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ShawnCowles

Sphere of Destruction or Unstoppable Monster


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My brother and I were having a discussion the other day, and I'd like to see what you all think of it.

In this scenario there is an unstoppable evil trapped underneath the world, and a bunch of cultists are trying to free it. If the players don't stop the cultists in time the evil will be released and the world is going to be destroyed.

In the instance that the players fail, what would be the most effective (from a psychological standpoint) way to do it?

I proposed a giant monster, able to destroy buildings at a touch, with almost limitless hit points. I think this would be the most effective because (as it is a creature) you might think that you have a chance of killing it and saving the world. As you attack it however you realize that your most powerful spells, weapons, etc do absolutely nothing to the creature as it smashes cities and fortresses. The fact that you thought you had a chance, but are totally ineffective I think would add an element of failure to hopelessness.

My brother proposed a sphere of destruction that slowly expands unstoppable destroying anything it touches. The players realize there is nothing they can do about it from the start.


I prefer the monster (if you couldn't tell), but I'm interested in seeing what other people think. Keep in mind, however, that when this thing is released the world is over. It took all of the power of a god just to contain the thing. Admittedly it emerges somewhat weak, but it should still be an unstoppable force of destruction.

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My gut reaction would be a mixture of both really. On its own the sphere seems a bit tacky (like one of those effects cheap TV shows use when the big bad arrives) and seems a bit contrary to the whole "big bad" being released. The monster alone is also a bit anti-climactic (it actually makes me think of one of the season finales of TorchWood).

I would start off with an egg or sphere appearing over a certain point and then as it matures a ring would appear underneath it and start to expand corrupting/destroying anything it touches. After a while the egg would crack open causing the ring to expand abruptly and releasing the monster that would then set out destroying everything else/corrupting the land beneath it. This is more personal preference though.

From a psychological standpoint a monster based one would be better if you plan on the player playing past that point. But that's simply because it at least gives the player some hope or reason to keep playing. The expanding sphere is just a big "give up now" sign. Not many games really go into this kind of "you lost but you can keep playing" style, most recent one I can think of is Dead Rising 2 Off The Record but that's down to its sandbox like nature. The deciding factor would probably be the type of game you want to incorporate it in.

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I think a huge amount of flying monsters or other similiar things is more interesting, as you could kill them but theres so many or they reproduce that you cant stop them.

You could also add a huge monster that comes some time after the swarm of small ones or the small ones could spawn from the big monster.

Anyways, i find a huge swarm of evil thingies scary.

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Ever heard about CERN, and their relatively new particle accelerator (world's largest).
There were someone who believe it might create a black hole, that will continue to grow until it swallows the world. Anyways sphere of destruction, slowly growing, "eating" everything it touches. You see nothing (it will be completely black, not even light can escape). How about multiple spehere's of destruction. In the beginning you can move through them, but eventually the cut off the remaining world into tiny fragments. Similar to a mass strike of nuclear missiles, and you're lucky enough to not be in it's kill radius.
You could come up with a 100% fiction explanation, but dark matter /dark energy might be fitting as some pseudo science explanation.

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You know, I think it depends on your storyline and so on... which can work better into the plot? Because really, either way works provided that you can "sell" the concept to the player. To me, the monster makes more sense because cultists seem to love those things. The monster could be a "no hope" situation depending on how you do that... I mean if this mountain comes and steps on you, it doesn't really leave much of an impression of a fighting chance. Though necrosphere could work too if you just spin it right - I think it's all about context!

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A Giant Marshmallow Sailor == ULTIMATE EVIL

But seriously, it depends on the setting, what the player went through and what the cult is about. If it is about worshipping a monster, then a monster is good. If it is about evil in general, it might be a sphere.

It may be a gazzilion other things -- hordes of omnivore locust consuming the world, an unstopable force pushing the Earth into the Sun, a plauge cloud that melts flesh and steel into a stinky sludge... Anything.

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How about a sphere of corrupting influence. Wouldn't it be insidious if there was an emanating point of evil and everyone who fell under its influence went dark side? You wouldn't know who was your ally and who was out to cut your throat in your sleep.

No offense, but isn't this more about writing than gameplay?

