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Semi-rant: I hate customization and I hate non-linearity!!!

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This has been grating on my nerves long enough. I hate games that allow me a lot of customization and I hate games that are non-linear even more. Yeah, you heard right. Take Morrowind for instance. The place is so large and so complex and so non-linear that I am completely overwhelmed. I have no choice but to completely shut down or severely limit my experience to a subset of what the game has to offer. Games like Morrowind I never ever finish. I get bored very quickly because I don't know where to go or what to do. The sheer complexity overwhelms me. I play in perpetual anxiety because in the back of my mind I know I'm not experiencing a large portion of the game's content and never will, or that I'm not powerful enough, or that I didn't procure item X. As for customization: I HATE it. Take City of Heroes for example. There's tons of powers to choose from, and near infinite costume combinations. This causes me to sit there for hours designing my character, making sure everything is absolutely perfect. It was not uncommon for me to spend hours agonizing over wether I should remake my character because I want his pants to be a shade of blue lighter (or something equally as obsessive). Games that allow this level of customization are very agonizing to me. Even if, at one point, I was 100% content with the guy's costume, I soon grow malcontent. This leads to deleting the character and starting over, because the anxiety sets in and I need to customize again. Even if you can change the way you look somehow, then I'll just find something else to fret over, such as the powersets I chose. I'm using recent games to illustrate my point here.. let's go with Freelancer. I LOVED the game. Why? Because it actually told a story. It didn't try to be everything to everyone. It didn't force ME to do the storytelling. It had enriching character development. I really grew to love Trent Edison, quirks and all. You see, I was allowed nearly zero customization, but that's the way I like it. I really grow to love the character, unlike where I'm expected to make a character. It puts my mind at ease, because there are no decisions to make. I didn't bother with anything but the main storyline. It was very linear, I always knew where to go, and what to do. I feel cozy when a game is linear. That's the only way to describe it. Take Serious Same 2 for instance. The levels are very linear. There's one general path you take through the whole game. Whenever there is a path veering off to the left and one veering off to the right (which is very rare in this game), I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. It forces me to abandon a whole area in favor of another. I can't describe why it makes me feel uneasy to choose one over the other, but it does. And it just grates on my nerves after a while. You see, I played Serious Sam 2 today, non-stop, from beginning to end. All in one sitting. That's how much I enjoyed this game. I didn't have to choose whther I wanted to be a healer, or do more damage, or sacrifice a damage shield for a fire aura, and I didn't have to wander around lost, and I didn't have to run around in a maze, and I didn't have to make fashion decisions, and I didn't have to pretend there was an actual story to the game, because there WAS one. The story came to ME. I took on the role of Serious "Stone" Sam, savior of the universe. Grade-A Badass. He's quirky, funny as hell, manly, scratches his balls, and kickes some serious ass. The story was engaging and I had a blast because there was just one path through the game. You can either do it or you can't. Bah... good to get that off my chest. I should really stop buying RPGs and "sandbox" type games. It just causes me grief. [grin] Here's a list of games that grated on my nerves too much and I NEVER finished them: -Morrowind -Many MMORPGs (put lots and lots of time into them, but perpetually low level) -Black and White -Starcraft -Age of Empires -Descent 1, 2, 3 -Soldier of Fortune 2 -Jedi Knight -Diablo II -Thief 2 and 3 -Rome: Total War -Betrayal at Krondor -Doom 3 -Imperium Galactica 2 -Every Zelda game ever made -Every GTA game ever made -KotOR (and I'm a star wars nut!) -SWG (and I'm a star wars nut!) -Sandbox Games that you can't really win, such as the Sims, Sim City, BattleField type games -Baldur's Gate II And here's a list of games that were very engaging and I couldn't put them down (A lot of them I would play all in one sitting), these one's just 'clicked': -Half Life 2 (Just excellent) -Serious Sam, Serious Sam: Second Encounter, Serious Sam 2 -TIE Fighter -Goldeneye 007 -Descent: Freespace -Jedi Outcast -Dark Forces -Call Of Duty -The original Mario -Rebel Assault -Republic Commando -Surprisingly, Counterstrike (well I sink time into it anyway) -Final Fantasy 7 (I didn't know what magicka was and I beat the game at level 45ish) -Final Fantasy Mystic quest ^some linear RPGs I just gobbled up As you can see, there is a fair mix of genres on each side... Any thoughts? [Edited by - Kevinator on January 11, 2006 3:58:50 AM]

