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Making Sense or Making Fun?

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Would you throw away a great game idea if you couldn't make parts or all of it make sense? In so many of the games we play there are glaring incongruities between what's fun to do and the logic behind doing it. In RPGs, we fetch and carry and scrape to buy a single sword even though we're the chosen one; in RTS games, we research from scratch tech we just used to kick the aliens' butts on the last level-- never mind that we're playing a campaign. In empire games, we're immortal lord of all but have to handhold our units, play accountant, scientist and diplomat as the same person over hundreds of years. With such a huge emphasis these days (especially with aspiring designers) on realism and actualizing everything, what would you vote for? If there are parts of a game that are fun, but don't make logical sense, would you toss them or keep them for the sake of audience expectations? Personal standards? How important is it to you that the final product be unified and coherent in terms of both the world fiction you present and the game mechanics that allow the player into your world?

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Game ideas are only as good as they fit into the game; thus a 'great game idea' that doesn't make any sense in the game really doesn't make much sense in itself.

However, anyway, it really depends on the game. If immersion into the universe is important, then it is vital that it makes sense. However, it only matters if it is noticed - always remember that people have some measure of suspension of disbelief, and also often don't notice things, eg: double jumps don't break immersion for most poeple, etc.

Some games, it doesn't at all matter if it makes sense. Heck, some games are built on not really making sense (MDK2 / Citizen Kabuto come to mind), and then it doesn't matter at all and can often be advantageous. Really, it depends on what sort of atmosphere you want to make.

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As a developer, I'm really bad about this sort of thing. It's always important to me to have explanations of unlikely objects or events. I can't put a teleporter into my game without having some reasonable concept in mind about its technology, even if I don't plan to describe the technology to players.

I'm so bad about it, as a player, I often question the layout and design of buildings in a realistic sense. There are often long hallways, corridors, and more hallways, all leading to bad guys and items, but having no apparent use in a normal situation (when the bad guys aren't around). I'm guessing most players don't notice this, though, because most games don't bother to make maps seem reasonable. In any case, they're just mild thoughts, and they definitely don't prevent me from enjoying the game.

An example of gameplay vs realism that did bother me was Half Life 2 and sequel episodes. When the player has a revamped gravity gun, enemy guns turn to dust when they die. I didn't like the super gravity gun as much as normal guns, and it didn't make any realistic sense to prevent the player from grabbing them. There were a few puzzle elements here and there that would only be meaningful if the player had no other weapons, but not enough to make up for forcing that situation.

There are plenty of examples of games where it would be necessary to force unrealistic events on players to make the game fun. Personally, I would probably still attempt to come up with explanations for them, but I'm just a realism fanatic.

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From my experience, features that "don't make sense" but still exist aren't there because they are fun in themselves. Those features exist to eliminate some 'reality' obstacles that would cause the rest of the gameplay to be less fun (or down right slow and boring). They are just patches.

What is usually overlooked is the fact that in 90% of the cases, there are purely cosmetic solutions to these inconsistencies and abstractions. Solutions which only slightly alter the mechanics - or not at all.

Sometimes it just takes a subtle approach to UI design, or a line of text, or just changing the name of something, to make it appear more 'realistic' and consistent to the game world.

For example, the lord governing his people consistently for hundreds of years. Pharaoh partly solved that by popping up a window every few decades, announcing that the old Ruler IV was dead, and a new member of the dynasty, Ruler V rose to the throne. Simple, apparently meaningless, but hey, it adds up to a sense of accomplishment when the land still prospers under the Ruler XVII.

As for the fundaments of RTS genre, usually you don't play the accountant or the scientist, as the game rarely lets you control the fine details of economy, or directly invent new technologies. You merely order your accountants to raise or lower the taxes, or scientists to further research the chosen technology branch. Both are things that a military leader in wartime would have control over, even in democratic societies.

For additional effect, change "Research Laser Technology" line to "order your science academy to conduct further research into the laser technology", and when the research is started, pop the 'newspaper' (or something similar) window titled "Our wise and enlightened lord [Ruler] demands further research of the laser technology", with the text describing the potential new uses of laser. Give your units real names (like in Myth 2), etc.

