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Multiverse

Grand Theft Splinter Cell

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Quite a strange title, but hopefully the reason for it will become apparent. GTA's success and addictivity (is that even a word?) comes from it's sandbox/toolkit design. Heres a world, heres some rules that govern the world, go and do this... without restricting the method of accomplishing a certain task (too much), the player is free to attempt the task in any way they see fit. "I have to go and ice this heavily guarded guy, should i run him over, snipe him, go in all guns blazing?" As the Neo eloquently put it "the problem is choice". Although in this case it's not so much a problem as an opportunity. The downside to this is that the player could fail through no fault of their own. A car could pull out just as your lining up to squish the guy etc. but i'm sure your all familiar with that. ;) so, onto splinter cell. wouldnt it be better to employ the same design ethic as GTA? Heres a building, just there. There are certain ways in, which can be selected by the player. HALO parachute onto the roof, climb through a window, pick the front door, stealth kill the guards and turn of the survailance etc etc. From there you have to make you way to floor X. you could take the lift, climb up the lift shaft, scale the outer walls of the building etc etc. I think you know where i'm going with this. Would that be a improvement? Does a game like SC need a structured route and scenarios to make it enjoyable? does any game? Is this (as another thread put it) "the real future of gaming"?

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The main problem is that you, as the designer, need to think of every conceivable method the player could use to accomplish the goal. GTA characters were pretty much drones. They didn't react specifically to anything you did. In a game where the ideas have been already planned out for you, the dev team is able to provide very specific decisions and interactions from the NPCs.

It's not always a problem. If you're just wanting to break into an area and steal something, then generic AI will do pretty well. But it prevents the designer from giving a unique experience to that one job. It will end up being almost exactly like some other mission to break in and blow something up, except the building is different, guards are in different places, and other little details. If the player has specific routes, the designer is free to add any amount of dialog and details specific to the choices the player makes.

I like the idea though. I prefer generic AI over a set course. When I get bored with games, one of my favorite things to do is to mess the game world up by trying to do things that I'm not supposed to be doing.

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I'm actually 1.7 years into development of my game "Gang War" ( Website ) which is a lot like what you're saying. I'm going to enter it into the Independent Games Festival this year...and I've signed a publishing deal for worldwide distribution after that.

You start in a randomly generated city and you need to reach one of several "victory" conditions in order to win (kill all other gangs, take a certain % of the city, etc.) You play against up to 6 other gangs. The real cool part about this game is the fact that you can give orders to your gangsters like in any RTS game...but you can take control of any of your gang members at any time, and complete missions from the henchman's point of view...using any means necessary...but having to deal with the real world consequences and latter strategic impacts of such actions....legal ramifications,death,etc.

I've modeled the interiors of every building in the city, and it's completly open ended.

I've got a lot of great ideas for the game...if you want more information/screens check out my developers journal here at GameDev ( Developers Journal )

- Dan

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So basically Thief, which provided a relatively open path to victory in each level (the levels where designed more like structures, rather then a linear set of corridors and rooms to be passed in sequence).

(for reference I played Thief before Splinter Cell, resulting in Splinter Cell initially feeling almost like a slightly more interactive copy of the old FMV games)

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Yep I am with Jiia on this. It would be great but it would be very hard to do well. Good AI is hard enough to do when you know exactly which route the player will have to come. Give the player all that freedom and it starts to fall apart.

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Very good point Jiia.

Although the AI in GTA is very drone like, it does display some semblence of thought. And many games go far beyond rudimentary behaviour of GTA's NPC's (RE4, Half Life etc). From what I've seen of Splinter Cell games, the NPC behaviour is not exactly the pinnacle of AI. (admittedly, ive not played much splinter cell, but it struck me as a good example of how to apply sandboxes to other genres)

I guess what my mine gripe about the design of certain games is the linearity of them. Escpecially when other games have shown the benefits of a more open game style. Even if at certain points the gameplay is bottlenecked into certain set pieces, the majority of the world could still be very much a sandbox design.

It may take more time and effort in terms of design, testing and coding, but we should be moving away from the "do this thing this way, otherwise you will fail/die" design.

Quote:

one of my favorite things to do is to mess the game world up by trying to do things that I'm not supposed to be doing.


ever thought about being a bug tester? ;) (assuming your not one already!)

EDIT: A few people posted before i completed mine so i'll adda little here.

dgreen02: That sounds like an awesome idea. I'll be sure to check your site.

Michalson: having never played Theif, i now feel quite envious. but if Theif can do it, why not others too? The idea i get from SC is that the designers want to take you through their lovely little game they've made. "come, look at these set peices I've made for you to do!"
"Well, actually, i want to see whats in this room/window..."
"Hell no! stick to the path!"

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Just for the record, I wasn't using Splinter Cell as a reference. I actually haven't had a chance to play it yet. I've just noticed that stale plots and engine-driven AI usually come free with a sandbox environment. Giving the player real freedom of choice, as in the player is able to do things that even the designer didn't realize, means sacrificing some elements. But I think it's worth it. I much prefer that style of game.

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Quote:
Original post by Multiverse
but if Theif can do it, why not others too? The idea i get from SC is that the designers want to take you through their lovely little game they've made. "come, look at these set peices I've made for you to do!"
"Well, actually, i want to see whats in this room/window..."
"Hell no! stick to the path!"


I'm actually psyched to see more and more people open to the idea of open ended gameplay environments. But the tension is always going to come from those who like structured play and those who like unstructured play. Structured usually goes with story, and mission-based story games rule the roost at the moment.


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Video games are like children: They need some structure, but give them too much and you make them really boring.

Remember that old platformer you used to play? You know, where you had to jump at Juuuust the right time, and then jump over a barrel and immediately duck under a rolling rock? Perfect example of going too far with structure.
On the other hand, who wants a game that lets you drive your car to the store, mix your own explosives with common household cleaners, and then go completely demolish the level you were supposed to sneak through? Well, maybe you would like that, but it would get boring after you blew up your third or fourth building.

Open-ended gameplay requires just enough structure to force you to do something, but not enough to make you feel like you have to do x right after y before you shoot z. See the platformer example above.
Even GTA encourages you to go on missions, and provides cars, guns, and explosives. If it was realistic, you would get your ass kicked by rednecks when you tried to pull them from their cars, the cops would come as soon as you jacked somebody, and you would be killed or arrested for at least a few years.
Maybe it's a good thing games aren't always completely realistically open-ended?

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Quote:
Original post by Meagermanx
If it was realistic, you would get your ass kicked by rednecks when you tried to pull them from their cars, the cops would come as soon as you jacked somebody, and you would be killed or arrested for at least a few years.
Maybe it's a good thing games aren't always completely realistically open-ended?

I'm still waiting for that GTA release. My most beloved moments are while battling it out with the police. When I go back and play the series now, I never go on a mission without at least four stars to spice things up. I don't think you could add enough realism to GTA. In my eyes, it would just keep getting better.

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