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Niphty

Discussing Landfishian theology..

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Ok, now.. to bring back the inspiration of Landfish to the boards, and to make Naz happy at the sharing of ideas.. i''ve much to discuss. Tonight, having finished off Orson Scott Card''s newest book, Shadow of the Hegemon, I sat idlly by watching my girlfriend merilessly shoot crossbow bolts into goblins. I began to ponder things from the book, which had me in a philisophical mood. Then i watched her playing, watched the intensity of it.. her anticipation of the next strike against the goblin hordes. *THIS*, I realized, is why people play these games. That caused me to stop, and think.. if Landfish had his way, and this element was removed, what would fill the game time? Now, step back and think about this. Take away combat from a game.. the anticipation of some foe coming along for you to kill, and what''s left.. you''ve simply got to content yourself on working other skills. But this is the very thing we''re also trying to avoid.. mindless clicking to gain skills to get levels. But combat is NOT mindless clicking. There''s a randomness about it.. there''s a reason to do it again and again.. it was different all the time, it changed, the situation changed.. forced you to think, consider all things.. assess your situation, and make strategic warfare. If you didn''t, you died.. you lost a level, some skill, something. But if you won.. you GAINED things. This excitement, this utter bare anticipation, is why people play these games. The fact that you can''t predict what''ll happen. I mean, what person is content fighting an enemy they can easily kill? They want bigger and better challenges! Now we, as developers, sit here pondering stealing the one thing most people look forward to.. all for what? Landfish? Think about it good.. and hard. People want to gain something from their time. They want to do something and have something result from it. They want progress, they want to feel like their time spent meant something, some reward. This has been discussed before.. but i don''t think many people ever really critically analyzed this situation to the full extent. Take out combat, and you force people to do mindless skilling. Take that out, and what''s left to the game? What do you propse people do with their time? Roll dice? Work the farm? What is it that you think would go well here? I''m stuck at an under impass at this point. I''ve begun to analyze every game i played in the past.. and tried to think about why it was good or not good.. and i''ve come to the conclusion that excitement is anticipation. You don''t know what the enemy''s going to do, and you''ve got to be ready to counter it. Anything non-random was boring and grew old pretty fast. Look at tetris.. the most addicting game ever! And what was at it''s core? Random pieces of fixed shape. The speed of the game only factored in to measure just how good you were and how fast you could think.. a leveling system. But the core was the randomness mixed with the constant. Constant peices, but randomly appearing. In the heart, strategy and tactics was what it boiled down to. How could you command the pieces to move as you wanted them? How well could you control what you were given to make the outcome you wanted when faced with a constantly random situation? Food for thought.. so now give me your thoughts. J

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What you speak of is what design guru (& personal god ) Greg Costikyan calls "variety of encounter." You don't know what you're going to hit, and you must constantly plan. It's not mindless insofar as you're engaged and you accept the repetition.

Combat is a repeatable and scalable activity. You can do it often and bigger.

There's also a punishment / rewards mechanism, as you pointed out. Mixed with the variety of encounter you get the same attraction as gambling. Slots, for instance, is a great example of this, and people can be found tugging those levers forever.

The question, if I may take up the LF staff (or whatever), is whether or not this is the deepest play we're going to get?

The relevant stuff I saw in the EGG thread was about asking players to be more thoughtful about what they're doing. This goes hand in hand with immersion. You can not be both a hero and a mass murderer by contemporary standards. This disconnect severely harms immerson.

An arcade game doesn't care a whit about this. The game isn't about a place or world you go to. It's about a thing you do, over and over, which has different contexts (lots of monsters, tight corridors, etc). This is why Diablo is so utterly and completely incompetent at being a world and so great at being an activity.

The problem comes when traditional / hardcore CRPG players want more than just an activity. They want an adventure . They want to be heroic. Hack & slash games only let them be, as Ernest Adams observed, a "glorified exterminator."

One radical way (which I agree with) is to experiment with toning down combat, or (not so comfortable with) chucking it entirely.


Now, if this gets done, then it will attract a different audience. Hack & slashers need not apply, & hardcore players can rave about how good the story or non-linear environment or whatever is.

If we want to retain people like your SO (& my married friends who love playing diablo) then we've got a serious problem: Whatever we put in has to have that same element of gambling (win/loss), and of variety of encounter (the random you mentioned).

We can do this: Tetris already does, like you said. We could make the player's surgeons, or merchants, or extreme skiiers.

But I think it won't work because we lose the all important flavor / character of combat: The Hero Myth so important in Western Culture, and the (mostly harmless) dark satisfaction that comes from conquering or superiority (aka "kicking someone's a$$, which every FPS, RTS, or action game REVELS in)

There is no replacement for that. (IMHO opinion, of course ).

Better to acknowledge their are different players, and dump the Diablo folks if you're going for something deeper (or vice versa if vice versa)

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


Edited by - Wavinator on January 28, 2001 2:05:11 AM

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Niphty,
I really think you're incorrect here. LF has never said he wants to get rid of combat or violence. He's said many a time that violence can be a powerful tool in a story (I'm assuming we're talking about a game that is fairly story-based). The point wasn't to get rid of combat & violence, it was to make it mean something.

