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Post » Thu Mar 05, 2009 10:26 pm

Alright, I've even been thinking about creating a whole platform for this and will probably still do it, thanks to Construct making it so easy to test and prototype ideas, but I've been thinking about this a lot.

Now, I'm not even looking for the golden answer right now, I just wanna throw this into the room and see what'll happen.

Some of you might have seen what I've been dabbling with. I'm a character artist and I worked in the industry for a while, but I never got the chance to do more than just a component of a game or a cinematic - cause I can't program and because todays games are so far away from being one-man productions. And I'm the type of person who'll probably never learn a programming language, that's just too technical and boring for me to grasp. If I don't 'see' things as I create them, I get bored. So thanks to the Construct team for putting this out - Construct is reasonably simple to put me into the directors position without having to have a lot of financial backup nor having to have a reasonably sized team in the background.

So, the thing I've been working on is a sidescroller with a big focus on story. The idea is that I'm gonna explore more cinematic game experiences - Like, a lot of the industries top games in the recent years have been created by developers that were highly inspired by Eric Chahis 'Another World' (http://www.anotherworld.fr/anotherworld_uk/) - if you've never tried it, go ahead and give it a try, it's still worth it. Hideo Kojima (Konami) and Fumito Ueda (Team Ico) have both publicly stated that their games were heavily influenced by Another World. And there's a reason for that.

The game was great. It was the first time that a game really felt dynamic (even though it wasn't) and your actions were nicely paced and happened because of a reason. You didn't just jump on monsters heads to blop them away, you had this cinematic gameplay that just felt completely different than anything else ever done before. If you killed an enemy, it felt a lot more 'real' than killing a Goomba in Super Mario.

There was just one problem with Another World and the sequels and clones that followed: The game was the most linear thing ever. It was meticulously planned out from A to Z. If you didn't follow what Eric had in mind while creating the game, you'd die. And you'd die a LOT. Like, at least 500 times until you complete the game and I'm not even exaggerating here.

And of course that's frustrating. Also, I think that sorta gameplay worked in the past, cause we used to have more time in the past. There was no internet, we had fewer opportunities and interestingly enough some other games and genres used to work and sold a lot of copies - namely games where you had to try out a hell of a lot in order to get through it. I don't think that a game like Another World, where the premise is to make mistakes and die, then learn from it so often til you finish the game would work in today's world. I think it'd get horrible reviews because of it. Nobody wants to invest so much time for something so trivial. Such frustration - by todays standards - is unbearable. Honest to god: If you'd buy another world for 10 bucks at an Online Store like Steam or Xbox Live Arcade and then you'd die 20 times in 10 minutes and still don't know the right solution: Would you keep playing it?

I know I would 'shelf' it and probably never look at it again. Even if the 10 minutes were pretty good, I'd probably think my time is more valuable than that.

I also think that's why Point and Click Adventures completely died out. They were good, well produced, really well written and they were funny - but solving sometimes really ill-perceived puzzles just wasn't a lot of fun. It was a lot of work to get to the short moments of fun. And the biggest mistake you could make is to make your game feel like it's work.

Now, to give this thread some meaning, I'll just ask you guys: How would you solve that problem? How do you tell a good story in an interactive experience (read: a game) that's not completely linear so that you'll die a gazillion deaths until you find out the one right way to go?

Todays games aren't built that way. They're mostly built up like Fast Food. Cause we don't have the time anymore and we want to be rewarded quickly. Experience systems, I can level up my characters, developers draw the audience into the game - mostly not because they want to tell them a great story that will probably inspire them or that they can learn from - but because they appeal to their, let's say, 'raw instincts'. I think that's also the reason why games generally aren't considered to be 'art' yet - cause people don't express themselves in them.

So, how do we mix it? How do we solve the puzzle? What games would you like to see going forward? Are you happy with the games that are being produced right now? Do you even care about titles like Resident Evil 5? Gears of War 2? God of War 3? Halo 3? Doom 4?

From a story and an emotional point of view, I'm certain that the 'cheap tricks' that have been used in games so far (like letting Aerith die in Final Fantasy VII) are fairly amateurish (in the sense that a typical bullshit novel probably has more death packed into its first 20 pages), but it doesn't seem like bigger games are interested in finding a solution (see Gears of Wars 'emotional moment') - or it's too risky to bet your game on something that could arouse your fan-base (that in turn finances your development), so what we see happening is a lot of bloat right now. Cause bloat is safe.

