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Wavinator

Do-Gooder Gameplay or GTA Like That Coke Ad

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Saving the old lady rather than watching her get squished by the bus... throwing the ball back to the little kid before it rolls into the gutter... you know, something other than taking aim with a sniper rifle and splattering their skull fragments all over the level... why is this sort of gameplay so hard to do? For those that haven't seen it, Coca Cola did an ad awhile back in which the main character for one of the Grand Theft Auto games walked around a city doing good things for people rather than filling them full of lead. He, for instance, pulls someone back from the street before they're struck by a vehicle and (in keeping with the ad) spreads cheer by solving potential conflicts with a loving bottle of Coke. Cheesiness aside, what do you think the main obstacles to creating this kind of gameplay would be in terms of
  • gamer sentiments, particularly in the context of what's come before and given that nihilistic gameplay in sandbox games like Saint's Row and and GTA has become "cool"
  • creating challenges that scale and are repeatable (as combat is)
  • creating a satisfying goal and overall focus for such a game (e.g., it's either a race, or a puzzle, or a huge series of challenges)
I don't know what to do about the first point, as it may just be ingrained culture. For the last two it occurs to me that one of the first things you need in order to create a scalable strategy are actions and corresponding resources that are limited. But I'm at a loss because I can't picture what those resources would be. What does/should it cost to be a do-gooder, and how do you recover the related resources? Alternately, I've been thinking along the a-life / sim route: Rather than creating costs for actions, create costs for inaction. The idea would be that the less you act the worse the world becomes, but that you can't do everything and be everywhere at once. So your time and positioning would be strategic. This would then imply some sort of strategy game of spreading cheer, particularly if doing so had a cascade effect. Any Thoughts?

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Well it's a fairly standard rpg setup to have the player randomly go around helping people. Of course they mostly help out by killing monsters, looting their lairs, and delivering packages. I don't think issue 1 is really that big a problem, if you can solve the other issues. As an aside, consider the main concept of ultima 4. The goal of the player was to adhere to an ethical system defined by the game. There really wasn't a lot of plot or a real villain in that game.

The bigger issue in my mind is creating an interesting challenge to replace combat (issue 2). Combat, if done well, provides interesting tactical choices. For an RPG there is also the strategic element of developing a character or party that can do well in combat. For action games, you can also have hand eye coordination and timing elements to combat, although those are probably the easiest parts to bring over to another system.

How do you make "save the old lady" or "throw back the ball" into interesting gameplay? You could have a bunch of simple minigames, maybe mario party kind of stuff. That doesn't really seem to have a lot of depth to it though.

Is there a way to map the tactical decisions of a combat system onto a different presentation? It seems like combat is fundamentally dependent on having an "opponent", which is lacking here. Puzzles are another option, but I don't really feel the connection between playing bejeweled and "save the old lady". It worked for me in Puzzlequest though.

A really easy option would be to make an adventure game. The puzzles in those games are mostly combat free anyway, and could map well to this theme. Maybe with a deep conversation system. Choose the right conversation options to talk people into doing something rather than fighting them.

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Original post by Wavinator

  • gamer sentiments, particularly in the context of what's come before and given that nihilistic gameplay in sandbox games like Saint's Row and and GTA has become "cool"
  • creating challenges that scale and are repeatable (as combat is)
  • creating a satisfying goal and overall focus for such a game (e.g., it's either a race, or a puzzle, or a huge series of challenges)



I can imagine a game where the player is shown premonitions of a person or people dying and then has to determine where the death(s) are going to occur and how they will save the people involved. It may not be as heartwarming as the stuff shown in the commercial (which is
">here, BTW) but I think it would be sufficiently "cool". Scenarios could range from "Grandma crossing the street without looking both ways" to "Tanker explosion downtown". Preventing these scenarios would require interacting with the game world in a number of ways, like maybe grabbing granny before the car hits her, or flagging down the offending vehicle. The overall focus could come from something plot-related: Maybe you have to save X amount of people before a judgement day or solve some sort of overarching mystery involving the deaths ("Hey, why does this guy show up in the background of all my premonitions?").

Sort of ignores spreading the cheer, though. Hmmm.

Also, I would put little to no cost on good actions besides the time required to perform them. Especially in sandbox games, doing whatever the hell you want is often easier.

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That sounds like a very interesting idea ToastFlambe. I seem to recall seeing a movie with a similiar plot but I can't think of the name.

Sex and violence sell, Id love to see a game that promoted compassion and was fun to play. But look at the video game rack, 90% of new games are "Super man" wearing a "Super Suit" and sporting a variety of "Super Guns". People play them because they feel empowered.

Also, I think it's just human nature to want to vent. If players want to go out and do something nice, no one will stop them. On the other hand, acting the way they do in games has dire concequences in the real world.

It will be very hard to "empower" a player with the ability to care. But I certainly hope you succeed in doing so.

