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Freeform Gameplay: The Future(tm)?
June 22nd 2002, 15:09 CEST by Fallon

Has tight gaming narrative finally fucked off? Morrowind lets you walk about watching dust-storms if you don't feel like undertaking the main quest. GTA3 let's you ramble around running over coppers until you feel like doing the next mission. Deus Ex 2 is a "sandbox" to some extent.

Is freeform gameplay, ever-emergent in newer games, the way to go? Or is tightly-scripted narrative going to make a comeback soon enough?

Yeah, even lesser games like Hitman 2 will allow the player to take their own route to some extent. Deus Ex has lauded for allowing this. But DooM 3 seems to be a game-on-rails in the traditional sense, as does Unreal 2 and Duke Nukem Eventually.

Whither now for gameplay, then? Freeform or controlled? Do you even care about the gamer having "choices", as long as the game = good?
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#1 by _Fury_
2002-06-22 15:11:39
ajhill@wi.rr.com
Pirst Fost.

Research has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats.
#2 by _Fury_
2002-06-22 15:13:17
ajhill@wi.rr.com
Seriously though, I liked Morrowind a lot. I also liked Final Fantasy 7,8,9,etc.

I just like entertaining games. Linear games with a good story entertain me. Non-linear games with entertaining things to keep me busy entertain me too.

Research has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats.
#3 by Neale
2002-06-22 15:16:31
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
I like non-linear gameplay. I also like linear gameplay, much as Fury above. I don't think either is The Future. There's plenty of room for both.

signatures are, as I've stated, for perverts
#4 by Matt Perkins
2002-06-22 15:31:08
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Morrowind:
It takes the sandbox theory too far.  The player can interact with the world, but the world doesn't do anything back.  Hardly anything ever changes in the world; the player is in a very static setting.  Like playing a MMORPG with a lot of really stupid people...err, like normal.

GTA3:
This isn't a freeform game.  It has a very linear questing system, sure you can do some of them out of order, but it doesn't change anything.  Essentially, GTA has a LOT of side games that you can play at your will.  Those games never change, only the weapons/cars you can use to do them.  Don't get me wrong, I love the game, but it's not what your thinking.  Though it is amazing in what it does.  I've beaten the game and I still take enjoyment from playing it.  I'll probably play through it again, just because it's damn well fun.

Deus Ex 2:
You're actually going to use a unreleased game to make your point?  I know this game, called MyAss(tm), it does EVERYTHING, even the dishes...  until it's actually released.  In other words, smoke less crack, and don't bet on what a game will actually do.



Over all I'm a HUGE fan of having freedom in games...  but with the freedom, the world needs to be aware of the player.  Unless the name of the game is Nameless Cog: The Boring Life, the world needs to respond to what the player does, it needs to alter it self based upon what the player does (and in some cases, does not do).  It's important to have the player always be the star of the world.

This game type is very hard to implement and doesn't have a place in all games, currently.  I think just like anything else, moderation is key.  In some games it's great to have lots of freedom, in others it just won't work.

I did not change my name...morn did.
#5 by "assemblerer"
2002-06-22 15:40:56
admin@nopdesign.sk http://nopdesign.sk
Hmm... I think as long as gamedesigner has great story and abilities to implement it to game perfectly, he'll make good game. But if gamedesigner has the brain to create non-linear gameplay, generated story (possibly and game world and stuff...) without flaws, without making player stuck somewhere, create perfect strytelling AI... It'll be best game yet. (until another with better ai / with better static story will beat it).. :)
#6 by Post-It
2002-06-22 16:01:36
keithlee@speakeasy.net
#$ got it pretty much right.

"It's a bird!  It's a plane!  Oh shit, It knows we're home!"
-Chris Johnson
#7 by Post-It
2002-06-22 16:02:01
keithlee@speakeasy.net
that should read #4....damnit.

"It's a bird!  It's a plane!  Oh shit, It knows we're home!"
-Chris Johnson
#8 by Fallon
2002-06-22 16:56:08
http://www.fagnews.com
Black and White was relatively freeform.

Black and White as also very dull.

Sometimes freeform equals dullness - no scope, no direction, no point. No value in your actions, no consequences.

