Saturday, September 25, 2010

Challenge doesn't need a penalty? What if it's for exploration of an aesthetic?

Ready, Set, Crow!

I read an interview in the Australian game magazine 'Game Informer' on bioshock infinite with Ken Levine, Irrational president (I love how that title comes out) and Irrational creative director (love that one too!).

The question
In Bioshock, vita-chambers essentially made death inconsequential. Is that mechanic changing in Bioshock infinite?
The responce
My feeling about the vita-chambers was this: I think they set a certain tone for the game in twerms of how it felt and the progression. It was not a game about dying and restarting. It was a game about experiencing the feeling of being in Rapture. Certainly there are arguments to be made about whether there was enough disincentive to get killed.

I think that's a reasonably legitimate concern. I would say that it's unlikely we'll have the exact same approach we use in Bioshock 1 as it shipped - without any option to turn it off or any penalty.
Notice the penalty.

Now the first thing I thought was that they were reconsidering supporting gamist play to win/play against something that, through penalties, might be too tough for you to complete (not everyone can climb everest).

But then I realised I was projecting my ideals into it. No, why he's considering a penalty for 'death' is to further the experience of being in the setting he's making. The penalty, atleast to his mind, is possibly necessary to the aesthetic of the experience. Here's a post of someone trying to weve a mechanic into the aesthetic of a game, as an example.

Now the funny thing is if he's considering it because of fans who actually carry my idea - a hard game. Where a penalty is the thing that might stop you getting to the end. Like, alot of people might be able to climb a cliff - it's when you put several in a row (like everest) that it becomes an even bigger thing. Anyway, that's a real crossed wire - if he's into some sort of 'experience the aesthetic' but the fans here are into a hard game - they just want two different activities. Each of which just gets in the way of the other - and even if you compromise, your just doing one or the other activity to a lessened extent, in a sort of nerd fallacy attempt to include everyone.

But the main point was : Penalties - part of the explorers experience, perhaps?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Feel sorry with me!

Reality TV cooking shows take a turn for the worse...
Gah, someone tugged on my heart with this post - an small company making a horror game called Amnesia (screen shot courtesy of)

Also an author I like, R Scott Bakker, has brought out 'Desciple of the Dog'. A guy with total recall investigates cults. And shoots vampires. Well, maybe not the latter part, but I don't know, I'm waiting on getting it! The first two bits are true and Bakker carefully studies how crime fiction does it's thing, so it's bound to hit those notes!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FFXIV: How to make money (as a company) without (the player) really trying

I should start logging some of my ideas earlier so I can do more 'told you so'. I've said in some places before that leveling time in mmorpg is primarily for the sake of subscription money. It's how the company makes their money. But someone who plays an unhealthy amount gets much farther ahead than someone who plays short, enjoyable bursts.

FFXIV tactics has a spin on this to simply slow down and stop you leveling after a certain time, so your not ahead of a predetermined leveling shedule.

To me its always starkly appeared to be the competing interests of making money and players wanting fun now.

Years ago when I played wow I thought of the idea of being able to wander out of the tavern, slay just a single monster, then waddle back inside and RP or log off, and for that first monster every day you'd get say 100 times the XP, but trickled out slowly to you (online or off). So if you didn't want to grind, you didn't - slaying a single monster would be an achievement. But if you killed more you'd get both.

That's another way, probably more towards player fun now. There are lots of ways to implement it, all with their own nuances.

Anyway, here's the video on it, where they are more honest about the behind the scenes than I would have expected. Though the bit at 4:53 is a bit rediculous 'If you really think about it, it works!'. How a game works is that it's fun. So it's like saying 'if you really think about it, it's fun!'. No, things don't become fun if you think about them real hard! However, thinking can dispell knee jerk assumptions of unpleasantness. However, the human brain is predisposed to work in extremes, either majorly pro or majorly dismissive. It has a hard time sliding the gear shift back to nuetral.

Oh, did I mention a video?...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hear and obey: Kingdom of Keflings

I have been told to spread the word of Kingdom of Keflings. I hear and obey!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Defeat Penalties: TLDR version

If you complain about rewards in mmorpg games "Success is it's own reward, I don't need this gold or XP or gear! It can just say I win and that's enough!" AND if at the same time you complain about penalties in mmorpg games "Failure is it's own penalty, I don't need to lose gold or XP!" then your cool. You really do like just doing some individual challenge in the game, and don't care about advancing yourself in the larger picture of the game.

But if you like accepting the advancement in the games larger picture, but complain about a larger picture setback...this is just complaining about losing while being all for it if you gain.

