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Gameplay Styles: Planned vs. Dynamic

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I was watching my mom try my 3d glasses and left 4 dead 2. I put her in easy mode in multiplayer 4, and was observing how she played at the start of a level. (Standard first person shooter with 'realistic' guns) She's a programmer by profession, and appeared to be using a plan->execute cycle in her gameplay actions. I observed it was a little slow. For example, a zombie would emerge from behind a nearby car, then she would verbally communicate to me what to do, even though she had already used all the controls. By the time I could possibly respond, the zombie would move around or more things would happen.

I was pondering this, and it seems there is a fast decision making process that is overlooked. I have also observed this in the 5-man instances of world of warcraft, where people seem to prefer a slow plan->execute with a strong pre-planning portion over a fast dynamic non-planned tactical encounter, where each player adapts new plans at reflexive speed, probably using a different brain portion doing so. This also appears in games like sf4, and few games seem to appreciate a strong pre-plan, which would probably be more useful in non-combat construction (like making a large complex program or bridge) than in patching the program quickly to block a real time hack or evacuating the bridge as it falls, where a pre-plan would be weaker than a tactical or dynamic plan.

The single player game seems to be an exercise in pre-planning, where the player replays a hard level until they memorize it and preplan a route/solution through it. Multiplayer is the other one, where you cannot know or memorize the relevant details of what will happen, and must do things dynamically with your team as events unfold. Gameplay and tutorial styles could be tailored to this, and both single and multi could potentially include design elements to incorportate both elements into both parts. The obvious use of preplanning is 'strategem' or strategy, which is over the tactical portion of the game, and typically is 'larger' than a single battle, which is probably why it's poorly rendered now. As an example, many games such as counter-strike allow the players to bomb a target but not choose it. That target was carefully preplanned, and a mix would be if the target was covered and the soldiers strategic, they may ponder a secondary target as events unfold or risk the primary. Single player is tricky, however making the levels more dynamic, and maybe having a larger number of shorter maps with random or dynamic hostile and objective placement (reusable maps), along with not repeating the maps repeatedly for memorization, so that when a player fails or dies they proceed to the next map with a 'dead' or 'fail' message instead of a 'win' message, and maybe easier/less enemies on the next one. Maybe put in some dynamic object/cover placement too, and an easy way to lock/unlock portions of the maps/corridors/doors to scramble the layout.

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Proper strategic decision making requires information. In most fast paced games, you don't have the time to gather or analyse the information to make strategic decisions. In games like WoW, because the layout of the dungeon can be known beforehand (either through direct experience or off websites), the location and content of monsters spawns can be known and the players have the time to take in and analyse this information they have the ability to make strategic decisions.

However, in an FPS game, even though you know the map before hand, you can't know what your opponents will do. This eliminates information necessary for strategic decision making. The other problem is that in tactical games, the designers try to make all the items (weapon, etc) equally strategically valuable (but they might have different tactical values).

In many multi-player FPS games now days, they have a warfare game type (or equivalent) where you have to capture points in a sequence to reach the enemy base and destroy it (or equivalent). The problem here is that the sequence is preplanned and thus any strategic decision making has already been made for them and the game becomes just a tactical game again.

The other problem is that in most cases both sides generally have the same goals (to destroy the enemy base) and just have one way to do it. This further eliminates the possibility of player strategic decision making and keeps the game as purely tactical.

So how could we fix this sort of situation?

Well, off the top of my head: You could have each team decide on what their victory conditions will be (say chosen from a list of them for that map). This way, both teams might not have the same goals. However, you will also need some way for the opposing teams to learn the goals of the other team with enough time to analyse the information to come up with a counter strategy.

Another idea is to have a map that has locations and items of different strategic value. For example, one location might allow you to accumulate victory points, another location might allow you to store them, another place allow you to re-spawn and another might allow you to re-spawn at new locations. This way, depending on the needs of the team (getting low on re-spawns, then they will go after the re-spawner, need more total victory points to win then go after the storage, need to gain victory points fast, go after the VP source, etc).

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Gameplay styles: Planned vs Dynamic....

If you want to discuss gameplay, you're going to have to be more specific about the game you're talking about. Even then, most games have a general strategy to them.
I think you'd have to say that all strategies are planned, but they also incorporate tactics (dynamic) to deal with whatever surprises you.

Most plans don't go off perfectly and require some on the fly changes for success. If you want to create a more dynamic gameplay environment, I'd compare it to something like "Bop it". Basically, something shows up, (bop it!) and you respond, (whack!).

Maybe you're saying is that a Bop it has a planned strategy. You know that you're going to have to Bop, twist, pull, etc. And what you're looking for is a drive for dynamic strategy, like, what maybe you're going to have to Pass it, when you didn't realise that was going to come up, thus, derailing your planned strategy. The issue with creating surprise strategic demands is that the player needs to be able to deal with them. And if they can't deal with those surprises, they may have to replay the level until they can learn to adapt their strategy.

An example of dynamic strategy is League of Legends. If you're building a tank, you may decide to buy more armor or magic resistence based on who you're fighting, and what they're building. This is dynamic strategy, based on your opponents tactics.

But to be successful, normally you use both preplanning, with dynamic options. If you don't preplan, you plan to fail. If you don't adapt, you will not survive.

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