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There will be no kissing in the Matrix! And no guns!

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"Look, just stick to the martial arts. That's what people want. This love story jazz and gunplay-- that belongs to a different genre." -Executive Producer from a parallel universe What would our movies look like if we applied genre restrictions to them as narrow as we apply to our games? The Matrix features scenes of martial arts fighting, hovercraft chases, gunplay, intrigue and double dealing and a rising love affair opposed by jealousy. Yet the single moment you propose to translate that-- in gameplay, not just as some plot point-- publishers, game creators and players alike will be up in arms. Why do you suppose that is? Are gamers more strictly segregated into genre camps than movie goers? Is it the case that the average player really only plays one type of game? If so, why? Or is the fact that you have to learn controls and the system behind the game? (IOW, skill building takes time, and so most people don't have the time to get into a lot of different games) Or is it the traditional focus on the need to win, which puts a layer of stress on the player that makes learning the controls and system even more vital (because if you don't, you'll fail and thus not be able to play the game anymore-- or be doomed to repeat it)?
As an aside, I realize genre helps focus people into the material they like. They who like Seabiscuit probably don't want to go see The Shining, and probably wouldn't like them combined... so I'm not asking why genre exists, I'm asking what defines its boundaries in games and why they're so narrow.

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Well, my guess would be that the more narrow the focus, the easier it is to program. I think this is a bad way to go in a MMORPG though. They are already aimed at a pretty small minority of the gaming population, & by eliminating other aspects that draw people to a MMORPG they are shrinking their customer base even more.

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Well, my guess would be that the more narrow the focus, the easier it is to program.
I agree, sadly. It's much easier to design and create one gameplay style that you then stretch into 10 hours of repetition, than it is to create varying styles (each of which is fully developed) that you switch between. The closest we come to that is 'minigames,' but such things are usually very simple and small scale, and do not deviate too much from the main genre though.

That said, I disagree with your assertion that "publishers, game creators and players alike will be up in arms." It's already been done, a lot. I spent a few hours today watching my brother play through Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - most of the game is point-and-click puzzling, but occasionally Indy gets into a fight and you have to tap keys to punch and block like any other fighting game. That was 1992.

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The thing about gaming is that the games have to implicitly teach you how to play. You never start out an RPG with a full team and facing a dozen enemies each fight, its always the one versus a rodent, and then a healer shows up, and then a second enemy starts appearing. When you have two systems of gameplay, then you have to have two implicit tutorials. And if the parts are just that one time, then its explicit tutorials. This starts to confuse players.

I'm not advocating one style of gameplay, I totally encourage multi-genre crossovers (that are within reason, I never want to play blitzball again). Just that it really has to be part of the game, and not just a tack-on.

Suikoden, PS1, had several combat systems actually, although I like Suikoden2's army battles better.

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I think there are two important reasons why cross-genre games aren't particularly successful.

The first is the sheer technical difficulty of integrating genres into a game. The more genres you have, the most possible ways you have of solving puzzles. If that's not the case, then you have a rubbish game.

Suppose you had a martial arts/gun fighting/vehicle piloting/computer hacking cross-genre game. You need to get past a heavily guarded door. Realistically, what could a protagonist do? He could use his martial skills to take down the guards with stealth, he could use a sniper rifle to pick the guards off at a distance, he could use an armored car to run over the guards and smash the door down, he could hack the comms network to give them a priority order to go elsewhere. If the game allowed the player to be particularly sneaky, he might even hack the schedule to make sure that no guards were on duty at that door at a particular time tomorrow.

How easy would it be to make sure that such a game was fun to play, whilst keeping to some kind of theme and storyline? With so many ways to play the game, and so many combinations of these ways -- shoot your way into the computer room (or you could have snuck in through the air ducts), hack the hanger doors to release the groundcars (or you could have used explosives to break the locking mechanism in the hangar itself) and drive one to safety (or you could have disguise yourself and gotten on the enemy's next transport out of there) -- it would be very difficult for the programmer to know how you would have gotten to a particular place in the game. This favours a more freeform style of gameplay, where there is little contextual dependency.

In a film, it is a different matter. The players in a film don't have choices as to how they resolve a problem. In true Matrix style, the choice has already been made: by the scriptwriters. They don't have to worry about what might happen if Neo decides to take the other pill, or the other door, or let Smith have the Matrix: because that doesn't happen.

