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Depth vs. Gameplay - walking a fine line

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I asked somebody what he prefered in a game: lots of depth, or lots of action. He gave me the answer I expected: an equal blend of both. Too much depth makes the game slow and dull, like an encyclopedia. Too much action makes it repetitive and boring. Where is the fine line between depth and gameplay that will keep people coming back for more? This is an important question I''ve been asking myself lately. I think the answer lies in tying depth and gameplay together. I think the key is to build the action such that it has obvious roots in, and perhaps even an impact on, the story. You''re playing a rogue. Somebody discreetly offers you a lot of money if you assassinate a local lord, Baron Rothgar, before an upcoming festival. You do so. What happens to the festival? What happens to Baron Rothgar''s wife and property? What happens to you when the same guy who made the offer turns around and tells the king? I''ll tell you what happens: you get depth combined with gameplay. I think the key to achieving this level of enjoyment is to design a somewhat linear story with various diversions that can be taken if the player performs certain actions. This can be represented by flags (if Rothgar_Dead = True, then do this), or better yet, by a finite or fuzzy state machine dependent on a multitude of variable factors. Kylotan was rambling about inventories in a recent post. I think he and I agree that inventory management is often part of gameplay. Character management draws players into the lives of their characters, which boosts immersion (if done properly, meaning you avoid abstractions whenever possible). Immersion equals depth. Management equals gameplay. They go hand-in-hand. What other ways can you tie depth to gameplay to make a game more interesting?

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quote:
Original post by Tom
I asked somebody what he prefered in a game: lots of depth, or lots of action. He gave me the answer I expected: an equal blend of both. Too much depth makes the game slow and dull, like an encyclopedia. Too much action makes it repetitive and boring. Where is the fine line between depth and gameplay that will keep people coming back for more?



Tom, unless you''re strictly talking cRPGs, I''m afraid this line does not exist. Play Alpha Centauri or Tropico, and contrast to Quake III, and you''ll see what I mean. AC and Tropico demand depth, and its precisely because things are slow (and maybe to you dull ) and even "encyclopedic" that the game is so d#mn good. Then contrast a game like Quake, which is very much repetitive but so andrenaline addled that it can make giddy, and you''ll see depth has no place in a game like that.

Even for cRPGs, I think the line doesn''t exist. Some love Diablo, but would be bored to tears by Fallout. & vice versa...




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quote:
Original post by Tom
I think the key to achieving this level of enjoyment is to design a somewhat linear story with various diversions that can be taken if the player performs certain actions. This can be represented by flags (if Rothgar_Dead = True, then do this), or better yet, by a finite or fuzzy state machine dependent on a multitude of variable factors.

Kylotan was rambling about inventories in a recent post. I think he and I agree that inventory management is often part of gameplay. Character management draws players into the lives of their characters, which boosts immersion (if done properly, meaning you avoid abstractions whenever possible). Immersion equals depth. Management equals gameplay. They go hand-in-hand.

I think you''ve summed it up quite well: it seems to be best when you have a single, definite goal which you are working inexorably towards, yet you need to have sub-goals and management issues along the way which provide numerous permutations of situations for you to deal with. Sub-goals don''t have to be extra mini-quests, they can be things such as wanting to get better equipment, choosing how to manage inventory, deciding whether to research Conquer technology rather than Build technology, and so on.

If you lack the single goal that you (and perhaps enemies, in some sorts of game) are heading towards, then the pressure is off, and you don''t have enough action.

If you lack the side distractions that allow the player to feel like their decisions influence the game, and that add variety to the gameplay, then you don''t have enough depth.

I agree that not all games need ''depth'' or ''action'' to the same extent, but I would argue that many first-person games, especially the team-based ones that people play a lot of these days, have much more depth in the way of strategy and tactics than Quake did. And I believe that Civilization-type games also boast a lot of ''action'', it just happens that it''s not visceral and urgent action. Have you never found yourself looking out of the window while playing Civilization and realising it''s 8am? This happens to me, because the ''action'' is so continuous that I never found a convenient point to stop playing.

