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T O P I C
Games aren't books
March 27th 2002, 20:02 CET by wizard

Or more to the point, why do games play like a book?  Why aren't we able to change the outcome of the game, why aren't we able to do more than die or succeed?  Why must we be limited to a static world?

What kills DAOC and EQ?  That the world hardly, if ever, changes could be a big issue...  No matter how many times you slay the gods, kill the rare and random beasts, collect the ultra-rare item, etc, nothing actually changes.  The gods reappear, the dragons come back, the "rare" beasts walk the land again and the ultra-rare item is collected by someone else.  You don't change the world.

And it's not just MMORPGs, most, if all not all games, don't allow us to make real choices.  Sure, some games have allowed changes to small things, to alter the world a bit, but most don't even attempt it.

I'm not saying all games should allow this...as a matter of fact, most games shouldn't even think about until a system that can be plopped into to help with the design is created.  But what stops the few developers that actually want to try something like this from doing it?

Our man on the inside, Scotty "Marketing is law." Miller says it's just to complex.  Oh, and that we, the gamers, think we want choices, but we don't really.  

Others mentioned not only is complex, but it's not worth the pay off, since you would develop a game that people wouldn't see all of.  If done right, people that didn't replay (though the point of the game, imo, should be that you can reply it) the game, wouldn't see most of it, or at least a good portion of it.

Both of these are valid and maybe debilitating points, but maybe not.  Disregarding whether gamers want it or not (aren't games supposed to be made because the developers want to play them...an effort of love?), this idea will come and once it hits in full swing and an easier way is found to do it, almost all games will include it.  Think about it, wouldn't you like to be able to say, "No, I don't think I'll kill you, honored foe.  You've fought well, why don't you join my army, be a general or an advisor, thus improving my abilities as a leader".  Or wouldn't it be grand if in the next online only game you played, you could be become the lord of the city, the emperor of the world...  or the bard to a far away king, or go on a killing rampage and try to take out a neighboring empire with yours.

Just because this isn't seen as possible now, doesn't mean it won't be done.  Just because it's complex or hard to do or a gamer might not see part of your "mastery" won't hold people back.  I can't speak for all, but I want a game where I can really game a difference.  Where things can be changed, where the choices I make reflect throughout the game.
C O M M E N T S
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#1 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 20:03:39
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
you know I rock... first post on my subject

Just your average curious bastard.
#2 by Bailey
2002-03-27 20:04:04
When does the rocking begin?

You are making my being drunk at one in the afternoon a less pleasant experience.
#3 by Max
2002-03-27 20:08:28
http://massivebraincase.org/
This is the "persistent online world" dream writ large. Sure it's coming, whether Scott Miller thinks it's too complex or not.  I'm looking forward to it as well.

I don't think it's coming anytime soon, though.

-max
#4 by JMCDaveL
2002-03-27 20:08:37
This is what happens when you don't vote for MY topic.

--jmc
#5 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 20:08:57
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
I don't know...  I kinda expected someone to comment on the topic...  but that's just me.  Maybe someone needs to start a new topic in this topic...

Just your average curious bastard.
#6 by Max
2002-03-27 20:11:27
http://massivebraincase.org/
What am I, chopped liver?

-max
#7 by m0nty
2002-03-27 20:13:47
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
This topic shares some concerns with the last one, in that it discusses the problems inherent with combining static, stable gaming environments with the desire by each and every single bloody gamer to rule said environments like god-kings using their SUPAR MAGICK POWARS and ruining it for everyone else. Basically, AI and scripting technology is not sufficiently grunty enough to handle it at this stage in the PC evolution. One day, we'll all have AI tutors moderating our individual gaming experiences like Dungeon Masters, as in the book The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (although they weren't AI, of course). Until then, there will still be industry pow-wows like this which don't really solve anything.
#8 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 20:15:59
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Your post wasn't there when I posted... my humblest apologies...  :)

I don't know about the online theory...but I can hope.  I'd settle for a single player game where what I do changes things...  just one, please...  I'm begging you...  :)

These guys say they are going to do it...  go here then click on project ego.

Just your average curious bastard.
#9 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 20:18:52
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
#7 Monty:

The beginning of the recent sci-fi series byTad Williams had a pretty good idea of what I think MMORPGs will look like in the future (though the rest of the book blew, imo).

I agree, the online theory where everyone can be a star is probably far away...hopefully not too far though.

