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Wavinator

Are there no bad players?

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There''s a proverb that says, "There are no bad students, only bad teachers." I wonder if there is a game design parallel? "There are no bad players, only bad designs." If a player keeps failing at a challenge you''ve set for them, does that mean the challenge is bad? Or does that mean the player is bad at the game? Macho pugilists (the kind you find competing in Quake III & Unreal Tournament) will probably tell you that it''s the player. But I have my doubts. If the designer''s obligation to the player is to entertain them, and they''r not being entertained, then it falls squarely on the shoulder''s of the design, right? This bit of philosophical pondering comes from playing more Fallout 2 and the gazillion times that I''ve cheated fate by saving and restoring. Not to min-max, but just to survive. In an open ended game like Fallout, where you can travel anywhere on the map, it made me think that the many times I''ve stumbled into the midst of an impossible squad of near-invincible enemies was a design flaw. Not a preference, or a player mistake, but something that the game itself does wrong. ''Course, it''s not so simple: By their very definition, you''re SUPPOSED to be able to LOSE a game. So maybe it is the player''s fault? -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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Look at it this way :

You have people that suck at a game, people that are good at a game, and people that excel at a game.

Perhaps it''s a matter of designing for the demographical average, where the most people will find it just right, and be ''good'' at it.

Save, of course, for arcade games, where everyone is supposed to suck, and therefore keep plowing the coins in.

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OK. following on from what has been said, howzaboutthis?

''There are no bad games, just bad game critics.''

Lets face it everyones pet rave is someone elses pet rant.

Bloody ''ell, thats another one!



D.V.

--------------------------
Carpe Diem

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
but just to survive. In an open ended game like Fallout, where you can travel anywhere on the map, it made me think that the many times I''ve stumbled into the midst of an impossible squad of near-invincible enemies was a design flaw. Not a preference, or a player mistake, but something that the game itself does wrong.

''Course, it''s not so simple: By their very definition, you''re SUPPOSED to be able to LOSE a game. So maybe it is the player''s fault?


In the context of Fallout 2, I believe this to be a design flaw. For several reasons,

1. It uses squads of very dangerous enemies to keep you from getting near to the ending taking a course through the rest of the game. [Ie. You have to explore in a semi-linear fashion]

-> A. I think that instead of resorting to this tactic it should either have blocked off the ending point via impassable landmasses (cliffs etc) as seen in Final Fantasy 7.. etc.

-> B. Allowed you to see that it was a dangerous area [corpses, blast craters, reports of it being a no man''s land, etc.], and given you the opportunity to turn back.

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I dont see your point. They arent dumping super-strong enemies to keep you from getting somewhere. They are just supposed to be there!!!

Just think of it... At the start of the game, you are a tribal with just a spear. Okay. Easy. Thing is, this requires wits. You *know* you arent the best fighter out there, since your first encounter with a few ants was a bit... painfull... Now, you are supposed to move out into a world full of gun-toting criminals and para-military groups. Still with me?

The Fallout principle is simple. Each kind of enemy has his own strenghts troughout the game. You are supposed to pick your enemies wisely. Heading towards a camp *full* of iron-clan military dudes with plasma rifles, isnt considered a smart move... Compare it to the real world. Once you enter a secret US military base, you will get shot. They arent gonna check on you, see you are unarmed and weak, and then discard their weapons to be a fair challenge to you??????

Now, let''s turn it to your kind of game... I assume you want the enemies to be balanced to the skills of your character.

Okay, then lets head towards Navarro. It is the secret hideout of the Enclave, the strongest group in this part of the US. YOu, armed with your VaultSuit, PiPBoy, and Sharpened spear, walk towards it. The Enclave has man patrols out there, to guard their base. They got plasma rifles and all. Now they end up, fining a silly tribal, about to discover their base...