In general, stuff like that helps to create the overall image of 'realism', as long it doesn't flood the interface with useless information and harms the gameplay.

Besides, a First-Person RTS could be a very interesting game if controls and interface are done properly. I'm actually surprised that no one has tried this yet.

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A long time ago there was a gravity car racing game; it was joystick operated, and the cars had weapons. The soundtrack was awesome, and the control was fantastic. My hands sweat from playing that game. (Then some corp bought the rights, scrapped the musicians to save money, and ruined the joystick control for their version).

Anyway, it didn't matter to me about flying cars that somehow had to stay on racing tracks -- It was a lot of fun.

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It just depends on the goal of your game.

If you are trying to make a realistic game, then you would try and put more realistic designs into it. It might be impossible to make the entire game realistic, but it would have more realism in it because the goal of the game is to be more like a simulation. Like nonfiction World War II games, Flight Simulator, etc. And thus, this would be its own type of fun as I view it, fun in the sense that it is more realistic.

If you are trying to make a game to which aims at pleasing a type of audience, then you would have designs in it to which does just that. These would have gameplay systems that are designed for the purpose of them being traditionally "gamey" like a sports match (as the rules in sports games aren't based on anything "realistic" at all, they are there just to make interesting situations).

Most games we have aren't trying to be totally realistic, however, as they are just trying to create various types of fun - but sometimes adding realism into a game can add the element of believability/immersion into it. I would say that most games right now are doing just that - using some Realistic designs to add believability/immersion to hook people into the game, while using some Game designs to add that factor of game fun into it. FPS games are always trying to come up with more realistic physics engines so to make people believe as if they are walking in a real fictionalized world, and yet might have unrealistic gameplay elements in it for the sake of coding/engineering limitations or to put more focus on certain areas of the game rather than others.

It is like writing a novel or story - you want people to believe the story might happen regardless of how fantastic it is, while at the meantime there are sometimes "unrealistic" techniques being used to which guide the story along to make a point in the story, such as your main protagonist somehow being able to dodge through/survive a salvo of arrows only to die at the hand of his arch-nemesis later on.

So I would say both are quite important in making any game.

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The number one concern should of course always be making the game fun. To do that though you need to immerse the player and not distract and confuse the player. Because of that requirement the game needs to be self consistent and 'make sense' within the limits of its own rules. If its rules are to be bizarre and comic, then something soberingly real and grave would be very jarring, even if it is realistic. Its all a matter of context, the game needs to be self consistent to keep up immersion, and it needs the immersion to allow the player to enjoy the fun-ness without distraction.

To directly answer, you need ideas that are fun, but if the idea is fun and makes no sense and I cant find a way to present it so that it does make sense (not just that it is explainable in a theoretical way, but actually makes immediate sense within the game) then it needs to be scrapped as it will distract the player from other fun aspects of the game.

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I have a stronger preference to fun over realism, but I'm not one of those people who likes overly realistic game designs. I greatly prefer a game that's distilled down the elements to an abstraction that is fun than one that attempts a simulation of real life, as the latter tends to fail both as a simulation and at being entertainment.

However, I think it's important that your game elements are consistent; a relevant TV Tropes link is Magic A is Magic A.

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Original post by Talin
Besides, a First-Person RTS could be a very interesting game if controls and interface are done properly. I'm actually surprised that no one has tried this yet.


Not sure if those would count more as FPS than RTS, but Battlezone and Uprising come to mind. You constructed buildings, ordered troops, had to watch your resources and built defenses. Oh, those good old times... lost hours and hours of precious life span to Uprising, but every second was worth it.

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I think the move to 3d somehow triggered everyone to try and be more realistic with their design; cause hey, if it LOOKS like the real world, it gotta FEEL like the real world, right? Wrong!

There is nothing even vaguely realistic at all about Super Metroid, Zelda III, FFIII, Chrono Trigger, Contra III, Do Don Pachi, any of the Mega man or Castlevania games or ANY succesful 16-bit game for that matter. Games are about:

1) Gameplay
2) Atmosphere
3) Storyline (if applicable)

Realism and historical correctness is only a requirement for SIMULATORS like WWII and Flight SImulators, SIMULATOR being the key word.

