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Derakon

Can a game be too polished?

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Derakon    456
Here I am thinking in particular of the differences between Escape Velocity and Escape Velocity Override (EV and EVO) versus Escape Velocity Nova (EVN). These games, if you don't know, are old-style space exploration/trade/combat games, made by Ambrosia Software. All three games have a plugin system that allows third parties to add or replace content to/in the game. The first two games had scenarios that were each entirely crafted by one person (a different person for EVO than for EV, mind). In that kind of situation, there's going to be areas where that person shines and areas where they don't. For example, 3D modelling is a hard thing to do well; the models for EV and EVO were not displeasing to the eye, but they were also obviously the work of amateurs. In contrast, EVN was made by a team of people working together, including several highly-skilled modelers. Their work did look professional. Might this have been a bad thing? Disregard any problems that come from working in a team. Assume that EVN was entirely made by one person who was just very good at what they did. Can a game's quality be too high? Perhaps not when it stands alone. But when you're talking about games like the EV series, where a significant portion of content has been created by third parties after the fact, I believe that setting the initial quality level above what an amateur can achieve on their own has a chilling effect on third-party products. One of the common terms you'll see on Ambrosia's EV forums is "TC", for "Total Conversion". These are plugins that completely change the universe that the game takes place in. All of the systems are removed and replaced with new ones. New missions, new storylines, new ships, new outfits, everything. The original EV had numerous total conversions and projects with similar scopes - half a dozen at least, and almost all of quality at least as good as the original scenario. EVO had a roughly equivalent number. EVN has one. And that one was originally an EVO plugin, that got "upgraded" to run under EVN. The next-largest finished project for EVN is roughly equivalent in size to a single main storyline; it adds a handful of systems, perhaps five new ships, and new outfits to equip them. And it took well over a year to produce! Now, it's a very well-made plugin, but it's not remotely close to the scope of a TC for the previous games. Of course, I'm sure there are multiple factors that resulted in reduced plugin production for EVN than for EVO or EV. For one thing, the series has not aged as well as it could have. Certainly the plugin architecture is best described as "archaic". And the games have collectively been around for 11 years now. But I still feel there's something amiss when EVN can't accumulate in 5 years what EV could in 2. And in large part, I feel that people who have ideas for the game are looking at the base scenario, thinking "Man, I could never make something that fits in with that" (most TCs start out as adjuncts to the main scenario, instead of replacements), and just giving up right there. What are your thoughts, not just on the EV series, but in general?

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swordfish    276
There's definitely a point in production where you have to ask yourself: is this done, or am I/are we over-doing it?

I think the success of EV was largely in part due to it's graphics (high-end for the era, if you ask me). The art is beautiful, but the gameplay just plain sucks; so I guess they kind of evened eachother out.

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sunandshadow    7426
Interesting question. Normally I would say no it is impossible for any entertainment to be too polished, but the specific case you are talking about made me think of the game series Creatures - Creatures 1 and 2 were 2D and a ton of user-created content was made for them, but with Creatures 3 the game went 3D and suddenly users couldn't make sprites good enough to look acceptable alongside the ones which came with the game. The amount of user-created content was much smaller even though the game gave away tools to help users create content, and the series died.

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Adriac Veras    100
I think that a game can have too much content but not too polished. Theres always room for improvement, but too much content can result in slow load times and lagging. But to keep improving the content already in the game just makes it better, especially with graphics, movement, or level layout. I think you should make it as best as you can, but not as big as you can.

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Derakon    456
I certainly don't disagree that if you're making your game to stand entirely on its own, then your only limitations for polish are what you can afford and what your customers' machines can run. But what about the case, as I outlined in my original post, where your game is serving in large part as a vehicle for people to add their own content?

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intrest86    742
Quote:
Original post by Derakon
I certainly don't disagree that if you're making your game to stand entirely on its own, then your only limitations for polish are what you can afford and what your customers' machines can run. But what about the case, as I outlined in my original post, where your game is serving in large part as a vehicle for people to add their own content?

If the point of your game is usr created content, and users cannot actually create content, then does it really make sense to call it "polished" anymore?

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iMalc    2466
Quote:
Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
Quote:
Original post by iMalc
Here's how to know when a game is too polished:

[grin]It takes too long to load! Duke Nukem Forever![grin]

Corrected.
Ah, good call!

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jbadams    25712
Quote:
Original post by intrest86
If the point of your game is us[e]r created content, and users cannot actually create content, then does it really make sense to call it "polished" anymore?
I tend to agree. In my mind polished isn't simply the act of using high quality assets, but of using the right assets and making sure they all fit together smoothly. A game with only stick figures or coloured blocks can still be very polished in spite of the excellent graphics.