"Allright troups! There is a tribal! Are you all ready?"
"Yes sir..."
"I cant hear you!!!"
"YES SIR!!!"
"Good! Prepare yourselfs!"
The whole groups trows aways their guns, and ditch their armours. Then they tie their hands to their backs...
"Okay! Let''s get him!!! Raaaah!!!!"

Stupid tribal barely defeats the Soldiers, and is now going to murder the entire Enclave with his knife, because he was stupid anough to break his spear...

Fun game!!!

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I''m going to disagree with the parallel proverb. Teachers, students, and gamers can adapt themselves to the situation their in. A student can try to learn something a different way. A teacher can recognise a student isn''t responding and change teaching techniques. A gamer can try a different approach to a problem. A game''s design cannot recognise that a player isn''t doing well and should change itself. If I''m playing a game with a little kid or something, yeah I can change the rules so that the kid has a fighting chance or something. But I don''t think this is necissarilly something that should be done in an RPG. Why any RPG would have a difficulty setting is beyond me.

(This Fallout stuff is never going to end is it?)

I would say that in Fallout the design flaw isn''t so much running into impossible squads. The flaw is that they shoot you down without first telling you to F* off. Then when you don''t they should open fire and then you reload. Also, if I''m not mistaken (and this isn''t particularly obvious) the Outdoorsman skill was supposed to protect you from encounters to some degree. If it was high enough, you are alerted of an encounter and get to choose to engage. I think it also was supposed to affect character starting position to allow for easier retreat. Now this may not be obvious and the name of the skill may be inapropriate, but the implimentation is there.


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I was very impressed with the concept of HOW and WHY pencil dungeon master run Roleplaying games work.

What are RPGs?

They are a form of group entertainment.. VERY FLEXIBLE in CONTENT. Using many elements to entertain the "players".

The dungeon keeper will adjust the entertainment factors [humour, descriptive characterisation, near misses in combat,etc.]

and to fit the audience:

The situations encountered are matched to the players, if there is danger they WILL GET FAIR WARNING of this and be able to plan accordingly whether this means that they run away [sensible?] or decide to procede [and maybe meet more than they bargained for]

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quote:
Original post by Ronin_54

I dont see your point. They arent dumping super-strong enemies to keep you from getting somewhere. They are just supposed to be there!!!


I think Ketcheval''s point is still a very good one, though. Games are not supposed to be reality. They are best when plausible (to the extent that they model the real world somehow). So the question of whether or not they''re supposed to be there is moot. Is it fun to die & restore repeatedly?

quote:

The Fallout principle is simple. Each kind of enemy has his own strenghts troughout the game. You are supposed to pick your enemies wisely.



Aha!!! But the game does not let you do this, and this is where it is flawed. The system of random encounters ensures that YOUR ENEMIES PICK YOU! Not the other way around. Often you''re dropped right in the middle of a pack of superior enemies, and it''s die & restore time.

Yes, later in the game you do sometimes get the ability to bypass random encounters. But that''s much later!

quote:

Heading towards a camp *full* of iron-clan military dudes with plasma rifles, isnt considered a smart move... Compare it to the real world. Once you enter a secret US military base, you will get shot.


The issue here is fair warning. Outside the example military base, you''d see signs and have to scale a barbed wire fence. Doesn''t work that way in Fallout. (And if you entered the grounds of a military base, likely as not you''d be escorted off grounds or arrested... now if you inside, rifling through documents, then you''d be fair game)


quote:

Stupid tribal barely defeats the Soldiers, and is now going to murder the entire Enclave with his knife, because he was stupid anough to break his spear...

Fun game!!!


Here''s the crux of my question: WHAT makes the player stupid? Fallout''s UNCOVERED, UNEXPLORED does not give you nearly enough information to make an intelligent decision. Now, if the player fully KNEW that death in a given encounter of location was possible, AND blithely went in and died, then I''d say that was a foolhardy player.

But in Fallout, it''s just save, restore, rinse, repeat.



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

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quote:
Original post by kseh
A game''s design cannot recognise that a player isn''t doing well and should change itself.



