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borysson

Realism Vs Fun

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I've been reading about Raph Koster one of the lead designers of Ultima Online, and his views on what is fun Vs realism in games.
Many players lament about having to feed their character in game. Yet Tamagotchi (little computer pets) require constant feeding and nursing/attention - perhaps its more of a female thing, however other games Runescape/Darkfall have repetitive crafting eg. mining.

Now I want my game to have eating and friendly fire (many games have this off).
Many gamers won't be able to cope with friendly fire (but they will get used to it), and I feel eating/feeding your character will become an interesting game mechanic - specialist cooks, food trading, specialist harvesting, rare sought after foods, and food preservation/storage. Also in addition there will be feeding of NPC animals/pets/livestock.

If anyone can see problems with this, AND can suggest some solutions - I really welcome your responses. And if you are totally opposed to realism and have decent reasons to back up your view as to why it will never work, I also welcome your opinion.

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There is nothing wrong with having friendly fire in the game. It makes the gameplay a little more difficult for some players because you have to focus on what you are doing and not simply spray and pray your way through each level. It makes them have to be aware of where they are aiming and where they are throwing a grenade. I, personally, think it's a great feature.

Eating or drinking is iffy. It does add a level of realism but is more of an annoyance. If it fits the concept of the game, I'd say go for it.

However, too much realism CAN severely degrade the gameplay. Take ARMA 2, for example. I played the game. It was ok. But the controls were a pain in the butt. It ruined the experience for me. I definately wouldn't play through it twice.

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They are independent qualities.

Realism is one variable. Some games (BF3 for instance) go for realism. Other games, like Team Fortress's cartoonish style have a whimsical yet still realistic style. Other games, such as Chess, Go, and such, require no realism at all and can be entirely symbolic.


Fun is a result of combining all the pieces of the game. You don't hear people complaining "I don't like chess because the pieces don't look real enough". Realism is unimportant to that game's fun. For other games, realism is an important factor in the resulting fun.

If anyone can see problems with this, AND can suggest some solutions - I really welcome your responses. And if you are totally opposed to realism and have decent reasons to back up your view as to why it will never work, I also welcome your opinion. [/quote]
Does the realism or real-world activity add to the game?

If it can add to the game then it should certainly be considered.



Few games require your character to eat. Fewer still take bathroom breaks.

Why don't they? Simple: they tasks add nothing to gameplay. They are not part of the story and are correctly omitted.

A few games, such as The Sims, those actions are critical to gameplay. They are a part of the story, and are correctly included.



But then there is a middle line. Games where adding a bit of realism doesn't hurt the game, but also doesn't really help it either. In that case it is generally better to omit it, exposing the core game.... but not always.




So looking at this in relation to your game:

Your time is precious. What will give you the best entertainment?

Do you want to spend that bit of your entertainment in feeding your character? Could that time be better spent with something else in the game?

Do you want to spend that bit of your entertainment in thinking about friendly fire? Could that mental effort be better spent with something else?

Permadeath is great and even essential to the challenging fun in many games. Imagine in Kasparov vs Deep Blue if he came back, "Oh sorry, the game isn't over, I'm just respawning my king over here." Or in NetHack, where getting blasted by a Wand of Death in the end game can possibly (with bad luck) abruptly end several hundred hours of gameplay. Permadeth is certainly more realistic than spawning. For some games it is an incredible and important feature of gameplay, but imagine if you had that in all games? "You have died in combat. ... Now deleting your save files and checkpoint data." While realistic, that is NOT something players would find fun in the latest round of multiplayer FPS games. On the other hand, it would certainly help out with spawn-campers...


Choosing what to include or exclude in a game should generally not be based on if that is more realistic or not. It should be based on if it adds to the game.

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Take ARMA 2, for example. I played the game. It was ok. But the controls were a pain in the butt. It ruined the experience for me.


Thanks, yeah I definitely want the game play/controls to be intuititve/easy to pick up.

Fun is a result of combining all the pieces of the game. You don't hear people complaining "I don't like chess because the pieces don't look real enough". Realism is unimportant to that game's fun. For other games, realism is an important factor in the resulting fun.

Does the realism or real-world activity add to the game?

Few games require your character to eat. Fewer still take bathroom breaks.

So looking at this in relation to your game:

Your time is precious. What will give you the best entertainment?

Permadeath is great and even essential to the challenging fun in many games. Imagine in Kasparov vs Deep Blue if he came back, "Oh sorry, the game isn't over, I'm just respawning my king over here." Or in NetHack, where getting blasted by a Wand of Death in the end game can possibly (with bad luck) abruptly end several hundred hours of gameplay. Permadeth is certainly more realistic than spawning. For some games it is an incredible and important feature of gameplay, but imagine if you had that in all games? "You have died in combat. ... Now deleting your save files and checkpoint data." While realistic, that is NOT something players would find fun in the latest round of multiplayer FPS games. On the other hand, it would certainly help out with spawn-campers...


Yeah, the real life mechanics such as eating will also have other important "fun" aspects which add to the gameplay.

Sometimes resurrection may be possible but will require epic effort, and great cost.

I was worried, but now that I have remembered there will be important mechanics for fun associated with my realism mechanics I'm sure it will work, with a few tweaks to remove tedium. I may make eating not so vital - you may only have to give your char 1 mean in a real life day (24 hours our time).

Thanks for your imput and support guys.