So in the case of your examples I think you could consider the game to be more polished if they either a) provided simpler (but still good quality) graphics that thier community would more easily be able to replicate, or b) provided better tools to more easily allow thier community to create graphics which matched the style and quality of those that already existed.

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Trapper Zoid    1370
I also agree: my inuition of polish implies that it cannot harm the game by definition. If a change you make in the name of polish damages the game, then you are not polishing, you are tarnishing.

The "Duke Nukem Forever" quip actually indicates what I consider the main (and as far as I can see only) case of polish being harmful; when further improvements to the game do not warrant spending the resources (time and/or money) to do so.

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Matt Batt    122
I think that there is a point when you have to say that what you have is enough. From the experience that i have studying games design at university, i feel that i could carry on working on the levels that i have created forever. Even after the hand in dates for assignments i will continue to work on the levels to get looking what i feel is better. I suppose it is something that has to be learnt over time.

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Tocs1001    695
Halo is over polished... Everything in that game is shiny @_@. I do think games can be over done though. Games are like food you dont want to burn it!

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gunning    749
Does anybody else hate when a game has no good glitches or content unintentially left behind waiting to be unlocked??

I can think of a few games off the top of my head that were more fun with glitches: Zelda, Pokemon, FF7 and I'm sure there are more. Sometimes finding the content/features/glitches developers forgot to exclude is just as fun as the main game.

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Alpha_ProgDes    6932
Quote:
Original post by skittleo
Does anybody else hate when a game has no good glitches or content unintentially left behind waiting to be unlocked??

I can think of a few games off the top of my head that were more fun with glitches: Zelda, Pokemon, FF7 and I'm sure there are more. Sometimes finding the content/features/glitches developers forgot to exclude is just as fun as the main game.

Would anyone like some Hot Coffee? [grin]

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Quote:
Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
Quote:
Original post by skittleo
Does anybody else hate when a game has no good glitches or content unintentially left behind waiting to be unlocked??

I can think of a few games off the top of my head that were more fun with glitches: Zelda, Pokemon, FF7 and I'm sure there are more. Sometimes finding the content/features/glitches developers forgot to exclude is just as fun as the main game.

Would anyone like some Hot Coffee? [grin]

He said unintentionally left behind. Merely claiming it was unintentional doesn't count. [smile]

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Ozymandias43    158
Quote:
Original post by swordfish
I think the success of EV was largely in part due to it's graphics (high-end for the era, if you ask me). The art is beautiful, but the gameplay just plain sucks; so I guess they kind of evened eachother out.


I for one really loved EV's gameplay. I spent a happy semester in high school reproducing parts of it. Taught me a lot about game programming.

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Numsgil    501
I think a game can be polished enough that it loses the quirkiness that makes the game interesting to begin with. Something like Noctis wouldn't be as endearing without the quirks, such as its use of DOS graphics and its impossible-to-figure-out-on-your-own UI. The problem in my mind is that polish and quirkiness are often at opposite ends of a continuum.

I haven't played it, but from what I hear Guild Wars suffers from over-polish. In this case, over balancing. There isn't any strategy when levelling up because all strategies have been balanced against each other.

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Extrarius    1412
As others have said, this has nothing to do with polish. On the other hand, I don't agree that it's bad game design or anything like that. Rather, I think it is simply a fact of life when dealing with newer technology and creating professional content.

Look at the game "Doom" by id software - there were literally hundreds of thousands of custom maps created by third parties, and the total conversions probably numbered in at least the hundreds. Doom was a simple game, and it is very easy to create 2d sprites, low-res textures, and 2.1d maps.

Compare that with "Quake" and the number don't go down too much - there were still a lot of user-created modifications, but many of those dealt with the new scripting system and far fewer included custom art because 3d models are more difficult to create than sprites (consider that you can turn a 3d model into a sprite but not easily vice versa).

Then come along games like "Serious Sam" that have much higher quality maps, textures, and models. The amount of user created content significantly drops, and the portion of that considered to be of decent quality is even lower. This isn't because serious sam is more difficult to make modifications for, but simply because making truly 3d maps that look nice is a difficult skill, and properly blending multiple layers of textures to get a nice detail effect is not trivial.

I tried making a simple lava room in a map I was working on, and gave up after I opened one of the original maps to find literally hundreds of different lights in 10+ different colors used to make the glowing lava effect I wanted. It isn't their fault that it takes that much to make perfect lighting, it's just that they spent the time to put in the extra effort to make their game look better. Compare their lava to something like "Unreal Tournament 2004" and you can see that the textures themselves aren't too different, but in unreal, the level designers didn't put in the extra effort and the difference is obvious. Unreal lava looks acceptable, but the lava in Serious Sam just has that extra something. If you hold yourself to the highest standards, things just become more difficult. If you don't, you deliver an inferior product. Either choice is fine for third party freeware, but it's hard to choose the latter once you've tasted quality.

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