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What's not to like about playing a spirit?

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It may be my perception, but it seems to me that games where you play some sort of spirit don't resonate with players all that much. Can anything be done to change this? I've been exploring an idea that involves playing some sort of spirit/energy form that is either bound to an item or capable of possessing or joining with human beings. Yet I've noticed that many of these types of "ghost games" haven't done all that well. What do you think the major obstacle is to this sort of concept? Is it not being able to relate? Or maybe discomfort with the idea of not being a physical being? Or something else? I thought that it may simply be a problem with the player's presence being too abstract. If this is the case, would it help to have a physical, human looking form to relate to?

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there are two reasons i can think of:
1)this type of energy is hard to relate to. it doesnt fall in love, doesnt get mad, it cannot be shy...and well it's basicly missing all the feelings we relate to.
2)people think that the idea is very innovative and think that it is enough to have a good idea and dont concentrate too much on other espects of the game.

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Make the game first person and the lightness might not matter so much. I mean, when you're playing Quake, you really only get to see your hands and the gun - so what you look like might not matter so much. As an energy being, you should be able to fly and pass through walls and such - that might be interesting in first person.

I think it's about not being able to relate. It's hard to identify with the ethereal - lightness, insubstantiality, intangible, delicate - as physical beings we can't really bring those kinds of non-physical qualities with us to a game. We don't know those things from being them, we can only imagine it and perhaps putting that much imagination into a game is too much effort for too many people. To me those kinds of qualities seem more contemplative and there aren't a lot of comtemplative games - chess, go, the glass bead game [smile].

It's like writing about heaven and hell, the writing about hell is always so much better. It's difficult for flawed beings to relate to perfect ones.

How about a game where you are a demon intent on possessing people - green barf and all - if you make it over the top and graphic - head twists, crucifix ..., eerie glossolalia - plus a few more original twists not taken from the movie - you could create such an uproar in the media that you'll sell a million copies! [grin]

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The last game I encountered of this sort was one in which you played a baby-faced cherubic angel, and had to possess different opponents in order to advance through the game. IIRC, the main downfall of the game was a wonky user interface.

I guess Black & White might be consider as another such game, but that might be stretching it. Neverwinter Nights also had such a system for DMs to possess different creatures in the game, but this was clunky with the radial menus.

Personally, if the game interface was fluid, I wouldn't have a problem (moral, religious, or otherwise) with the concept of possession/joining of in-game characters.

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Casper anyone ?

Tbh, Messiah, (the game you're reffering to) had more problems than just the wonky user interface.. Learning curve, difficulty, certain points where some posessions were essential added to its downfall. I don't think the lack of success that the game had was related to the spirit thingy, though.

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Generally, part of the gameplay of being a ghost is that you the ghost don't have much direct influence of your environs. Players on the other hand feel helpless when they percieve that they can't "do anything".

Note the difference in success between God Games [players are in-substantial, but have direct influence] and Ghost Games...

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I hear Geist (for GameCube) has a spectral element that's very nice. I can't say anything from experience, though.

I agree with forgottensoul that the intangibility of the character inhibits empathy. Maybe open the game with a cutscene about how you were a great hero of an ancient race, who sacrificed himself and was imprisoned in the artifact a billion years ago in order to save his people. They're long dead and forgotten, but you're still suffering on their behalf. Then, when your ruins are excavated and the artifact is subjected to psionic scans, you are imbued with crazy psi powers and locomotion, so you can once again set out and do good and blah blah blah. Or something like that.

If they can think of themselves as a person in spirit form, rather than a spirit pretending to be a character, it might be easier.

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It's gimmicky. The possessing different characters thing isn't really all that innovative; it's just like switching from one game to another. The inhibiting empathy part can be important when your character has no history. The immortality part can hinder the tension.

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I can only think of Geist, Messiah and Omikron, The Nomad Soul when thinking of previous "possession" orientated games, although I've played neither of those. From what I've read though, the problems with those games were related to other issues (such as bugs, bad level design, or just lack of marketing maybe?) rather than the initial concept.

I'd say that there is an issue about the loss of ability to relate to the spirit in those games. In most third-person action games, there's a well defined protagonist that the player can relate to, and the marketing people can slap on the cover of the box. It's a bit harder to relate to a disembodied spirit.

If you give the spirit a personality of its own, or some kind of appearance (even if it's only in the minds of the possessed), then that might help. Your game also had the advantage that it's not a third-person action game, but some kind of RPG/strategy hybrid (if I remember correctly), so you can emphasis a different aspect of the game. From your recent questions I don't think you are going for "quick" possessions, where you only possess a character for a short period of time, so the personality of the host body is important too.