GODS, by the BitMap Brothers, did that, and I think that game is about 8 years old now. It''s not impossible, nor even that difficult, to take SOME notice of the player''s skill, and adjust the difficulty or flow of the game accordingly.


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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This reminds me of some virtual Game Master idea I''ve heard around Goblin ( copyright Madkeith )
I do think that this is one of the solution to the "bad player" problem. If the game adapt itself to the player, it means more fun.
Besides, you can adapt to the play-style of the player, does he wants more combat and blood or does he prefer social interaction with sensible NPCs...
Last but not least, you can have some plot elements happen when they will be most dramatic...
Hard to design I think, but worth it...

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Ok. I stand corrected. A game certainly could adjust the amount of damage done in combat or the frequency of encounters. Speed charcter actions up / slow the enviroment down. But how far should it go? You could take it to the point where after awhile the game realises that the player needs to be walked through a section, the whole game, or after a bit of a walk through get the game to be tougher again.

I understand the desire to analyse an RPG for the purposes of trying to make a better game that''s everything to everyone (or closer to it). But you know what, the player has a few responsibilities too. Since it''s the player that has to pony up the dough for the game, it should be the player''s responsibility to choose a game they will like and will be able to play. If I wanted to get involved in a sports team, I have to try and pick one that suits my abilities. I shouldn''t get pissed if I can''t play on the teams level (or they mine), I should find another team. It may suck that I''ve invested in something for nothing, but next time I''ll know what to expect.

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Yes, there are some pretty bad players out there, I see them quite often while playing UT, Q3, and CS ;P

But i believe Wav said "And if you entered the grounds of a military base, likely as not you''d be escorted off grounds or arrested" I''m sorry, but did you watch the intro movie? The enclave isn''t out to be nice to peeps, I mean, they could have *easily* just smiled and asked those nice vault-people to leave, but they shot first, and forgot to ask questions later.

-Ryan "Run_The_Shadows"
-Run_The_Shadows@excite.com
"Doubt Everything. Find your own light." -Dying words of Gautama

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quote:
Original post by Run_The_Shadows

Yes, there are some pretty bad players out there, I see them quite often while playing UT, Q3, and CS ;P

But i believe Wav said "And if you entered the grounds of a military base, likely as not you''d be escorted off grounds or arrested" I''m sorry, but did you watch the intro movie? The enclave isn''t out to be nice to peeps, I mean, they could have *easily* just smiled and asked those nice vault-people to leave, but they shot first, and forgot to ask questions later.




Hmmmm...

Maybe I should say this more clearly: REALITY is INVALID in this consideration. This is a game. It''s job, while in trying to remain plausible, is ULTIMATELY to ENTERTAIN. Period.

Yeah, the Enclave are a bunch of rutheless badguys. Okay. Fine. But save and restore gameplay isn''t much fun.

Is the player responsible for falling into a situation they''re incapable of dealing with when you the designer have given them no information or warning? (I would especially like to hear from those who are hell bent on removing saves from games, would be very interesting)



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

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I really think this varies from game to game. I think that it''s just one of the many design questions that must be answered during the design process of each particular game.

How much responsibility should be left to the player?

This goes back to Wav''s favorite dichotomy: Escapists and Finishers

The Escapists want to be responsible when they mess up.

So, the question is whether you''re making your game for the escapists or the finishers. The thing about FO2 sounds like a design problem, but I think it''s a problem unto itself.

My point is, you can have a well-designed game, and give the player tons of responsibility, but you have to really give them responsibility then. You have to allow them to take responsibility and they''ll be fine with it (like in FO2 when Wav said that if you could somehow know when the random encounters are going to occur then you could take responsibility when you end up getting killed)



Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.
What a plight we who try to make a story-based game have...writers of conventional media have words, we have but binary numbers

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Well i believe a teachers responsibility is not to teach the subject at hand (i.e. an english teacher should not try to teach his or her students english) but rather to educate their students in the ways of education. TEACH THE STUDENTS HOW TO LEARN. So likewise I would say that the only resposibility on the behalf of the game programmer would be to show the game player how to play. Entertainment is of the highest value therefore the game should be difficult yet always leave the player with a sense of progression where the player knows that if he continues he will only get better. I have never played Fallout2 but by your statements I am assuming that you were frustrated and that this frustration was a result of the lack of progression you felt and it seemed no matter how many times you played the game, the difficulty still loomed.