Defeat is the penalty; we don't have to penalize you a second time.
And guildwars 2 will be trying to cater to you. On something I'm not sure can ever be adequately satisfied - wherever there is a potential for advancement, it casts a shadow. Which is the potential not to aquire that advancement and fall backward instead. You can't be satisfied until advancement does not exist, for the shadow it casts (Ie, I went backward! It's a penalty!!!).

Ohhh, poetic!

I think there are better penalties than simply guiding a character along for X amount of minutes. I can't find it now, but another blogger was suggesting fighting your way out of death (and if you can't even manage that, default to the jog of shame). The death jog is a bit like the jumping level in a FPS - a jarring change of core gameplay. Except jumping levels atleast require some skill.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Defeat 'penalties'. The bigger picture.

I wrote this on someone elses blog and thought I'd put it here. Though google bots will hate me for 'duping'.

Now, basically if you see it as a penalty, your (selectively) losing sight of the bigger picture and missnaming everything. Imagine you have a game of snakes and ladders that lasts for 600 hours. Is going down a snake a penalty? No, it's part of play.

Now you could even take out all the snakes and have either a few squares of advancement, or jumps up a ladder. Would not going up a ladder be a penalty? No, it's just part of play.

Well stick with having snakes for now because it's clearer.

Okay, what's happening is your looking at the short term picture and inventing a game there - your thinking 'Hey, I'll shoot for that ladder - hope I can make it! That's the challenge, to get to that ladder!'. Then you hit a snake instead and go 'Aww, what's the point of this snake! You don't need snakes/penalties to have the challenge of getting that ladder!

Your problem is, your focusing on the small picture, and when you do, the snakes become penalties instead of just normal gameplay elements.

Even if you removed the snakes, you'd probably treat not hitting a ladder as a penalty. After all, in wow death means earning less in one hour and you already see earning less as a penalty.

You think you can have challenge without penalty. It's only because you cherry pick, seeing the bigger picture when it's a ladder, but when it's a snake you only see a smaller picture and go 'what's the point?'.

Think about it, do you say '1000 gold? What's the point? - it could just say I win! I don't need to earn 1000 gold for it to be a challenge!'. Do you? No, I see no rants on that! On complaints about the apparent 'penalty'. You only say 'I don't need a penalty for it to be a challenge'. You never say 'I don't need a reward for it to be a challenge'!

Inside, you like winning in terms of the big picture, but when you lose in terms of the bigger picture, you game ambiguity, look only at the short term and call it unnecessary 'penalty'. Equally the 1000 gold is unnecessary 'reward' if your really only interersted in the short term challenge, but you don't complain about that, do you?

Neither is reward or penalty. Just ladder and snake on your way to the end. And yes, unless you buy the hype the game is endless, there is an end as much as Die Hard had an end, despite Die Hard 2.

Was that even an ad? Or zeal for the emperor?

I have to say this zelot take on this video is different. It's like their not even trying to sell you a game! They are just so damn focused on the empire retaking a certain sector, it's like them just getting pumped about it, rather than trying to assure you it'll be fun.

It's an interesting take - certainly someone that focused on the fiction of their gameworld is atleast interesting to watch exactly how they'll get hyped next!

Defeat penalties - a peace offering middle ground which will no doubt not be enough

Tesh has made a post about a line I looked at awhile ago with Guild Wars 2 : Death and other inconveniences

Okay, I had an idea, but honestly I suspect until a full on explorationist agenda is supported by games with no real trace of play to win, it wont satisfy. Ironically the explorationists wont be happy until the play to wins are driven before them and they hear the lamentations of their womens. I'll describe it anyway.

Something like if you go for ten minutes and kill X number of monsters in that time all without being defeated or dying, you get $$$ bonus gold. Fail = don't. Actually that's a little like the optional extra challenges you can take on in doofus, if you've ever read about them.

But I suspect it'll still be taken as a penalty, as the person who is defeated isn't having taken gold away, but they are missing out on extra gold. And aren't we all being a bit limited in our view by having (any) play to win challenge?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to attract customers - "Your about to become the victim of a brutal ambush!"

I love the pitch that your going to be royally screwed if you come play our game. It is indeed refreshingly different. Also perhaps they could say 'Hey, why climb a bell tower in real life and be gunned down by cops, when you could express your dark bitterness in our game (after an extended subscription because 'time is on your side') pretty much endlessly, without being riddled with cop bullets that are probably banned by the geneva convention?'

Ya know what, no ones going to remember that they ganked you months ago. They can't even remember their own passwords half the time.

I think lawyers should start pitching the idea of marrying, so you can really get someone in a divorce years latter (Time is on your side!), and the lawyers obviously garner up the moolah from it. Same principle - set up dysfucntional human relationships for cash-money!