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[quote name='lrh9' timestamp='1318835650' post='4873353']
How about a sphere of corrupting influence. Wouldn't it be insidious if there was an emanating point of evil and everyone who fell under its influence went dark side? You wouldn't know who was your ally and who was out to cut your throat in your sleep.

No offense, but isn't this more about writing than gameplay?
[/quote]

I would say not, I want to convey the futility of the situation though the mechanics, not the writing. The goal is to try and encourage players to want to go out fighting by giving them a situation they can struggle against, but not stop.

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My vote is for an unstoppable monster. If faced with something like the sphere, I'd more inclined to run than to fight against it. A monster of some kind I'd at least figure to have some sort of weakness that can be exploited even if means throwing wave after wave of men against it.

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[quote name='Waterlimon' timestamp='1318685935' post='4872839']
I think a huge amount of flying monsters or other similiar things is more interesting, as you could kill them but theres so many or they reproduce that you cant stop them.

You could also add a huge monster that comes some time after the swarm of small ones or the small ones could spawn from the big monster.

Anyways, i find a huge swarm of evil thingies scary.
[/quote]


This.

A weak but exponentially replicating threat. Not necessarily monsters (grey goo would work too).

Something the player can face easily, only to see the rest growing beyond control. That would create a more drawn out panic. Something like one giant monster or a sphere of destruction would be too obviously a plot point where the player knows it's not meant to be destroyed.

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I think the key element here is atmosphere. A good villain/apocalyptic event needs a lot of presence to make players feel in danger.

Danger and fear go hand in hand. Fear is a primal responce to being predated upon. Hence a good antagonist should be a good predator.

So those two key components;

Presence
Predator

Fear is induced by suspecting you are in danger. You aren't afraid of lions because they have no presence near you; you know they're (probably) thousands of miles from where you're sitting right now. However that monster under your bed that was around when you were 5 years old had huge presence; it was right next to you and you slept with it every night. Sure, you never saw it, but it had presence and that alone is scary.

In context, a good antagonist has to be close to the player. You're not afraid of some black hole on the other side of the galaxy; but news that our sun will become one within 24h will scare the hell out of you.

Next, the predator part. Sun becoming black hole is a good predator; you can't fight it. Take every good horror film antagonist and they all have one thing in common; they're efficient at killing you. The aliens from Alien are nearly endless in number, strike from the shadows, are all around you and can incapacitate you in seconds. That's a damn good predator, and damn scary if they had presence in your life.

To summarise, you need to feel like the antagonist is close. You need to feel like the antagonist is an efficient killer. How you do this is entirely up to you, one method isn't really better than another, just get those 2 elements down and it'll have that "psychological effect".

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[quote name='Eiviyn' timestamp='1319017098' post='4874222']
I think the key element here is atmosphere. A good villain/apocalyptic event needs a lot of presence to make players feel in danger.

Danger and fear go hand in hand. Fear is a primal responce to being predated upon. Hence a good antagonist should be a good predator.

So those two key components;

Presence
Predator

Fear is induced by suspecting you are in danger. You aren't afraid of lions because they have no presence near you; you know they're (probably) thousands of miles from where you're sitting right now. However that monster under your bed that was around when you were 5 years old had huge presence; it was right next to you and you slept with it every night. Sure, you never saw it, but it had presence and that alone is scary.

In context, a good antagonist has to be close to the player. You're not afraid of some black hole on the other side of the galaxy; but news that our sun will become one within 24h will scare the hell out of you.

Next, the predator part. Sun becoming black hole is a good predator; you can't fight it. Take every good horror film antagonist and they all have one thing in common; they're efficient at killing you. The aliens from Alien are nearly endless in number, strike from the shadows, are all around you and can incapacitate you in seconds. That's a damn good predator, and damn scary if they had presence in your life.

To summarise, you need to feel like the antagonist is close. You need to feel like the antagonist is an efficient killer. How you do this is entirely up to you, one method isn't really better than another, just get those 2 elements down and it'll have that "psychological effect".
[/quote]

Very insightfull, loved the explanation!

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[quote name='c-Row' timestamp='1319021508' post='4874241']
Will the game be completely unwinnable at this point? If so, I don't think it really matters - the player would probably feel cheated anyway.
[/quote]

Well, there's really no way to [i]win[/i] the game in the first place, but if the unstoppable evil gets out then it means the player has lost.
There will be actions the player can take to prevent the unstoppable evil's escape, however. Breaking up cults etc....

