|
Your continuous donations keep RPGWatch running!
RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Gamasutra - Dumbing Down Games

Default Gamasutra - Dumbing Down Games

January 19th, 2014, 07:28
Gamasutra is hosting a new blog piece were the writer talks about dumbing down games, and uses Skyrim as one example.

There's been a recent trend in large, popular titles that are sequels. And that is to make the game simpler than its previous incarnations, assumedly in order to broaden the potential audience of the titles. Examples include The Elderscrolls and Skyrim, which included the popular mechanic of regenerating health so "people don't have to worry as much".

The hypothesis is a common one. Outside of combat people are just going to go about and do something to regenerate their health anyway, so why not speed that up for them and get it over with? Make it so they "get back to the game" faster.

This assumes firstly that getting your health back isn't part of the game and isn't fun. And a lot of aspects in games are treated as such. It's "not fun" so get rid of it. But even more recently there's been a trend of taking these "not fun" aspects of a game and finding out how to make them fun. "Roguelikes" even go so far as to take death itself, a normally frustrating portion of games where one might just reload your previous save, and actually turn the entire process into something fun and enjoyable.
More information.
Couchpotato is offline

Couchpotato

Couchpotato's Avatar
LazyGamer
RPGWatch Team

#1

Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Potato Land
Posts: 9,116

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 07:28
Hmmm… I agree with some of this and disagree with some.

I strongly disagree with this guy about the regenerating health - that's one RPG change that I greatly prefer. In the past, when health didn't regenerate and healing items where expensive or scarce, I simply avoided combat as much as possible. Or I'd find myself having to backtrack to the last town I visited for supplies all the time. Both were irritating. When magic didn't regenerate, I only used it in boss battles, which made it useless the rest of the time (thus making non-boss battles mindless hack and slash).

To each their own… some people think that making a game more difficult and complicated makes it more fun. Others would rather just enjoy the experience and find entertainment in the story, exploration and learning the best techniques for use in battle. Neither is right or wrong, and calling one "dumbing down" sounds pretentious.
dpc76 is offline

dpc76

Watchdog

#2

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 106

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 11:16
Yeah I agree that "dumbing down" is a bit of an emotive way of putting it. Personally though, I prefere it when health an magic don't regenerate, which makes the cumulative effect of combat interesting. Knights of the Chalice was a great example of this - magic and health didn't regenerate, and resting was restricted. Thus made managing your resources between fights a major part of the game, and I loved that.
Pongo is offline

Pongo

Pongo's Avatar
Watchdog
RPGWatch Donor

#3

Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: London
Posts: 162

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 14:30
Originally Posted by dpc76 View Post
To each their own…
I agree with that quote (and disagree with the rest of the post) but why do devs tend to suppress possibilities instead of making it optional ? You don't like non regen health and magicka ? That's ok with me but for myself I enjoy it greatly, so why not making it optional ? Just one tick in a box and both of us would be satisfied, that's that simple !
Gloo is offline

Gloo

Gloo's Avatar
Sentinel

#4

Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Chapelle Guillaume
Posts: 309

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 15:05
To me, it seems kind of silly to compare various iterations of Elder Scrolls games and claim they're been dumbed down… I tend to find the entire sub-genre of "Action RPG" is a dumbed down version of turn-based (hell or even real-time with pause) RPGs. That's not to say I can't appreciate a really well made action RPG (I love Witcher 2) but with ES, and a lot of other action RPGs I've played, you can be fairly effective with frantic button mashing. Maybe that's not the case with enough mods, but the vanilla Skyrim has terrible AI and clunky controls. The only strategy required is "get lots of loot so you can craft the best weapons / armor". Most turn-based RPGs will at least require some planning / strategy (although plenty the old school JRPGs feature boring random encounters where all you need to do is select Attack over and over again). But even deceptively simple TB systems can be difficult to master (try playing Banner Saga on hard

Not sure regenerating health is really dumbing a game down as long as it's balanced for that. I think a better example of RPGs being dumbed down would be the way most modern RPGs tell you exactly where to go for completely quests. Back in the day, you had to find stuff. And draw your own maps for dungeons. Of course that could get very tedious… At the end of the day what I really want from an RPG is to have fun and we all have our own standards for that.
daveyd is online now

daveyd

daveyd's Avatar
Sentinel

#5

Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: PA
Posts: 287

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 15:11
Originally Posted by Gloo View Post
I agree with that quote (and disagree with the rest of the post) but why do devs tend to suppress possibilities instead of making it optional ? You don't like non regen health and magicka ? That's ok with me but for myself I enjoy it greatly, so why not making it optional ? Just one tick in a box and both of us would be satisfied, that's that simple !

Because each option would require different game balancing so it's not as easy as just ticking a box. Then throw in all the different options and tick boxes people would want and you'd have to balance the game in endless different ways to account for every check box. It would be a mess and the game most like would go under or be a terrible expierence depending on the boxes you tick.
sakichop is offline

sakichop

SasqWatch

#6

Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 2,156

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 16:16
Because people have shorter attention spans. Done.

