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-   -   Legend of Grimrock - Jeff Vogel on Design Space (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17097)

Dhruin May 12th, 2012 10:49

Legend of Grimrock - Jeff Vogel on Design Space
 
Jeff Vogel has a new blog post that reviews Legend of Grimrock
Quote:

I played Legend of Grimrock from front to back. It's a pure nostalgia trip, extremely well done, and I enjoyed it immensely. If you like role-playing games of the retro school, I recommend it.
…but goes on to talk about the "design space", saying that while there might be a Grimrock 2, he doesn't believe the concept has legs beyond that:
Quote:

Once again, Legend of Grimrock is a ton of fun, and I enjoyed it immensely. However, it is a game on a square grid with monsters, pressure plates, secret door switches, and holes in the wall that shoot stuff out. There is only a limited number of ways that you can piece those elements together to make interesting dungeons for the player to explore. It's finite, and, by the time I was at the bottom of the dungeon, I was already noticing elements repeating themselves.

As I said, there might be a Grimrock 2. But, as we discovered twenty years ago, this earth will only stay fertile for so long before it needs to lie fallow again. Only then will it yield a fresh crop for a new generation of gamers. (Analogy!!!)

This is NOT a criticism of Legend of Grimrock, which is, for the third time, very good. This game doesn't have to be responsible for carrying future titles. It only has to be fun by itself, and it does so very well.

I just think it's a good example of the varying durability of different designs. Some can support many titles. Some only a few. This isn't a problem. It is simply important, when planning games beyond the first, not to heap onto a humble structure too many expectations.
More information.

darkling May 12th, 2012 10:49

Says the guy who releases essentially the same game every year.

Dhruin May 12th, 2012 11:44

I guess you didn't understand his point.

JemyM May 12th, 2012 11:54

Thinking about the logical next step from the past, one way is the "location" route (as seen in Eye of the Beholder II) where you instead of walking through dungeons walk through an actual location. Eye of the Beholder II consists of a forest, one dungeon and 3 towers, all connected to a central node. Basically you walk into and explore a large temple which isn't a down-down-down affair.

Next step is the multiple-location route as seen in Ishar, Eye of the Beholder III and Lands of Lore where you now walk in outdoor areas between buildings.

ilm May 12th, 2012 12:54

Quote:

Originally Posted by JemyM (Post 1061143526)
Next step is the multiple-location route as seen in Ishar, Eye of the Beholder III and Lands of Lore where you now walk in outdoor areas between buildings.

And then we have Skyrim ;-)

JemyM May 12th, 2012 13:20

Quote:

Originally Posted by ilm (Post 1061143529)
And then we have Skyrim ;-)

Skyrim to me is something completely different. It's freedom is in the same time it's boon and it's flaw. The appeal of LoG and it's predecessors is to me capsulated in it's logic structure. In it's rigid boxed-in formula there are patterns to figure out which feels rewarding to people who like to solve puzzles in order to make progress. You learn an area, you conceptualize an area, you turn it upside down to figure it out, you find it's exit, solve the puzzle and feel rewarded when you make progress. One reward is freedom. Before you solve the puzzle you are often locked in, even if you walk all the way back you are met with a caved in corridor (Eye of the Beholder) or a locked door (Eye of the Beholder II). When you solve the puzzle a new area to explore is open to you, giving you another few steps, and another puzzle. Even when there are outdoor areas in games like EoB2 you are locked in to an area with something you have to figure out before you can make progress.

There's usually a survival element as well which drives you forth, if just to find more food, where as Skyrim have excess. You find few items and you have to put them to the best use your can with the characters you got. There's no excess and almost everything you scavenge can be of value.

arthureloi May 12th, 2012 14:28

Quote:

Originally Posted by darkling (Post 1061143524)
Says the guy who releases essentially the same game every year.

My thoughts exactly.

ChienAboyeur May 12th, 2012 15:02

Not cogent at all.

He first introduced himself as an old experienced gamer who played those games back in the days.

Later, he puts on the shoes of the rookie gamer, telling that this revival gaming has to be cyclical.

The argument is that the gaming elements are limited in numbers and so are the possibilities to piece them together interestingly.

But as he is an old gamer, and that the design went dried already in the past, it would not be toward the end of the game that he would have noticed repetition but from the beginning, as it must have given a déjà vu feeling.

You either never play this kind of game before and the game fundamentals appear new to you.

Or you played lots of those games before and then, you might not be playing this kind of games to find original content, to find elements piece together in an interesting manner.

A strange statement for a niche developper.