This is not an exit.
#9 by Leslie Nassar
2002-06-22 16:59:32
http://departmentofinternets.com
Perhaps there's actually room for more than one form of narrative?  "Tight" narrative doesn't disappear just because the flavor of the month is "freeform".  I know that kind of crazy thinking runs counter to the zero-sum world of fanboi punditry, but at least give it some thought, mmm-kay?

i like monkeys.  are you a monkey?
#10 by LPMiller
2002-06-22 17:01:48
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
zero sum in your new favorite word, in'it?

I believe I can fly......urk.
#11 by MCorleone
2002-06-22 17:01:59
Like different genres of music, there is room for both types.  One is not going to subsume the other.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#12 by Warren Marshall
2002-06-22 17:04:05
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
The password is STILL : "pundit".

"It's pretty common for pussies, dumbasses, and their families to blame their problems on vague influences like the media and society. The truth is, fuck you."
#13 by InsideWhat'sLeft Behind
2002-06-22 17:07:38
#8, amen. I'm not interested in full freeform. Like that idea Warren Spector had once, of a fully realised city block and you could do anything you wanted. That would...suck, for lack of a better word.

"It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquistion of a student who would be a fine pianist." - Sergei Rachmaninov
#14 by Leslie Nassar
2002-06-22 17:09:00
http://departmentofinternets.com
LPMiller:  zero-sum, fuckmonkey, and pundit.  According to The Bartender's Bible those three ingredients, blended, makes a Max Diablo.

i like monkeys.  are you a monkey?
#15 by MCorleone
2002-06-22 17:29:09
When I read this I immediately thought of Bailey.  Does this place beat Newegg for service and price?

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#16 by Foodbunny
2002-06-22 18:36:47
foodbunny@attbi.com http://www.foodbunny.com
Give me a compelling main arc and chances to do lots of side stuff.  If you can't do that then just give me a strong linear game... role playing games where I feel nothing towards the character and the world are just too damn awful.  I'd rather play a Skies of Arcadia than a Morrowind.

"My Idol is John Carmack and I just want to be a programmer like he is. So I just think that Hentai in 3D could be a great pleasure..."
#17 by "Mark Asher"
2002-06-22 18:44:38
www.quartertothree.com
I was always happy with the old Privateer formula. You get a main story arc that's linear, but you can also go off and fly random missions.

There's room for both. I like both. If most games were non-linear we'd be crying for tight storylines.
#18 by BobJustBob
2002-06-22 19:18:33
It's important to have the player always be the star of the world.

I disagree. I would much rather have the world be oblivious to my presence. Yes I am still talking about games.

Like that idea Warren Spector had once, of a fully realised city block and you could do anything you wanted. That would...suck, for lack of a better word.

Link, please? I've never heard of that, but it sounds like the best game ever.

Finally,
Has tight gaming narrative finally fucked off?

God I hope so. If all games featured some sort of freeform play it would be a lot harder for me to decide what to buy, but I would be a lot happier.

So there.
#19 by Fallon
2002-06-22 19:25:42
http://www.fagnews.com
Elite. This was a good game, yes?

This is not an exit.
#20 by m0nty
2002-06-22 19:36:01
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
I like Morrowind, because it does what Leslie talked about in #9, which is incorporate both tight storyline and freeform play. You can go and see Caius immediately, then follow his instructions to the letter, or you can just head off for yourself in whatever direction you like. You can join any guild, and there are no alignment restrictions on killing whomever you like. You can powerlevel, or not. You can make up your own class, a feature which should be offered in more games IMHO.

In summary: Morrowind is LOVE.

As far as Matt's contention in #4 that "the world doesn't do anything back", what do you want it to do? Move mountains? Shift seas? Have everyone within eyesight bow at your feet? NPCs treat you differently depending on your characters guild status, house status, reputation, Personality stat, and several other things. I would be interested to hear an explanation of what this criticism actually means.
#21 by Bailey
2002-06-22 19:55:04
Morrowind's "love" gave me a rash down there.

Basic Rule of Bailey Thumb (May Not Apply To Your Own Thumb): If you can keep me entertained and having a general idea of where to go next while walking around in a big world of stuff to do, make a freeform game. If you can tell a great story with richly, well-developed characters, and it requires a tight lock rail of progression, make a linear game. Either will do, if done competently.

Generally, I see companies afraid to be too linear as it decreases replay value (is this really important? Once you've made the sale, who cares?) and too over-reaching when it comes to freeform. Promise the utopian world, deliver a post-apocalyptic one. And not the good kind where you trade sex slaves for canned peaches, either. I don't think either are Final Solution when it comes to game design, but it seems to me the older, linear fashion is getting sloppier and less engaging these days... which is probably half the reason most people seem to consider freeform the gaming messiah.