Just your average curious bastard.
#10 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 20:20:12
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
To add to #9
Though, if they could make it so large groups of people could make changes, that would be good...I don't think that has to be far away (like actually owning cities and the like...done right, of course)

Just your average curious bastard.
#11 by Charles
2002-03-27 20:27:16
www.bluh.org
I think persistant world is a misnomer.  When UO originally coined the phrase, I believe the meaning was "Changes made to the world persist".  At the very least, UO's economy persists.  

However, I think persistent world is more akin to 'static, unchanging' world now.  What persists is the status quo.  The lack of any change makes the game boring as all hell.  And shit added in patches doesn't make a world dynamic.  It just adds more static.  

Oh, and I agree, gamers only think they want choices.  However, give a player a completely open ended game, where it's up to him to do everything... well, they'll get bored of it faster than you can say "what am I supposed to do?".  Gamers need something prodding them along the course to experiencing the game, otherwise it will never happen.  Even myself.

But the fact is, make the player able to make any choice in the game, and the gigantic tree of possibilities that would result would be unrealistically large.  How do you make dialog for every possibility?  You'd need different dialog for most of the 'main' characters for most branch paths.

What games need to do is to allow the illusion of choice, and perhaps even making choices important to some extent.  Allow the player to make all the choices on a small scale (how to complete a specific goal), and allow them to make a few choices on a large scale (that influence the story).  

However, this has already been done, and is slowly becoming more prevalent in games.  The two I can think of off hand that did it were Baldur's Gate 2 and Deus Ex.

In BG2, when you recieved a quest (specific goal), you could choose between multiple different outcomes, by doing different things.  Then on a larger scale, you could choose to take the evil path through the game, or the good path.  A bunch of story branches become different after those choices.  This was also true in the expantion (Throne of Bhaal).

In Deus Ex, for each mission, you chose how to complete the goal.  Frontal assault?  Sneak in through the air conditioning?  Hack the security?  All up to you.  Then on a larger story scale, you could choose to kill or not kill certain people, save or not save Paul, choose how you would end the game.  Join the Illuminati?  Send the world in to a new dark age?  Merge with an AI and control everything yourself?

The trick is to allow the player many choices on the small scale, so that they feel in control, without sacrificing control of the story you want to tell.

After all, most games, like many other mediums, exist to tell a story.  So why shouldn't they be like books?  Albeit interactive ones.

#12 by Warren Marshall
2002-03-27 20:34:04
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Nova

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head.  For a game to truly allow the player to change the outcome requires sweeping changes to dialogs, locations, etc.  If, for example, you do voice recording your workload goes up geometrically.

When people talk about this kind of stuff though, what they usually mean is they want a sandbox, they don't want a game.  Well, they do, but they don't.  They want a story, but they want the option to participate in it or not, while expecting said story to bend and accomodate whatever they can think of doing.  Bleh ...

I am a magnificent three toed sloth.
#13 by Post-It
2002-03-27 20:35:06
keithlee@speakeasy.net
^^^
ditto.
#14 by Charles
2002-03-27 20:40:07
www.bluh.org
Yeah warren.

It's like playing a game of ADnD with your friends.  The DM starts you in a town.  Then the party decides "Okay, we are going to the next town", and the DM is forced to either A) Force us to stay in town and to do HIS story or B) Throw out everything he's planned and start over.

No one likes B) when they are the DM.

#15 by Max
2002-03-27 20:44:16
http://massivebraincase.org/
I think semantics may trip us up quickly here. When Wizard says he wants a changeable, persistent world, I don't think that world will be a "game" in the strictest sense of the world. To be a game, as Nova says, the designer has to at most provide the player an illusion of choice and change.  If it's just a Daggerfall-style world, whether persistent or not, it quickly gets out of the realm of "game" and more into "environment". Most people quickly tire of exploring and go back to Q3.

I dunno.  I had a lot of fun with Daggerfall (for instance) and find the thought of an expansive, permanently-changeable world/environment to play around in to be exciting. I don't think it'll come from game designers, though.

Being interrupted 15 times while composing a comment does NOT contribute to readability. Sorry about that.

-max
#16 by Matthew Gallant
2002-03-27 20:44:46
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
You can't maintain NPC depth if the player is allowed to have hundreds of decision points. It just doesn't work. They either end up being shallow, reactionary types, parroting inappropriate dialog. Most of them are that way now in the highly linear games of today. The more decision points there are, the less coherent and compelling the narrative becomes.

What you're describing will only come about with huge advances in Artificial Intelligence, and even then it'll just be a random story. Player-as-author makes for a directionless game--which can still be a decent game, just not what you are looking for, wizard.

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#17 by Max
2002-03-27 20:46:35
http://massivebraincase.org/
And the time it took made my comment repetitive.  Ummm, ditto Warren and Nova.