Peace

Madvillainy

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Realism and historical correctness is only a requirement for SIMULATORS like WWII and Flight SImulators, SIMULATOR being the key word.


I couldnt agree more! I know so many people who say "Oh your learning to make games! I have an awesome game idea. How 'bout a game that when you play it you can do everything you can in real life! Like drive a car, and play every game from every system etc (you see where this is going.)

I then have to explain that besides being impossible people play games for FUN and to escape the monotony of everyday life.

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Original post by Madvillainy
Games are about:

1) Gameplay
2) Atmosphere
3) Storyline (if applicable)

Realism and historical correctness is only a requirement for SIMULATORS like WWII and Flight SImulators, SIMULATOR being the key word.

If #2 is dark and grim, realism becomes extremely important for enhancing it. What happens to a frightening game when you put floating powerup icons into the scene, spinning and glowing, bleeping when they are touched? Deviation from realism in a realistic setting will jerk gamers out of their character's head and back into their gaming chair.

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Original post by Madvillainy
There is nothing even vaguely realistic at all about Super Metroid, Zelda III, FFIII, Chrono Trigger, Contra III, Do Don Pachi, any of the Mega man or Castlevania games or ANY succesful 16-bit game for that matter.


So what?

There is plenty of realism about Crysis and every other popular FPS since Quake 3, Elder Scrolls series, Total War series, Football Manager series, Assassin's Creed, Sims, Eve Online and most successful modern-day games that I can't be bothered to count.

Contrary to the popular belief, gameplay is not opposed to "realism" (or consistency, as a better term that someone mentioned). Good gameplay in a realistic/consistent environment will always beat good gameplay in an abstract environment.

Fact of life is that people like immersion. They don't want to jump on bouncing balls or eat dots anymore.

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Original post by Talin
Good gameplay in a realistic/consistent environment will always beat good gameplay in an abstract environment.

Fact of life is that people like immersion. They don't want to jump on bouncing balls or eat dots anymore.


I think this is purely subjective. Look at the popularity of the Wii, Xbox Live Arcade, the god game genre (Civilization), and the whole casual gamer market if you want an example of abstract games which have very strong demand.

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Original post by Wavinator
Would you throw away a great game idea if you couldn't make parts or all of it make sense?

In so many of the games we play there are glaring incongruities between what's fun to do and the logic behind doing it. In RPGs, we fetch and carry and scrape to buy a single sword even though we're the chosen one; in RTS games, we research from scratch tech we just used to kick the aliens' butts on the last level-- never mind that we're playing a campaign. In empire games, we're immortal lord of all but have to handhold our units, play accountant, scientist and diplomat as the same person over hundreds of years.

With such a huge emphasis these days (especially with aspiring designers) on realism and actualizing everything, what would you vote for? If there are parts of a game that are fun, but don't make logical sense, would you toss them or keep them for the sake of audience expectations? Personal standards?

How important is it to you that the final product be unified and coherent in terms of both the world fiction you present and the game mechanics that allow the player into your world?


I would just like to remind people that this was not a question about realism but rather a question about how self consistent and coherent the world is. These are not the same at all.

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Original post by JasRonq
I would just like to remind people that this was not a question about realism but rather a question about how self consistent and coherent the world is. These are not the same at all.

It was about the game events making sense. That is the type of realism that we apply to most games. It doesn't mean like-real-life. It means it fits within the borders of the game's reality. It's believable inside of the game's world. Of course, the game's world needs to seem reasonable beforehand for that to actually matter. No one cares about unbelievable events in Mario games, because the world wasn't grounded that well to begin with.

Lord of the Rings was highly realistic in this sense. An example of how it would have failed this would be if a hobbit started flying. That doesn't make sense. It doesn't realistically fit in that world, even though casting lightning bolts from a stick does. You could make it fit, though, by trying to come up with a reason for the hobbit gaining the ability to fly.

Losing all of your tech at the end of an RTS campaign mission is an example of something not making realistic sense in the confines of the RTS game world. This is one of the more common occurances of it, though, and I think most players look past it.

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Original post by Talin
Contrary to the popular belief, gameplay is not opposed to "realism" (or consistency, as a better term that someone mentioned).
Agreed, a game need not be abstract to have good gameplay, nor does it need to be realistic, either can work just fine depending on the game in question. I would say in response to your aside however that consistency is not the same thing as realism.

