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Kill or capture -- dead or alive?

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1. Is it more enjoyable to kill an enemy or to capture them alive? 2. If it is more enjoyable to shoot them down, what is it about doing this that makes it more fun? 3. How can we make capturing enemies /criminals more fun in games?

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In my experience, as a generalisation, either your choices have been limited to kill or flee, or incapacitation has just been another way of eliminating a threat.

An example of a game where non-lethal attacks were a meaningful alternative is XCOM: UFO - capturing live aliens was necessary to complete the game (thoughyou would typically expect to capture a few from smoke inhalation or whatever in the normal course of "lethal" combat - assuming you're not too prone to overkill... Until you master the alien stun guns, your only stun options are hand-to-hand weapons, which makes capture a very risky business compared to killing at extreme range...

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Guest Anonymous Poster
The problem with captures lies in the game AI. Its usually so bad, that capturing the enemies is just tedious and there isnt much reward for doing so...
Most games play some simple animation of the enemy putting there hands on their heads and then either just sit there for the remainder of the level or dissapear, and at the end of the level you may get some stupid bonus points for captures... this sucks...

I personally would find it alot more fun if for example, I could capture the enemy, bind their hands and use them as a human shield!
Or grab them by the hair, drag them around, and do something fun, like throw them out of a window onto enemies below, or force them to open doors for example. But I wouldnt want them to following me around, running after me like in Max Pain.... It would be much more satisfying to drag them

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I think the biggest problem with capturing people in game is, what the heck do you do with them? Expecialy since, usualy, you are all alone and there are several dozen if not hundreds of enemies that you have to take care of.

If they just sit there after surendering then there really is not in game difference than killing them. If you have to take them to a holding cell, that is just tedious.

If there is an option for knock out, I have been known to replay a game to see how few people I can kill, i.e Theif 2, Deus Ex.

I could see a herding game possibly being fun. Picture a small sheep herding girl in a blue dress and a hearding staff runing around trying to get sheep back into the pen.

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Just a funny observation: Notice how premise impacts how enjoyable you think something will be? Since most games are usually you versus the horde, the assumptions so far of an FPS with you versus a legion of baddies is understandable.

But what if there were only one enemy to capture? I remember for a coding challenge a team made a game with hundreds of NPCs, but only one target. You had only one shot, and had to use radar to locate him. The catch was that every time you used your radar he knew it, and would flee.




Quote:

1. Is it more enjoyable to kill an enemy or to capture them alive?


Since the phase preceding the capture involves a lot of gameplay, the capturing phase would have to provide just as much gameplay. A movie like Midnight Run would be an example, where even after the capture things still go on.

Quote:

2. If it is more enjoyable to shoot them down, what is it about doing this that makes it more fun?


Tactics, adrenaline rush and schedenfruede, I think. You beat a human simulacrum with your mind, in a semblance of violence satisfying because its not real yet provides catharsis for many complicated emotions, chief among them "kicking someone's ass." (Listen to gamers play in focus groups, or trash talk in vs. play if you don't believe me).


Quote:

3. How can we make capturing enemies /criminals more fun in games?


First break down the process of capturing, including (if this is the focus), tracking, environmental clues, social cues and whatever strategies you can find commonly used in manhunting.

Then pull out as much as you find interesting, and try reducing that into rules without losing the flavor of what you've extracted. [smile]

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... use them as a human shield! ... or force them to open doors for example.


You can do both in Splinter Cell.

The hardest setting in Theif also made it so you couldn't kill, or in some cases even knock out anyone. Killing is the mark of the amateur. ;D

I also liked the incapacitation factor in Deus Ex, though there wasn't much reward other than personal satisfaction and a few lines of different text. It would help if taking them alive had more long-term benefits than outright killing them.

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In good games, I like having the option of incapacitating or converting an enemy instead of simply killing them.

In games like Age of Empires, one of my favorite things to do is get alot of priests and convert as many enemies as possible. Of course, I make sure to have some military units to guard the priests while they do this. Then I can add the new recruits to my army. Essentially, I think this is a neat way to not have to "kill" the enemy and still get a nice reward for doing so.