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Going along with the depth vs. gameplay issue, you can look at upcoming games to give a feeling of what players want. What are the most raved about FPS''s that are out or will be out?

AvP2 which is supposed to have a more integrated storyline in a detailed world setting that everyone''s familiar with
Max Payne: whichis getting rave reviews for it''s storyline and innovative gameplay
Ghost Recon: Which is the military equivalent of the very detailed and in depth Rainbow Six series
MOH: Allied Assault; an intricate storyline of a 2nd looies missions in WWII eurpoe
Planetside: a sci-fi MMOFPS in a detailed and persistent world
Red Faction; a gimmicky FPS that has storyline

What''s the trend here? I''m not even really seeing any tournament style games (although Planetside and Ghost REcon are probably the closest). I think the trend is in creating involving worlds that draws the player in. Gone are the days of the deathmatch-only style games, and I think we''re even starting to see the diminishing of Team based games (although they are still popular, remember how long it took for team based play to take over deathmatching). There are quite a few MMOFPS''s that are coming out (Planetside, HALO, WWII Online, etc) that are somewhat like team based shooters, but not quite.

Maybe I''m totally wrong, but I think something that will become more popular is co-operative style gaming. The thing that I prefer about co-op play over team vs. team play is the sense that I''m not just "beating" another team, but fulfilling an objective through teamwork. I''d personally like to see this style of gaming increase. I think what needs to happen for this though is to make add-on missions easier to create (i.e. very simple and easy scripting of events and mission events).

Before I totally digress, I think the depth vs. gameplay isn''t so much a tug of war between opposites, but rather two facets that game designers just don''t necessarily try to combine very well. It is possible to have a very immersive and absorbing world that is also fast paced and footloose.

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Well, let''s look at this from another perspective. How important do you think characters are to creating depth? Because unless I''m mistaken, you can have a fast-paced action game with witty, loveable characters and fulfill all your needs for a deep, immersing game.

The thing that made me realize this is Dauntless''s observations of cooperative gaming. An image of D&D: Shadow Over Mystara flashed into my mind: the tower levels about halfway through the game, with a multitude of doors that can only be opened if (a) you push statues onto several floor plates, or (b) a bunch of players stand on the plates themselves. There was even one door that could only be opened if you had four weights, and there were only two statues in the room; you needed at least two people to open it, and more would make it far easier.

Anyway, I think a game can achieve a great deal of depth just by allowing for multiple players, and anywhere a player cannot fulfill that need, a character can. For example, let''s say you got a big rock blocking an important door. One character is super strong, and he can life the rock out of the way. Another character would look at the rock and say, "You''ve gotta be kidding." While another might try to lift it and finally give up, saying, "It is a worthy adversary." To a rock, I think this is kinda funny.

What I''m talking about is character interaction on two levels: one with the world, another with other characters. In the ideal online game, people should make their own world with their own stories. Given the inordinate amount of jerks in this world, this will never happen. So we can try to replace that level of depth with non-player characters. They will only be assholes if you make them that way (and you will need someone for the players to hate), but they''ll be assholes in a different way, one that pushes the story.

The beauty of this is that character depth does not interfere with gameplay (as long as you don''t lock the controls every single time they talk to each other for ten minutes). Chrono Trigger didn''t really have any depth of character for anyone but the seven main characters, but I loved the fact that you could still walk around while talking to people. It''s a kind of interaction on two levels at the same time.

Of course, I''m the type of person who thinks world depth is just as important as character depth. I would flesh out an entire world just because it suits me, and doing so makes it easier to come up with a believable story. However, gameplay is always first on my list. Maybe that''s why Unreal Tournament is still my favorite game. It''s the purest example of refinement I''ve ever seen.

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Hi,

I am not a game developper but a gamer for a long time now and I like to give some inputs...

Personnaly since I have internet connection it has become unsual that I play a non MMO game.

So I definetly dont want some cooperative games but instead teamS (3 at least heh) play.

And well Planetside is a game I am waiting desesperatly because I want to see what gameplay and depth a MMOFPS can add with a persistant world.

