, I could never fly another mission with him again, and as reckless as he was, he was one of my favorite wingmen. I missed him...

Until Wing Commander IV came out. :)

***

Okay, so my point of all this is just that this was an in-game tragedy that affected me emotionally, as a player, yet made perfect sense within the context of the game. The rest of the game I had an even deeper hatred of the Kilrathi, and every ship I destroyed was accompanied with the thought, "That one's for Maniac, you bastards!"

I associated with the in-game tradedy, and I thought it was great - but it wasn't part of the "story" of the game. It wasn't a scripted event. That battle could have gone entirely differently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
This is a question if wondered myself and the conclusion I've reached is that games are about gameplay and the story is merely a back drop placed in which the game takes place. The game is rarely tied to story in any real way.


But is this a symptom or an underlying principle? (that is, a problem or a "this is a way it should be")

Quote:

How to keep the gameplay and story in synch without alienating people? How do you get the player to accept that they don't have unlimited time to complete a task and how do you keep the gameplay able with time limits on events? With a massive amount of additonal scripting?


Yes, exactly. There are so many factors of flexibility that make up gameplay that just aren't present in story.

Quote:

The difficulty with the scenario you've presented is how do you keep the player coming home to take care of the family? When at the same time the game demands they continue moving father and father away with no need to return anywhere?


Someone here once said that the best reason to do anything in a game is because you want to. So how do you make them want to go through this? You can use inducements or punishments (carrot or stick).

In a case like this, the "family building" would have to be tied to boosting the exploration as a strategy. That's *ahem* easier said than done, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Participate in the game development conversation and more when you create an account on GameDev.net!

Sign me up!