Quote:
Good gameplay in a realistic/consistent environment will always beat good gameplay in an abstract environment.
Strongly disagree - some excellent gameplay doesn't even have a realistic environment to take place in. I completely agree that in almost all cases a consistent environment is a good thing, but not that it need be realistic; can you think of a "realistic environment" for the gameplay of the extremely popular games Zuma or Bejewelled?

Quote:
Fact of life is that people like immersion.
Immersion does not neccesarily imply realism, it's entirely possible to be immersed in a consistent but abstract setting or game. Realism is simply one way to achieve immersion.

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I think, firstly, that the main emphasis should, most certainly, be placed on making the game mechanics engaging and entertaining. This may come at the expense of small inconsistencies. If the inconsistencies are not central to the game I think people will tend to over-look it.

For example, ruling an empire for much longer than the average life-span is something people will accept simply because it is more fun that way. Glaring inconsistencies in a story-line, however, tend to draw attention. If characters, for example, pull off amazing moves of instantaneous death in a cut-scene but are unable to do so in-game, then people will often get a little irked.

It also depends on the mood/style of the game in question. If a game is intending to be a serious narrative-focused game or a realistic simulation or strategy then inconsistencies will be frowned upon greatly. If the game is light-hearted and humorous or 'arcadey', then glitches will generally be ignored with focus entirely on the novel gameplay.

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Realism is entirely dependent on how you want the player to be immersed. If I wanted to make a game like Viva Pinata then there's no way I'd want the player to be hampered by realism at any point in the game; in fact, I'd go out of my way to ensure when something happened that the result was as stylized as possible.

If I'm creating a game like Rainbow Six, though, then I wouldn't want a paper mache terrorist to pop out of corner and scream something about licorice.

So, jumping back to the original example of the real-time strategy game design, the tried-and-true method of normally having a player start from scratch (or with a small amount of technology/units preassembled) would apply if the game's campaign had no carry-over assets from mission to mission. But if a player gets to always use the same buildings, units, and so on that he had available in the last mission (which is how it'd realistically work) and, for some reason, had to climb back up the tech tree then that would be absurd.

As far as I see it the reason for the continual need to build up an army and climb back up a tech tree in an RTS campaign mission is purely for gameplay reasons. There is typically exploration and story exposition that can be done in the beginning of the mission and the need to build up a base and research techs gives the player something to do while the exploration and story take place.

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Well I was thinking that you can always go the extreme opposite direction with realism. For example what if your playing an rpg where you have to constantly eat or sleep or go to the bathroom. Sure its realistic, but how would that add anything to the game on the fun factor?

Or what if your playing a first person shooter where you get hit once and your dead. Its realistic because how many people do you see getting shot and are walking around fine with the bullet still in them?

I think what a game should achieve is immersion and be consistent with it.

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Well, my ultimate philosophy is that you can explain away just about anything if you put enough thought into it. If you want consistency for immersion, but also want absurdity for fun, then just stamp the absurd as authentic with a good excuse.

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Great feedback everyone.

I'd like to extend the original question a bit with a few examples and hypotheticals:

SimCity
The SimCity games have always cast you in the role of the mayor of a town. Much of the internal workings of the game are consistent and even could be argued realistic-- traffic patterns, economics, urban decay, etc.

Yet the game lets you jump into a car or plane and complete missions. It even has a crude morality system that rewards you based on whether you've done good or evil acts. It's fun, it's a cool way to earn new buildings, but it doesn't fit with the role of being mayor. Does the fact that SimCity is considered more of a sandbox / toy game exempt it from a need for internal consistency? (Or is this even a violation?)

Modes and Multigenre Games
Some games have distinct modes that extended gameplay in novel directions. Pirates! for instance, mostly has you controlling a ship. But you break out from that mode into arcade swordfighting, a maze-like sneaking, RPG style character interaction and turn-based tactical battles.

Spore is another example, seeming to present arcade, RTS, empire and sim elements.

So same question as above-- providing your presentation / subject matter is uniform, are multigenre games by their nature immune to concerns for internal consistency? For instance, could you throw in a rather detailed gambling and card gaming mode to Pirates! so long as it did not unbalance all the other modes and was fun?


