|
Your continuous donations keep RPGWatch running!
RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Choice and Consequence and half-baked design ideas

Default Choice and Consequence and half-baked design ideas

June 30th, 2008, 23:55
While doing the previous newsbit on I noticed another piece at Unified Ammo called The Bread Crumb Trail: Why Fable 2 should be wary of half-baked design ideas, which referenced Ultima VII and an article from back in May by EA's Randy Smith. It's essentially about the cost of hand-holding in modern games and it worth a read:
In Ultima VII: The Black Gate, it was possible to bake your own bread. You would collect the ingredients and, tediously it must be said, combine them to cook on a fireplace. You could eat the result. For years afterwards, a PC PowerPlay colleague and I would jokingly cite “baking bread” as the must-have feature for any game proclaiming “endless player freedom” or the capacity to “do anything you want”.
Randy Smith has written a quietly defiant column over at Next-Gen – which originally appeared in a recent issue of EDGE. Quiet because the former Ion Storm designer has an easy-going, almost laidback style. Defiant because he’s railing against – albeit in a casual way – a prevailing trend in game design: hand-holding, or to put it another way, the design philosophy that states the player should always be having “fun”. What’s interesting about this last aspect is that it’s implied that there’s only one way to have fun, and the game designer knows best.
Let me summarise: in ye olde days circa Ultima V (i.e. 1988), games were objects of investigation, players had to explore and experiment to discover the rules of the virtual world. Indeed, players were allowed to make mistakes, to not achieve something, to get lost, and even die, horribly and repeatedly. Today, heavy focus testing has given us game experiences streamlined to maximise the fun output. Why should a player settle for only getting a portion of the fun when – through some subtle signposting and a choreographed sequence – the designer can ensure each player gets 100% of their fun allocation.
More information.
Dhruin is offline

Dhruin

Dhruin's Avatar
SasqWatch
Super Moderator
RPGWatch Team

#1

Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 11,967

Default 

June 30th, 2008, 23:55
I enjoyed this short piece. He leaves it open-ended because, indeed, there is no right answer for all players. I have been railing against such hand-holding in the games I play for some years now. Fortunately, many developers allow one to disable such features. One of the articles respondents mentions that the bread crumb trail can be disabled, and I'm glad for that. I was certainly glad that quest markers and such could be modded out of Oblivion.

I personally love the feeling of the unknown. Open worlds, when executed properly, accomplish this better than more linear, focused worlds. To take one of his examples, I loved walking out of the starting town in STALKER for the first time. I was scared. This was not the survival-horror game kind of scared, which I don't like much. This was the fear of the unknown. As I continued through the game, I felt the same way when going to a new area, or even revisiting old ones, frequently holding off on doing so until I had a fresh gaming session to take it all in, and to gather my courage.

Oblivion's world would have been good at this, frankly, if only there were some fear that going to the wrong area would be a Bad Thing. Unfortunately, the leveled creatures in the vanilla game ruined that sense of exploratory fear. But, again, with modding it was possible to make it a fun place to explore, well, at least if you have a healthy dose of imagination to fill in the "gaps".

While I don't like having to replay a game sequence as punishment for my failures, I do accept that for there to be fear of making a mistake, there must be consequences. You may get through a game, and even enjoy it, while having your hand held. But no game like that is ever going to give you the joy of figuring out a unique, perhaps even unintended by the designers, solution to a problem or stumbling onto an area of particular beauty or meaning that you weren't led to but discovered all on your own. That's a thrill worth a little bit of effort.

And I like being able to bake bread!
Guhndahb is offline

Guhndahb

Guhndahb's Avatar
Sentinel

#2

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 319

Default 

July 1st, 2008, 03:02
I too am pro-bread, but I can understand the anti-bread lobby.

————————————————-

"Ya'll can go to HELL! I'm-a-goin' to TEXAS!"

- Davy Crockett
blatantninja is offline

blatantninja

blatantninja's Avatar
Resident Redneck Facist

#3

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: NYC
Posts: 4,089

Default 

July 1st, 2008, 10:19
I used to be pro-bread, but now I'm anti-bread.

I also have less time to play games and I tend to lose interest in them more easily.
kalniel is offline

kalniel

SasqWatch

#4

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,877

Default 

July 1st, 2008, 10:35
Originally Posted by Guhndahb View Post
I personally love the feeling of the unknown. Open worlds, when executed properly, accomplish this better than more linear, focused worlds. To take one of his examples, I loved walking out of the starting town in STALKER for the first time. I was scared. This was not the survival-horror game kind of scared, which I don't like much. This was the fear of the unknown. As I continued through the game, I felt the same way when going to a new area, or even revisiting old ones, frequently holding off on doing so until I had a fresh gaming session to take it all in, and to gather my courage.
Brilliantly put. This is exactly what I love most about games — the feeling of the unknown. Indeed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. did it exceptionally well. It was said that the game was "all about atmosphere," but it's really all about the unknown. And it's especially interesting that the unknown largely stayed that way. Here's to more mystery in games!
Prime Junta is offline

Prime Junta

RPGCodex' Little BRO

#5

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,540

Default 

July 1st, 2008, 11:54
I think it at least partly depenbds on the style of play.

I believe there are several types of players, and I think we even had discussed this before.

The "explorer-type" of player, of course, likes open worlds, where the "fun factor" consists of exploring this vast, open world.

There are other types of playyers, of course, and I suspect that "modern" games don't cater the "explorer-rtype" of player (or windows user ) that much.


It depends not only in the type of player, but also on the definition of the word or the "factor" called "fun".

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
Alrik Fassbauer is offline

Alrik Fassbauer

Alrik Fassbauer's Avatar
TL;DR

#6

Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Old Europe
Posts: 15,987

Default 

July 1st, 2008, 17:06
The problem with just disabling the quest markers in Oblivion is that you rarely got any kind of verbal directions to where a place was. I really liked writing down directions in Morrowind and having to hunt for a location.
Cabezone is offline

Cabezone

Watcher

#7

Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 46

Default 

July 2nd, 2008, 10:08
Yes, the compass wasn’t just a crutch for lazy players but also crutch for lazy quest design. Quite often extremely lazy and nonsensical quest design. However I do recall one interesting exception to the rule: a quest for the countess of Bruma that involved an old map and navigation by landmarks as opposed to the magic pointer. If only that attention to detail had been enforced throughout the Oblivion design process…
MudsAnimalFriend is offline

MudsAnimalFriend

Watchdog

#8

Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 150

Default 

July 2nd, 2008, 10:29
I am also a huge fan of the "unknown", which is why I never get tired of the "amnesia" style premises of games like System Shock, Bioforge, and Bioshock.

However, I also think that games need to be less about conformity and more about focused design. You can't just have quest markers be optional unless the entire design is ready for that - which obviously Oblivion wasn't. The same can be said for Bioshock, which had one of the most satisfying premises in recent memory - but it was marred by an overly forgiving hand-holding, even when all the help was turned off - because the design was saturated in that kind of forgiving style.

I'm not convinced that it can't be done properly, but until I see it happen, I would personally prefer games that go "all the way" in terms of making the unknown something to genuinely fear, and be a challenge to conquer.

But that's me.
DArtagnan is online now

DArtagnan

DArtagnan's Avatar
Waste of potential

#9

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 14,608
RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Choice and Consequence and half-baked design ideas
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 14:01.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright by RPGWatch