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Wavinator

More Detail Is A Trap!!! (?)

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It seems to me that the quest for detail that''s been a hallmark of much of game development in the last many years has a downside: implied, and unwanted realism. More detail, especially graphic detail, seems to give the game world a kind of "concreteness." This concreteness (a factor of immersion???) can force you to choose between a game design with apparent inconsistencies, or one with TONS of extra work... For example, think of a town. The more concretely represented, the more you expect to interact with it realistically. If you''re given freedom of movement, you expect to be able to enter any building. If you drop valuables on the ground and leave, you don''t expect them to be there later. If you get into a fight in the middle of the town, you expect the law to show up. If you blow up a building, you expect people to run the other way. Do you see where this is heading? I can see design and development resources spiraling down the drain as we try to make our worlds more detailed, interactive, and realistic. I''m not saying we shouldn''t have all these wonderful effects, BTW. But I''m starting to suspect that THIS is why our games are getting more shallow and unsatisfying!!! It''s not just because publishers are selling games with more flash than substance. We are demanding greater detail, especially graphical detail. Because these games are more detailed, it SUGGESTS a world deeper than it can possibly be with reasonable development resources. A few final examples: 1) I notice there''s a big difference in how I expect to interact with a turn-based strategy game, and a CRPG. Empire games have a much higher level of abstraction, and seem to give a good level of depth while remaining largely immune to this syndrome. 2) Look at remakes of old arcade games. Take Donkey Kong. The 2D game has a level of detail so simple that we don''t question why the world looks the way it looks or behaves the way it does. But put that same world in rendered 3D with 6 degrees of freedom, and the same interactions and object physics would look ridiculous. The background would be bare, and nonsensical. 3D and greater detail IMPLIES more! 3) Tekken 3 vs. the PS2''s new Tekken Tag. The PS2 version has fantastic, fully rendered backgrounds with a huge level of detail. Yet players don''t crush weeds underfoot when they walk on them. They don''t leave footprints in the snow. It seems that you notice this more BECAUSE of the increased detail. I don''t know what the solution to this is. I don''t expect people to go back to games with less detail, but the way we''re heading seems to lead into a larger budget, larger team, more publisher controlled trap. Not good for us indies... -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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Yeah, I think you are right, Wav. I can remember in Thief I felt myself wanting to enter some of the buildings, but couldn''t. It does lose immersion because I thought "well, I can enter these buildings but not these". Although it didn''t lose so much immersion that it was overwhelming and I didn''t even really think about it much after that 1st thought.


"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

Click here to see my current project.

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I think you''re right about the direction in which things are heading, but what can we really do about it? Hardware is improving all the time, and the game companies out there who don''t do what they can to keep up, utilizing all the greater memory and faster processors that come out, get left behind. Like they say in "Game Architecture and Design," the idea that we will someday have enough processing power is a fallacy. As things advance, there will just be more and more of these little details that people think up to add to games.

You''re right in that this might make it harder for independent developers, but it''s already impossible for one- or two-person teams to compete with the big guys anyway. The simpler games will always have an audience in people who just want to play a fun game, without caring about whether or not their character leaves footprints in the snow, to use your example. Though I do wonder what the industry as a whole will look like as things inevitably get more advanced.

-Ironblayde
 Aeon Software

Next thing you know, they''ll take my thoughts away.

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Assuming you''re looking for an explanation why this is so:

In a strategy game imersiveness isn''t really the key. You''re face with: these are the rules, these are your resources, these are the winning conditions, good luck. What if you were to try and make a game like chess realistic? When a bishop tries to capture the space a knight is on I''d think that the knight would have a little more hand to hand combat training than the bishop, so the knight would win and get to keep the square. The players in the game don''t expect a realistic battle between the two pieces, so the game works without it.

If I''m playing a linear scripted story based game then things like having people react to you and your actions is easy to do. It''s all planned out in advance so once you get to event #2143 you know to have all the NPCs running around like idiots or whatever. People playing these games expect an entertaining story even if they only ever play it once. If you''re playing one of these games for a highly interactive experience, then you''re playing the wrong game. The general rule is you can''t do anything that isn''t in the script.

So what do you do when you''re trying to provide an interactive world with some degree of realism? Be a jerk. If the player wants to drop something, don''t draw it on the ground and allow them to pick it back up. It''s gone forever, tough luck. (Load last saved game.) If you''re attacking NPCs for no other reason than because you can, have the law show up instantaniously and kick the player''s ass. (Load last saved game.) You wanna blow up a building... there must be some reason for it. Don''t make it easy to obtain explosives. Your mission... destroy that ship with this thermal subatomic doodad. No I''m gonna blow up this church instead. Your mission has failed, assuming you''re not caught (instant appearnce of the law) are the ones who sent you out going to be happy? (Load last saved game.) You want footprints in the snow? Ok, but while we''re at it let''s say that if you''re not properly dressed you freeze to death. There goes you''re +10 protection vs energy weaponds that you needed to survive. (Load last saved game.)



I can honestly say that even if I''ve been able to pick up a house plant to carry with me, (Ultima #?), I have never even worried about watering it. I do not want to remember the pre-launch sequence for my shuttle, (if I have to discover it somehow first then fine). Ask yourself, "Does my game really need me to be able to water my plants?" and if the answer is no then don''t look back. Lots of media skips out on details. Why should games be any different?

