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lack of appropriate affect

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"Lack of appropriate affect" is a technical term for reacting to things with the wrong emotion or with no emotion. This behavior is a symptom of many mental disorders, but it is also an essential trait of comic and horriffic characters. Ferex: A comic character frequently overreacts to small problems and underreacts to big problems. A horriffic character may replace the expected empathy with other characters'' problems with delight, disgust, or impassivity. As writers, we do not have the power to tell a player: "OK, now react inappropriately." It''s very disconcerting to be playing a customizable character and yet have the character expressing emotions that you would never feel in the same situations. This is one reason why the character the player is supposed to identify with most is traditionally an Average Joe, or even silent (like in Chronotrigger). But let''s say we''re tired of this barrier. We want the central character to have real personality, but we want that personality to match the real player''s. What do we do? Give the player a personality test as part of the character generation? Give the player more choices in the dialogue? Should these choices have an effect on how the game''s plot progresses?

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I think you''ve hit on a fundamental problem in a lot of games. You simply cannot dictate to a player how he feels.

In this way games suffer when compared to books. In books, the protagonist can feel afraid or delighted at the command of the author. In games, it''s annoying.

The idea of providing alternate dialog choices is ok, but (IMO) you would have a to have a very smart system so that the player won''t get choices that are discontinuous.

If the player responds angrily then they shouldn''t be able to choose a sorrowful line immediately after. But this still isn''t satisfying, since it artifically imposes a fixed structure on how the player is supposed to feel.

You could reward the player for consistently playing a certain personality or set of feelings.

Example: player character falls in love with NPC. If they are consistent in their dialog, reward them with a response from the NPC (not necessarily a return of affections, but different behavior than the norm).

Trying to evoke feelings in the is one of the most difficult writing tasks that I can think of; dictating the player emotions makes for bad gameplay.

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We can't make the player feel a certain way, but we can, if an appropriate event occurs, hijack the player's character. How would this scenario be:

I am moving my character forward (right on the screen, say) when suddenly I come upon a scary group of monsters. So scared is my character that I run away (left), faster than I am usually able to run, despite my continuing to press the right arrow key. When I am out out danger I gain control over myself again, and wonder whether a potion exists which will allow me to maintain control over myself through such a scary environment.
Realising that I ran faster when I was scared, I also wonder whether I will be able to evoke that fear in a stage where I may need to run very fast.

I'm not sure anyone has used this before, but I thought of it myself. The player may not appreciate this happening all the time, so you'd use it sparingly, otherwise the player's character would be part NPC - controlled by the computer much of the time. You could also have the player get uncontrollably angry and commit violence against his will, or get really happy and dance around, or cocky/drunk and say something stupid.


Edited by - AndyMan on November 29, 2000 3:42:33 AM

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Hmmm, it is interesting, but I think that overall players don''t want to lose control. It makes them feel like they are just the puppet master instead of actually IN the game. When such occurs, there is a great loss for the game.

This could, however, still be done to a certain extent, that makes the player ACTUALLY act like that. But I will ponder on this some more.. hmmm...

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          

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quote:
Original post by dwarfsoft

Hmmm, it is interesting, but I think that overall players don''t want to lose control. It makes them feel like they are just the puppet master instead of actually IN the game. When such occurs, there is a great loss for the game.




Sorry, but I''m going to have to agree with Dwarfsoft on this one. Even playing a wargame, where units experience panic and suppression and don''t act as they''re supposed to, is extremely annoying (probably to all but the hardcore grognard). Heck, people even get ticked when the pathfinding is bad, and units don''t go the way you want them to... and these are ''characters'' that aren''t even supposed to be under your control!

If players get mad at this, I can only imagine how they''d react to a character that they were supposed to have complete control over (because it''s them in the game world)





--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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I know I won't get much agreement, but I'm of the opinion that this is exactly the place you should be applying the most abstraction and the least control. The experience of character is happening in the player's head anyway, highly internalized, so the more you stay out of it, the better... unless you want to give up customization, and have the player feel they're guiding a character (Laura, Duke Nukem, Abe, etc) rather than BEING their own person in the world.

Wouldn't it be better, instead, to use the traditional narrative tool of letting supporting characters take up the burden of effect. Have sidekicks and mates, the townsfolk, and enemies all give the perfect reaction, perfectly under authorial control. When the princess is captured, the player's justice minded ally could express all the appropriate emotion. If the offer is made to the party to go rescue the princess, the NPC could react with appropriate author scripted reservation, or self-doubt, or zeal.