Please stop using my web browser as a toilet.
#22 by assemblerer
2002-06-22 20:29:43
http://uglycode.com
I agree with #18... mostly...
I don't think that we should COMPLETELY remove old "narrative" from ALL games... Of course, Tetris doesn't need story, so it's pointless to talk about. But for example, I'm creating totally crazy text adventure (not really, just example) - and I know it will be played by only dozens of people, not millions. But that doesn't mean that those, who will play that game won't laugh and have fun - and that's most important!
Of course, you don't have to laugh to enjoy the game, but you get the point - unless we create PERFECT AI capable of crativity, with sense of humour, with percetion and emotions (what will never happen)... we cannot make PERFECT freeform games.
[too bad I didn't play Morrowind so I cannot talk... but sounds like good game 4 me]

dynamic, generated.
#23 by BobJustBob
2002-06-22 20:44:51
Generally, I see companies afraid to be too linear as it decreases replay value (is this really important? Once you've made the sale, who cares?)

I will not buy a game unless I see lots of replay value. So it is really important, because they won't be getting my sale unless it's in there.

So there.
#24 by Charles
2002-06-22 21:42:04
www.bluh.org
Replay Value is a buzzword.  Just like many other things that are used to catch the eye of suckers around the world.  

I'd rather have the most amazing, jaw dropping, engaging, linear, ten hour game, then something with 'replay value' that involves playing the exact same game again and doing pixel hunts, or collecting 'packages' or some stupid shit like that.

If the game is different the second time through, like, say, Chrono Cross, Baldur's Gate 2 (and Throne of Bhaal), and Deus Ex, then yes, those have replay value.  A game like MGS2 however, in which 'replay value' means playing the exact same game over again, and collecting dog tags, can kiss my ass.  

Replay value indeed.  I'd prefer either the different paths kind of gameplay value, or the game that is just so fucking good that I play it over and over and over.  Games like Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, Betrayal at Krondor, and Castlevania Symphony of the Night.  None of those games could really put 'replay value' on their features list, yet, they have the best replay value of all, despite the fact that the game is exactly the same the second and tenth time through.

I'd rather have good games than buzzwords.

Bailey:  Beep beep, motherfucker.
#25 by Greg
2002-06-22 21:52:08
Replay value for most action games and RPGs is worthless. I will play through that 50 hour RPG, but so what if there are 30 different classes and 25 other dungeons I missed. I probably won't be playing through it again just to see that.

However...

There are some exceptional games out there that are insanely simple, but you just want to play them over and over. And they usually encourage replaying it, either by keeping high scores or completion time. I've brought this up before, but the best example I can give is a game like Super Punch-Out for Super Nintendo. You can play through the game once, and be done with it, but the way the game is structured, you can find so many different ways to beat your opponents. The game also keeps the fastest times on record, and it is incredibly fun to try to beat the fastest times. That, my friends, is replay value.

You should do, what should be done, by you.

-Ancient Japanese Proverb
#26 by Matt Perkins
2002-06-22 21:56:24
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
BobJustBob
I disagree. I would much rather have the world be oblivious to my presence. Yes I am still talking about games.

Either you're missing point or you're insane.  Those are your only two options, trust me.

I'm not saying the world holds you up as a hero, but that the world is aware of everything you do.  The world needs to respond.

monty
Move mountains? Shift seas? Have everyone within eyesight bow at your feet?

Why not?  Something different would be nice.  A NPC could hate me because I tried to imitidate him to much, but he'll still talk to me and with a minor amount of gold will let me do everything else they would when I was liked by them.  No real difference in my mind.

NPCs treat you differently depending on your characters guild status, house status, reputation, Personality stat, and several other things. I would be interested to hear an explanation of what this criticism actually means.

Which NPCs?  Ok, sure if I join the mage guild and gain ranks in that guild, the members of the mage guild like me more, but no one else gives a damn.  The text changes, but not much else.  I do like that if I go on a killing rampage, things change, but only with such drastic actions do I notice any real difference.  Bailey's bug, where he was/wasn't wearing the armor and the guards got cranky was nifty...if he was actually wearing the armor, I mean.
I agree, there was some, but it didn't compare to the abilities my character had.  In MW I can do just about anything, become great at it with enough time...but no one really gave a rats ass what I could, who I was, where I was going, etc...