SORRY ABOUT THE BABLEING I JUST WANTED TO FEEL USEFUL
geoffpl@gdnmail.net

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quote:
Original post by Nazrix

So, the question is whether you''re making your game for the escapists or the finishers. The thing about FO2 sounds like a design problem, but I think it''s a problem unto itself.



The Fallout 2 design flaw is that they do not give you the necessary info to avoid a fight you cannot win - or run away from -.

But the main point of this thread is:

quote:
Original post by Wavinator

If a player keeps failing at a challenge you''ve set for them, does that mean the challenge is bad? Or
does that mean the player is bad at the game?



So there is a difference here: in Fallout 2 you can accidentally walk into "Challenges" which are too difficult, you do not have the IN-GAME RESOURCES to deal with them. [armour, firepower, or speed to run away].

Whereas what about:
Challenges with the IN GAME RESOURCES for the player to complete them with, but the player keeps failing to by-pass.

What is this due to? -are the players not finding the "optimal" strategy? -are they physicaly unable to control the game > ie. jumps in [mario / platform games]. ? Too many luck based factors ? or something else?


So how can the game react to help them.

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Taking a few points here and there:

quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Is the player responsible for falling into a situation they''re incapable of dealing with when you the designer have given them no information or warning? (I would especially like to hear from those who are hell bent on removing saves from games, would be very interesting)



As one of the no-save advocates, here goes my opinion:
Whenever I''m running an around-the-table RPG, the players will at some point run into a situation which is over their heads. As a designer of the game, I try to give them adequate warning unless it really does not fit with the flow of the game. Sometimes, running into an over-your-head situation can be really useful. But, for some reason, in CRPGs, designers have started thinking that death is a punishment for the player. It isn''t. Death is supposed to be the final end of a character. It always is in my PnP RPGs. There is NO save and restore. However, you teach the difficulty through hurting the characters. First you get scratched, then you get wounded, then you lose most of your gear, your status, a limb or two... and if they STILL don''t get it, kill their current characters. If they''ve been playing a while, and they know how hard it is to REALLY get killed, this will open their eyes to how bad they''ve been playing.
But if dying comes easily, you don''t have this option.

quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
Whereas what about:
Challenges with the IN GAME RESOURCES for the player to complete them with, but the player keeps failing to by-pass.



Assuming that just because the players have the proper resources they will complete the challenges is usually a bit naive from the Game Master''s point of view. Players are notoriously reckless and thoughtless with their characters, specially when they haven''t formed a special bond with them yet.
If I could manage it, I''d try to use the situation to get them attached to their characters, and then start hurting them when they are failing obstacles that they either shouldn''t be attempting, or should be overcoming easily. However, even there you should have fair warning before you pull the plug on their character. For a truly difficult situation that they really should have avoided you should for instance still have a 50% chance of turning tail and running, thereby losing most of your credibility or reputation.
If you should have been sailing through the obstacle, again you can start diminishing the reputation of the character, or perhaps dealing a bit of "warning damage". If after a set amount, the player still doesn''t get it, or proves to be unable to complete the obstacle because of a lack of skill, perhaps the difficulty level should be automatically adjusted so that they can manage. ( for instance, in a mario-type game, the platforms could be lowered just a few pixels, and brought a bit closer together ).
If this causes the player to never suffer damage at the hand of (or have any difficulty with) those obstacles, the difficulty level should be raised a little again.


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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This is largely related to things I said regarding the Save Game feature.

