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Wavinator

A Realistic Planet Is Pointless

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Are future games going to give us territory fatigue? Not too long ago I moved from the US to Canada, and one of the cheapest flights I could get sent me from California to Vancouver and then over what felt like a third of the Great White North. There were indeed some beautiful sights, but it was a good reminder of just how repetitive terrain is in the real world. Reading about techniques for generating obscenely huge levels and even entire planets brought me back to that memory. There are games (like Spore) coming out that promise building civilization across an entire world. Others, like Evochron, let you fly seemlessly through solar systems and down to cities on worlds. With such a heavy trend toward realism, I can only see this envelope being pushed farther. While this is all awesome in terms of technical achievement, I sometimes wonder if the worlds are getting too big for the content that can be provided and the time a gamer has to enjoy it. Can massive worlds, by their nature, diminish your role in them?Astronomers, for instance, talk about how observing the scale of the cosmos can make any human endeavor insignificant. What about the ratio of terrain traveled to unique interactions-- Is there a point where the amount of territory can dwarf the amount of unique gameplay? Or (jaded question here) does this trend toward realism doom us to a future of nothing but MMOs because any other world would be huge and empty? Would you really want to walk on foot across 24,902 miles of ground? Or spend an hour trying to find something or someone across a planet of hundreds of cities and towns? To me, a realistic planet seems pointless for most games. It can only serve as eye candy, terrain to fly over while you're getting to where you really want to be going. Agree? Disagree? Why?

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Here's a great animated GIF (low bandwidth warning: 1.2MB) that shows the scale of things on an astronomical scale.

No matter the game idea, there's going to be a point where you have abstract away the realistic situation to contain just the elements you want to emphasise. Geography and astronomy isn't immune to this.

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Can massive worlds, by their nature, diminish your role in them?Astronomers, for instance, talk about how observing the scale of the cosmos can make any human endeavor insignificant.

What about the ratio of terrain traveled to unique interactions-- Is there a point where the amount of territory can dwarf the amount of unique gameplay?

This really depends on how fast you can travel through a given space - for example, Faster Than Light techniques are used for huge space games. I think its more of an issue of space-time (ratio of players' exploration speed vs size of the gameworld/universe) rather than just space itself (size of gameworld/universe), because if you can adjust the exploration speed so that it is more doable in a huge gameworld/space, then it won't seem as horrendous to explore, and then you won't seem as insignificant - its just that there will be a lot of content in the gameworld/space (to which finding a desired piece of content could be aided by a search engine).

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Or (jaded question here) does this trend toward realism doom us to a future of nothing but MMOs because any other world would be huge and empty?
Content generation for huge spaces could be created economically; there is to my knowledge, two ways to do this: 1) randomized content generation, where the computer randomly generates all content to inhabit a space (or randomly generates content in context to a given theme/style/restriction), and 2) player-content generation, to which the space is filled with the creations of players so that the element of unpredictability is there (such as what Spore is doing). The third way and presently most common way of doing it, is developer-generated content, to which, as the gameworld/space grows larger and larger, it would become more and more expensive to make up things to fill up that space.

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Would you really want to walk on foot across 24,902 miles of ground? Or spend an hour trying to find something or someone across a planet of hundreds of cities and towns?

This could be solved by having a search engine in the game (<- refers to Second Life's search tool) so that if you desire to shop somewhere or meet someone, you simply type in the name, and a list of related places or people would be shown to you to which you then select one, and instantly be teleport to there. Because if you look at Second Life, the gameworld is huge, and its content is all player-generated. It would indeed be impossible to navigate the gameworld without some interfacing help.

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I agree with the teleportation. Asheron's Call was a huge huge game. You could literally run anywhere you wanted, but there were teleporters everywhere so that you didn't have to go running if you didn't want to.

Now, another thing too is that some games when they get too big like you mentioned they lose their fun. This may not be a good example but I stopped playing Shenmue in the begining because it looked like there was just too much to do in the first house. (I may have been wrong) but I didn't want to go through the whole game searching every nook and cranny.

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Original post by Wavinator
To me, a realistic planet seems pointless for most games. It can only serve as eye candy, terrain to fly over while you're getting to where you really want to be going.

Agree? Disagree? Why?

I agree. The illusion of scale is far more important than actual scale. So long as players feel that the world is massive (yet oddly traversible and accessible), it doesn't matter how big it really is. If I were designing a large-scale world, I would bend the rules such that you could have the Grand Canyon only about half a mile away from the Alps. While the player is in any environment, the sensation of scale should be played up, but the player's actual path through that environment should be reasonably compact.

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Original post by Wavinator
Are future games going to give us territory fatigue?

Not too long ago I moved from the US to Canada, and one of the cheapest flights I could get sent me from California to Vancouver and then over what felt like a third of the Great White North. There were indeed some beautiful sights, but it was a good reminder of just how repetitive terrain is in the real world.


So it finally happened. Games are now officially more complex and interesting than the real world.


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Original post by Wavinator
While this is all awesome in terms of technical achievement, I sometimes wonder if the worlds are getting too big for the content that can be provided and the time a gamer has to enjoy it.


If there is an excessive amount of empty space vs. content-filled space, no matter how small the world is, the game will be boring. It's just matter of design.

If a designer creates empty space for you to travel through for the sake of realism, the designer is either focusing on the wrong aspect of the game, or maybe there's some dark and evil reason that has to do with money...

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Original post by Coz
So it finally happened. Games are now officially more complex and interesting than the real world.


Well... some parts of the real world. I'm still waiting for my nuanced political thriller sim.


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If there is an excessive amount of empty space vs. content-filled space, no matter how small the world is, the game will be boring. It's just matter of design.


True in principle, yes, but what about the time to create content versus the world size? Let's say that you can create a really interesting piece of interactivity in one work day. It's fun, it's rewarding, but finding it again and again won't make it unique, so you have to limit the number of times you deploy it in the world. As the world gets closer to realistic scales, how many days does this end up costing?

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If a designer creates empty space for you to travel through for the sake of realism, the designer is either focusing on the wrong aspect of the game, or maybe there's some dark and evil reason that has to do with money...


Subscription fees? Nah, who would do that???

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
No matter the game idea, there's going to be a point where you have abstract away the realistic situation to contain just the elements you want to emphasise. Geography and astronomy isn't immune to this.


Beautiful example, TZ. Now just add in the complexity implied by population and civilization.

I ended up arguing the need for abstraction with a graphics and realism loving friend for about an hour. I'm going to show him your gif.

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Original post by Oluseyi
The illusion of scale is far more important than actual scale. So long as players feel that the world is massive (yet oddly traversible and accessible), it doesn't matter how big it really is.


I agree, although in the science fiction camp the trend toward realism is a bit demoralizing. A seamless and massive world be damned if it's not also filled with complex entities and gameplay.

(I should take your cue and get into sports games... a friend was lauding the complexity of franchise mode in Madden and how it was mostly text and static graphics)

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If I were designing a large-scale world, I would bend the rules such that you could have the Grand Canyon only about half a mile away from the Alps. While the player is in any environment, the sensation of scale should be played up, but the player's actual path through that environment should be reasonably compact.


True. I don't want to walk the territory between them. Maybe this this the place for teleporters, overmaps and warp speed-- although not all games can use that just because of their genre restrictions. A tactical squad shooter probably has not room for teleporters.

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