-max
#18 by Charles
2002-03-27 20:47:25
www.bluh.org
Max, check out Project Ego then.

The idea sounds awesome, but I wonder if the implementation will hold up in the end.  I'd love to see how they plan on doing any kind of dialog.  Any bets they just go for a sims style representative communication instead of actual dialog?  Suckage if you ask me.

If I want a full environment in a game, then dammit, I want a full environment.  However, that won't be delivered until you have True AI's running games for us if you ask me.

#19 by Bailey
2002-03-27 20:49:14
I refuse to acknowledge Project Ego until it's on the shelf. One overhyped Lionhead crapfest in my lifetime is more than enough.

You are making my being drunk at one in the afternoon a less pleasant experience.
#20 by Charles
2002-03-27 20:53:38
www.bluh.org
Yeah, that's why I end at curiosity.  I fully expect the game to be nothing like what they are planning.  Unless of course it takes them 10 years.  Which it probably will.

#21 by LPMiller
2002-03-27 20:55:21
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I wanted bailey's topic, dammit.

The Suns rays are made up of many atoms.
#22 by Post-It
2002-03-27 20:56:13
keithlee@speakeasy.net
Nova, just in case you haven't seen it yet, go check out the bottom of today's Penny-Arcade. Spector finally responds to the love-note.
#23 by Charles
2002-03-27 20:57:11
www.bluh.org
OMG!

#24 by Hugin
2002-03-27 21:00:21
lmccain@nber.org
I remember a bit in Imperium Galactica 2 where your empire had been dealing with harassment from pirates for a while, and basically if you had anything on the ball at all you were slowly whomping on them and detroying thier bases and taking over thier planets, and eventually, the Pirate King opens communication with you and offers a truce.  

Now, (if I remember properly, don't sue if I get the details wrong) you could blow off his attempts at truce and wipe out the pirates. EOD

But if you accepted the truce, after some negotiations and rigamarole, he offered to seal the deal with a political marriage to his daughter.  Now..the daughter doesn't seem too happy about this.  And to be honest, I never did find out whether you could force her to be a good little wifey.  Because.....if you were sympathetic to her complaints about being married off, you find out that she's a military commander with a kickass ship, and you can bring her in as a fleet commander on your side.. If you play your cards right, don't go all bloodthirsty, don't go all sexist, you wind up with the core of a nice fleet.

I liked that bit a lot, in terms of games giving me choices.  None of the choices were bad.  But a little thoughtfulness rewarded you with a spiffy bonus. And while it changed the game going forward in a satisfying way, it didn't require anything in the way of major plot revision later on, of the sort that drives developers crazy. You make the decisions, you get the appropriate bonus/result, and that module sort of seals itself up, plotwise, despite the fact that you get the spiffy wife/commander for the remainder of the game.

What I don't like is the need so many game designers have to make the choices Good/Bad.  Think of two or three nice things, and let my personality guide my gameplay.  Don't screw me over harshly for making the "wrong" choice.  I hate games with "the bad ending".
#25 by jafd
2002-03-27 21:15:10
FYI, it's all a joke until GIPs become PSWs. SWO might accomplish this, I suppose, once they introduce Starship Ownership.

Real estate in UO was a fine example of a PSW in action. But that was only a teeny tiny part of the whole game, which is an even more miniscule part of the whole market. EQ doesn't have any kind of persistence in the world, and neither does AC, as far as I know.

Oh, persistent characters, to be sure, but that means very little to the world at large. Wether Rawksaur the Shaman sticks around indefinitely certainly doesn't matter in the grand scheme, as Roman Cier the DE Necro will be happy to fill that niche.

As for what wzrd is asking for, I don't see that being implementable on a grand scale for years and years. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd settle for some kind of transparent hub system, where people meet, and the cruise off to some "alternate dimension" which would amount to a SP campaign, generated and managed just for you and your group, which you'd "solve" amongst yourselves, then cart the rewards back to the main group. I don't know if that counts as a "PSW," but it would suffice.

Computers can't compare to human imagination. Not now, maybe not ever. That's a persistent fact, perhaps?

(I hate this post. I'm only submitting it because someone challenged me. /mewl)

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#26 by chris
2002-03-27 21:18:12
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
One of the most dissapointing things in Asheron's Call was during the "unleashing BaelZharon" month (or however it's spelled). He was this big, dark overlord encased in crystal, and on just about every server, he was released pretty quickly.

But on the PK server, a group of good guys banded together and prevented the evil PKs from unleashing him, 24-7, for the entire month. It was crazy. The whole community was watching to see what would happen...