I believe that in a non-trivial game (ie. adventure, RPG, FPS campaign/episode, etc, as opposed to puzzles or other ''short play'' one-off games), the player should be in control of their own destiny. The game''s ''job'', in my opinion, is to present a variety of challenges and obstacles, the type of which is indicated by the game''s genre and decided by the developers (or producers, or publishers, but you get the point). Given any obstacle, the player should have enough accumulated competence (either from real life prior knowledge, knowledge discovered during gameplay, or statistics that increase on the player''s character) to ''survive'' that encounter. ''Survive'' in this case means a situation where continued play is possible following the encounter without having to rollback to an earlier stage, to try again. Obviously, different players have different levels of competence, but hopefully this will be partly compensated for by a game''s learning curve, tutorial levels, documentation etc, and also by the advertising, packaging, and again, documentation. If a game is billed as "The Fastest, Bloodiest First Person Shooter", then it is fair enough for that game to be unplayable by people who know they are no good at that sort of thing.

Personally, I find nothing more frustrating than having done really well, just to be beaten through no mistake of my own, and having to restart. The tactical level missions in Red Alert were the epitomy of keyboard-smashing frustration. So many times, I had been extremely careful, picked the wrong turn through bad luck and got one of my soldiers incinerated or chewed up or whatever. I think the designers thought this was a good way to introduce longevity. In the end, I had to memorize all the right and wrong decisions I made just to complete the level, and I think that defeats the entire object.

If you can''t ensure that encounters are appropriate, at least ensure that a careful player can evade them. Nobody should be punished for something they weren''t in control of, as that is very negative and is likely to put people off the game.

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And in Call of Cthulu, they often advocate that the (dungeon master) has some of the characters knocked out in combat.. and then the monsters don't kill them.

Imagine if more modern games did this.. you wouldn't have to reload as much when a character dies in what should be a not-very challenging combat situation. [Baldur's Gate].


This is similar to what games like Final Fantasy 7 do, except instead of automatically waking up after battle, the characters in FF7 have to have a potion applied to them to rewake them (for the combat section, as they are "awake" for all the dialogue / adventure sections).

Edited by - Ketchaval on March 23, 2001 7:18:25 AM

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Taking a step back from RPGs for a sec...

I was playing Super Metroid for SNES a little while back. There''s this one area in the game where you''re basicly forced to learn to use the controller in a certain way or you''re stuck. There''s no immediate baddies threatening the character and you have as much time as you need. Located near by is a save location. If you save at that location, you''re stuck untill you''ve learned this skill. (Jumping off walls by timing moves just right.) Now, this immediatly sounds like bad design, except that if you learn how to do it right, you can get into other areas of the game (none essential to its completion as I remember) which rewards the player with additional (non-essential) ammunition to make the game easier down the road.

So, is it wrong / bad design to put a player in such a position? And if not can a parallel be drawn and applied to free roaming RPGs like Fallout where being in the wrong place at the wrong time is dangerous to the character and frusterating to the player?

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My goal as a designer would be to never have the player stuck more than 30 minutes at any obstacle. Otherwise the player is being robbed of the task/reward loop that is essential for a fun game. If either side of this loop is out of balance, the designer will alienate some group. To much task, and it will only appeal to the hardcore gamer that must "complete any game no matter how hard", while completely alienating the average gamer. To much reward, and you make the game a cakewalk and only interesting to people who like interactive movies, where there really is no wrong choice. Task and reward must be in balance through the entire game to make a satisfying experience.

Ut

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Just wanted to say there are pro arcade game players (I''m an aspiring one) and they can do some amazing things. For example in many Capcom fighters (Street Fighter), it''s all about frames of animation. What frame is the character invincible? What frame can I safely attack? etc. These Arcade Gods memorize each frame in order to see beyond what normal players see, to see that actual internal workings of the game. This is just a rant that Arcade''s aren''t bad, and the players there have an extreme amount of skill, ok back on topic now, sorry for straying.



============================
Trevor "Zephyre" Barnett

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