The second difference between cross-genre games and cross-genre films is how people deal with seeing things they aren't interested in.

When I'm watching a Matrix film and a love scene comes on I immediately stop paying attention. The scenes are devoid of emotional content, for me. If I'm watching it by myself, I'll skip the DVD forward. Sometimes, I'm in the mood for Smith's philosophical musings. Sometimes he bores me and drift off until he's stopped.

Most cross-genre games don't afford one this luxury.

If you're watching a film about a racing driver who streetfights in his spare time, and you don't like racing or street fighting, you can just ignore those parts.

But if you're playing a game about a racing driver who streetfights in his spare time, you can't just ignore the aspect you don't like, because the game won't play it for you.

Of course this doesn't apply to those games that will. Some shoot-em-ups have vehicles in them. I personally enjoy driving around in a shoot-em-up, so it doesn't bother me. But you're likely to please more people more of the time if you can get in the weapons seat of the vehicle and one of your buddies gets in the driving seat. Then, people who don't like driving can keep on shooting. It's also good if you don't have to use a vehicle (at least, not all the time), or if you can pick and choose your vehicles -- in Farcry, for example, you can go on foot, drive a jeep or, if you're near the shore, pilot a boat.

To summarise: Cross-genre games are more difficult to implement than cross-genre films because you have to plan for every possible action rather than just the scripted one. Cross-genre games may make it difficult for the player to concentrate upon the aspects he finds enjoyable because the player can't just tune out when he's not enjoying it.

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I think the problem is that while in movies a genre has come to mean a style of movie in games they have instead become tied to a particular game. When people buy an rpg they know exactly what to expect. They want to play a game that follows a well established formula that they have come to enjoy. They want to experince the content that this version has and see how they've tweeked the formula in the game mechanics. To be honest most genres have changed very little since the intial game that started them.

Gamers have just become to so used to this they find it difficult to think outside of those genres. There is something to be said about safety in all of this. A Gamer who enjoys rpgs knows that can almost always be gaurenteed some enjoy out of game they've never played if they see that knows its an rpg.

Its like football the rules are always the same in every match but you watch/play it because you want to see how the match plays out how the other team will approach the situation.

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Great insight. I just thought of a follow-up question: What genre is the Sims, or Grand Theft Auto?

What makes something its own genre?

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Are gamers more strictly segregated into genre camps than movie goers?


gamers?...um how about game developers? have a look around this very message board...lots and lots of disscussion concerning RPGs...combat, economy, how to make NPCs more real, etc....and 99% of the time the dissucssion revolves around the cliched D&D inspired RPG game worlds of elves, orks, magic and dragons...not a whole lot of "thinking outside the box" among the developers here.

Quote:

Is it the case that the average player really only plays one type of game? If so, why?


The market for video games is still largely juvinile male driven. And its an easy marketing segment to exploit...and it should come as no suprise that some of the targeted audiance feels compelled to become game developers themselves...so many developers seem to have such a small shared set of inspirations, that its little wonder games seem so limited...you reap what you sow, as is said.

And that is the main problem...you have video game developers useing pulp action movies as a model for how to shape thier stories...You have developers whom seem oblivious to novelised fiction outside of the sci-fi/fantasy bookstore section...And as insulting as this sounds, you have developers pushing for complexity in games as they lack it in thier own lives.

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The Sims is a Sim game, in the tradition of Sim City, Sim Ant, or Sim Earth. It's a process of balancing various properties that have complex relationships to one another.

GTA is a hodge-podge of third-person action, driving, flying, and objective-based missions. The most recent installment includes some prosthetic Sim and RPG traits as well. It's a great example of a very loose cross-genre system being effective by prioritizing its structure and knowing its audience. I'll explain. You may want to skip the rest of my post.

When you combine genres in a movie (love/shooting/kung-fu/races/philosophy) in a movie, an audience member can easily "tune out" the bits he isn't interested in, like Nathan does. You close your eyes, go get a drink or fast forward, and when you return to the story something better is happening.

Not so with games. If you're enjoying your butt-kicking action sequence and a tricky dialogue puzzle comes up where you have to woo a chick or convince a potential ally to join you, you can't just sit it out and wait for the kung-fu to come back. You have to engage yourself in the chit-chat and get through it. It hurts your mood, so that even when you get back to punching zombies to death, you're a notch lower than you were last time. Less fun, less enjoyment.

