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Wavinator

So What Do You Think of Multi-genre Now?

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I haven't played Spore yet, but I'm interested in people's impressions now that such a high profile multiple genre game has come out. Despite Spore's many failings, it's really the only game in recent memory to cover so many types of gameplay and such a wide scope. This alone shows that a large scale multi-genre game is possible. But does that say anything about the basic premise of multi-genre games in geneneral? Whether you've played or not, I'm interested in your opinion on what makes or breaks multi-genre games. More specifically: Should gameplay interrelate or be compartmentalized? How vital do you think it is that EVERY part of gameplay impact every other part? I've heard many complaints concerning Spore that some phases have little to do with other phases, making the player question the point of a given phase. On the other hand, if gameplay is modular, rules can be compartmentalized, which in theory makes it easier for players to understand and remember. It also makes the game less intimidating. Union or cross section of players? A very wise GameDev poster once cautioned me that when you mix game genres, you risk getting the narrow cross section of players who enjoy each type of genre, rather than the union of players who like all the genres in the game. Looking at Spore, I'm now wondering if this is true. Spore has been criticized for being shallow. But I'm wondering if it actually has to be this way in order to achieve a union of players. If, for instance, the game was a heavily developed empire game with complex strategies for the economy, unit building, espionage, etc. it would risk being too oblique for players who like the RTS elements or the arcade elements of the cell and evolutionary creature stage. Is there some way around this?

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I'm assuming you're asking about games which have different sections belonging to different gameplay genres, rather than games that fuse two or more genres together: i.e., a game that has a platformer section and then a separate management section would qualify (like ActRaiser for the SNES), but a game that fuses platformers with management together at the same time does not. Is that correct?

I might be a bit brief, but here's my immediate views:

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Original post by Wavinator
Should gameplay interrelate or be compartmentalized?

The game sections need to interrelate, but that doesn't mean they can't be compartmentalised. Sid Meier's Pirates! had very compartmentalised sections: the ship sailing, swordfighting, sneaking, land combat, treasure hunting and trading were all different little mini-games with no rule overlap. The big difference with Spore was that the results of the mini-games all interacted with each other and you would repeat all of them in a non-linear, player controlled manner. Cities won in the land combat sequence would affect the trading opportunities and the state of play on the sailing map, and so on.

Spore's big weakness was that path through the mini-games were linear, and little of your actions seemed to have much affect on the next stage. The main thing that progressed was your creature, but after the Creature Stage that was fixed. You only got three endings to each stage and they didn't affect the feel of the next mini-game that much.

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Union or cross section of players?

There is a danger you will limit yourself to the cross-section of players, but it depends a bit on how you design and market the game. The trap is that most established genres have a set of memes built up through their history that fans of the genre now have as instinct. Genre games catering for fans can rely on their players already expecting how to control the game and what the objective is. Newcomers need to have their hands held. Unfortunately, long-time fans don't want to be told what they already know, so it's tricky to have to deal with both.

I think the trick is to simplify the elements of each genre down so it's accessable to players new to that genre. Since the appeal of your game is in the combination of the game features you don't have to go all hardcore with the feature set for any one genre. Make each individual element appeal to more casual players and put the meat of the game in how the sections interact with each other.

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Let the player choose whether to engage in each gameplay genre, and either: do not associate a stage in the progression of the game to a genre, or let the player start at any stage if the stage is associated with the genre.



1) Let the player choose whether to engage in a gameplay genre.
Example: Suppose you are mixing FPS and RTS, then for each gun battle that emerges from the RTS, you give the player the option to play the shootout in FPS. If the player does not want to play FPS, then the result would be simulated. If the player does not want to play RTS, then the situations are simulated.

2) Do not associate a stage in the progression of the game to a genre
Example: Suppose you mix FPS and RTS. What you don't want to do, is to force the player to play FPS before he has an army, then force the player to play RTS as the story progresses and he now has an army. By disassociating them, the player engages the gameplay by choice, not by the requirement to progress the game.

3) Let the player start at any stage if the stage is associated with genre
Example: FPS crosses RTS. Suppose the stages are mingled such that the FPS portion is only possible in the stage where there is no tanks or artillary, where as RTS is only fun after tanks and artillary are brought on the map. Then let the player choose which stage to play.

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MultiGenre has one main problem in my mind, but I haven't played spore so I don't know how that plays out. The biggest issue is the immersion in any one type of game. Make it too immersive then people say "that isn't an RTS it is a RPG!" make it unimmerisve and people say "the game has no focus".

A) Compartmental is only ok if it is optional, or else the game will likely feel disjoint with too much time spent in "the wrong game" or one part obviously getting less dev time, and thusly playing poorly. Interrelated is important if you want to seemlessly combine gameplay into one game, but can scare off people into thinking that you have game type A when it feels more like gametype B.

B) The hard part isn't the union of players likes, but fighting the union of player dislikes.

Some people like turnbased gameplay, some like me hate it. Some don't mind losing and having to retry a level, others want to be able to just progress. Some like numbers, others are scared off by them. The problem comes in that all the good design in the world can't please everyone as some gameplay elements are orthogonal to others, and everyone goes into a game with different expectations of what it means to "game". Trapper Zoid nailed part of this, in that expectations lead to frustration for newcommers who don't get a tutorial but tutorials frustrate vets. But breaking fanbase rules frustrates vets even more, and vets tend to be VERY vocal about this and can bring down approval of a good game just on principle that it "isn't the clasic" (also hurts when non-vets hear "it should be like the classic" if they didn't like the classic).

