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Wavinator

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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Quote:
Original post by Kest

I'm so bad about it, as a player, I often question the layout and design of buildings in a realistic sense.


Guilty as charged

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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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Quote:
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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