GTA escapes this by softening the requirements. The gunfights that you have to get through to win are among the simplest and least dangerous in the game. The races you have to win are slow and easy, with good vehicles available. The girlfriend you need to progress is not the toughest to impress (that rhymed!). The Sim elements are almost irrelevant.

Most thrid-person shooters are far tougher than the required fights in GTA. Racing games are more sophisticated and difficult than the racing in GTA. Sim games are more complex and stressful than the sim elements in GTA. Every aspect of the game is "dumbed down" so that people who wouldn't ordinarily choose to play such games won't be stuck with it.

And it profits from its legacy and fan base, as well. If GTA: San Andreas was released a month before GTA III came out, players would have been overwhelmed. The car customization, the interpersonal relationships, the branching mission structure, the skill levels, the map, everything would be too much. GTA3 had the basic driving and shooting, and we got used to that. Vice City added property ownership and other features. San Andreas came along and added still more. Familiarity with old games made the new ones tolerable.

It was observed on a different thread that when you combine genres, you don't get the union of the fanbases; you get the intersection. A racing strategy game won't get racers and strategists; it'll get racing strategists. Movies, with the "tune out" option, can attract the union. A chick flick with a few really bitchin' car chases will get sappy weepers and action fans, and the snack booth will benefit because they'll be leaving the theatre in turns. Games don't have that luxury. Unless you build it in.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
You may want to skip the rest of my post.


Are you crazy? Wouldn't miss it for the world! [lol]

Quote:

When you combine genres in a movie (love/shooting/kung-fu/races/philosophy) in a movie, an audience member can easily "tune out" the bits he isn't interested in, like Nathan does. You close your eyes, go get a drink or fast forward, and when you return to the story something better is happening.


Wow. This to me is AMAZING. I simply never would have imagined that people do this. I can't remember ever doing this, but maybe it explains the rise in people text messaging, cell phone calling or making loud jokes in a theatre.

If this is the widespread response, it certainly explains one major limitation between these two forms of media.

Quote:

GTA escapes this by softening the requirements. The gunfights that you have to get through to win are among the simplest and least dangerous in the game. The races you have to win are slow and easy, with good vehicles available. The girlfriend you need to progress is not the toughest to impress (that rhymed!). The Sim elements are almost irrelevant.

Most thrid-person shooters are far tougher than the required fights in GTA. Racing games are more sophisticated and difficult than the racing in GTA. Sim games are more complex and stressful than the sim elements in GTA. Every aspect of the game is "dumbed down" so that people who wouldn't ordinarily choose to play such games won't be stuck with it.


I had thought this was for mass market appeal, but from this perspective it does make sense. This would key in not only with the learning curve idea, but with people's preferences.

Quote:

And it profits from its legacy and fan base, as well.


Yes, this I guess is what I find most frustrating. We can only relate to something if we've seen it before, and I imagine that, on the whole, few of us are xenophilic enough to try something totally new that we can't relate to. Yet there are the Parappa the Rappas and Katamai Damacy type-games, which are totally new.

However, thinking about it, the problem stems probably from seeing something you've played and wanting more of the same. So I'd conclude that when most of us say we want something new, we're lying. [lol] What we want is a variation on something we've already played.

Quote:

It was observed on a different thread that when you combine genres, you don't get the union of the fanbases; you get the intersection. A racing strategy game won't get racers and strategists; it'll get racing strategists. Movies, with the "tune out" option, can attract the union. A chick flick with a few really bitchin' car chases will get sappy weepers and action fans, and the snack booth will benefit because they'll be leaving the theatre in turns. Games don't have that luxury. Unless you build it in.


This is a good, if damnably annoying [smile], point. Technology limits and development budget wastage aside, if you build something that has depth in multiple genres, you'll need the "skip this, I'm bored, I don't like this stuff" button.

Hmmm...




Here's a side question: Indie developers will increasingly not be able to keep up with the graphics firepower of mainstream games. So if genre is so strictly segregated among players, how will indies distinguish themselves. I can't imagine a doomed future of making nothing but Bejeweled clones (not knocking those, they make money, but does this mean that the window for complex games is closing?)

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