And what happened was: The GMs came in and fought along side the evil teams to help them defeat the good guys, because the next month's story arc required Bael to be released.

I understand why it was done, but... bleh. This is why I play single-player games.

-chris
(crash can probably describe this better, and/or correct any factual errors I made)
#27 by Max
2002-03-27 21:18:37
http://massivebraincase.org/
OK, I'd love to look at Project Ego but I refuse to go any farther on a site with a flash idiot talking to me about what I'm going to miss if I dare to click a link instead of watching the flash.

-max
#28 by chris
2002-03-27 21:19:46
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
jafd - AC has real estate.

-chris
#29 by chris
2002-03-27 21:27:41
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
also, I can't believe this, but I just voted "yes" on a joker topic :P

-chris
#30 by Bailey
2002-03-27 21:41:05
Just gotta make a quick aside here: for those of you who ride the donkey and watch anime, I strongly recommend checking out FLCL from Gainax, if you haven't already. Sort of like Tank Girl goes to Japan and drops the brown acid.

You are making my being drunk at one in the afternoon a less pleasant experience.
#31 by jafd
2002-03-27 21:47:29
Now that Dudley Moore is dead, all of you will probably have a slightly greater chance of finding this fantastic movie available for rental someplace.

Oh, please please please let this come out on DVD in letterbox. My VHS tape is about to break. Also, "formatted to fit your screen" is a euphemism for "we don't give a shit about anything but your money."

Don't let the Harold Ramis / Brendan Fraser version fool you... the original Bedazzled is a classic in every sense of the word.

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#32 by crash
2002-03-27 21:49:33
Games Aren't Books.

next up from our ace reporter: Dolphins Aren't Fish.

either way, they taste pretty yummy.

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#33 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 21:58:31
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Ok, I agree, I wasn't specific enough.  Let me be more precise by responding to some of the posts:

Nova
Oh, and I agree, gamers only think they want choices.  However, give a player a completely open ended game, where it's up to him to do everything... well, they'll get bored of it faster than you can say "what am I supposed to do?".  Gamers need something prodding them along the course to experiencing the game, otherwise it will never happen.  Even myself.

Agreed.  A full functioning, boring world would blow.  I'm not asking for either of those.  I'm asking for a simulated game-world where I can numerous choices (not unlimited) that will affect other choices I make in the game.  Don't create a whole world, don't even think about trying...

This is what I imagine...  a world similar to Baldur's Gate 2(doensn't have to be 3rd person) where you have multiple, but limited places you can travel (give some in game reason why you can only travel so far).  In that limited size world, have things happening to you and around you.  Remember, the idea of almost any game is that you are the star.  Don't create a world where you are just a regular person, this world should be designed with the idea helping the player find things to do.  Each place I can travel to, something different is happening there.  Such and such gang runs the place where I start, I kill the leader because I've been asked by the local populace (I could have said no, and things would have gone another way)...  when I go to the next place, first thing that happens is I get attacked...  lets say they were allies of the last guy I killed.  If I had decided not to kill him instead, I wouldn't have been attacked.  Maybe I joined them for a bit or maybe I just wandered off, not wanting to do either.  This could go on and on.  Every choice should be related.  And just like BG where the side quests were started by npcs asking for help or offering money, the world should revolve around me, but much more so than BG.


Oh, and I agree, gamers only think they want choices.  However, give a player a completely open ended game, where it's up to him to do everything... well, they'll get bored of it faster than you can say "what am I supposed to do?".  Gamers need something prodding them along the course to experiencing the game, otherwise it will never happen.  Even myself.

Nove isn't the only one to bring this up...  don't create a unlimited world, that is a impossibility, of course (think about it).  Create a world with enough choices that can go different ways, that are influenced by previous choices, that it simulates a world.  Sure, you can't do EVERYTHING, but make it so there is enough to do so that you are always busy, if you so choose to be.

Warren and Nova

When people talk about this kind of stuff though, what they usually mean is they want a sandbox, they don't want a game.  Well, they do, but they don't.  They want a story, but they want the option to participate in it or not, while expecting said story to bend and accomodate whatever they can think of doing.  Bleh ...

It's like playing a game of ADnD with your friends.  The DM starts you in a town.  Then the party decides "Okay, we are going to the next town", and the DM is forced to either A) Force us to stay in town and to do HIS story or B) Throw out everything he's planned and start over.