Or maybe I just didn't play it for enough...  got level 10 or so and visited a lot of the cities, doing quests and the like and little to nothing changed.

I did not change my name...morn did.
#27 by LPMiller
2002-06-22 22:16:28
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
Frankly, everything Morrowind does, was done already in Gothic. And gothic was actually interesting, with a decent story, but multiple paths. Morrowwind is just redundent.

Of course, only a few of us played gothic.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#28 by Charles
2002-06-22 22:20:55
www.bluh.org
I have heard this 'gothic' mentioned multiple times.  Perhaps I should give it a try sometime.  Is it possible to find in stores?  Or is it one of these obscure limited release games?

Bailey:  Beep beep, motherfucker.
#29 by LPMiller
2002-06-22 22:23:41
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
It can be purchased in stores, using an exchange of money for goods and services.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#30 by Bailey
2002-06-22 22:42:50
BobJustBob

I will not buy a game unless I see lots of replay value. So it is really important, because they won't be getting my sale unless it's in there.

Nova-Z

Replay Value is a buzzword.  Just like many other things that are used to catch the eye of suckers around the world.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say *zing*.

Gothic was my GOTY last year. Controls are the one feature which I felt needed some tweaking, and load times can be a bit scary on an older model, (as it loads the entire overworld in one shot) but still, a near-perfect contained society with four distinctly separate cultures playing pivotal roles in the storyline. They also had the somewhat interesting approach of starting out as freeform, and then falling into linear around the middle of the game. It worked pretty well.

In any case, one of the few games I actively enjoyed and consumed in whole, I'm really looking forward to the upcoming sequel.

Please stop using my web browser as a toilet.
#31 by jjohnsen
2002-06-22 23:07:43
http://www.johnsenclan.com
How can you play an FPS or other on-rails game more than once?  Nova's MGS 2 example was perfect.  Do I really want to play through a game again just to collect some tags?  There are too many games around, I don't even hang on to most of the games I buy either giving them to someone else to play , or selling them on Ebay.  Even though I promis myself I'll play something again because it was so great, I never do.
#32 by MCorleone
2002-06-22 23:21:25
This just in - David Bowie:  Heathen is a great album.  Great to hear that he's getting attention again.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#33 by BobJustBob
2002-06-22 23:22:49
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say *zing*.

Denied.
I'd rather have the most amazing, jaw dropping, engaging, linear, ten hour game, then something with 'replay value' that involves playing the exact same game again and doing pixel hunts, or collecting 'packages' or some stupid shit like that.

Apparently Nova has never played a game with replay value, because what he said IS NOT replay value. I'm talking about something like Civ3 or Falcon 4 or Thief. You can play through it again and have a completely different experience. I stand by my statement, because unless I can find that 10-hour game in the bargain bin for extremely cheap, I'm not wasting my money on it.

Either you're missing point or you're insane.  Those are your only two options, trust me.

I'm not saying the world holds you up as a hero, but that the world is aware of everything you do.  The world needs to respond.

Maybe I'm both. I'm too lazy to reload all the comments to see your previous comment, but I thought you said exactly that the world needs to hold me up as a hero. In any case, nothing that you do on the side in GTA3 really changes the world, but it's those little things that make the game. If GTA3 consisted only of the main plot missions one after another, with no chance for the player to explore the world outside of the missions, the game would lose most of its appeal. Just being able to go off and do your own thing for a while makes the game incredibly better.

So there.
#34 by skalmanxl
2002-06-23 00:20:39
Black and White was relatively freeform.

Black and White as also very dull.


Black and White became what you made of it. Some people (mostly people stuck in their own personal boring loop) said that they rushed through it and complained about how fast you could beat it. When you asked them if they did this or that...they didn't even know what you talked about. Black and white is what you make of it, if you don't experiment and toy with it, it's boring.

Has tight gaming narrative finally fucked off?


You are aware that free-form is an option right? People can stray off if they want to, or you can stay on track. Your choise. Don't blame games because you can't focus on the main path.

*Welcome to the land of the digital*
#35 by InsideWhat'sLeft Behind
2002-06-23 00:29:27
I've never ever heard of a person who had the guts (or lack of brain cells) of finishing that game.