The player, then, would be keying off of this. Chosing responses and actions. They'd be having their own emotions, yes, but rather than diving into the quagmire that is cognitive modeling (and interpreting), let their actions speak louder than words.

The more nuanced you get in trying to interprete the player's experience, the less room you leave for whatever their true responses might be. Until we get biofeedback and brainwave analysis in games, I think this might be the best we'll get.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

Edited by - Wavinator on November 29, 2000 5:33:57 AM

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I know most disagree with me, but I guess I''m "old schoool". I''m of the opinion that the game designer should deliberately remove control from the player at certain times. I always loved games like FF3 where you lose cntrol whenever there is plot development. I guess I prefer to tell a story rather than make an interactive toy. I know you guys are a lot more from the real-life role playing idea where you have complete control, but I think there are problems with that when you bring it to computers. It''s just too hard to account for all of the players possible actions.

I don''t know. Flame me if you must.

"When i was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of
the corner of my mind. I turned to look, but it was
gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has
grown, the dream has gone." -Pink Floyd

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I can definitely see where Gregor is coming from. In a table-top RPG, you damn near always have control of your character (except maybe in situations where there is no plot development, and the GM and the party just assume that nothing happened). In computers, it is almost impossible to account for all possiblities. Same with tabe-top, but a computer can''t improv like a GM can. In MMORPGs, there really isn''t any plot development. Assuming you actually find a group of RPers, the plot is determined equally by everyone, there is no GM, and there is no "rules" system that has to limit you. That''s where the most ralism comes in, in an MMORPG, not a standard RPG. In a standard RPG, things just have to happen.

But most hardcore RPGers (long live FF ) will agree that, while they can''t have their own feelings dictated to them, you start to take on the mindset of the protagonist while playing. It''s like watching a movie, where you want certain things to happen for the protagonist. For example, in Final Fantasy 7 (a very nice game, aside from translation issues) Aeris dies at one point. Now, I start to sympathize with the character I play (even though they aren''t real), and this fact PISSED ME OFF! In an RPG, you don''t have to dictate how a person feels. You just dictate how the character feels, and hope they follow. In the above example, I know people who have played FF7, and they didn''t seem to give a crap that Aeris dies. From what I have seen, these are also the people who didn''t seem to like the game, or most RPGs for that matter. Unless the person can identify with the character, or at least sympathize, the game isn''t going to work. There were many points in FF7 where Cloud (the protagonist) acts like a complete jack-ass. When he treated the other protagonists poorly, it made me angry. Not at the designers, but at the character himself. It gives you a more broad feel.

Anyway, I think I''m rambling. Just my $0.02

ArtemisX

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Probably not the answer you''re looking for, but hey.

There are those games that sacrifice customizability for guarunteed quality. You are able, as a writer, to draw a concrete line between the mind of the player and the mind of the character. A LOT of games do this, but there''s a good reason why.

In any game I have ever played, they have never been designed for the user to derive enjoyment from the actual role-play of the character. Even then, the most deep and personal experiences that people say touched them from games are usually relatively static moments in plot. Most of the time, as long as you let the player control the pass/fail of the story, they are content to watch.

Yeah, that''s not always true. But as a general rule, i''ve noticed this:
Proportionate to the quality of a game''s story, you can remove a certain amount of "interactivity." This means that games with really well written characters, well directed scenes, good acting, good art, good everything; these games COULD get by with a minimum of "interactivity". Regrettably, I''ve seen too few of these. (meaning none.)

Subsequently, the more interactivity you have, the less story you NEED. Mind you, this is NEED, not SHOULD HAVE. Story and interactivityu are NOT mutually exclusive, just hard to do both at the same time.

I personally like some of the games that just say "No, this is the character. If you want to be yourself, get off yer ass and do it..." Sometimes. Different games for different times.

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quote:
Original post by AndyMan

We can''t make the player feel a certain way, ...


I really don''t think it''s impossible to manipulate the player''s feelings, just difficult. In the comic genre, one of my original examples, comic writers can predict when their audience is going to laugh; the whole point of the setup-punch structure is to manipulate the audience into laughing. And look at ''fortunately-unfortunately'' plotting, that old workhorse that powers almost every romance novel there is. It doesn''t matter if you''ve read a zillion romance novels or none, reading about the main character''s alternating strokes of luck and misfortune of escalating magnitude will manipulate you into feeling pity and sympathy for the main character, and vicarious triumph when they get their ''happily ever after'' ending.

There have to be other things that are as effectively manipulative as this - I suspect the horror genre has a lot of them because disgust and fear are easier to provoke than sympathy.

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