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Hmm,

I'm kind of unsure why Doom 3 is on the list of games that you couldn't play. Care to elaborate? I thought that it was incredibly linear and very uncustomizable. In fact, that's kind of the point of the whole franchise, IMO.

Needless to say, I kind of am a little like you, I hate to know that there is content out there that I'm not going to experience. That said, the opposite side of the balance frustrates me more. I've championed Morrowind many times on these forums, but at the same time know that there are cool places that I'll never see and stuff [ie quests] that I'll never do. I haven't actually finished morrowind, but am on sabbattical from it atm [broken computer]. That said, I have spent some time on some morrowind forums, and take quiet glee from some of the threads that most people would find boring [like 'picturesque place' or 'cool item' or 'semi-easteregg' types].

I however also hate linearity. As soon as I feel as though I'm being drawn along a particular path, and being forced away from others, I come to resent the game for not letting me have my way. I know it's comparing apples to oranges [RPG to FPS], but the two games that I've replayed most recently are Morrowind and Red Faction. In Morrowind I have a happy-go-lucky attitude and just keep on exploring and adventuring until I need to heal or rest, and then I do that. I only save when I want to stop playing, or when I've just achieved something. In Red Faction, particularly towards the end, I knew that there would just be another corridor of similarly equipped guys in a similar defence to the last set. I would basically quicksave, duck out from the cover, take a shot and duck back in. If I lost any health, I'd quickload. Nonlinearity means a way out, so you don't need to constantly watch your health etc.

Just my counter-rant... feel free to ignore it.

CJM

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Sure, I'll elaborate on Doom 3. With me, it's all about my nerves. After a session of play, am I relaxed or am I anxious? With Doom 3, I am definitely anxious. Not because it makes me scared, but because it grates my nerves to play it, literally.

I walk into a room, and I know the baddies are going to teleport in behind me or plow througha wall somewhere, and it's not really fun, it just becomes more of a chore. Combine the chore of hunting for monsters in this way with being lost a lot and not being able to see very well, and I just feel drained after a session of playing DOOM3. All the games on my bottom list leave me feeling refreshed or energized or get my imagination going.

I don't really consider DOOM3 very linear. At least in my definition of linear, you don't get lost. Laugh at me if you want, but I managed to lose my way quite often in DOOM3.

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*meep* *hides previous post with gusto*

Ok, to actually offer a bit of intelligent opinion, I am the complete anti-thesis to this ideal. Perhaps as a budding game designer, it also has something to do with the fact that I am perpetually lazy, and that I like to see what players have to offer in a game rather than what I (or any designer in particular) has to offer in a specific environment.

I absolutely cherished Morrowind (to speak to your example). I have never played any game more consistently. I never once got bored with it (until I got bored with it and moved on... *cough*). Sure, I went through many more failed characters than I had successful ones, but with each one, I tried something I hadn't before, and the ones I enjoyed, I kept, the ones I didn't, I threw away (obviously this isn't so easy to do in most MMORPGS, etc., because it may cost real money to just "throw away and start over".

See, I found a kind of "vector based" style of gameplay rather than a uni-lateral one. There were many, many paths to travel, to be sure, and each offered very unique qualities for me to explore. I loved being able to say, "I want to be a knightly-summoner-of-Daedric-longblades-assasin," and then see if it worked. And I believe Bethesda did a phenomenal job of including a very engaging storyline (which I never even started until I'd played for more than 2 years) that deeply involved me and my character without force feeding it to me.