How could this problem be solved?
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Post » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:57 am

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say the good way to tell a story without being completely linear, would to have multiple paths/endings. I don't know, just wanted to say something since you took the time to make such a long article and had 44 views with no replies. That kinda pisses me off. But, if you are talking about telling one story with the same beginning and the same ending you would probably have to have similar events and outcomes, for example some city being destroyed but at a different time or situation. Just my 2 cents.
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Post » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:19 am

Yes, I've been thinking about the very question for quite a while; my big project, which is on hold, relies heavily on storyline, however I don't want it to be too linear.

For example, if your starting town is invaded and you failed to defend it, you would be kicked out or forced into hiding in underground, where you would continue playing from. The game wouldn't end at all, even if the main character is defeated gruesomely; I'd use the system similar to Left 4 Dead - if it gets too tough for player, lighten up, if it seems too easy, throw some more challenges at him.

From what I have heard, Left 4 Dead is brilliant. Thing is, however, that implementation would be quite a female dog.
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Post » Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:01 am

So your question is how to tell a story without loosing interest?
It is true that a lot of today's games are very thin on plot, especially those that are what you would consider episodic, and then there are games where the plot is so contrived, the player skims over the info, saying to themselves, "I'll figure it out when I play it again". Sad thing is that many think of that as replay value.

I believe one answer is the story itself. If the plot is something the player can identify with you will find it much easier to keep his, or her interest. Take the standard rpg for example, generally the protagonist is some teenage boy, who starts out as powerless, and must fight against some evil antagonist who is much older, more experienced, and wishes to force their will upon you.
Right off the bat you can see what audience this would appeal to. You see, every game has to have a niche target. Knowing what that is is a great place to start.
Of course looking at most Japanese styled rpg's one would think the average player was 16, carried around a big sword, had yellow or blue hair, and had a pension for cross dressing.

Going on with the story itself, there are many things that are timeless, mythological, stories that can be retold time, and time again. Stories that everyone knows, and that everyone can relate to, even if you completely butcher its original meaning. Things like saving the princess, or zombies taking over the world, these stories tell themselves, and the way people relate to them is almost genetically programed.

One final thing to think about, curiosity.
While interactivity is great and all, no one wants to talk to the same npc a thousand times. You must keep the story going, and to do this you must reward curiosity, if you plan on telling a story.
Even if the user faces great danger, or mindless dungeon crawling, they will do these things just to see what the heck your talking about. Mind you the reward must be worth the price or time involved.
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Post » Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:36 pm

i think the zelda games did these things well, most notably majoras mask and the original nes one.
i say this because you felt like you were getting somewhere as you played, but not in the same way as the RPG(insert japanese crap here+roman numerals). in the nes zelda you were free to roam anywhere you wanted, limited only by your skill as a player. if you wanted you could accidently walk into dungeon 4 with the wooden sword, and beat it. thats what was great about it, you were exploring, the game was a map with things to help you along your way, and you had to achieve a goal in the end, but getting there was done on your own time and if you wanted you could spend hours exploring and never finding a dungeon. this is the type of gameplay we need. now of course like any nes game it has its shortcomings, like every enemy was sorta the same, it had pallette swaps, but the basic prinicipal of its gameplay was very fun, if youve never played it, give it a try
http://nintendo8.com/game/810/legend_of_zelda/
now if you were paying attention i mentioned majoras mask b4. why? well because it too had very good and original gameplay elements. although it lacked the open worldedness in its story driven game it still had the feeling of an open world, as did ocarina of time. but it had a whole side story which once the game was completed was a whole new challenge on its own, finding all of the masks. you needed to talk to people on certain days, go places at certain times and it all felt difficult, but it made sense. the limited time system in majoras mask is what made it hit or miss for most people, i myself loved it, the days effected peoples attitude towards what was going to happen, and everyday you felt their spirits drop as the moon moved closer. it was saddening somewhat. it gave the game a dark feeling, you felt the npcs to be real people. it was an overall immersive experience.