There has to be a balance in how each element is brought in so that it can make everyone happy, and this balance usually means keep everything shallow enough that it doesn't frustrate anyone in usage, even if that means it functionally isn't doing anything. (ie lots of RPG stats and numbers to crunch, but you can't choose where your stats go each level, and you can only choose equipment that slightly bolsters your stats. Thus number crunchers can happily find the best items, but casual players just kinda play).

I think the biggest advent in gaming that can be used to progress multi-genra the most is the "achievment"/skillpoint/unlock. Reward the player for playing all aspects of the game. If the rewards are good enough it will help to immerse them in all the gameplay. Provide simple intro gameplay all over that they will experience at somepoint, but provide deeper gameplay on all levels to keep the "hardcore" people happy. For this I think of something like Oblivion/DeusX/SystemShock, there are several paths of gameplay that you can play with (stealth, lockpicking, hacking, sharpshooting, melee, tinkering, psyonics) each with mostly unique gameplay(minigames or interface/tactics changes). And in each, the rewards are "hidden" items that you can only reach if you improve your skill at some gameplay element. Thus encouraging some branching out in self skillsets to try to expand character skills to get everything in the game.

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I have to chime in and say that Pirates! is an awesome blend of many genres. I think they succeeded there by not overdoing any one of the genres, but providing plenty of things to do that directly impact the game. So I think the success point is compartmentalisation of the different genres with respect to increasing the fun level of the game overall. If it doesn't increase the fun factor, don't do it!

I think an example of game that has tried and failed is SimCity Societies. I haven't played Spore and it doesn't really appeal to me, mostly because of the multi-genre thing and the fact the game doesn't sound engaging overall.

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I think Genre limitation is a problem.

But not one that can't be solved by a quick google search.

A game shouldn't be judged on how long it's acronym is, rather the content inside.

I mean there's a fine line between innovation and inspired stupidity, you make the choice as the consumer.

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Mixing genres isn't new. It's been done successfully many times in the past. X-Com: UFO Defense, Syndicate, The Horde, and Star Control II to name a few. Many RPGs are multi-genre, where the combat usually resembles one genre, the dialog another, the world exploration another, etc.

It wasn't multi-genre that killed Spore. Spore's developers were getting too much love and attention from previous games. They didn't want to take risks (read: complexity) to damage that attention, and they paid for wussing out.

[Edited by - Kest on November 30, 2008 5:48:19 PM]

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Yeah but in games risk doesn't always equal reward.
As much as spore was a boring and tedious attempt at making a game based around evolution, it is sort of the first of it's kind. Besides, they need to make room for Spore 2.

Also, as much as I don't like being a grammar nazi, seeing people who want to become games designers use 'payed' and 'rememberable' over the grammatically correct counterparts (who shall remain nameless so you actually don't learn anything) makes me LOL.

If you send off design briefs with those kinds of gross errors, everybody is going to jump ship.

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Quote:
Original post by Cpt Mothballs
Yeah but in games risk doesn't always equal reward.

True, but avoiding risk tends to not lead to reward either. You've got to strike a balance if you want to survive in the long term.

Part of Spore's problem was that the lack of risks taken made the game feel very shallow. It robbed the game of much of its replayability, much unlike the other flagship titles of Maxis. Unlike the Sims or SimCity, I don't think people will be talking much about Spore in five years time. Given the long development time and the hype cycle generated, that's an opportunity lost as far as I can see.

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As much as spore was a boring and tedious attempt at making a game based around evolution, it is sort of the first of it's kind. Besides, they need to make room for Spore 2.

Depends what you mean by "first of its kind". If you mean a game about evolution, it wasn't even the first from Maxis. See SimEarth, SimLife.

As for "making room for the sequel", that doesn't seem like a winner tactic to me. EA's tactics tend to be to milk their Maxis francises with endless expansion packs. I didn't mind the Sims ones frankly, as many of them added a lot of interesting new content. But Spore seems to be going a bit too far in this. First there was the Creature Creator, where the full version of the demo cost money. Now there's a full priced expansion pack "Cute and Creepy Parts", which appears to just have extra creature parts, paint skins and animations.

Maybe it's working for the casual fans, but it's starting to jade my support for Maxis. Will Wright's one of my favourite designers, but these kinds of commercial decisions seem to be over-commodifying his work without adding any additional value, as far as I see.

[Edited by - Trapper Zoid on November 30, 2008 6:43:37 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by Cpt Mothballs
Also, as much as I don't like being a grammar nazi, seeing people who want to become games designers use 'payed' and 'rememberable' over the grammatically correct counterparts (who shall remain nameless so you actually don't learn anything) makes me LOL.

Thanks for politely pointing my "payed" error out for me. I fixed the mistake.

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Yeah but in games risk doesn't always equal reward.

And work doesn't always equal pay, and being nice doesn't always equal friends. By the way, you're missing two commas in that statement.

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As much as spore was a boring and tedious attempt at making a game based around evolution, it is sort of the first of it's kind.

That doesn't make the game any more useful, or fun.

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