Two decades ago, developping this type of game was major budgets. Today, it is small budget and short developpment cycle. A good combo for niche gaming.

The demographics of this game likely includes players who played the old classics of the genre when they were released and players who played them years later because they were classics.

There is clearly a demand by some players to play the same genre of games over and over again. They are not enough numerous to provide a platform to do something else but they are numerous enough to keep producing over and over the same game.

Adding to that, the developpers are going to release a tool kit to make mods. Meaning they will give themselves a large brainstorming room for ideas with players providing freely ideas, dungeon configurations etc… that will even reduce the cost of developpment.

SpoonFULL May 12th, 2012 15:26

The Legend of Grimrock setting and engine is ideal for a remake of Space Hulk (but with four small, separate screens for each character). I still have the printed manual with the majority of the game maps so will probably try some of these with the LoG editor.

blackcanopus May 12th, 2012 15:30

I am not a big fan of Vogel, but from a design standpoint what he says is quite true. Grid based structure of the game limits design choices and creativity, which means every successive game with that engine will feel less and less fresh. There are ways to make Grimrock sequels feel fresh. For example Grimrock 2 can take place outdoors, but that's as good as it gets, they can't do much about it's structure.

GhanBuriGhan May 12th, 2012 15:39

Quote:

Originally Posted by darkling (Post 1061143524)
Says the guy who releases essentially the same game every year.

But that's his point. He can do that because his engine allows to tell a relatively wide range of stories and can create a varied range of scenarios that work for a number of games. I don't know his games well enough to judge whether his incremental engine upgrades have really expanded the gameplay elements over time.
I also think that the Legend of Grimrock engine could be upgraded in a number of ways that would allow an increase its design space (e.g. with a solid dialog system).

Irien May 12th, 2012 15:53

The main challenge ahead of Almost Human wrt Grimrock development is surely the double whammy of more tilesets (eg. forest, town, opulent/luxary, water/underwater, lave, ice) and character interaction/dialogue/cutscene (eg. EOB2). The latter would ideally be linked to some kind of scripting for more complex quests/events.

A suggestion would be to add some of these components as a free engine update for Grimrock (allowing mod developers access to more tilesets) backed up by a paid-for pre-created adventure. That way, whilst all Grimrock owners could have access to features for mod-compatibility, it'd still be profitable for AH by virtue of the money earned from the expansion pack.

In many ways, I'm thinking "what would it take to build EOB2 in Grimrock", not because I want an EOB2 clone, but rather EOB2 demonstrated an almost perfect expansion of the formula, which can be a template for grid-based RPGs even today. It showed how the dungeon of EOB1 could be replaced with an indoor/outdoor game with character interaction, subquests and so on without breaking the basic feel and gameplay concepts.

Then, modders can carry the flag while AH produce their next blockbuster (or more content/expansions as the mood takes them)!

Demiath May 12th, 2012 18:34

Quote:

Originally Posted by blackcanopus (Post 1061143540)
I am not a big fan of Vogel, but from a design standpoint what he says is quite true. Grid based structure of the game limits design choices and creativity, which means every successive game with that engine will feel less and less fresh. There are ways to make Grimrock sequels feel fresh. For example Grimrock 2 can take place outdoors, but that's as good as it gets, they can't do much about it's structure.

Maybe I'm just stating the bleedingly obvious here, but I think we need to be very careful about how we phrase this complaint. The limit is not in the grid-based structure as such (i.e. that you can only move in four directions); it's that the rigid Dungeon Master formula - and an engine built exclusively to emulate said formula - focuses on Myst-like mechanical puzzles and dungeon mapping and not much else.

In principle, however, you could make a deep story-oriented game like Planescape Torment within a grid-based structure just as easily as a mere Dungeon Master clone (see Irien's comment above). A good example is Wizardry VII, which is more or less an open world game with lots of complex NPC interactions and emergent gameplay possibilities but still grid-based in its perspective and controls.

ChienAboyeur May 12th, 2012 19:27

The days they move toward more story oriented, they are cooked.

Who would buy grid based games but players who like to play grid based games for the sake of playing grid based games?

Using over and over again the same recipe, players who bought that kind of games do not care about playing one thousand times fundamentally the same game.

The days they move away from the basic recipe, the days they want to add more sophistication, watering down the basic substance of their game, they are done. They will lose their core consumers.

If they stick to the same recipes, they will released good/bad games in their own genres, more or less inspired games but will satisfy their customers who want to play over and over again the same formula.

getter77 May 12th, 2012 19:33

The notion that "grid" based gaming constructs, in an RPG context no less, is a samey dead-end of any stretch after one proper game after so many years—-wow, did the entirely of the Roguelike segment of things slip his mind entirely?