"It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquistion of a student who would be a fine pianist." - Sergei Rachmaninov
#36 by Fallon
2002-06-23 00:48:10
http://www.fagnews.com

Black and White became what you made of it. Some people (mostly people stuck in their own personal boring loop) said that they rushed through it and complained about how fast you could beat it. When you asked them if they did this or that...they didn't even know what you talked about. Black and white is what you make of it, if you don't experiment and toy with it, it's boring.


I took my time. Weeks to finish the first land.

What annoyed me about BnW mostly was when you took your time, the creature forgot things and the freeform gameplay didn't amount to much fun - alternate routes for quests being about the sum of it unless you wanted to throw trees and rocks around.

This is not an exit.
#37 by Fallon
2002-06-23 00:48:43
http://www.fagnews.com
I also smell a BnW fanboi. A rare breed!

This is not an exit.
#38 by crash
2002-06-23 00:58:21
perfect game: a somewhat free-form do-what-ya-want scenario coupled with one or two or three "goal paths" that are linear in their nature (A to B to C to... goooooaaalll!) but can be ignored if you choose. the significant factor for these goal paths is that they must be related, and decisions made in each must affect the others in some noticeable way. basically, i don't have to be the hero, but i can if i want to. and everything should be supported in the main storyline/whatever.

for examples... hm. hard call. think a mish-mash of Morrowind and GTA3 and Fallout and Planescape, and you're on the right concept, if not the precise execution.

but that's what i'd like to see. it's what i'd like to play.

Whoops, sorry, was my common sense showing again? -HoseWater
#39 by skalmanxl
2002-06-23 01:04:22
I also smell a BnW fanboi. A rare breed!


Well, stop smelling me, you won't find one here.

*Welcome to the land of the digital*
#40 by Morn
2002-06-23 01:07:07
morn@planetcrap.com http://hmans.net
*** 24/7 CRAPRADIO ***

http://www.planetcrap.com/crapradio/

Very beta, of course. :)

Hendrik "Morn" Mans • morn@planetcrap.com • admin/coder/lover/kraut
#41 by skalmanxl
2002-06-23 01:10:02
Hijack anyone?

*Welcome to the land of the digital*
#42 by Morn
2002-06-23 01:11:06
morn@planetcrap.com http://hmans.net
Sorry :|

Hendrik "Morn" Mans • morn@planetcrap.com • admin/coder/lover/kraut
#43 by skalmanxl
2002-06-23 01:12:49
It's your site...

*Welcome to the land of the digital*
#44 by Greg
2002-06-23 01:13:25
Successful hijacks only happen at post #4.

You should do, what should be done, by you.

-Ancient Japanese Proverb
#45 by Xero
2002-06-23 01:29:32
http://novakometa.blogspot.com/
Morn put on some Daft Punk, Kula Shaker, Blackstar, Public Enemy, 3rd Bass or Crystal Method and i'm there.

"Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it."
-James Baldwin
#46 by None-1a
2002-06-23 01:35:03
Frankly, everything Morrowind does, was done already in Gothic. And gothic was actually interesting, with a decent story, but multiple paths. Morrowwind is just redundent.


Not even close, unless you where playing a special version that acctauly had side quest and more advanced character progression.
#47 by LPMiller
2002-06-23 01:43:11
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
bah, I hijacked one of monty's subs back at post #1.

He loved that. Really.

I believe I can fly......urk.
#48 by Charles
2002-06-23 02:01:23
www.bluh.org
BobJustBob, perhaps you missed the part where I said this:

If the game is different the second time through, like, say, Chrono Cross, Baldur's Gate 2 (and Throne of Bhaal), and Deus Ex, then yes, those have replay value.  A game like MGS2 however, in which 'replay value' means playing the exact same game over again, and collecting dog tags, can kiss my ass.  


My point was that far too often, the buzzword 'replay value' is engaged by putting in stupid hunt the item quests or some such rot.

Bailey:  Beep beep, motherfucker.
#49 by Greg
2002-06-23 02:14:14
Sorry LP, I'll amend that it has to be done by post #4, not necessarily on it.

You should do, what should be done, by you.

-Ancient Japanese Proverb
#50 by chris
2002-06-23 03:33:45
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
All I can really says is that since Deus Ex, all I've been really waiting for (from the PC anyway) is another Deus Ex.

So for me, at least, whatever you define Deus Ex as being: That's where I want gaming to go. Only bigger and better and faster and prettier, too. Oh, and with more freedom. And it wouldn't hurt if there were some hookers and booze involved here somewhere as well.

-chris
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