The same thing goes in the Ratchet and Clank games, I like using the weapons like the Morph-O-Ray or Sheepinator because they turn the enemies into harmless animals. Though arguably, they have the bonus on not needing ammo and if upgraded let the transformed animals damage your enemies for you. Of course, these weapons don't work on the tougher enemies so I still have to kill the ones who can't be "incapacitated".


I think there is also a game called Jack of All Trades which is a sort of trading space game and when you damage your enemies ship enough then it is merely incapacitated and you can beam aboard to loot their ship. But it's tough to do because you have to damage them just enough and often they are doing their best to kill you. Also, you have to bequick because they can get their ship repaired quickly and start blasting you again.


So basically, I think that alot of games can be improved if there is the option to incapacitate enemies, and it's better if there is a reward for doing so.

Like if you're fighting terrorists, then it would be in your best interest to kill ones who are trying to kill you but if there are ones who will surrender, then you handcuff them and send them in for interrogation or something. Since getting information is better than just having a bunch of dead terrorists.

Likewise, if its a futuristic setting. Then there could be bounties on space pirates and you get a big reward for capturing the pirate alive, a large reward for bringing in their body, and a decent reward for bringing in a recording of their ship blowing up.

As for capturing, then in a futuristic setting you could use something like a Teleport-ray or Stasis-beam that requires the enemy stay still for a while and that only works if you knock them out or make them surrender. And modern-day settings would have things like hand-cuffing them and then herding them together and having someone guard them. And yeah, forcing them to open doors or search through boxes would be good because it's realistic and gives you a little reward (not putting yourself at risk of getting blown up by a booby trap).

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The biggest thing for me is getting something out of it. It's tougher to capture them alive, expecially when they're using lethal force against you. Look at what precautions the police take to ensure a high capture rate. They have technological superiority in almost all cases (pepper spray vs. trailer trash, SWAT vs. liquor store robber, etc.) so they own the situation even if the other guy escalates it as far as he possibly can. They look for superior numbers, and usually have it. They rock the house with communications and intelligence, so that by the time they move, they're unbeatable, and they can probably maintain so high a degree of control that they don't have to kill the dude.

As a single player character, I'll have to work my butt off to capture these dudes, unless the game is structured such that I'm invincible and they're retarded (Splinter Cell). I want a much higher bounty, or a big step up in my reputation, or a new cyber-ally once that dude's brain is replaced with a sidekick-tron 6000. It should be worth my while to knock him down, tie him up, and drag his resisting butt all the way back to HQ.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Using non-lethal methods can be effective in online games that allow player versus player interaction. The one thing that can be said about many people is that, if they feel they have a chance at victory they won't flee. It can also be said that if they feel they have no chance at escaping, they won't try. This is why non-lethal methods should exist. As for a reward... there are two things I could see. You could either have a bounty system that would reward you for capturing a target or you could have an alignment system that would feel rewarding for staying good (in the player's mind anyhow, good and evil should be balanced).

As far as other genres moving to a kill or capture path... I just don't see it. If killing or capturing is the difference between shooting an enemy 1 more time or hitting him with a club for the last hit, AND the reward for capturing is something that cannot be pushed aside, then you have pretty much made a dominate choice (ie: nobody in their right mind would choose to kill). However, if combat as a whole is changed, then I'd be much more likely to forget capturing entirely. What you want to create is a choice, kill or capture, but the only way it would have meaning is if both sides had clear benefits (such as, killing gives 10% more experience, but capturing gives more gold).

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Why would you capture an opponent?

Either they're a resource that can be traded for money or mission completion, or they can provide something while alive that they can't provide dead, like information.

Neutralizing reduces your overall body count, which is good sometimes, so non-lethal methods can be useful when fighting police officers or getting rid of civilian witnesses.

Sometimes, you're compelled by ethics to take prisoners you don't really want, like when the enemy surrender. What am I going to do with fifteen tied-up ninjas?

In PvP, it might be worthwhile to surrender. If the other guy kills you after you surrender, he loses XP. Just being captured isn't as bad as getting killed, since he can only take one item from your inventory, rather than looting your corpse. On the other hand, he might not just take an item and leave you, he might take you prisoner, and your guild would have to pay a ransom to get that character back. Heck, he could throw you in the dungeon and you'd have to play your mule until you rake together 10,000 gold for bail.

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