Vogel tends to have salient points, but this is just out there to the point of taking a potshot/ backhanded compliment at the fresh Indie competition in what was once pretty much his personal dilapidated backyard to somehow inject into their fresh limelight. Can't say I recall seeing this approach from him prior unless I'm waaay off.

GhanBuriGhan May 12th, 2012 19:34

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur (Post 1061143567)

If they stick to the same recipes, they will released good/bad games in their own genres, more or less inspired games but will satisfy their customers who want to play over and over again the same formula.

I don't know. If there were that many that want to play it over and over again, that particular subgenre wouldn't have died? For myself, I like Grimrock, but I think after I am done with it, that particular itch will be well scratched for a couple of years. But as Vogel said, could someone make a great Ultima Underworld ripoff please? Haven't gotten one since Arx Fatalis…

DeepO May 12th, 2012 20:06

I think Legend of Grimrock´s gameplay mix was pretty much perfect, though not necessarily in regards to subgenre itself, but more in regards to the time the game was released.
The puzzle element is something that has been neglected in RPG-y titles for years and the game filled the hole nicely. Moreover, it is a signature aspect of the games in the subgenre so it was a fitting thing to accentuate in this particular title.

Personally I don´t think they need to branch out of the formula yet - just improving upon the existing elements should be enough.
Adding a new class or two, more special abilities/characteristics to party members and enemies, more diversity in types of puzzles/secrets, less linearity when it comes to progression between dungeon levels and perhaps a bit more of story elements should be enough to make for a successful sequel (or expansion), I think.

After that, yeah, I think time for delivering a more organic, less genre conventional experience would be nigh. After all, the cited inspirations were Eye of the Beholder, Dungeon Master and Ultima Underworld and I haven´t found much of Ultima Underworld in Grimrock.
And I wouldn´t mind addition of exteriors, non combat zones and some inspiration from Wizardries either.

darkling May 12th, 2012 20:42

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dhruin (Post 1061143525)
I guess you didn't understand his point.

I certainly do. His point is that he's upset that LoG sold a lot more than his Avernum remake on Steam.

You can build plenty of variety with this style of gameplay as is proven by the half-adventure game Lands of Lore and the much more hardcore Amiga games like Black Crypt and Captive.

Seriously, he needs to get over himself and hire an artist. Also he needs to fix his godawful inventory management. I mean, picking stuff up from the ground in Avernum is still as much of a chore as it was in Exile. He needs to step up his own game rather than knocking down others.

ChienAboyeur May 12th, 2012 20:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan (Post 1061143570)
I don't know. If there were that many that want to play it over and over again, that particular subgenre wouldn't have died? For myself, I like Grimrock, but I think after I am done with it, that particular itch will be well scratched for a couple of years. But as Vogel said, could someone make a great Ultima Underworld ripoff please? Haven't gotten one since Arx Fatalis…

Not that many. Enough to keep doing that kind of games. The day the studio grow more ambitious, leading them to water down the formula through additions like story oriented, FX, they wont find their customer base.

They can go long on the formula but wont grow over it. They will stay the same size. That might be their problem, not the repeated demand for the same game over the years.
And they will have to accept doing the same thing over and over again, another difficulty working a job like video gaming.

2 years, that is quite often the delay between two episodes of a franchise.

Developpment cycle is quite short for their style of game with nowadays possibilities: eight or ten months, add four, five months support after release, all in all, one year, one year and half if they manage well.

Releasing one game of this type every year, year and half.

fadedc May 12th, 2012 21:23

I think your focusing too much on your criticisms of Avernum and missing the point of what he is saying. He says it's a great game and recomends that people go out and buy it. I don't see how that's "knocking down others".

Personally I agree with him. You certainly can expand the formula, but that's not the point of what Grimlock does. Grimlock is about pure old school nostalgia and not expanding the formula. It's about recreating the games we played back in the day, warts and all. It works really well, but I don't think it really needs sequels that badly.

Quote:

Originally Posted by darkling (Post 1061143576)
I certainly do. His point is that he's upset that LoG sold a lot more than his Avernum remake on Steam.

You can build plenty of variety with this style of gameplay as is proven by the half-adventure game Lands of Lore and the much more hardcore Amiga games like Black Crypt and Captive.

Seriously, he needs to get over himself and hire an artist. Also he needs to fix his godawful inventory management. I mean, picking stuff up from the ground in Avernum is still as much of a chore as it was in Exile. He needs to step up his own game rather than knocking down others.



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