So I guess it depends on how integral the possession is to the gameplay of your final game. Given there's so much other stuff in there already I'm not sure how important the spirit possession will be to the final presentation of the game (you've got a lot more game you can advertise [smile]).

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Ghosts are essentially about the visual (seeing and being seen), which is why they rock in films, and about communicating as opposed to acting, which is why they do well in books. Games are essentially about physical interaction, so it's no wonder playing ghosts does not compete. Rooting the ghost in the physical world through tricks like possession is cheating.

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Ghosts are essentially about the visual (seeing and being seen), which is why they rock in films, and about communicating as opposed to acting, which is why they do well in books. Games are essentially about physical interaction, so it's no wonder playing ghosts does not compete. Rooting the ghost in the physical world through tricks like possession is cheating.


Traditional Spirits aren't generally about being seen, Hollywood often does that to illicit more of a response from viewers, and of course to make box-office cash. The Blair Which Project, or that one film where they see deaths plan for them (the name eludes me) is probably more true to how ghosts really would behave than other films. Communication through dreams, Hallucinations, subtle things like sounds, a flicker of something just out of sight, are more common things. They could however also use Telekenesis, move objects, hurt people physically, or even throw things around, much like in Poltergest. ;D

Personally, i would be perfectly happy with a ball of light with transparent fillaments around it, floating around in 3rd person, using 2 analog joysticks to steer up and around. I'd have my bag of ghost tricks or just fly into people and try to "possess" them. Or i could sit outside and shut all the doors, making the walls bleed to freak them out. Hell thats always fun. ;D

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How would a spirit level-up? I'd guess spirit games aren't that popular because it'd be tough to design some feeling of progression of your character.

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i think almost any idea can be made into a great game or a pice of crud, look at katamari, if you went to a developer with rolling a sticky ball around to pick up junk it proabaly wouldnt sound too good.

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Original post by kseh
How would a spirit level-up? I'd guess spirit games aren't that popular because it'd be tough to design some feeling of progression of your character.


Is there any reason why a spirit couldn't level like any other character, developing abilities that change gameplay?

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Original post by Kaze
i think almost any idea can be made into a great game or a pice of crud, look at katamari, if you went to a developer with rolling a sticky ball around to pick up junk it proabaly wouldnt sound too good.


You're right that it all comes down to execution, ultimately. And there is limited value in posting an idea if it's really, really contrary to the norm. [smile] (I wonder how we here would have received someone posting about katamari?)

Quote:
Original post by Gyrthok
Personally, i would be perfectly happy with a ball of light with transparent fillaments around it, floating around in 3rd person, using 2 analog joysticks to steer up and around. I'd have my bag of ghost tricks or just fly into people and try to "possess" them. Or i could sit outside and shut all the doors, making the walls bleed to freak them out. Hell thats always fun. ;D


This sounds like it would really work for a hardcore poltergeist game. [smile] (eh, not sure for a sci-fi RPG/strategy game, but what the heck, I'm already out on a limb...)

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
I'd say that there is an issue about the loss of ability to relate to the spirit in those games. In most third-person action games, there's a well defined protagonist that the player can relate to, and the marketing people can slap on the cover of the box.


Just as an aside, I use this as the first and best clue for me to avoid the game. JC Dention, Sam Fisher, etc., etc. all tell me that the game is gonna be more about them than me. But good point.

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From your recent questions I don't think you are going for "quick" possessions, where you only possess a character for a short period of time, so the personality of the host body is important too.


Yes, it's starting to look like there should be some sort of "virtual pet" (er, for lack of a better word) gameplay with interacting with the host. The host I think still gives you a form to relate to (a face, as it were).

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So I guess it depends on how integral the possession is to the gameplay of your final game. Given there's so much other stuff in there already I'm not sure how important the spirit possession will be to the final presentation of the game (you've got a lot more game you can advertise [smile]).


Well, FWIW, although I've been all over the map in recent posts, the core idea I've been working with involves fallen gods, a fantastical sci-fi future, and casting the player as some force that can survive time and change the future. Months ago I tried out the idea of quantum AI and downloadable souls, but I didn't like how impersonal the idea was. My hope here is that this idea *MIGHT* resonate a bit more, especially because it could be used to explain events in history (from a sort of ghost Illuminati angle).

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Wavinator:

Im curious, as I have been vaugly following most of your threads for the past year or so... do you intend this as a general commentary on gameplay mechanics and possibilities, or are you planning on adding this to your game? As I can recall your game was something of a space action rts hybrid, but I could be mistaken I suppose? If you are indeed planning on adding that to your previous endevors design document, I would be most concerned with how exactly it would fit in. This is an already done thing on a variety of games, as many people mentioned the failures were not with the subject matter, but the implementation thereof. I remember reading about this zombie game where you are a hand, and you take over people to achieve your goals. No reason that could not be an extreemly successfull game. But IMHO if you are still working on that space RTS/RPG/ACTION game, and you were intending this to be a part of it, playing as a possessive item, or cellestialler spirit will probably cause problems with your whole planatary action form of the game I would immagine. Then again, im not sure anymore your seriousness on that original design, or have you dismissed it entirely?

