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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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