But I suppose, as with most or all of any genre of entertainment and most things in life, "if it tickles your pickle...", go with it.

Blessings,
John

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I kind of know what you mean about the non-linearity thing. There is definitely a sense of security in knowing that there's only 'one' way through the game, and that there are no sub-optimal paths or dead ends and so on.

Complete non-linearity on the other hand can be overwhelming, you've no idea which direction to go. It's easy to get paralysed by uncertainty if there are too many possibilities and you don't feel that you have time to explore them all. That said, I don't have a problem with a decent amount of non-linearity. I would rather feel that I have options in the game, than feel like I'm being told a story with a bit of interaction inbetween. If I want a linear story then I can save myself lots of time and money by watching a film or reading a book.

I don't agree at all on the customization. If a game gives me any options to customize my character (or whatever) I will almost certainly take advantage of them. I think it is particularly important in online games, otherwise you end up with hundreds of identical clones wandering around which is just irritating.

Overall, I just can't agree with you, although I can kind of see where you're coming from, and I can appreciate that often pure, no-brainer gameplay can be more fun than the deeper, more involved things, particularly if you have a limited amount of time in which to play.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Kevinator
I play in perpetual anxiety because in the back of my mind I know I'm not experiencing a large portion of the game's content and never will, or that I'm not powerful enough, or that I didn't procure item X.


Do you live your life in perpetual anxiety because of the paths you take and all the experiences you'll miss out on through the thousands of decisions you make each day?

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Kevinator
I play in perpetual anxiety because in the back of my mind I know I'm not experiencing a large portion of the game's content and never will, or that I'm not powerful enough, or that I didn't procure item X.


Do you live your life in perpetual anxiety because of the paths you take and all the experiences you'll miss out on through the thousands of decisions you make each day?


I'll assume some level of sarcasm in this post....

However, this is where the line between reality and entertainment needs to be drawn. Of course we all must make thousands of decisions each day to survive and live our lives, and one may always ask, "What if?". But in games, I can see the notion that it is often simply an escape to fire up the latest "Here's a gun, go Kill" that doesn't require you to make a lot of decisions just to play.

I should have mentioned in my previous post that I do find there to be a time and place for which I just want a simple, linear game. But in general, if it's a large scale game world (in terms of content), I want to be able to choose my own direction. It is in these games that I like to live my "other lives" rather than play the puppeteer that drives the story along.

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Kevinator
I play in perpetual anxiety because in the back of my mind I know I'm not experiencing a large portion of the game's content and never will, or that I'm not powerful enough, or that I didn't procure item X.


Do you live your life in perpetual anxiety because of the paths you take and all the experiences you'll miss out on through the thousands of decisions you make each day?


That might be one reason he plays games.

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i find myself doing the opposite, although i can play non linear games, and enjoy them, i can't replay them.

however, all of the good non-linear games i own i find i can replay if i want to.

to each his own.

[Edited by - rip-off on January 19, 2006 6:37:31 PM]

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
Do you live your life in perpetual anxiety because of the paths you take and all the experiences you'll miss out on through the thousands of decisions you make each day?

You wouldn't belive the number of times I've berated life for lacking a save system.

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Eh, that sounds a little more obsessive than being a mere diamond...

Anyways, my wife has the same sort of gripes with many games. Unfortunately, she likes 'collecting' things, which often is best done in non-linear RPG sort of games [think Final Fantasy, pokemon].

She handles the problem by finding a nice thorough walkthrough and following it to a T. No worries about making the wrong choice, and character customization choices quickly become immaterial when you find all the secret stuff.