While I think this idea could be interesting, it's not quite what I'm driving at.  Don't make it possible for the to leave the game.  The game can't think on the fly, we know that.  It can't create worlds because the player wants it.  Don't worry about it.  Set limits for the world, set "storylines" in the world that happen.  Make the player the main focal point of that world.  Some stories wait for the player, some don't.  Some stories have ways you don't have to participate, some don't (e. g. - you are forced to make a choice for a certain side in a war...we aren't creating apathy world)

The Bad Matt

You can't maintain NPC depth if the player is allowed to have hundreds of decision points. It just doesn't work. They either end up being shallow, reactionary types, parroting inappropriate dialog. Most of them are that way now in the highly linear games of today. The more decision points there are, the less coherent and compelling the narrative becomes.

Lets not create a story for the player...  we aren't trying to direct them at all.  We create a bunch of seperate stories that have reprocussions upon others stories.  You are the main story, by having choices and those choices meaning something, you change the world around you.  That's the idea, not trying to bring the story along.  And not in a sandbox sense...  it's more like GTA3 where instead of everything resetting when you got caught by the cops, if you get caught enough times, the mob doesn't want you anymore, but maybe other factions are interested...  or maybe you can change yours ways and turn states evidence...  or maybe you meet people in jail, etc, etc, etc...  the world would be made up of a bunch of little stories that all influence each other.

chris #26
I think that's pretty damn cool idea.  I wish they hadn't killed the guys stopping them...  I like the idea in MMORPGs of groups of people being able to change the way the game is played...  in a MMORPG I don't see the whole as easily, but the groups of people having influence upon a mostly static world (so as not to leave out the people who aren't involved) would be pretty damn cool.



At no point did I say this would be easy... but the reward on the other side would be well worth it, if done well in a stable game.

Just your average curious bastard.
#34 by LPMiller
2002-03-27 21:58:37
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I like my games with fava beans.

The Suns rays are made up of many atoms.
#35 by crash
2002-03-27 21:59:33
okay, now to read the thread.

Nova: wow, a Nova post managed to segue into Deus Ex somehow. imagine that.

Then the party decides "Okay, we are going to the next town", and the DM is forced to either A) Force us to stay in town and to do HIS story or B) Throw out everything he's planned and start over.

actually, the best DMs choose C, and C isn't something you can do in code yet. if you've ever had a "best" DM, you'll know exactly what i'm talking about.

jafd:

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd settle for some kind of transparent hub system, where people meet, and the cruise off to some "alternate dimension" which would amount to a SP campaign, generated and managed just for you and your group, which you'd "solve" amongst yourselves, then cart the rewards back to the main group.

so... NWN then.

shaithis:

And what happened was: The GMs came in and fought along side the evil teams to help them defeat the good guys, because the next month's story arc required Bael to be released.

I understand why it was done, but... bleh. This is why I play single-player games.

-chris
(crash can probably describe this better, and/or correct any factual errors I made)

fight went along normally; bad guys attacking, good guys defending. bad guys found an exploit to use, and nearly won. good guys bitched, bad guys/good guys agreed nobody would use it. defenders are staying logged in, at times, 12 hours a day (no shit) to keep the shard alive. they're also sacrificing themselves to make it more powerful (mobs can and do level/spend xp when they kill players). stalemate for a long time, patch day's coming up, everybody knows servers can't diverge, what to do.

Cool Part: a while back, certain players had been chosen to do a "challenge", which basically amounted to "run this maze in 30 minutes without dying and you get a special prize." part of the lore for winners was the knowledge that by doing this, they'd crossed over to the dark side or whatever, and for this prize (a gem of some kind that was pretty sweet), they owed the dark side a favor.

guess what that favor was. "Kill that friggin thing." player goes in with a team of dev-controlled mobs, defenders put up a good fight (as i recall, one or more of the dev-controlled mobs was actually killed; this may be incorrect), evil you-owe-us-a-favor player finally kills the thing.

what's commonly overlooked is the neat way the story event from months previously tied into the actual forced event. which, incidentally, shows pretty clearly how much players value the story behind a game.

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#36 by Kayin
2002-03-27 22:06:18
evilshinji@tokyo-3.com http://www.livejournal.com/users/doubleyoumouf
in ultima 9, i wanted some cool chairs in my house, but i was broke.
so i went into the castle, utilized my theif 2 l33t skills and stole their wooden chairs.

a game where i can steal chairs = yes.

what i think we're really looking at here is nethack. it gives them a bit of a snip on the ass (go into dungeon, get so and so) but lets them achieve that goal in any way they please, as long as they pass the checkpoints. you want to eat the bones of your partner in order to stay alive? sure, oops, you're poisoned now! stupid decisions get stupid reactions.

the only question is a matter of being able to set up a system that can respond in a resonable manner to items and all the possible situations they can end up in,

i like mudpuddles.
#37 by chris
2002-03-27 22:13:51
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
crash -

Thanks.