so to conclude all this, id like to point out that if you want story in your game, it should always be secondary to the gameplay, you also need to make it part of the game rather than cutscenes and such. majoras mask used a story element as a driving force behind its gameplay, but it never really got in your way aside from one or two critical story cutscenes (which were enjoyable since there were few of them). your game should also feel original, make the player not know what they should expect, and adapt the gameplay because everythings does and will get stale after too long. let the player make some of the choices, but not through a yes/no type path. create alternate endings, and let players make their way alond those endings their choice instead of yours. linearness kills a game, thats why most ubisoft games get that tedious feeling to them even with very unique gameplay elements (prince of persia?). alter level design and puzzles as much as you do gameplay.

thats my two cents
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Post » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:11 am

I saw this thread a fes days ago, but I didn't have time to read and reply to it at the time... but I do now.

Building a solid game foundation is never an easy thing to do. All of the points you brought up across the article were valid for all types of games from all tpes of creators;

Linear vs Free Roaming
There are certain aspects of each that can be considered a pro and con depending on the type of game you are making. It seems to be these days that every developer thinks that a "free roaming world" is somehow automatically better than a "linear" type of world.

This really depends on the type of game, the storyline, as to which option would be better. I enjoy both types of game modes, but only if it is suited to the game. I have played games where I thought "This game would have been way more fun/better/longer if it was a free roaming world", as well as "This game would hav been way more emerssive if it was linear and I didn't spend 1,000,000 hours trying to find the next mission/storyline/character".

Casual Fun vs Stupidly Hard
I like to die. I like to play a game and die die die die and die some more. I don't like to spend $100 on a new game, and finish it in 2 days without a challenge. 'Ninja Gaiden'... I died more playing that game than I did playing 'Another World'. I think that a lot of people just get too frustrated when playing games that are too hard... so there needs to be a difficulty adjustment ranging from "cake walk" to "fucking impossible bullshit wtf"... then make it a dynamic self-adjusting difficulty so if you die 5 times trying a section of the game, it automatically drops the difficulty down a slight amount or at least prompts the player with something like "you sure do die a lot, would you like to make the game a little easier?".

The Draw Card
Picking the "hero" and his/her "purpose" is always something that is gong to have ranged appeal... unless you make a female elf magicial nano techno steam punk bondage jetpack transformer, with a machine gun that shoots heat seaking magic missles and flaming skulls. But then that would look kinda funny if it were say, a mystery/adventure game set in the 50's. O.o

There is no winner here. Like newt said, you are aiming for a niche audience and you have to figure out what that audience is, by doing a little brainstorming/market research. Write down the types of people that play games and what they do for work/education. Then work out which of those people you want to reach the most. Then figure out what types of games those people like the most, and make your game based on that.

There is no right or wrong way of going about this, as no matter what you decide on, SOMEBODY will always like it and SOMEBODY will always hate it.

Conclusion
There is no spoon. I guess these questions have risen many many times before, and i seems like the "meaning of life"... nobody really knows.

Why are there 100,000 different kinds of cars to drive? Why are there billions of different clothing combinations? Why do some people not like chocolate?

There is no magical answer. There isn't even a half magical maybe kinda guess sorta. Make the game the way YOU want to make it, just avoid anything that will take the attention away from your main aim of the game, be it storyline driven, experience/collect things driven, statistics driven, action driven, etc. If you ar aiming for major storyline, avoid too much difficulty... going for a "collect things" style? Definately go free roaming... Action game? Make it hard and linear!

That's about all I can really say about all of that. O.o

Good luck, hopefully everyone's input so far has been helpful in some way.

~Sol
Tired of crappy file hosts that are crappy? Get DROPBOX - https://db.tt/uwjysXJF
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Post » Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:16 pm

Some good points here.

This is the first one I'd like to address:

[quote="SoldjahBoy":2fnxl4bx]Casual Fun vs Stupidly Hard
I like to die. I like to play a game and die die die die and die some more. I don't like to spend $100 on a new game, and finish it in 2 days without a challenge. 'Ninja Gaiden'... I died more playing that game than I did playing 'Another World'. I think that a lot of people just get too frustrated when playing games that are too hard... so there needs to be a difficulty adjustment ranging from "cake walk" to "fucking impossible bullshit wtf"... then make it a dynamic self-adjusting difficulty so if you die 5 times trying a section of the game, it automatically drops the difficulty down a slight amount or at least prompts the player with something like "you sure do die a lot, would you like to make the game a little easier?".[/quote:2fnxl4bx]

There's a big difference between dying because the player screwed up, made a mistake or by just expecting the player to know something that he can't possibly know beforehand.