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I love the concept of open-ended games, but dislike many implementations of the concept. I think my biggest gripe is a sense of a hard-coded set of content. For example, there are n unique items in the game, and it is remotely feasible to actually obtain all of them. Or when a game has a percent-complete statistic. It exacerbates the feeling that you're missing something. When I think of implementing the open-ended concept, I try to think of making the underlying architecture legitimately open-ended, rather than just really large but ultimately finite. But even to the extent that I'd have to make it large-but-finite, I'd try to hide that fact, try to make it feel infinite. Unique items, specific quests, percent-complete statistics, and such like that work to undo that infinite feeling and have always irked me, at least in the back of my mind.

I've always been interested (though not active) with demoscene-style programs, and such. Procedural techniques for generating content has great potential. The problem is that it's really difficult to turn procedural content into an exciting world and a well balanced and fun game. Will Wright is trying to do with with Spore, but it's still up in the air how well it'll work; it's a rather ambitious project.

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I'm curious - to the OP, how do you feel about games like the Metroid series (in particular, Super Metroid) or the more recent Castlevania games? They're pseudo-linear, since you're typically constrained to a subset of the available world by the abilities you have; however, sufficiently clever gameplay lets you break sequence, making the game more nonlinear. Ultimately you'll end up getting all or most of the powerups (you aren't forced to leave things behind and it doesn't take long to travel backwards through the gameworld), but the path you take to the endgame can vary.

I think there's a distinction to be made here between "destructive" and "nondestructive" nonlinearity. In the former, decisions you make early on can prevent you from doing everything a game has to offer, sometimes significantly so. In the latter, you can always access everything in the game, and as a general rule you will access everything eventually, but it's your choice what order to do things in.

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Original post by Kevinator
Sure, I'll elaborate on Doom 3. With me, it's all about my nerves. After a session of play, am I relaxed or am I anxious? With Doom 3, I am definitely anxious. Not because it makes me scared, but because it grates my nerves to play it, literally.

I walk into a room, and I know the baddies are going to teleport in behind me or plow througha wall somewhere, and it's not really fun, it just becomes more of a chore. Combine the chore of hunting for monsters in this way with being lost a lot and not being able to see very well, and I just feel drained after a session of playing DOOM3. All the games on my bottom list leave me feeling refreshed or energized or get my imagination going.

I don't really consider DOOM3 very linear. At least in my definition of linear, you don't get lost. Laugh at me if you want, but I managed to lose my way quite often in DOOM3.


It's like riding a roller coaster. Are you relaxed or are you scared? But you still had fun. It's the same as Doom. It's a thrill

About what you said about Morrow Wind, that is just something that happens when a game become too balanced. Simply because what drives a player to play a game is to constantly seeking out ways to get pass obsicles, and if there are easy ways, they'll find it and exploit it. In other words...what drives players to play the game is to seek out that unbalance in game and exploit it. And when a game do become perfect or near perfect balance, there are no more seeking to do, at which the player looses interest and stop playing.

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What about the hybrid position, that one could prefer games that allow customization, but only when it is things that really matter. I was sad to notice that starcraft was on your list of games. The nonlinearliness of Starcraft means that at any moment you could be hosed because you didn't defend against the right kind of attack. Zerglings are bad against scouts... :-P

Worms Armageddon was great because of the amount of customization that could be done. The game was turn based, which was slightly linearized version of a nonlinear game. The customization ended with things that dramatically affected gameplay. I laughed my ass off when my Age of Empires III playing friends finally hacked the XML file because they were tired of earning little power cards from the game. Customization that allows a game to become many things that are generally supported by its engine is good customization. Customization that turns the game into a big dollhouse or that open ended nothingness is rather boring. Hence, GTA was lost on me. I just never could give a crap about how many cars I collected or have fun running around destroying shit.

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i only hate non-linearity to a certain extent. for an example, if a bad decision can lead to a game over or a dead end after a few hours, i usually drop the game forever unless it's a very fun game.