I knew that a lot of the previous months stuff comes back in AC, particularly on DarkTide. Didn't know that, though. That helps somewhat, but it's still sort of a bummer that the world's not dynamic enough to adjust itself based on player-actions alone (this isn't necessarily a failing of AC's... just that the MMO genre as a whole hasn't gotten there yet).

I still think AC is the best MMO game so far released, by leaps and bounds, as far as story and world-progression is concerned.

-chris
#38 by Charles
2002-03-27 22:17:44
www.bluh.org
crash-
actually, the best DMs choose C, and C isn't something you can do in code yet. if you've ever had a "best" DM, you'll know exactly what i'm talking about.


Yes, and I deliberately left it out because C (modify your story to incorporate what the player does) is something that would be damn hard to do in a videogame.  There is no one sitting there watching the game, nor is it feasible to edit the content fast enough even if they were.  Though it does raise interesting ideas of 'story templates' where they just do a best fit to the characters in the area.  However, you really come across the problem of not having deep characters, because every story would have to be independant from the others.  Would be awkward.

Wizard, what you need to realize is that each time you say "Choice" you damn near double the workload from the point of the choice onward.

Nove isn't the only one to bring this up...  don't create a unlimited world, that is a impossibility, of course (think about it).  Create a world with enough choices that can go different ways, that are influenced by previous choices, that it simulates a world.  Sure, you can't do EVERYTHING, but make it so there is enough to do so that you are always busy, if you so choose to be.


Actually, I believe an unlimited world is far more feasable than a huge amount of story choices.  In fact, one of my main aspirations is to create an unlimited game world.  Which is thoroughly possible using random generation algorithms.  Just complex.  Creating dialog that wouldn't get boring after a while however, would be the impossible part.  Creating a story that could encompass an unlimited game world would also be near impossible.  Though I have some ideas on that front as well...

Set limits for the world,


But as soon as you start doing that, you defeat the purpose.  Unless I misunderstood what you are trying to say.

#39 by EvilAsh
2002-03-27 22:26:22
evilash@eviladam.com www.eviladam.com
The Sims doesn't have a story.. There is no goal... Yet the game is the highest selling pc game of all time.  So maybe this idea can work.  Of course the excuse that every hardcore gamer comes out with is that only Women like the Sims.  As to a game being like choose your own adventure with an open ended world. It would require incredible ai, a fantastic engine and some type of  incredible world generator that is random and ongoing.  That would be one sick game if the done right. And would probably be the most expensive game ever produced.
#40 by Durzel
2002-03-27 22:26:30
durzel@barrysworld.com http://www.superficial.net
Nova definitely hit the nail on the head. :)

I don't honestly believe players should have ultimate control over the path a game takes.  Whilst it is idealistic to expect that everyone playing the game will, ultimately, reach the goal the developers had envisaged - it is likely the player will either get bored or frustrated before this happens.  I spent a good 2 hours once in Undying trying to find the "next area" I had to go to, simply because so many other options were available to me that had been explored but not subsequently blocked.  In the end I found where I had to go by sheer chance, but prior to this there was definitely a time when I thought "to hell with this".

It is definitely all about illusion at the end of the day.  Having a wooden door close and lock of its own volition behind you detracts from the overall realism of the game, but making an area inaccessible by other means (eg. rock falls, etc) is a much more organic and believable experience.  It forces the player down a specific route, but doesn't do it in such a way as is obvious.  I like that in a game.

The best current example for me (this is probably not what wizard is thinking of) would be GTA3.  I love the way you can proactively seek out quests that ultimately lead you towards completing the game, or you can simply drive around the cities jacking cars, running people over, even ferrying people around as a taxi driver.  The brilliant aspect of it is that eventually most players will end up completing the tasks one by one, as it serves as a distraction from the "monotony" of jacking cars, evading the Law, running people over, etc - but there's nothing out there that is forcing you to complete the tasks, only your own personal motivation.  That is probably about as open-ended as games will be able to get, given the obvious technical and socialogical constraints of making a truly player-controlled experience.
#41 by Matt Perkins
2002-03-27 22:37:17
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Nova #38

Wizard, what you need to realize is that each time you say "Choice" you damn near double the workload from the point of the choice onward.