In Diablo, you knew nothing of those hideous monsters except there were very many of them, and you had to kill them again & again. Imagine if combat meant something more. You know your advesary well. You have a reason to want to kill them. Imagine combat is not the only option. Imagine that the story (I'm not sure how to make this point w/out the game having a story of a sort) gives the player reason to want to kill (i.e. revenge, etc).




Edit:
In movie terms, it's the difference between Saving Private Ryan where you see limbs flying off and other horrid visuals and a "slasher" horror movie where this killer kills people over & over & over. He doesn't have a complex motive, or at least the movie spends little to no time talking about it. He just kills again & again.

Saving Private Ryan, for example, uses violence to show the pains of war. The movie is incredibly gory, but I think we can all agree that the movie uses that violence to portray how terrible war can be.

Sure, horror moives can be good fun to watch. It's just that if that's the only violence we ever saw it would be incredibly boring, right? Well, it is the same way w/ games.





In Thief, for example, direct combat was often not the best solution. If you kill a guard, then he will make more noise alerting other guards. If you carefully sneak past him using your finely=tuned eyes, ears, and brain then you can possibly get past with less hassle. I don't know about anyone else, but that was a welcome change of gameplay to me.

Furthermore, I think we all have agreed there's nothing at all wrong with a Diablo or Carmagedon game where it's rediculously violent for the fun of it. The point was to just try to explore something different.

Edited by - Nazrix on January 28, 2001 9:15:01 AM

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quote:


Goblin: "Hi, I''m a goblin."

Player: "Can you excuse me, I''m busy here."

Goblin: "{ahem} I said I''m a goblin!"

Player: "And I told you, I''m busy, now go away."

Goblin: "But, we''re supposed to fight, because I''m a goblin!"



Is that the best we can do?

Combat does not have to go away altogether, but it should mean something more than that.

Ultimately, we need to focus on other conflict/reward systems as much as we have focused on mindless killing in the past. If we can allow for exciting situations - which may or may not involve meaningful combat, then perhaps we can achieve the ideal.

Give people something else to look forward to:
* high speed car/horse/spaceship/whatever chases
* stealth/thievery
* sports/non-fatal combat (jousting - etc)

And others, those are just examples. It all boils down to conflict - reward. And spending the time to make other forms of conflict interesting, rather than throwing together a few new {combat-related} spells, and making the goblins a different shade of green.

We have a long legacy of using combat as the conflict-reward system, going back to D&D, and the tabletop strategy games that that was based on. It was easy to keep track of, "you killed a goblin, you gain 200 xp, did you go up a level?", and it was a straightforward evolution from the strategy games. Rather than trying to evolve further, we seem to have stagnated at that point.

Evolve. There will always be Diablos/SmashTVs/etc for those who enjoy the mindless slaughter.

-pwd

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Diablo did have a rich and detailed explantion as to why you had to slaugher the hordes of undead/evil minons. Would i rather see a 3 minute cut scene of the next act describing the horrors that would be unleashed upon the world unless i stop diablo, or have a text message from some goblin explaining how it''s destutite childhood lead it into a life of crime and how it''s morally acceptable for it to steal my gold? I would rather have the former, thank you.

The main reason why the current crop of MMORPG are so popular isnt their great gameplay. Rather its an incredible medium for virutal social interaction (chatting, adventuring together etc..). I dont think its possible to capture that level of interaction/relation with a NPC, within a single player CRPG. Trying to algorithimicly balance action / motiviation / resolution / conflict into a meaningful outcome would be difficult. While within a MMORPG its a natural outcome of human-human interactions.

Players play games becuase it appeals to them on some level, intellectually, emotionally, and vicariously. CRPGs have changed over the years, this can obviously be seen in the players who play them and in the nature of the games themselves. I think oringally CRPGs were more story/world focused, and the mechanics were there to support the story/world, but there was a sub-branch of CRPGs which were more focused on the mechanics (Rogues). These in time grew to dominate the market (Diablo being the prime example). Then came the MMORPGS which inturn supplanted the singleplayer mechanics focused CRPGs. MMORPGS are much like the mechanics focused CRPGs but with the added element of multiplayer, so one could say the are a natural evolutionary step of the mechanics focused CRPGs.

What is the natural evolutionary step of the world/story focused CRPGs? I think that is the question.

Good Luck

-ddn









-ddn

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster

Diablo did have a rich and detailed explantion as to why you had to slaugher the hordes of undead/evil minons. Would i rather see a 3 minute cut scene of the next act describing the horrors that would be unleashed upon the world unless i stop diablo, or have a text message from some goblin explaining how it''s destutite childhood lead it into a life of crime and how it''s morally acceptable for it to steal my gold? I would rather have the former, thank you.



This is EXACTLY what I was talking about in my first post. This is what I think of as the Bay Watch - Masterpiece Theater Continuum. Low brow versus high brow, and it''s been going on since the dawn of artistic expression.