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[quote name='ShawnCowles' timestamp='1319027521' post='4874303']
[quote name='c-Row' timestamp='1319021508' post='4874241']
Will the game be completely unwinnable at this point? If so, I don't think it really matters - the player would probably feel cheated anyway.
[/quote]

Well, there's really no way to [i]win[/i] the game in the first place, but if the unstoppable evil gets out then it means the player has lost.
There will be actions the player can take to prevent the unstoppable evil's escape, however. Breaking up cults etc....
[/quote]

Then what's the point of playing the game? To see how long you last? Either way, if you force me to keep playing when the game is effectively over I'll be upset and frustrated. In that case, it doesn't matter how you present the big baddie. You lost me as a player.

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[quote name='Suspense' timestamp='1319040623' post='4874358']
[quote name='ShawnCowles' timestamp='1319027521' post='4874303']
[quote name='c-Row' timestamp='1319021508' post='4874241']
Will the game be completely unwinnable at this point? If so, I don't think it really matters - the player would probably feel cheated anyway.
[/quote]

Well, there's really no way to [i]win[/i] the game in the first place, but if the unstoppable evil gets out then it means the player has lost.
There will be actions the player can take to prevent the unstoppable evil's escape, however. Breaking up cults etc....
[/quote]

Then what's the point of playing the game? To see how long you last? Either way, if you force me to keep playing when the game is effectively over I'll be upset and frustrated. In that case, it doesn't matter how you present the big baddie. You lost me as a player.
[/quote]

Nothing's forcing you to keep playing, you could just load up a different world and play there. But I would like to try and encourage the players to keep playing as the world is being destroyed.

Hmm... Perhaps allow the player to build a portal to another world after the unstoppable evil is let out. The process would take awhile (so you'd have to hide from the monster or whatever), but would allow the player to start over in a new world with all of their stuff.

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One thing I can tell you about survival -- if it is unachievable, the game looses its purpose.

Take the CoD: Black Ops zombie mode. I played while I had the illusion that there would be some kind of boss or completion to the game. There wasn't -- and high-score I couldn't give a damn about. So I stopped playing that.

Being honest with your players is great, but if the player cannot win, at least in some way, he will not play to witness failure each time.

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[quote name='ShawnCowles' timestamp='1319111883' post='4874658']
Nothing's forcing you to keep playing, you could just load up a different world and play there. But I would like to try and encourage the players to keep playing as the world is being destroyed.
[/quote]
You said the game cannot be won; the player can only delay defeat. This alone is not a bad concept--it's Tetris. Some people love it and some, like Zethariel, might not. No big deal.

So I'm just trying to understand your goals for the game. Is it going to be Tetris, where you just try to survive as long as you can to get the high score? If so, that alone will keep people (meaning the kind of people who play for high scores) playing through to the very end. If high score is not the goal, then what is? It can't be saving the world, because you already said the world can't be saved.

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[quote name='c-Row' timestamp='1319185697' post='4874967']
One possible goal could be buying others enough time to make an escape through said portals for example. You can't win the game for yourself but would still get a sense of achieving something.
[/quote]


Aye, that would be great!

And tetris is meant to be a lunch-sized game, where you can flip it on, play a little and then go away. In the mentioned by me CoD Zombie mode, each time you have to painfully gather the points and equipment, and having it stripped away after XX waves just doesn't compell me to play again, not in the same session at least.

Either have a goal, or have a fair and easy/non-painfull way to make the player play again. Like levels, if you gian enough, you start with better equip, can survive longer, and can just add more levels to your character, isntead of going from zero to almost hero each friggin time.

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[quote name='c-Row' timestamp='1319185697' post='4874967']
One possible goal could be buying others enough time to make an escape through said portals for example. You can't win the game for yourself but would still get a sense of achieving something.
[/quote]

Add in a rousing scene of our hero making a speech about heroic last stands so that more civilians can escape to a new world will definitely make things interesting and emotional at the same time.

Add in some kind of counter that shows the number of civilians making through the portal is giving you even more incentive to hold out longer.

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