Example: In Megaman 2, I don't remember the enemies name, but there are countless stages where the developer just expected you to fucking know that - as soon as you'd enter the next screen - a laser would be fired at you and if you don't jump in the first second after entering the screen, you'll die.

That's fucking frustrating. There's NO reason why a designer should do that except trying to artificially making the game harder / more frustrating / longer, because you cannot know that shit.

Because we talked about Another World, Another World has a few really shitty examples in it too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgkf6wooDmw

For example, the passage where the player needs to swim around - how in three damn fucks am I supposed to know that the left path will lead me to a place where I can gasp for air again, whereas I am dead if I take the right path? This example isn't quite as unfair, cause that can happen in real life too - you take the wrong path and you lose.

But in a game, even if you want your game to be a real challenge - don't do that. It'll just frustrate the player and the first reaction in everyones mind would be: "How the fuck am I supposed to know that beforehand?"

Of course a lot of old school games from the 80s basically always worked that way. You screw up in a level to find the right strategy and then you try it again until you got it - but you can't complete it in the first run, cause it's fucking unfair. In todays time, if you're unfair and I have to repeat a certain part 30 times, you can bet your ass I'm gonna turn off the console or the PC and do something better with my time.

Challenging a player != expecting him to know things he can't possibly know.

Personally, I'm not a fan of different difficulty modes - In fact, I hate that, cause you need to balance your game 3 times and in most cases only 1 mode really works well, cause it's the one mode that the dev spent the most time with balancing it. A game should start slowly and let the players learn the controls and the conditions of the game. Then, gradually increase in difficulty - but not by being unfair, but by making the challenges harder and expecting more from the player. Yet, don't expect him being able to predict what's gonna happen in the next level.
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Post » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:03 pm

[quote:3dx16nsq]Challenging a player != expecting him to know things he can't possibly know.[/quote:3dx16nsq]

I disagree. You are challenging the player to one of the most basic video game challenges... to learn the rules of the game. To figure things out by trial and error.

This is something that is seriously lacking in games today. Everything is handed to you in a tutorial. Everything has big, blinking warnings and maps with your destination marked in equally big, blinking icons stating "YOU ARE HERE, YOU NEED TO GO HERE."

It's crap, if you ask me. That's not gameplay, it's an omission of gameplay. That's like having a big "Next" button that you press to see the story continue.

Taking your examples into account... Mega Man 2 and Out of This World (two of the best games ever made, by the way), neither of those games is unfair, unbeatable, or even all that difficult compared to other games. With a little trial and error (ie... with a little playing the game) you can easily get through. Hell, if you've practiced enough you don't even need Flashman's weapon to get past the lasers.

And yes, the trial-and-error aspect of gaming is just one aspect of gameplay, and yes, there are plenty of others... but it's one area that I think has been woefully neglected in recent years.
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Post » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:54 pm

Alright, let's dissect what you're saying.

So, taking Another World as an example again - Chahi definitely tried to give the player a cinematic experience, right? I mean, that's obvious. And what happens for 95% of all users? They'll die like... 20 times within the first 10 minutes. Or even more often. So it's like you're watching a film and every 2 minutes, we're rewinding for 15 seconds and you have to watch all that shit all over again. The problem is that even the checkpoints are way off at times. So, the water scene: You have to shoot that rock thingy to make the water flow out so you can cross a path that you couldn't before cause the waterfall would drag you down and - guess - kill you. Right? Right.

So I do all that, I shoot the frigging rock, I manage to complete the water scene and I keep going. 3 screens later, I'm in the middle of a layout and suddenly an enemy comes from the right, immediately shooting at me and I'm dead. Now, can I just play that scene again? NO! We're put right before the water scene again, so I have to do all of that again just to get to that scene where I just died to get another chance to jump into this trial and error scheme again! Seriously, that's fucked up.

