Saturday, May 19, 2012

No Challenge or low Risk?

I got a couple of long posts from Strain of Thought, in regards to "The honest 'No challenge' gamer".

I really can't 'profile' it - at one point it's team fortress with no consequence for failure along with not liking being squeezed out in civilisation. But the next it's a promotion of Hydorah, an incredibly tough shoot 'em up!

I can't really see any pattern! Except that Hydorah uses a checkpoint system (you do not have to play the whole game through fromt the start, you can start from a latter point), while in a game of civilisation, if you get beaten a certain way in - that's it! The whole thing is lost - you can't pick up from a little way back and keep plugging at it.

For that reason I'm imagining nethack would frustrate Strain of thought (you die, then you start over from the start), but Spelunky (another kinda rogue like) which has a checkpoint system (ie you die, you start again but can start in latter worlds you've unlocked), would suit.

Strain of thought may be more of a low risk gamer - he/she doesn't want to bank up a lot of progress then risk it all on play. Instead after a certain time, you can 'bank' your progress and start off from the banked amount.

But that's jumping to a conclusion and there's alot in the comments that I'm not sure what pattern the descriptions would fit into. We'll see if Strain returns with further comments! :)


  1. Dang, I'm sorry if I was that incoherent. What I was trying to say was that different games could approach reducing the frustration factor in utterly different ways, that what made defeat frustrating in the first place could itself vary widely, and that it was usually non-obvious. I think the key to recognizing the source of frustration factor is identifying how defeat affects the narrative.

    When I play Civilization, it's a lot like playing with dolls and a dollhouse. The visible game pieces on the screen are just props, moved around by certain rules, but in my head I'm telling myself a story about the people and places they represent. I give the various incarnations of the civilizations my own spin for the game, based on minutia from the lay of the playing field and the AIs behavior, I come up with cultures and imagine what cities look like and generally build a world. I mean, the game doesn't really satisfactorily show you what an armored and mounted medieval Iroquois knight would look like- in my head, they don't look like the European knight token the game uses, but take on a more alternate-history appropriate look of their own. And of course the entire game I'm telling myself the triumphant made-up history of my civilization's ascension, in the biased sort of way only internal government propaganda really does right.

    So, when I start to fall behind in Civilization, there's a tremendous amount of player-side narrative at risk, that is central to my enjoyment of the game. The wonders in particular are so distinctive that being forced to pick a crappy one, or one strongly contrary to the personality I'm trying to give my civilization, can break my whole story, and once I lose suspension of disbelief I lose all interest. Losing a city I like in Civilization is sort of like having the dog chew up a favored doll.

    Hydorah- which I've never beaten- retains a special place for me because the narrative is simple and strong enough that it's entirely game-side, and unaffected by defeat. No matter how many times I lose, the story stays the same. The game plays very quick, and there's no need to fill in large narrative gaps on the player's side in order to make sense of the experience. In an RPG with too much grinding, the player either has to retcon out the high-xp dungeon that got played through eight times or accept a story where the heroes spent weeks getting better equipment when the world was on the brink of destruction because they didn't feel up to the task yet. But in Hydorah, only the player ever gets better. All those times you play and lose don't count for the story, except for the level where hundreds of identical fighters are flying into combat along with you, and in that one amazing case all those sacrifices you make trying to beat the level come to represent the sacrifices of your own allies. Hydorah never lets you feel like your game was wasted.

  2. What's nice about "no-challenge" games is that they provide a safe place for player-side storytelling. Your Honest No-Challenge Gamer, for example, is talking about how they want the story to go, not gameplay specifics. There's more than one way to make a game about an inherently awesome character than to make the game challengeless, but if the game tells you you're playing an inherently awesome character, but you keep losing, that kind of discredits the story, doesn't it? Unfortunately games that have been made very easy are usually that way due to lack of willingness on the part of the developer to spend time balancing, which translates into general carelessness, which translates into the game sucking in other ways as well, and not being a fertile setting for storytelling.

    And on top of that there's a whole other conversation I could have about fluid player-driven challenge and emergent fun and how Grand Theft Auto is simultaneously stupidly easy and ridiculously difficult, but I think I can sum up my whole point there by directing you to Nathan McCoy's "RPG: the RPG" ( and asking you three questions: A) Is this game easy or hard? B) At what stage did it start being fun? C) At what stage did it stop being fun? (If you are not familiar with McCoy's earlier mini-games Dragondot and Giant Vex, which this game is a parody of, you may have a little trouble understanding what is going on at first.)

  3. Hydorah never lets you feel like your game was wasted.

    Would probably read better as...

    Hydorah never lets you feel like your narrative was wasted.

    If I'm reading you right. So my low risk gamer hypothesis wasn't right (low risk is merely a means to the end of narrative construction).

    but if the game tells you you're playing an inherently awesome character, but you keep losing, that kind of discredits the story, doesn't it?
    But why then play a game where you can lose at all?

    Do you need the possibility of losing to be in the game, in order to lend credibility to the idea the awesomesauce character is not losing? There has to be a real life element there in order to support the narratives fictions?

    And yet having that chance in there can also break your narrative, as it breaks the awesomesauce character never failing?

    So being able to lose is twin bladed - it is both necessary for the awesome PC narrative, and yet potential destroys the awesome PC narrative?

    Further reading might be this and this.

  4. I tried the 'rpg' game. I'll say my priorities are probably quite different.

    Basically I dislike games where you go on until you lose and the only metric is 'see how long it takes you to lose'. Tetris isn't a favorite of mine. I prefer an end goal and then I see if I can make it (it's quite easy to make an endless 'see how long it takes you to die' side game out of the 'game with an end goal' mechanics and plenty of games do)

    I don't think I found it fun, especially. Kind of like a pizza base without anything on it - I was waiting for the tasty topping, but it did not come.

    So for question A with my priorities, I'm confused - hard as in what? I didn't die on the first wave? If it had an ending, I could tell you how hard it was to get to that ending. As it is, I can't (does it have an ending and I don't know that?)

    Nice rocket sound effect, though :)