On the other hand my favourites games are MMORPG and what I really want in a MMORPG is freedom. For me in Role Game, the depth has to be from players and not from the game itself. The game have to provide a world with most freedom as possible so players can really get involved into and create their own Kingdom, Empire, Quest, Buildings, etc...

Give me freedom and I ll give u depth

My 2cents

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Single-player demands depth; multiplayer requires action. The End.

A single-player game should tell a story. Otherwise, it''s boring. Sure, you''re "doing" a lot - running, jumping, shooting - but nothing new is happening. And when nothing new happens, the game gets boring.

But in multiplayer, a story isn''t much of an option. Simply due to the way multiplayer works, games need to be relatively short (or better yet, designed with user-adjustable factors that can change a game''s length), and should not attempt to tell a story. Single-player happens once. But multiplayer matches happen over and over again. And nobody wants to hear the same story repeated a dozen times. In multiplayer, people just want to beat the other guy.

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"In multiplayer, people just want to beat the other guy"

I am sorry but if its true that in multiplayer its important to win, its not the only thing a player want. At least not in a MMORPG and maybe neither in MMORTS.

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quote:
The thing that made me realize this is Dauntless''s observations of cooperative gaming. An image of D&D: Shadow Over Mystara flashed into my mind: the tower levels about halfway through the game, with a multitude of doors that can only be opened if (a) you push statues onto several floor plates, or (b) a bunch of players stand on the plates themselves. There was even one door that could only be opened if you had four weights, and there were only two statues in the room; you needed at least two people to open it, and more would make it far easier.


The door with four pressure plates can actually be opened with one player alone. 2 statues on the plates, 1 from the player, and the last one you can accomplish by tricking the npc kobold to stand on it at the same time. Shows you what a great game design dosen''t it ?

quote:
Single-player demands depth; multiplayer requires action. The End.

A single-player game should tell a story. Otherwise, it''s boring. Sure, you''re "doing" a lot - running, jumping, shooting - but nothing new is happening. And when nothing new happens, the game gets boring.

But in multiplayer, a story isn''t much of an option. Simply due to the way multiplayer works, games need to be relatively short (or better yet, designed with user-adjustable factors that can change a game''s length), and should not attempt to tell a story. Single-player happens once. But multiplayer matches happen over and over again. And nobody wants to hear the same story repeated a dozen times. In multiplayer, people just want to beat the other guy.


I disagree. This topic isn''t simple as that. Tetris, bust-a-move, and many puzzle games dosen''t have huge depth in the game yet they are able to attract many gamers. On the other hand, there are MMORPG/muds that only offers zero or little actions but a long evolving story and they are quite successful.

quote:
If you lack the single goal that you (and perhaps enemies, in some sorts of game) are heading towards, then the pressure is off, and you don''t have enough action. If you lack the side distractions that allow the player to feel like their decisions influence the game, and that add variety to the gameplay, then you don''t have enough depth.


Kyoltan, you are taking all the words out of my mouth, boohoo. Anyway, I respect you as a good designer.

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quote:
Original post by TerranFury
Single-player demands depth; multiplayer requires action. The End.



What abut a multi-player game of Civilization or Master of Orion?
By "action" do you mean lots of stuff happening, or just SOMETHING happening?

quote:

A single-player game should tell a story. Otherwise, it''s boring. Sure, you''re "doing" a lot - running, jumping, shooting - but nothing new is happening. And when nothing new happens, the game gets boring.


You don''t always need a story for this. (Empire games, twitch, some shooters, open-ended games, space trading games, sims)

quote:

But in multiplayer, a story isn''t much of an option. Simply due to the way multiplayer works, games need to be relatively short (or better yet, designed with user-adjustable factors that can change a game''s length), and should not attempt to tell a story. Single-player happens once. But multiplayer matches happen over and over again. And nobody wants to hear the same story repeated a dozen times. In multiplayer, people just want to beat the other guy.


For some games this is true, but I think you''re ignoring co-op. I know people who are fiends for playing Baldur''s Gate and Phantasy Star Online cooperatively, even though they already know the story.


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