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About non-linearity, it's a matter of how the game displays it to you.
In Morrowind you're just thrown into a place with no information about the world and what you can be. If I wanted to be a mage and there was a big sign that puts "Mages go there" I wouldn't mind the "Druids go over there" sign that points in the opposite direction.
My example is abit bold, but the point is that since you can't predict what one or the other option's output will be, you feel like you're leaving something behind. If you could predict the outcomes you'd know the difference and therefore the decision would be easier and leaving something behind would be easier too.

MMORPG's are a different thing because they don't really have a plot going on, so instead of being open-ended games they really are neverending open worlds.

In any of the cases, a solution is to make up your mind of what you want to get from the game and be sure of your decisions.


On another point of view, a problem with leaving things behind is that you get flashes of what they are (be in walkthroughs, websites, friends) so you never really leave them behind

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Original post by Kevinator
Here's a list of games that grated on my nerves too much and I NEVER finished them:
-Morrowind
-Many MMORPGs (put lots and lots of time into them, but perpetually low level)
-Black and White
-Starcraft
-Age of Empires
-Descent 1, 2, 3
-Soldier of Fortune 2
-Jedi Knight
-Diablo II
-Thief 2 and 3
-Rome: Total War
-Betrayal at Krondor
-Doom 3
-Imperium Galactica 2
-Every Zelda game ever made
-Every GTA game ever made
-KotOR (and I'm a star wars nut!)
-SWG (and I'm a star wars nut!)
-Sandbox Games that you can't really win, such as the Sims, Sim City, BattleField type games
-Baldur's Gate II

And here's a list of games that were very engaging and I couldn't put them down (A lot of them I would play all in one sitting), these one's just 'clicked':
-Half Life 2 (Just excellent)
-Serious Sam, Serious Sam: Second Encounter, Serious Sam 2
-TIE Fighter
-Goldeneye 007
-Descent: Freespace
-Jedi Outcast
-Dark Forces
-Call Of Duty
-The original Mario
-Rebel Assault
-Republic Commando
-Surprisingly, Counterstrike (well I sink time into it anyway)
-Final Fantasy 7 (I didn't know what magicka was and I beat the game at level 45ish)
-Final Fantasy Mystic quest
^some linear RPGs I just gobbled up


As you can see, there is a fair mix of genres on each side...

Any thoughts?


All I can see is that you are not a strategy kind of guy. And that's okay.

I could play and finish any of the games you listed there.

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Really! If you like linear games, you're really not getting your money worth of the game! Considering spending $50 on buying Prince of Persia: T2T, all you'll get is 10 hours of gameplay even in hard mode.

Non-linear games can really extend that border, to give a game more than a month of gameplay.

Just think about it. How many hours have you spent on playing a linear game, and compare it with the hours that you spent on playing a non-linear game.

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Original post by lightblade
Really! If you like linear games, you're really not getting your money worth of the game! Considering spending $50 on buying Prince of Persia: T2T, all you'll get is 10 hours of gameplay even in hard mode.

Non-linear games can really extend that border, to give a game more than a month of gameplay.

Just think about it. How many hours have you spent on playing a linear game, and compare it with the hours that you spent on playing a non-linear game.


I spend more time playing linear games. Why? Because they're less of an investment. Starting a forty hour game is a large time investment. Starting a ten hour game is much less. And, my goodness, what about games back in the day that you could finish in one sitting? How many times have I beaten Sonic 3? You don't even want to know!

Sure, a game may only be an hour long, but if I play it forty times...

The only exception to this (for me) is probably Fallout 2.

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Original post by lightblade
If you like linear games, you're really not getting your money worth of the game! Considering spending $50 on buying Prince of Persia: T2T, all you'll get is 10 hours of gameplay even in hard mode.

Non-linear games can really extend that border, to give a game more than a month of gameplay.

I'd rather spend $50 on a 10-hour game I'll enjoy than $50 on a 100-hour game I will not enjoy.

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