Richard

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Original post by LessBread
As an energy being, you should be able to fly and pass through walls and such - that might be interesting in first person.


Yes, there are many implications here, such as being able to spy on others or gain access to areas you'd normally not be able to reach. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this. Without some limit, it could be very unbalancing. It also places ENORMOUS pressure on the game to render vignettes for all the places you should be able to enter. For these reasons, I'm strongly leaning toward nixing any kind of ethereal travel-- you either snap to hosts, or (maybe) some rare and special item that you're bound to (that could wait around for another host much like the Sauron's ring at the beginning of LOTR).

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I think it's about not being able to relate. It's hard to identify with the ethereal - lightness, insubstantiality, intangible, delicate - as physical beings we can't really bring those kinds of non-physical qualities with us to a game.


Funny, though. I think you have a point about the non-physical, but part of playing a character is getting to do things you'd never be able to do (like being superman, or warping to different planets).

Would it be any easier to relate if you were somehow a fusion of person and ghost? That is, you have (via story) a basis for relating to once being a character, and before finding a host you're simply a glowing character?

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It's like writing about heaven and hell, the writing about hell is always so much better. It's difficult for flawed beings to relate to perfect ones.


Does this still apply if you have needs as a ghost, or resources, or limits?

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How about a game where you are a demon intent on possessing people - green barf and all - if you make it over the top and graphic - head twists, crucifix ..., eerie glossolalia - plus a few more original twists not taken from the movie - you could create such an uproar in the media that you'll sell a million copies! [grin]


[lol] I'll let you make that one! Reminds me of the 1930s, where every playwright worth his salt was trying to get the Catholic Church to ban his play-- just so that attendance would triple!

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Another spirit like game I played b4 is Relic, its in Japanese, so i have no idea what its talking about, its a beautiful 2d game tho. You go around possessing creatures and robots, if your spirit level up, the creature you possesses also become stronger, animals hates humans, so if you possess one of them, the other faction will be hostile towards you, attacking your allie also causes hostility.

Another not so spirit like game is Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom, the basic idea is this, the main character can confine phantoms (ghost like characters) to an object and allow them to exist in this world for a brief period, different ghosts has different duration. The ghosts inherit the attributes of the objects they're confined in, like if one is confined to a rock, he will have high defense bonus, but lowered speed penalty. The game have many other factors to consider during confinement, so its pretty tiring (for people like me) and frustrating, Im thanksful the game didnt go one step further in complicating the gameplay.

There's a reason why big games like Imperium Galactica doesnt appeal to many players, it has too many things to consider, and plan while playing, somehow I think it became more like a chore playing games like this. For me, I think games're supposed to be fun and relaxing, not to further stressing your already tired mind. Better leave the thinking and calculating to work and study. But I must admit Im not a very hardcore player. Games that have straight forward gimmicks will appeal to me more than overly deep concepts.

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Original post by PaulCesar
Wavinator:

Im curious, as I have been vaugly following most of your threads for the past year or so... do you intend this as a general commentary on gameplay mechanics and possibilities, or are you planning on adding this to your game?


Thanks for asking, and a well deserved question given that I've been posting so many elliptical topics of late.

Here is my goal: I'd like to offer a fusion between RPG and empire game that lets you play a series of connected characters in a fantastical, continuously changing future. Most of the gameplay should focus on thriving in this future, making changes, and weathering or warding off great events. I'd like the specific gameplay to involve lots of character interaction, vehicle use, and minigames.

Since RPGs demand strong character identification, I've been experimenting with ways that you can both play a single character and survive over long stretches of time (as fits an empire game's scale). The means for survival MUST be technology independent, which (in theory) would provide a very surprising and flexible range of possibilities for the game world (empires could collapse or be conquered, for instance).

The game also (for the feel I'm after) must be free of out-of-game restoring (quickloading), and death needs to not end the play experience.

It might seem that spirits don't fit into this at all, but I think sci-fi has room for spirits (look at Peter F. Hamilton's the Naked God series, where spirits are explained as energy patterns that imprint on neural structures, and the dead come back to hijack the living). Storywise, your role as a spirit could have very alien origins, and could relate to the destiny of the human race.

Of course, the usual disclaimer applies: As I've said before, not everything I want will make it in. Shoot for the stars, as the saying goes, because even if you miss you might hit the moon. [smile]

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The big impact on your game world that it might just not fit into is the aspect of all your races featuring different gameplay types and potentialy differing goals. While perhaps you could have an avatar for each, this may be a rough and problematic perversion to the gameplay you intend for many of your races.