The player has obviously already beat that passage of the game - Why would make him repeat an annoying passage in the game all over again if he dies in a completely unrelated scene further on in the game? That's what I loved about Braid: Blow didn't just stack up Puzzles we ALREADY COMPLETED over and over again, varying them slightly, just so you're playing for 20 hours and not for 6 hours, instead he gave you 6 hours and those 6 hours and fucking good 6 hours.

The only reason why we take that shit is because it's a game and we've been conditioned in the 80s that 2d games are hard and we have to beat them by trial and error (and that was only true because most games were based on coin-ops, so you needed to die every 2 minutes to throw in another coin). Now, I consider my time to be valuable and if I buy a game - and games usually aren't really cheap - I want to be entertained, right? Of course I also want to be challenged, but there's a difference between annoying the player by killing him on purpose and letting him repeat annoying passages again and again, just so the players dies more and more often, which in turn means that he'll have to invest even more time to beat the game and challenging him in a fun way that the player could even realistically manage in his first run.

That laser scene in Megaman 2 is one of the most fucked up design mistakes I've ever seen in any game. You literally jump into the scene and you're dead a second later if you can't predict the future. Another World has something very similar, with the falling rocks. So you're entering the layout, you take a step forward and a rock falls onto your head. THAT'S FUCKING STUPID.

Give me anticipation. Tell me that the rocks are falling. In reality, I'd see that the freaking environment looks like it'd fall apart too, so I'm very careful to begin with - but if you don't give me shit and just kill me, I'm gonna hate you. And you don't want your customers to hate your game.

I certainly agree with you on the fact that games have become too easy in the recent years and I also hate the frigging in-game tutorial levels that can take up to an hour to complete. That's nuts, right. But in the end you're just building something for someone else to have fun with, to inspire him, to tell him a story - Don't let the player zip through the game in an hour, but killing him every 2 minutes will make him put away the controller sooner than you could imagine, so you're not on target.
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Post » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:45 pm

If you're complaining about the trial-and-error aspect of gameplay then it seems to me that you just want game content spoon-fed to you. No offense.

And even though Out of This World was a cinematic game, at it's heart it is still a game.

Why should there be a warning that a rock is going to fall on your head? The rumbling room is warning enough. Be careful. Look around. If you get hit on the head, you learned a lesson. Next time you'll be more careful.

That's part of the game. It has nothing to do with 80's era arcade games, it has nothing to do with artificially extending play. It's not a flaw in design. It's intentional... the game is throwing a surprise at you. If you were constantly told that a rock was about to fall on your head, then that rock wouldn't have the same impact, no pun intended. Same with the lasers in MM2.

So you're easily frustrated. I can understand that. I don't have the time or energy to master every hard game that comes my way either, and I get frustrated at hard games too. But that doesn't mean that when I have a moment to play a game, I want every step of the game explained to me. It ruins the experience.

The only warning or tutorial any game should need, in my opinion, is "It's dangerous to go alone. Take this." The original Legend of Zelda took me literally months to beat. The joy of that game was in the discovery, in the trial and error. You wander into a place where you shouldn't be yet, you're screwed. No warnings. You learn the rules as you go.

Twilight Princess, on the other hand, took me three days to beat. Everything is fed to you. Hell, you can't even go into places you shouldn't be yet. There were no surprises, no real challenges. You walk into a room, the camera pans to point out the solution to get out. Lame.

You want artificially extending gameplay? It isn't getting a nasty surprise that kills you instantly... it's making the player struggle with a wonky, non-standard control scheme for a section of game that has very little to do with the plot. Challenge the Yeti to a snowboarding contest. Fly a bird up the river... and pop balloons. What the hell?

If you ask me, the cave section of OoTW is perfectly legitimate. You're in a cave. You've caused a cave-in. The cave is unstable. Rocks fall on your head. That's plenty easy to follow... and in a game where you can die in any number of grisly ways, a rock falling on your head is the least of your problems. Yes, the rock is there to kill you on purpose. That's the point of the rock, that's the point of the game. The game is trying to kill you. But nowadays the point of games is to lead you through by the hand so you can see every last little detail that the developers paid their hundreds of artists to create so you don't miss anything and feel like you got ripped off.

Well, I feel ripped off if my game only lasts three days and I didn't even have to try.
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