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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Players don't do what they're told...

I've been doing a lot of thinking about "game design theories" and about how most of them are pretty easy to put into clever little parables and presentations, but can seem totally useless when you actually need to develop them. (Paul is responsible for this. He gave me this huge document he wrote and then went out of town so we couldn't talk about it.)

I think about things like this because I'm a producer and not a designer anymore, and because we're in severe crunch time right now and I'm at work the majority of every day and night.

But I also think about things like this because it seems like, with any game where you give players flexibility and freedom (which is great!), you lose control over what they're actually going to do/like in your game (which is also great! but sometimes feels like poopoo).

This is how I feel about the Tome of Knowledge, where we're trying to make this open ended experience, and I know two weeks into it that players are going to find some crazy new thing to do with it that I didn't think of, which is exciting but also makes the control freak in me a little sad.

This also makes me wonder how Will Wright feels about the Spore Penis Phenomenon. Give em an inch, right Will? (Pun intended...)


jeff said...

Work, work, work. What about the important stuff? Don't tell me that I played/finished MGS4 before you did. I'll actually feel sort of bad if that's the case.

Shoot, I already feel weird enough for liking it as much as I did...

Carrie said...

I'm in Act 3!

Don't worry, I'll never let you live this down: Jeff "MGS Fanboi" G.

Casey "Rev/Mopar" Cannon said...

"Poopoo"? I see, keeping it PG(or E10+ if that sounds more appropriate), here, here.

Ahem, on the topic at hand, I have no words of wisdom of my own, so I'll quote the wise. Probably not a wise or helpful quotation, but on with it.

"To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct."

Anonymous said...

Don't work yourself to death now. While crunch time is always busy, I'd rather see the developer take a little more time to finish the game, rather than rush it out. I've always said that, and I stand by it.

BTW, I still haven't finished MGS either. Damn work/school/busy life...

Bill said...

Good topic, I know for myself I find games to be the most interesting form of mass entertainment right now because of this tension.

It seems like the inherent complexity of games coupled with the interactivity allows for emergent behavior.

That interplay is kind of obvious, but I think that there is a gradual realization that the ludology / narrative interactions of these works is creating a cohesive, newer experience that you really only find in games.

I think that your Tome work is a great example of this interplay, and will add an interesting dimension to the game. You're previously highlighted experience with Passage is another great example of narrative/gameplay mixture (although somewhat limited in scope, so it has less emergent elements.)

I also found it in an interesting balance in the game Pathologic, which is at once a brilliant and a maddeningly broken game. Still it's worth checking out, or at least reading about, if you're interested in how games work and how a game can create a unique experience.

Oh, and nice new site. I don't think we've talked since about two sites of yours ago at the Isle (this is Abaddon:P)

Milkman519 said...

LOL @ Spore penises. Now, get back to work. *cracks whip*

BTW, I don't even have MGS 4 yet...*sob sob*

HektikLyfe said...

GTAIV is the perfect example. In the final mission, or any mission for that matter, if you don't complete it like the developers want you to, you fail.

I'm sure you've already passed it and know what I am talking about since you did pass the Ninja Gaiden Hurricane Pack...

If you go around the building from the right side you lose the guy even though you are heading in the same direction.

I think it is more noticeable on supposedly "sandbox" type games. Its like false advertising.

But games like Ninja Gaiden and God of War or even COD4, I don't mind that much.

Its like an interactive (shoot me) movie experience the way they SHOULD be.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be usual when something within a game is innovative, like the tomb of knowledge will be for MMO's.

Maybe it's the small price to pay for something that may make WAR a top MMO?

Dante Kleinberg said...

I prefer when games go ahead and push me down the action and excitement tunnel like COD4 and God of War. When my world is too open-ended, I always worry that I'm missing out on something good. I don't even like branching paths because I want to feel like I'm getting all the enjoyment I'm supposed to get in one playthrough.

Of course, for MMOs it's a bit different, but my personal preference in most cases is to experience the designer's intention as opposed to just wandering around and "having fun" on my own.

Paul said...

How do you feel about the whole "We won't beat WoW" statement? I feel like there's no way you will surpass WoW in numbers, but it's very possible you will in quality... Did this really effect you?