I agree the work would increase a certain amount for the number of choices...  but if done right, I don't think it would be 2x.  Write each story where it updates a database with the choices made.  Then have each story check that database to change the way things work in that story.  It would depend upon the nature relationship of each specific story, but I don't think it would average out to 2x per choice.

Actually, I believe an unlimited world is far more feasable than a huge amount of story choices.  In fact, one of my main aspirations is to create an unlimited game world.  Which is thoroughly possible using random generation algorithms.  Just complex.  Creating dialog that wouldn't get boring after a while however, would be the impossible part.  Creating a story that could encompass an unlimited game world would also be near impossible.  Though I have some ideas on that front as well...

I don't know...  this seems to lead back to the true sandbox theory.  While I'd love to play around in that and see what's possible, I don't think it would really immerse the player into the environment...like any good game should (imo).

But as soon as you start doing that, you defeat the purpose.  Unless I misunderstood what you are trying to say.

I'm saying created a limited world that lets you make choices.  Don't create the game to take advantage of such and such feature or to be an rpg or any other type of game.  Create the game with the idea of having a evolving world that can be changed, that the not just the physical aspects of the world can be changed (building blow up and the like), but the npcs and such change by your choices.  And, preferably the character themselves could/would change too.  Maybe not in social sorts of ways (since that's up to the player to provide), but in physical/mental ways...  you get better/smarter sort of dealie.

I'd love to create a huge world of what appears to be unlimited choices and interaction, but that's a bit out of scope of the size of a normal game project...  imo.

Just your average curious bastard.
#42 by jafd
2002-03-27 22:37:48
AC has housing now? Hey, neat. Perhaps as soon as that asstacular interface gets revamped, I will be allowed to play it.

Considering that AC is riddled with hacks, and yet people still continue to play it and be happy... it probably is the 'best' pGIP out there.

Is it $12.95?

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#43 by EvilAsh
2002-03-27 22:39:02
evilash@eviladam.com www.eviladam.com
So to sum it up. Logical flexiblity in a game with an overall goal in mind is what appears to be the best way to go. Allow the player the fun of doing all kinds of sidequests in whatever order they want.. but have main quests be the route to get to the next story portion of the game. Reminds me.. When's fallout3 coming out. ;)
#44 by Bezzy
2002-03-27 22:48:04
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
All the highlighted points on the problems of open ended gameplay (that plots and dialog are really difficult to make emergent) are certainly problems, but only when you have a game so encrusted by its own theme and plot that it knows nothing else.

Since the idea of putting neat themes on games (as far back as re-hashes of monopoly under different names in the 60's and 70's) most of the market has become obsessed with doing nothing else. We're not waiting with baited breath for the next game with interesting and new game mechanics anymore. We're waiting for the next Scott Miller patented-to-pander character design.

We're asking the wrong questions. We shouldn't be asking "How do we make RPG's non-linear". We should be asking "How do we make non-linear games in the first place?".

And it ain't as difficult as you think. It's not a case of planning plots meticulously. Rather, it's about designing a domain of rules, choices and environments for players to explore and manipulate. To even suggest that there should be a strong narrative is to deny the idea of non-linearity. This is one wild beast that you cannot truely tame, nor should you bother to try. GTA/2/3 got the best of both worlds by throwing in all the little story based "quests", but they were semi-optional. This turned the game into two games: one where the player wanted to see the whole plot, and another where the player wanted to score points. What was very clever (avoiding a major problem) was that one often led to the other, rather than being too much of an either/or set of goals.

If people go to games for a strong story, and still want linearity, then they're sort of missing the point. Everything you do in the game that isn't scripted is you telling yourself the story. You become narrator and protagonist. Just because there isn't the illusion of a set plot doesn't mean you aren't telling your own story. It seems the real gripe of people is that there is no set path to follow. A designer should punish (thereby disuading) a player for expecting any form of linearity. Once the player understand that there is no "right answer" to anyproblem, then they stop having to second guess a designer's prescripted puzzles, and actually play a properly interactive game, rather than a nasty halfway house where everything is uncovered and set in stone (as per the book analogy above).

I know I've been left with excellent D&D stories simply by exploring the limits of the game, scaring Dragons away using ventrilaquism, rather than all out attacking. I can see the offspring of GTA3 doing the same sort of things... I mean, how many reviews of the game included a "what I did during my summer vacation in a moral vacuum" diatribe? If that's not open ended story telling, I don't know what is.