Give me a great story, compelling characters, and a great combat system and I'm there. DA:O and Witcher are perfect examples (although I find combat on the latter lacking). I don't need to draw my own map. It was fun when I was ten, not when I have 30 minutes to play a game.
Bry72 is offline

Bry72

Watcher

#7

Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 28

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 16:34
Originally Posted by Bry72 View Post
Give me a great story…
… and then I don't care if it has top notch graphics and if the combat system is the most awsome ever and if something regenerates or not.

Just don't put grinding to hide lack of ideas into a game please. Leave that for MMOs.

Toka Koka
joxer is offline

joxer

joxer's Avatar
The Smoker
RPGWatch Donor

#8

Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 6,031

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 17:04
I think it comes down more to the definition of fun (which is subjective and player based) and play style. Some folks just want exciting combat and play for small spurts. Others want to get really immersed into the game.

Personally I love Skyrim (think everyone around here knows that ) but it IS dumbded down no question about it. Streamlined, complexities removed … heck just look at spells … and many other things. Morrowind had far better game play IMO.

Way to many AAA games are really just "mass appeal so lets design around the idea of compromising everything to appeal to the most people" style games. I am just old I guess - just feels like peoples attention spans are so much shorter these days. Just look at the news media compared to the past. Everything has to be in mini-bites of information, all show and no substance. Maybe its just the current culture.

Character is centrality, the impossibility of being displaced or overset. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
wolfgrimdark is offline

wolfgrimdark

wolfgrimdark's Avatar
Keeper of the Watch

#9

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: NH
Posts: 862

Default 

January 19th, 2014, 21:05
I definitely agree on attention spans. I doubt its anything biological - it's all cultural. People today are CONSTANTLY distracted! You can't give them non-linear dungeons because, if you do, they get lost. They don't get lost because they are dumb, though, they get lost because they are barely paying attention. You can give them a very deep story but you can't expect them to change their actions because of it because many players will have skipped the dialog completely.

You've also got a lot of folks out there who are looking for something different from games than most of us, I think: empowerment. They want to start the game, get to a battle, and win EVERY time.

I wonder if this is a failing of our genre definitions? We keep going on about whether a game is "really" an RPG or whether having a squad to command is enough to get into the "strategy" genre. Maybe it would be better if we concentrated more on the intended audience for our genres? Or maybe we need a second genre classification? A "high focus" RPG requires you to pay attention while a "low focus" can be handled by somebody who only has one eye on the game.
Zloth is offline

Zloth

Zloth's Avatar
I smell a… wumpus!?

#10

Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Kansas City
Posts: 2,702

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 02:19
I feel lucky we have Skyrim. If you need evidence of the 'duminging down' of games, look no further than 'The Walking Dead' game series. They won all kinds of Game of the Year awards, but they're no more than choose your own pathway adventures. LOL those are NOT games.

If I have a choice, I'll take Skyrim everyday of the week.
Sir Markus is offline

Sir Markus

Sir Markus's Avatar
Keeper of the Watch

#11

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Columbus, OH USA
Posts: 811

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 06:16
The article did not even consider gameplay.

Skyrim's case is quite straightforward.

But first: self regenerating health is not a neutral thing. It might consolidate gameplay. It depends.
Self regenerationg health might not make things simpler. It depends.
Yet the article ignores that.

For example, in a RTS, games with non regenerating health units vs games with regenerating health. In RTS, the emphasis is put on combat. Combat is aggression. The player must aggress, aggress and aggress.
Self regenerating units add strategical thinking as it comes with determination of the moment when to pull out units from a battle.
So self regenerating health does not make things simpler automatically. And in this case, it serves gameplay since strategical thinking is looked for in a RTS.

Now for Skyrim: Skyrim is a narrative game, that is a game that puts the emphasis on delivering a story and/or elaborating a story. Skyrim is especially rich in the second: elaborating a story. Giving a background to their character, taking decisions to developp a narrative, a lot of players want to do that and it is also the goal of Bethesda to provide them with a game allowing that.

In what way a non regenerative health would help that? In no way. Anytime the player must wait for the health to regenerate, that takes the player away from the gaming goal: elaborating a narrative thread. It is useless. And therefore self regenerating health is a proper gameplay as it helps the gameplay and make it work better. Pushing players into the sequence of regenerating health is a roadblock on their path to decide how they want the narrative thread to go. It is forcing on them a sequence that removes control they are supposed to have.
In general, stories take the elliptic approach when it comes to heroes healing up.
How many stories waste narrative pages on the healing process? In a book, a fewo lines are dedicated and the topic is skipped so to say.

The article cant even distinguish based on gameplay.
RPGS (Skyrim is a narrative game) and survival games share some common grounds. Combat is just one feature in survival and RPG.
In a rpg, combat is just one activity among many others that the player uses to install a character into the role.
Forcing a long healing period deprives the player of nothing as it provides the player with time to act out of role elsewhere. That is all the difference with narrative gaming. In a RPG, the player does not decide those points.