Keep in mind I live in a city with more murders per month than your country has in a year. :) My thoughts may be tainted.

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I don't have great answers to any of your questions, just some random observations.

When a hero saves someone at the risk of their own life, most people will smile. When an evil villain saves someone at the risk of their own life, it might be enough to make a grown man cry. It means something much greater. He isn't just doing his job, or doing what's expected of him. He's going against his nature and instincts, and breaking his established identity, because as much as he hates to admit it, he cares.

People also like villains that switch over to the good side. Especially if they only did so for selfish reasons, then "accidentally" converted. They usually don't have the artificial appearance that born-as-heroes have. They aren't always nice, and they don't help other people just because they feel like they have to. They usually only help when they can enjoy their power by ripping other bad guys to shreds, or when it hurts what little humanity they have too much to just stand there and do nothing.

I think the artificial goals of a hero are the hardest thing to sell. Heroes whose goals are to save other people, at the risk of death, for no particular self-incentive, aren't very relatable to human beings. I think one solution is to come up with practical goals that are a little more selfish. It could be something pretty simple. For example, the character might be battle hungry - always thirsting for conflict. When someone asks the player hero why he's risking his life to weed their garden, it's because he just needs his fix. They have killer plant enemies they can't deal with, and he needs enemies to defeat. It works out for everyone.

Something else that I think helps to sell a hero is a lovable population. It's sometimes difficult to enjoy being a hero when the world doesn't even seem worthy of being saved. Sprite based games usually do a good job of this for me, because most of the characters are adorable looking, and I can't stand the thought of them being hurt. But it's difficult with renders or models (Fallout 3 has attractive characters, but most of them were far from lovable). Without sprites, psychology is about the only tool we have to make characters more likable. One solution that might work would be to underdog the general population. If another high and mighty group of people are pushing them around, it might make it easier to jump to their side.

That's about all I've got. I hope some of my random ramblings helped somewhat.

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What has happened to our society when doing what's right for its own sake has become a foreign, "unrelatable" concept?

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Original post by theOcelot
What has happened to our society when doing what's right for its own sake has become a foreign, "unrelatable" concept?

It's not just a matter of doing what's right. It's usually more of a measurement of consequences. For example, normal people don't risk life and limb to help someone they don't know take care of a pest problem just because it seemed like the right thing to do.

This is the usual situation in hero-based games, even though the life in question is artificial. The player can bet money that his life is going to be thrown into a blender during the "quest", regardless of what it first seems to be. And the player rarely has realistic incentive to help these people in the first place. He's most likely doing it for whatever artificial reward pops out at the end, such as experience or points.

And that's another situation that can be made to seem less artificial. If you want the player to have a realistic reason to want to help someone they don't know, have those people promise specific amounts of money when the job is done, and don't give the player an option to not take the money once it's done. Now he's doing the right thing, getting paid for it, and still feeling good about it.

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Original post by Kest
Something else that I think helps to sell a hero is a lovable population.

This actually got me thinking - what were to happen if the game were to take place in a population full of apathetic people, and the player had to try to make the world care? What if the player had to be the one to trigger other characters (or the general populous) to start doing good? It could provide the incentive to do good (so that other people see that they too can do good), and an overall goal of having the population become more caring (to the point where visible changes occur in the game world, and things become more bright, cheery, etc). Of course a balance would have to be kept, for example what happens if someone now feels that they have to do good and tries to stop a bank robbery from happening and gets shot?

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The problem seems to be down to a difference between gameplay and one off events. Combat engine and game mechanics is generally straight forward to create and can be used again and again throughout the game by varying the enemy type. But getting a kid's ball or helping an old lady cross the road are more one off event, specifically scripted into a game.

How do you build a game mechanic and system for helping people? You could create a list of standard helpful events and then seed them through out the game world every few minutes. But would that keep it fresh and interesting enough to entertain the player for the long hall? Since the last thing you want is to see stranded old ladies on every other corner.

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Re: Gameplay of good and evil can be identical

I just want to point out that the gameplay between the good and evil can be designed to be identical. For example, in the Naughty Virus game I posted, if you simply call one virus 'bad', and say that it has the objective of screwing everything up, and the other virus 'good' that keeps things from going haywire, then you have a game where the good and bad sides are established, and they have identical gameplay (maze tracing and pattern recognition).

So I would say that the order of design is gameplay, then context. The morality of a situation is something you could attach after the gameplay has been designed.

For instance, you did not ask the question:

"I want to design a game where the player does random things in the neighborhood, like running over a grandma, kicking a kid's ball to the gutter, etc..."

You see that the root problem is not that good is hard to make, but that random interactions are hard to make. It does not matter whether the context is good or evil. If you see a problem of being non-replayable here, it is in your gameplay design, not the context or moral assignment of the situations.

Once you have defined the gameplay properly, you could have these random situation:

** Breaking News: Virus invades traffic lights! Hospital flooded with wounded! **

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