Cutting into the game with a very disposable cutscenes is the best way to bring you hurtling out of the action. Plot nuggets provide nothing more than a reward for playing the game. They're part of a contingancy system. Do well, you get a cookie. Do bad, get penalized. That's all a story truely is to a game's mechanic. But it's only natural for people to want to make the most out of it, sadly shifting the focus off the game mechanic and onto a story that could better be told in film or writing. I don't mean to say it's wrong, but it's sad that the actual game is ignored as we write self gratifying stories like the cunts we are. A few too many people play more for these nuggets of story than they do for the gameplay. And so there is a self ploriferating cycle to produce more and more such digestible material which people wade through, rather than take the reins themselves.

Some people want linearity. Some people don't. I don't see anything wrong with either view. I just find it annoying that the fetishism involved in telling a story often outweighs the want to design a good, freestanding game mechanic. Games turn into Genres when they become a storytelling medium - why bother inventing a new game for a story when someone else has covered the ground for you?

Sick and tired and not impressed with shoehorning art into a profitable industry.
#45 by Bezzy
2002-03-27 22:51:27
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Self:

If people go to games for a strong story, and still want linearity, then they're sort of missing the point.

non-linearity. Duh

Sick and tired and not impressed with shoehorning art into a profitable industry.
#46 by Matthew Gallant
2002-03-27 22:59:52
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
Lets not create a story for the player...  we aren't trying to direct them at all.


OK.

We create a bunch of separate stories that have repercussions upon other stories.


But you just said not to direct a story.


"Let's not create a story for the player" is a small step away from just sticking a compiler and Lightwave in a box and slapping a big sticker on the front that says "It's all up to you how it turns out!" Even puzzle games have stories nowadays. The better ones, anyway.

A bunch of separate stories, "like Baldur's Gate but more", is too complex if you give the player real power over the world. What if you decided not to leave the keep with Gorion at the beginning of the game? The Foozle would show up to kill you and the game would be over. That's not a real choice, is it? It's very easy for players to behave in a way that doesn't make narrative sense and the game will have no idea how to react intelligently and still maintain any type of coherence, much less an interesting story. I managed to do it somehow in Fallout. Got to a point to where going into a city would cause the "plot engine" to scratch its head and barf me right out to desktop. The more variables you allow, the more testing needs to be done, more assets, more time. Combat that scenario by limiting what the player can do, that "real effect on the world" you want is gone. Limit the amount of far-reaching effects any action can have and you might as well have a random mission generator.

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#47 by "Paul Bullman"
2002-03-27 23:17:29
paul@shrinkweb.com http://www.paul.mu
How complex should the game be?

Can it be done without pushing up costs?

Will some gamers be turned off by the complexity?

Will gamers even recognize the game is more complex?

I have become fond of the mission style games. 10 or so missions, each consisting from 1 to 2 hours of gameplay. Each mission yields new weapons(like MegaMan) and such.

Like 6 basic missions, 3 next level, and then 1 final ultimate mission.

- Paul
#48 by Bezzy
2002-03-27 23:19:10
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
The Narrative vs Mechanic debate has, in my arrogant and bloated opinion, been resolved by Chris Crawford back in the 80's. Narrative structure's the diametric opposite of a free form game. Elvis is dead. Accept it.

But oh how people strive to prove him wrong! At best, they do as Matt points out, lots of little bits of plot. At worst, they do Dragon's Lair.

If I find out that Elvis is alive after all, I'm going to kill him myself, just to be sure.

Sick and tired and not impressed with shoehorning art into a profitable industry.
#49 by "Paul Bullman"
2002-03-27 23:33:59
paul@shrinkweb.com http://www.paul.mu
Bezzy,

If you mistakenly kill Elvis Grbac, I promise I won't cry.

- Paul
#50 by Desiato
2002-03-27 23:38:01
desiato_hotblack@hotmail.com http://www.spew2.com/
I've been reading a bit about how complex behavior can arise from simple sets of rules, the results of which are fed into each other. I always wondered since reading that if the same could be done to the game. So instead of allowing for a whole multitude of scenarios, you're just saying "Here's your initial state, iterate away from this point." Other than actual physical limits of memory usage and other game constraints (does this world go on forever, or is there a geographic boundary?) it just might work. The feedback systems for the player would immediately key into what he/she was doing, and produce some kind of sanctioned experience.

Yes, it is a bit vague, but it would also be easier to reduce the worldstate to a point where you are only sending the "current iterative values" to the player coming in. You don't need to give them the whole world, just the surrounding area - much like the way Border Gateway Protocols propagate information in their own zones. (The reason that we don't use something that makes routing tables explode with every possible route on the net is also why you wouldn't shove the entire world-state down the clients throat.)

Okay, I know I'm just rambling here but perhaps the glimmer of what I meant will make it through. :)
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