For survival games, combat is usually a delicate decision to take as it might endanger for good the PC. Many survival games come with permadeath by the way. The article has it wrong: non regenerating health does not make combat more intense, it makes survival more intense. It brings vulnerability into combat and stresses the player into considering carefully when and for what to engage combat.

Skyrim is not dumbed down because of self regenerating health. Designers took a decision that helps the gameplay to work better.
ChienAboyeur is offline

ChienAboyeur

SasqWatch

#12

Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 2,026

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 07:44
In my day, we had to stare at a virtual spellbook for 10 minutes at a time to regenerate mana! And warriors were required to buy bandages from the local merchants for healing during downtime! And the snow! So much snow on those hills!

As others have said, regenerating health is hardly indicative of "dumbing down" - there's plenty of other more relevant symptoms of that.
Drithius is offline

Drithius

Drithius's Avatar
Misbegotten Alien

#13

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Florida, USA
Posts: 2,424

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 07:48
The audience has changed from primarily enthusiasts to primarily casual gamers - and the latter includes a lot of those who USED to be enthusiasts.

Obviously, game design theory has changed accordingly.
DArtagnan is online now

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#14

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 14,212

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 11:45
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The audience has changed from primarily enthusiasts to primarily casual gamers - and the latter includes a lot of those who USED to be enthusiasts.

Obviously, game design theory has changed accordingly.
Enthusiasts becomes casual gamers but casual gamers *should* also become enthusiasts. Given this, I would say that total number of enthusiasts now should be greater than they were say 20 years ago since we have lot more casual gamers now than 20 years ago.

However it seems like the latter is not happening. In fact it feels like the total number of enthusiasts may have fallen now than 20 years ago and that is very puzzling. In other words the net migration is negative towards enthusiasts.
lostforever is offline

lostforever

Keeper of the Watch

#15

Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: UK
Posts: 1,032

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 11:51
Originally Posted by lostforever View Post
Enthusiasts becomes casual gamers but casual gamers *should* also become enthusiasts. Given this, I would say that total number of enthusiasts now should be greater than they were say 20 years ago since we have lot more casual gamers now than 20 years ago.
Sure, some casuals become enthusiasts - but that's not really relevant to the people financing the game.

They want maximum return for their investment - and that's when the majority rules.

There will never come a time when one kind of entertainment will turn most of the mainstream into enthusiasts - because the mainstream is, by definition, people who have other interests than just this one.

Unless you feel comfortable claiming that gaming is objectively more interesting than other things you can spend time doing

However it seems like the latter is not happening. In fact it feels like the total number of enthusiasts may have fallen now than 20 years ago and that is very puzzling.
Based on what?
DArtagnan is online now

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#16

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 14,212

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 13:59
Originally Posted by Sir Markus View Post
I feel lucky we have Skyrim. If you need evidence of the 'duminging down' of games, look no further than 'The Walking Dead' game series. They won all kinds of Game of the Year awards, but they're no more than choose your own pathway adventures. LOL those are NOT games.

If I have a choice, I'll take Skyrim everyday of the week.
Those are not games? How arrogant.
Yme is offline

Yme

Yme's Avatar
Sentinel

#17

Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Ginnungagap
Posts: 372

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 15:14
Health regen was in Daggerfall too, or is that OK because it's a perk?
kalniel is offline

kalniel

SasqWatch

#18

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,877

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 17:40
When I play a game I don't want a program that challenges my reflexes, or my mathematical logic or my morality etc. I want an interactive experience. If a developer uses appropriately any, or all of the above, or some other method to deliver an experience it's fine with me. Therefore I believe that a lot of what we call 'dumbing down' it's the industry realizing that there are more ways to deliver an experience than what we used to get in the past. (I personally tend to believe that increased challenge in games being seen as the only appropriate way, was inherited from the coin-ops where it was used not because it fit all games but as a way to make the user to either keep paying or letting someone else have a go.)

"I am not interested in good; I am interested in new, even if this includes the possibility of it's being evil"
(LaMonte Young, 1962)
holeraw is offline

holeraw

holeraw's Avatar
V.G.A.

#19

Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 693

Default 

January 20th, 2014, 22:42
How can regenerating health become the main issue on dumbing down games, really?
Jumping into some games you feel like you're being treated as a kid trying to learn the basics of understanding interactions for the first time.
"hey, your quest is at this maker here on the map and in case you missed it here's a huge arrow for you to follow. If you still missed it you can press this button to show you all the intractable spots on your screen. Still having problems? Well don't worry, if you're running off wrong we'll stop you with an invisible wall or a big ass warning on your screen."
Seriously, these games piss me off to the limit. I just want to play the freaking game I just paid 60 bucks for in a way that suits me. I do not need to be hand held from start to end. In fact I find it quite offensive that the game thinks I'm stupid and can't complete it on my own.

Speak your own words of wisdom instead of quoting someone else's.
NyxVampiria is offline

NyxVampiria

NyxVampiria's Avatar
Semidevilish

#20

Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: in a figment of my imagination
Posts: 204
RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Gamasutra - Dumbing Down Games
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT +2. The time now is 13:44.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright by RPGWatch