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I made two games with very similar mechanics. One was a generic fantasy and second feudal japan sim. In both you had to eat and in addition in the japan sim you had to bath daily or will be barred from entering most facilities. These features had minimal gameplay purpose and were more like a boring chore. The interesting thing was players reaction. In the generic fantasy they were complaining, in the feudal japan sim they were not :D

It seems that how much the player is willing to pay for realism depends on the game theme.

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I pretty much agree with what Frob said.

I personally have always enjoyed the inclusion of eating where it makes sense, which tends to include most as a rule RPGs. I do enjoy an eating system that uses the "carrot" and not just the stick. I remember playing a modification to fallout 3 that required you to shovel food and water into the character regularly but never provided any sort of bonus, you just did it to function normally, and it wasn't long before such a system just became annoying. Including some kind of bonus, be it pure stats or something else, would have made the whole thing a lot more bearable.

Friendly fire has never been a problem for me, so long as it is fair. By that I mean the game should make it clear who I should or should not shoot. Take TF2, both sides have very distinctive colours to help distinguish between them, friendly fire in that game would only punish sloppy player but if both sides where similar shades of red then it would make me feel, as a player, like the game is trying to trick me into killing my own team.

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Minecraft recently added in a hunger status bar. The bar drops gradually over time, and offers a bonus and a penalty. If you stay above half full, you'll passively regenerate health over time (currently the only way to regenerate health, although instant-health potions are being introduced which will be prohibitively expensive to produce). Once you drop below half on the food bar, your passive health regen is lost, and you lose the ability to sprint, which is useful in both travel and combat situations. When it's totally depleted, you'll gradually lose health, an effect similar to poison. At the same time, using the sprint function or regenerating health cause the food bar to deplete more quickly, requiring you to eat more frequently. You can go a couple days without food if you move slowly and avoid damage, but if you're working hard and pushing your character, you'll be hitting the porkchops on a regular basis.

In the early game, it can be a hassle to keep yourself fed, since grain takes time to grow, meat requires a little bit of basic infrastructure to cook, and you can't catch fish until you've gotten some string, which is either found in subterranean spider webs or looted from killer spiders during the dangerous night time. If you get yourself fairly well established in the game, though, food becomes almost trivial, and you'll be stockpiling beef, chicken and pork alongside heaps of bread and the odd cake at your base. The current inventory system allows you to haul many days' worth of food without clutter, so it ceases to be an issue after a short time.

It can be pretty scary those first few nights, when your health is low and you're too hungry to fight or travel effectively, especially in "hardcore" mode, where character death deletes the saved world and annihilates all your hard work. I like it, and I'm glad the feature was added. It adds a simple secondary objective to every self-assigned quest, so I'll be out looking for minerals or harvesting wood, and I'll take a quick detour to kill a wild pig or do a little fishing before the sun goes down.

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Thanks Acharis, that sounds very interesting.



Friendly fire has never been a problem for me, so long as it is fair. By that I mean the game should make it clear who I should or should not shoot. Take TF2, both sides have very distinctive colours to help distinguish between them, friendly fire in that game would only punish sloppy player but if both sides where similar shades of red then it would make me feel, as a player, like the game is trying to trick me into killing my own team.


Well I won't have any id tags, but as in real life I'm sure players will find ways to recognise each other - fashion trends? Real life gangs wear colours or patches, civil servants have uniforms. You could imagine if a medic went to a gang fight without a uniform - they may be attacked if the perpetrators thought she was a police officer. Players can make other distiguishments such as smell, or facial/body characteristics identification(height, weight etc).

To be honest friendly-fire happens in real life and this might happen in game. Players will punish those who either do it on purpose - griefer, or are not accurate/careless - kicked out of group/gaming clan. Perhaps players will be wary of groups for this reason, these things will work out I'm sure, and this will be a very interesting social experiment.

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To sum up my feelings in 8 words:

If realism were fun, we wouldn't need games.

Form should follow function in all things, games too. The function of a game is fun, ergo, if it is not fun, it is not a game, nor does it belong in a game.

If your mechanics succeed in modeling the real world in a way that is fun, and is germane to the experience, then by all means have at it, but realism for realism's sake is almost universally a boring chore.

I once knew an amateur game designer who was convinced that ultra-realism was the path to fun -- he wanted to create an MMORPG with 12-hour day-night cycles, and which would require you to perform all kinds of medival drudgery, such as spending 15+ minutes getting suited up in full armor for battle, complete with assistance from your squire. Realistic, yes; fun, hell no.

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Probably it has been said above already, but only add elements if they are fun to do and add something to your game. In The Sims, it's pretty logical those bastards got to eat, the game is all about scheduling their daily activities. For action games on the other hand, the focus is on shooting and destroying stuff. Eating interrupts those activities.

I believe S.T.A.L.K.E.R. required the player to eat once in a while. Was it fun? Not really. Selecting bread from an inventory itself isn't interesting. The mechanism of being prepared and buying or carefully searching for food could be an interesting element, yet it was done poorly. If you can buy 100 breads at any corner, gathering it isn't a challenge either. All in all, it was an extra handling in the game that could have been skipped just as well.

In GTA (San Andreas), it had sort of a fun element though. You like to explore the city, and the game is 90% filled with cruising in your car through town. So if you get hungry, you have a goal. Plus it affected the body of the player (eat a lot and you get fat). All in all not that important, but it stretched the length and diversity of the game yet further in a positive way.


So the bottom line is, make sure you can integrate in the game well. Be aware that eating is doing the same actions again and again, so if it's not giving a fun challenge in any way, it can quickly become annoying.

Rick

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