Quick Hypothetical
You're making a post-apocalyptic game where the player starts off as a single hero trying to survive a zombie infestation. As they progress, they gather survivors, acquire guns and food. Mid game has them fortifying and building up towns; late game has them improving technology and attacking with armies; ultimately they win back their country.

You realize that the player will probably have very little zombie fighting fun at the very end. So you decide that they need to be able to take over any of their forces in first person mode throughout the game.

Yet now this makes no sense. Who are you? Why is this possible?

But if it's fun, does it even matter?

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Original post by Wavinator
SimCity
The SimCity games have always cast you in the role of the mayor of a town. Much of the internal workings of the game are consistent and even could be argued realistic-- traffic patterns, economics, urban decay, etc.

Yet the game lets you jump into a car or plane and complete missions. It even has a crude morality system that rewards you based on whether you've done good or evil acts. It's fun, it's a cool way to earn new buildings, but it doesn't fit with the role of being mayor. Does the fact that SimCity is considered more of a sandbox / toy game exempt it from a need for internal consistency? (Or is this even a violation?)

I didn't play the versions that let you drive and complete missions. But personally, I never enjoyed the ability to trigger disasters, or other similar god-like actions. The normal mayor duties were the best part of the game for me. There were many normal building actions that couldn't be decided by a mayor alone in the real world, but it wasn't enough to feel wrong within the game. Not like the disasters, for example.

So for me, I guess it's a bad example. I just happened to dislike all of the things that didn't make sense in the game. But I disliked them for reasons beyound not making sense. Erm, I think.


Quote:
Modes and Multigenre Games
Some games have distinct modes that extended gameplay in novel directions. Pirates! for instance, mostly has you controlling a ship. But you break out from that mode into arcade swordfighting, a maze-like sneaking, RPG style character interaction and turn-based tactical battles.

Spore is another example, seeming to present arcade, RTS, empire and sim elements.

So same question as above-- providing your presentation / subject matter is uniform, are multigenre games by their nature immune to concerns for internal consistency? For instance, could you throw in a rather detailed gambling and card gaming mode to Pirates! so long as it did not unbalance all the other modes and was fun?

I'm not sure I follow how any of this would have trouble making sense. I usually don't like games that change between many genre types, but it always depends on how well they work together. My opinion on that doesn't have anything to do with immersion or making sense, though.

I also wouldn't normally count a card game as a genre type. Mini-games are in countless role playing games. As long as the player isn't forced to repeat the same small game for a specific purpose that needs continuously fulfilled, then having them can't hurt the main game in any way that I'm aware of.

If the card game is an integral part of the game, then you just have to accept that players will judge the combination of gameplay by how well they enjoy each part of it. The more types of integral gameplay you have, the less likely specific players are to enjoy it as a whole. But this type of disproval still wouldn't be related to a lack of immersion or not making sense. If the mini-game or sub-game fits as a somewhat likely action in the game world, then it makes sense.

Quote:
Quick Hypothetical
You're making a post-apocalyptic game where the player starts off as a single hero trying to survive a zombie infestation. As they progress, they gather survivors, acquire guns and food. Mid game has them fortifying and building up towns; late game has them improving technology and attacking with armies; ultimately they win back their country.

You realize that the player will probably have very little zombie fighting fun at the very end. So you decide that they need to be able to take over any of their forces in first person mode throughout the game.

Yet now this makes no sense. Who are you? Why is this possible?

If you really want answers, I would..

1. Allow the player to personally involve their character in fights. You can avoid death by just making up an excuse that his allies drug him out of the fight. But the player wouldn't be able to jump between characters.

2. Use cyborg or robot soldiers. The player can realistically jump between them. It would also bring resources and technology into a more important focus.

3. Present a concept that makes it seem as though the player is actually giving extremely specific orders to the character he is currently controlling. Something as simple as a mic in their ear would suffice. Players will be willing to accept the "bonus" response time applied to this, and consider it realistic enough.

There are probably many more ideas waiting to be thought up.

Quote:
But if it's fun, does it even matter?

Probably not. But if you can cover your tracks, why not?

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