Diablo was simple. Black and white. Good and evil. No thinking required. Even for the high brow folks, this is sometimes a nice break.

Apparently the low brows outnumber the high brows. This gives us a future of where the number of Diablos, Mysts, and Deer Hunters outnumber the Planescapes, Theifs, and Alpha Centauris. This sucks if you''re a high brow gamer because there will be fewer and fewer high quality games for you to play.


quote:

What is the natural evolutionary step of the world/story focused CRPGs? I think that is the question.



Niche. Harder to find. Cheaper graphics and sound. Return to roots.

The mass market business model does not favor quality. Quality is more risky and costly.

Look at it like evolution: Simplicity has outnumbered complexity. Gamers who care about world / story won''t have as much a problem with this as folks for whom graphics are gameplay (another continuum).

But I fear that the hobby will shrink while we''re waiting for quality games, and the only thing we''ll have to introduce to newbies will be the simpler games. This will create (or already has created) a sea change in the market and what it values as good.






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

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Niphty, I''m not sure if you were getting at this, but this is what I was thinking of while I read your post. If you took out the battle, then you would need to make the other parts, or one other part of the game better. If you made that part of the game better, and added the combat back in, then you would get an awesome game.

Ok, other things I was thinking, was about Tetris. Tetris is, to me, "similiar" Connect four, but one player, and with different rules for clearing pieces (in Connect four you can''t clear any pieces.) So I was thinking about how to manipulate this idea to make an entirely different game, that is still similiar. So I figured, ok, well what should I change first. Ok, how about flipping the game over to the side, so the pieces are moving sideways across the screen (change the pieces into walking people or something). This won''t work, because it takes the player out of the game more. In tetris, the pieces were falling down, kinda towards you, this made it seem like you had to stop them from piling up on top of you. Thats my opinion, of how it suboconscously kept you more involved.

I''ve been thinking of more ideas about manipulating connect four and other games. This is gonna turn into a cool arcade game.

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Welcome, Niphty, to the realm of challenging opinions in order to get ahead with design

That was a good post, and I''ve been thinking...
I liked the "Mindless Skilling" statement. Yep, mindless skilling is exactly the same thing as mindless killing.

I don''t agree that you cannot take combat out of games, but it''s true that you SHOULDN''T take combat out of some games. Combat is a very powerful agent when it comes to conflict - not many movies end without at least one good fight, or threat of a fight.

In the end, I think perhaps it doesn''t really matter how you dress it up. A horde of goblins (shudder) coming at you in a dungeon could be an excellent fight, if it''s balanced to provide the right kind of challenge. As long as it doesn''t become something like "As long as I keep running around in this level, these easy creatures will keep respawning and I''ll be able to get enough experience to move on to the next level without being in danger of getting hurt".



People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Mad Keith the V.

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COMBAT:

There''s two sides to combat. There''s the obvious physical combat. (which in computer games is a little odd, as the only physical contact the player has is in his/her fingertips) But there''s also the psychological combat. In this type of combat, probably even more than physical combat, the player can have a lot more control. He can decide when to go and where to go. Who to group up with, who to avoid. Which creatures to attack and which not to. When to run and when to stay and fight. What equipment to wear and which weapon to use.

Mental combat doesn''t even need physical combat as a supplement. A game like Tetris can be seen as a form of mental combat, a combat waged between the player''s intellect and the computer who randomly (which is a form of strategy) drops blocks.

To me, it''s the mental side of combat that''s most interesting. Because there''s where the player can have the most influence on the outcome of the combat. The physical part has to be taken care of by the character (although even on the physical part, the mental part can have an influence: what skills are practiced, what weapon is used etc).

I think the physical part should be finetuned to the mental part of combat, not the other way around. Physical combat should be the result of all the choices made up to that point. Sort of like a chemisty experiment. First, you think the whole thing through carefully. Then you mix all the ingredients together and hope you were right in your theories.

Mental combat is of course a lot harder to program than physical combat, because for mental combat to be good, the player has to be able to make lots of choices. A game like Tetris might seem simple, but the player has a lot of choices to be made in a short span of time. It''s this making choices that I think appeals to a lot of players. Because in real life, the choices we make are so damn important, we like to take our time in thinking things through. In games, sure, there''s a consequence to our actions, but it''s not a life or death matter (not that most choices in real life are). If you make a wrong choice in Tetris... well, game over. But you can just start again. Even if you make a fatal mistake in an MMORPG, there''s usually no real harm done (except for options like Hardcore in Diablo, where once you die, your character dies permanently... which can be a pain if you put tens or even hundreds of hours into it...)
But it is this making of choices that gives a player real power.

I''m positive that any type of game can be created without physical combat, but there always has to be that mental combat. And to me, physical combat CAN be the best climax to a good mental combat (so I would never start out designing a game by saying ''NO PHYSICAL COMBAT WHATSOEVER!'').

I need to think this thing through myself a little more before I can make my mind up, but I still think that the mental part of combat needs to be improved BEFORE the physical part. So maybe to force ourselves to do just that, maybe we SHOULD start to try to design some games without any physical combat.

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