One of the 2 games I am in the process of developing (1 on contract, and 1 on my own) involves something that may also fit your bill outside of spirits. And that is bloodlines.

Attach the gameplay to a particular family, and play through the generations. You could even introduce stat perversion through cross breeding within sub-races. This would give you a fabel esque attachment to the development of your particular "sub-race". This could be shown graphicaly as well, and would create an indefinate amount of immersion.

The player may then lose a bit of the connection to the charactor, but if you create a decent formulae for respect for a family and an individual , and balance the two , you will create a strong connection to the family line, and a reason for the player to not sacrifice himself.

If you wish to offer a way to die and "respawn" easily, have people (behind the scenes) store their information in "memory capsuls", which are transmitted over some intersteller wi-fi to the home (or something similar for each race) This would include account data (bank accounts, unless you wanted a centralized family account), quest status (if applicable), weapon proficiancies, etc, and the location of the body to retrieve weaponry and such.

Though in intersteller warfare and RTS like atmosphere, most items such as body armor and laser guns can just be disregarded , as they are just not expensive in respect to the big scheme.

This would make death a nuesence, but not the end of the world, Create a sense of loyalty and attachment to your charactor(s) and family, provide a very sensable storyline attachment to the whole "infinate life" thing, explain managing large bank accounts, as well as a whole wealth of depth it would add with the whole side scheme of finding the best genes for your breeding (want to make your charactor more apt in telekenetics... breed with one gifted, upon death or old age / retirement he/she will take over. In addition, upon death you may have a selection of charactors of fighting age to choose from, dependent on the breeding statistics of the race in question, and the ferociaty in which you took to breeding.

If you want to guarentee there is always a "next in line" simply give them a child at the start of each generation.

In this far of a future, physical aptitude will probably be more genetic, and technology or biogeneticaly effected anyways, so "leveling up" can be safely removed. A previous post of mine, I dealt with the removal of HP and basing it on 3 basic statistics, 2 of which would pass on quite easily through memory capsuls. Feel free to refer to the post as an amendment to this post.

Richard

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I've never understood posession gameplay; it's awkward in implementation, story, graphical presentation, etc. To top it off, it's not really a ghost or spirit ability.

How about interaction more along the lines of Lemmings or an RTS? You influence characters into doing what you want with different abilities. Maybe even have each character react a bit differently. As to what end you do this, I'm not sure. It's just a suggestion to think about.

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I am amazed that no one has mentioned Soul Reaver's Raziel ability to phase from the Spirit Realm to the Physical Realm, in Defiance, he had to posses burried bodies in order to reach the Physical Realm, to me it was pretty good gameplay, something similar where the player poseses living creatures and people would be pretty cool.

In the Soul Reaver games, the spirit realm was a distorted bluish version of the physical realm where the player could not interact with most physical contraptions (levers, doors) and was inhabited by evil spirits and wandering souls.

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Hmm... I don't know why, but there's something about this explanation of spirits possessing characters that I don't like too much. It's probably the whole problem of indirection and being harder to relate to the character.

What about this alternative to keep it simple: Go with bloodlines, but more abstracted, by making the player only know of the member of the family that he's playing with right now, and a couple more. The player would control a member of the family at a time, and nothing more.
The family is considered big enough that it's not relevant to show them all at the same time; this removes the problems associated with having no offspring, waiting for a child to grow, and the conditions in which he/she grows -- because the next member in line simply "pops up" into existance, and you're free to attach whichever story you want to it, as well as age, and stats due to past experiences.
A nice way to implement this would be to give the player a random pool of generated characters to chose from when the previous one has died: you don't necessarily need to keep a list of all the members of the family.

To help in relating with the new characters, they would all have the same last name (many times the character would be refered to only by this name -- this would have a bigger impact than it might seem at first, because the player is reminded of the connections of this character to the previous ones); and anything common to the whole family would be useful as well, like joint possessions, enemies of the family, and anything that can be carried from one character to the other.

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I believe one of the main reasons ghosts do not draw the crowds are based in the connotation attached from early childhood. I can't speak for all cultures but growing up in the Midwest United States, ghost stories were intended to spook the audience. Walks in the grave yard on a moon lit night were passages of bravery among friends. In fact, other than Casper, who was portrayed like a lovable marshmellow, I can't think of any "good" reference to ghosts in my youth. So basically what I am saying, while there are definately people who would be intrigued to play a spirit, unless there is something to "humanize" them, the vast majority of people (not just game players) are not going to be drawn to the idea.

So to change that the paradigm needs to change and that my friend is a tall order indeed.

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