What do I need?
What do I want?
What can I do?

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The solution, IMO, is to add detail, but throw out the realism.

Replace your motion captured human who bleeds and loses body parts with a fully rendered and textured cartoon character who deforms in a silly way when struck. The player stops considering hit location.

Replace your town with a post apocalyptic junkheap. Now you have an excuse for only having 6 NPCs there.

Can''t quite get the weather to behave? Throw it out, and replace the sky with a shell of the world above a la Septerra Core.

Kiss the weeds goodbye and put the player on a volcanic island where he is standing on rock from old lava flows. Or replace them all with blue mushrooms. Or have him shrunk to ant size and duel on a picnic blanket.

These problems can be solved by application of imagination.

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replying to first post (i skimmed the others but didn''t fully
read - sorry if this was already stated)

i see this gamers'' quest for greater detail as ultimatly,
wanting more realism, by more realism i don''t just mean
graphically but mentally,psycologically. What we want is
a ''real game'' where the stuff is fun, but also relates to real
life... you get something out of a game if it reminds you of
something in reality (this applies to puzzle solving,
punchlines, and practally everything else) in the game, the
entertainment factor is determined by how much you could relate
to it (like i said, in humor, action, stratagy, exc.)

people think to get this they NEED reality in the games, vision
is our primary sense - guess what you''d add first to make a game
seem real... the same goes for other senses (mainly motion and
behavior of you and others (respectivily) though) .... sure
thats all right and good but: wheres the GAME??!

main point: we have substituted graphic realism for psycological
reasoning which is what game design is for... all in all, we
have taken out the design and instead given the gamer eye candy
and a little ai...


-mike

(ps, if my message is a mess it''s because i was half asleep)

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side note:
only one game comes to mind that was sucessful w/o game
story/design... starcraft.

however i think the execellent game control design saved it by
allowing the player freedom to really do what he wants to do
(thus the player was able to easily relate between real life and
the game, making it much more enjoyable)

-mike

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There''s always going to be something in a game that irritates me, i know that. But there is much bigger issues than having every window breakable or leaving dirt on the door mat. There are issues like map design which rarely get done satisfactorily these days. This would have to be the biggest bugs in almost every game i''ve played.. like "why the hell do they have an empty room here" or "what''s the purpose of this door being here". Is every virtual architect a complete moron???

One more time for the dumbies
ar+gu+ment n. A discussion in which reasons are put forward in support of and against a proposition, proposal, or case; debate.

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Well said, Wavinator. Your post got me thinking quite a bit about the concept of detail vs. realism. At first glance the almost seem like the same thing, but the are in fact completely different.

The comment about Thief and all the houses you _couldn't_ go into I think really drove the point home. There are all these wonderfully textured, detailed houses that are essentianly giant holes in the map: almost a 'there be dragons' theme. It's worse than that, though, because most areas marked 'there be dragons' weren't richly textured, high polygon objects. In games of old, you would accept not being able to go to certain parts of the map, simply because there was nothing there, and it _looked_ like nothing was there. Why go somewhere that doesn't exist?

Nowdays, however, we are being presented with artwork that suggests something that can be explored, like a huge skyscraper with thousands of windows (think UT), but it _can't_ be explored. It's a black hole, but we can see it. Of course this doesn't sit well with the player. It leaves our curiousity unsatisfied.

This can be abstracted a little further to include things like footprints on snow, and indestructible weeds. The weeds look so detailed and real that we implicitly think they _are_ real. But when they fail to behave realisically, we are left dissapointed. And this is definately a problem: game developers cannot be expected to make every part of the world behave like real.

How do we deal with this? Well let's look to the masters for help. I always go back to Zelda: Ocarina of Time (which I think is near perfect from a design standpoint). There is no part of the world that looks like you can interact with it but can't. If it looks like you can't go into an area, then you can't. If it _does_ look like you can do something with it, you can. There is no window you cannot enter, and if you can't, there's a door beside it you can. Everything in that game is there for a reason: even the weeds.

I'll let you take your own lesson from this. I try to remember that the player will accept certain inconsistencies between the game and reality, as long as the game is consistent with itself. It's about suspension of disbelief, because we will _never_ be able to make a game that is completely believable, completely realistic. That's why we have to consider everything we put into our games, and how they affect the rest of the game experience: even the lowely weeds.

If any of you actually made it though this, I'd love to hear your thoughts. You have my email

Morbo

Edited by - Morbo on November 19, 2000 6:40:24 PM

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Morbo, that''s one of those good post but hard to answer ones. I vaguely remember heard or reading somewhere that it''s worse to create something that with encourage the players curiosity and not let them play with it than not to have it at all. I still don''t know how to take this statement, i think it''s false. Every player has different expectations from a game and so saying just because something looks like it should be crushable or not is a hard argument as many factor''s come into play likeexperience at games, age, intelligence, and other in-game factors which will alter each players demand from a games environment.



One more time for the dumbies
ar+gu+ment n. A discussion in which reasons are put forward in support of and against a proposition, proposal, or case; debate.

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