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Wavinator

Simulations Don't Need Balance

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Or do they? A simulation can have parts that aren't necessarily fair or even fun to deal with (taken alone, that is) yet nevertheless integral to how realistic it seems. Stalling while flying, for instance, can be an annoying aspect of fighter combat yet mastering this factor can make a virtual pilot feel like he has far more capabilities than someone who just plays an arcade air combat game where you point and shoot (Secret Weapons over Normandy versus Crimson Skies, for example). Inflation in an economic simulation or movement and aiming delays in a tactical shooter might be viewed the same way. When you're designing a simulation and deciding what parts of reality / plausibility to include do you really have to pay attention to the idea of balance? Consider things like no-win states or failure to control the early "game" such that the later goals aren't easily achievable; or factors which naturally grow beyond the player's control. The more you have a sim/toy as opposed to a game it seems to me the less you have to honor the idea of balance. Just like crashing into the ground because your airspeed is too low or having to print $100,000,000 bills because your economy is experiencing hyper-inflation, it seems to me that if the simulation follows rules that are understandable and faithful to some reality the player will be far more likely to try and master the rules than they will be to cry foul. When they die from a rocket blast to the face they'll say, "well, that's what would happen" and try to maneuver better rather be angry that the game doesn't allow rabbit jumping even though that ability would make the game more playable. Agree? Disagree? Why or why not?

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I fully agree. I dream of a boring simulation with no pro-gameplay artificialities and simplifications. I dream of a dramatic movie without bullshit love stories and clichés.

One day...

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Quote:
Original post by tori
I fully agree. I dream of a boring simulation with no pro-gameplay artificialities and simplifications. I dream of a dramatic movie without bullshit love stories and clichés.

One day...


Since you say "boring simulation" I take your post to be sarcasm (which translates not too well on the net). But without a more cogent, thought-out reply I have no idea whether you just don't like simulations or disagree with the premise about negative game states.

How about another chance to respond with more relevant detail?

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That's the way many PC games were designed around the early-mid-90s, such as the excellent TIE-Fighter and FreeSpace games. Meticulous simulation games are extremely rewarding for players willing to devote the time and energy to master them, but unfortunately are relatively inaccessible so companies don't really make them anymore. Personally, back around 2001 when more game consoles were coming out with dual-joystick controllers, I was hoping we'd be seeing complex sword fighting games where you control your avatar's arms with each stick and the shoulder buttons and manipulate them for leverage and deadly strokes, and when the PS3 tech demos came out I was hoping for something involving a detailed simulation of surviving in a realistic forest ecosystem with dynamic changes, but apparently nobody else envisioned the things I did, or else the ideas all got shot down.

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Simulators are things that don't really fit between games. They are not games. They are the ultimate frustration made with only realism in mind, which is also a very abstract term that has no meaning. You can call every game real and say that the player has 99% of luck. :D
Quote:
A simulation can have parts that aren't necessarily fair or even fun to deal with (taken alone, that is) yet nevertheless integral to how realistic it seems.

I've examined simulators and I've came to a conclusion that almost nothing is real there, like in most games. Yet they are the most annoying / most time-wasting / least entertaining kind of games (if they can be called games) ever.
Quote:
it seems to me that if the simulation follows rules that are understandable and faithful to some reality the player will be far more likely to try and master the rules than they will be to cry foul.

Then it won't really be a simulator. You can't completely understand anything in real life... like jumping, for example - can you jump exactly 0.314 meters (with a precisity of 0.0000001 meters)? Also, many players might not know the rules that are taken from "real life constants and formulas" and that's why they might fail to play the game even if they got super-fast reaction and a great logical thinking ability. But a game must test abilities not knowledge of some abstract terms thought out by some people in the basement. I look at games like challenges, and simulators aren't challenging, they're pushing you away from the challenge.

EDIT: Simulators can be built very fast - if something isn't fun, don't fix, it's real, if something looks weird, don't fix, it's real, if there's a bug, and it leads to frustration, it is a part of the experience and it's real. :D Games should be made carefully not hacked around like this...

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My fundamental rule about game design is that a game must be fun. Everything else is secondary to fun. E.g.: if you've got great graphics, but no fun, the end user is going to think it's a tech demo that got too big for its britches. If you've got realism, but no fun, the user is going to think you didn't spend enough time play testing. Realism is fine, but it's secondary to factors that contributes to fun. Dying from a rocket blast to the face is fine.... unless you get shot at with rockets so often it's not fun.

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I agree with you Wavinator and portugal stew, i always loved the idea of managing something like an eco-system or compose attackmoves out of possible individual moves of shoulder, elbow, hand etc but sadly there are few good games like that. There are some indy games or low budget titles but few bigger ones.

Also I feel there needn't be too much balance in simulations as simulations are played with a different motivation than other games. I play a simulation if i want to put myself in a complex situation I don't encounter usually. Like I want to be a "real" pilot or I want to do "real" racing. Sometimes it is not enough to sit down with an arcade game and fly around or do some quick races but it is far more satisfying to give the very best and still fail. - Knowing it was really close or knowing I might be able to do it some other day.
But it is very important the game really has a complex underlying structure and no random-fake system because you always find out. Latest when you start reading guides, watching tutorials and videos on youtube to learn advanced strategies you read or see people abusing some flaws in the game mechanics.

Another thing is you usually dont want to play simulations with imbalanced aspects against other players as you want to compare skill in pvp (or do some social activity) but not rage about worse players beating you due to imbalances. If you want to pvp in a flight simulator for example you should have a set of balanced aircraft to chose from.

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Simulations simulate a reality. Reality isn't balanced.

Though, the amount of reality that is injected into a game walks a fine line between what's entertaining and what isn't.

In a flight simulator a systems check before taking off might feel to some like immersion, however in some cases that systems check can take over 30 minutes in reality.

It's a fine line.

One needs to select the market niche, and design to it's expectations. Arbitrarily adding realism to a game isn't going to be automatically entertaining, and games are, to it's most fundamental, entertainment.

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I'd agree with your initial post, from an academic standpoint. I generally don't like to play simulations that are deeper than driving or flying, though. If you're running an economy and get yourself into a position where you're totally boned, but it'll take ten years for your system to collapse and you don't have any moves that'll save it even if you see what's happening, then you're stuck with a slow, agonizing failure. At least when I stall my plane, it only takes a few seconds to crash and die.

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Snake5, I think you don't really understand the concept of simulation games. The simulator part is that they allow you to do some 'realistic' activity which you can't actually do in real life for various reasons: it's too expensive, illegal, would normally take years, would require technology which doesn't exist yet, requires too many other people, or is too much manual labor. If that's all it is, it's only a toy, but often it is developed as a game by adding play objectives and scoring.

I've played some excellent simulation games, as well as many which were bad specifically due to balance problems, or due to failure to really develop the simulation into a game. I just the other day spent about 4 hours playing an amusing new one I found: Celebrity Pedigree

Wavinator I disagree with the idea that simulations can contain elements which are neither fair nor fun. All games contain elements which aren't fun, but those are the very elements which it is most important be fair. For example a farming sim, where the weather has a random chance to be a storm, and the storm destroys a random number of plants - the game will fail if the potential loss due to one storm can bankrupt the player, or if the average amount of damage done is equal or grater to the average amount of progress the player can make on the average number of non-storm days per storm. While farm-destroying tornado are perfectly realistic, they aren't fair in a game defined as 'succeed at being a farmer', and this this unfairness is exactly what puts them beyond the level of acceptable severity for random negative events within such a farming simulation.

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