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Diodor

FPS: Briefing

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Diodor    517
Do you remember a single single player FPS game where briefing was worth more than a frozen onion? From the classic shooters like Quake, HalfLife or Unreal to Thief, Deus Ex or project IGI the briefing rarely gives any useful information if any at all. I always have to rely on savegames to scout ahead. Even the little I know before the mission starts doesn''t generally make any sense before the mission is nearly over. I''m sick of randomly browsing through levels without knowing what I must do, where I have to go, whether I should search an area more carefully for some stupid hidden lever and so on and so forth. Give me all the damned details. Tell me the enemies I can expect, show me inside pictures of the mission target. I wont say no to an interactive briefing either, and if this briefing is also available from the game the better this is. Just make as much info available to me as possible. Otherwise the game can''t go above the open door shoot enemies search room for keys routine.

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Hase    313
you underestimate the importance of the exploring bit. not just from a gameplay point of view, but also from the aspect of content volume. publisher X will always ask "how long", and you will say something like "40 hours". then you have to fill those forty hours. and as christmas approaches you realise that those nifty briefings you gave actually *prepared* the player for what was up ahead, thereby saving half the time. and out they go.

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Gaiiden    5710
Come on, you can''t seriously expect to know everything about every level can you? What fun is that? I thin Deus Ex gave out just the right amount of information. In one level they even gave you a satellite image of the roof sniper locations. As for the rest of the bad guys, you just had to take it slow and scout it out. Peek around corners, inch through doorways, crawl below parapets... you spot a roving guard and watch him for a while to get down his pattern and then look for the best time to cap him where he''ll be out of site of any other guards nearby so they don''t realize it... I think knowing all that would make the game tedious since it goes from thinking it out to simply going in and doing it, and as you''re doing it you grow impatient cause you know what''s up ahead and yet you have to get through this riff-raff first... I don''t think omnipotent intelligence briefings are a good idea.

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Diodor    517
quote:

Original post by Hase

you underestimate the importance of the exploring bit. not just from a gameplay point of view, but also from the aspect of content volume. publisher X will always ask "how long", and you will say something like "40 hours". then you have to fill those forty hours. and as christmas approaches you realise that those nifty briefings you gave actually *prepared* the player for what was up ahead, thereby saving half the time. and out they go.



From the gameplay point of view, exploring is an overdone, tired and quite boring form of gameplay. Waiting indefinitely for the guards in Thief _is_ boring, even for those who love Thief (me).

As for the publishers, uhm, they already know exactly what they want anyway. You can''t judge an idea from the publisher''s point of view right from the start, or you''d simply stick to the same old ideas forever.

Coming back to gameplay. Knowing everything ahead (location of guards, command centers) allows the player to make a plan (which in itself is a cool and different kind of gameplay - but more on this later). This gives the player a great advantage against the computer players.

But it also gives us the design freedom to greatly increase the dificulty of the mission.
- Make the enemy more deadly (kind of like CounterStrike bots).
- Make the enemies smarter on the strategic level. Easy stuff like calling for reinforcements if the alarm is sounded, or increasing their perception levels, or taking some predefined positions, or closing up certain sections etc.
- Require tighter timing from the player: Player calculates that one minute after the alarm is sounded, the enemies will shut off his exit. He also calculates that he can make the road from the control center to the Treasure room in 5 minutes. So he places a bomb in the control room with a 6''30" timer. He goes to the treasure room, waits 30 seconds, then storms in. One minute later, he hears an explosion, his retreat is still open, he runs for freedom.

As for knowing everything making the game boring: just add some random to the troop movement. Let the player watch angered a guard stoping to light his cigarette (knowing that his bombs are ticking.). Or even change his path and go to a toilet. Or simply make some areas of the map out of inteligence''s reach. As long as the player knows most of the level, I have no problem. Having a plan that works just as planned is very rewarding in itself. But the plan and the reality will differ, sometimes wildly. The unexpected will happen.

I guess the concept of this is to move the strategic gameplay from the action itself (when there is no time for strategy anyway) to the pre-mission time. I''m thinking about offering the player some real-time simulation of the level and even of the mission. From this simulation, the player will have a lot of helpers during the mission itself. He will have predetermined timers (example: a count down timer that has as time the time it takes for a guard to go for position A to position B - the player starts the timer when the guard passes him by, and knows that the guard will go past a certain corner when the time goes to zero).

I think stuff like this can do wonders for game stories where the player is an expert of sorts (Master Thief or special forces).

PS.
Did I mention yet I won''t allow _any_ form of savegame in this game? What will the publisher say about that?

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Hase    313
fist, I´m not against *any* form of briefing. A briefing which ties in well with the story gives enough information to make things interesting, but still little enough to let the player look and explore. Also, the status of the briefing might be questionable, the information might be out of date or incomplete. If the player is aware of that he will pay all the more attention to the level itself.
I think the real-time simulation is a bad idea (at least in some aspects), because it is tempting to give too much away. A briefing should be brief (ho?) and prepare the player for the mission, not play it out for him.
Any map you present in a briefing should also be abstracted to a heavy degree, as not to take away too much from the playing environment.
If you have enough other challenges in the game then you can tell the player as much as you want.


"No savegames" is also a very, very bad idea. Player dies, frustration rises. If there is a savegame you can keep that frustration down, the more the player has to repeat, the more frustrated he´s going to get. If he gets too frustrated, the game goes into the corner.
Sometimes it is interesting to LIMIT savegames (to once every few minutes for example, or have specific save points), but to take them away completely (not even between the levels?) is a bad idea. Just think of the casual gamer who wants to be entertained for <30 minutes. If he has to spend two thirds of that doing stuff he has already done he´s not likely to come back.

Remember Alien vs. Predator? For some people it was fun, but for most it was hell and they didn´t play half as much of the game as they wanted.


And you don´t always have to consider the publishers view from the start, but if you want to get your game sold it is better to do so, as it will save a lot of reworking later. And you can do new and interesting things which are still sellable.


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