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  So what's the gameplay in my game?  (Read 10547 times)
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Offline princec

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« Posted 2003-08-20 15:51:51 »

Whilst pondering the crappy conversion rate in Alien Flux I've had loads and loads of debates with people about changing the controls so they're the same as Asteroids and generally dumbing the whole game down to the point where you merely have hold down a key to watch the aliens die until you get bored.

I keep arguing that the game consists of two elements: you point and shoot at exactly the spot you wish to shoot at, and move around; and the purpose of the game is to save Fluffies from death to score points.

Is this right? If we had Asteroids controls would it just be a completely different game?

Invasion of the Jellies is Asteroids, with jelly, and Fluffies. If I put Asteroids controls into Alien Flux, surely I wouldn't want to write another game?

Imagine if in Pacman some bright spark decided you could have a gun to shoot the ghosts with. Would it still be Pacman?

Cas Smiley

Offline kevglass

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« Reply #1 - Posted 2003-08-20 16:01:47 »

I honestly think that the control system is one of the things that makes Alien Flux a good and unique game. It makes it frantic and fun.

Saying that I haven't bought it, although a played the demo for a short while. If it helps, the reason I didn't purchase it was the longitivity of the game. The demo didn't make me think that buying the full game was going to keep the game interesting. I like the concept, the graphics and controls. Just didn't see how the later levels were going add anything.. (maybe this is my glib view).

Kev


Offline Mojomonkey

Senior Member




ooh ooh eee eeee


« Reply #2 - Posted 2003-08-20 16:27:00 »

I guess I'll chime in here. I'll try to be critical.

I found controlling the ship and all to be counter intuitive. Why? I'm not certain, perhaps its due to being used to other forms of control, a try physiological reason... I don't know. I just found myself hitting the wrong button at the wrong time. Using shields became a pain, again I'm not sure why, but I found myself NEVER using shields when I knew I should.

Personally, I would have been more comfortable turning the ship with keys, and hitting space (or something) to fire in the direction the ship is pointing. I found using the mouse to target something unnatural.

Now, the reason I haven't purchased it... it's not my kind of game. Plain and simple. I just didn't find it to be very fun, this is totally based on my preferences, and nothing you did in Alien Flux though. (which may mean my criticisms are moot). However, it is my wife's type of game. But, she owns and uses Macs. I think I mentioned it before, if you get a mac port out, I'll buy her a copy right away.

That said, it has many more positive points than negative. It has impressed me on many levels.

I really do hope you are successful with the game, as I did find it to be very clean and professionally done. There were no glaring graphical glitches or anything that screamed "unprofessional".

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
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Offline Markus_Persson

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« Reply #3 - Posted 2003-08-20 16:27:51 »

The controls in alien flux are good as they are, but they are also the reason I stopped playing.


They keep the game from becoming too easy and "standard", but they're also frustrating as there are "better" (from the player's point of view, at least.. more efficient, if you will) control schemes out there.

For me, the gameplay definitly boiled down to two things; getting a fluffy to survive long enough to become a Golden Fluffy(tm), and figuring out how to get the best out of the controls.
Once I figured out the controls, the fluffies weren't really that intresting to save any more. Wink

If the game had asteroid-type controls I probably wouldn't play it at all, as I'm pretty bad at that type of game.
[edit: So I guess the controls actually were the reason I STARTED playing it..]


Oh, and one thing that bothered me was that the mouse kept swapping between tho destinct modes on it's own.. one when moving and aiming (behaves pretty much like a normal cursor), and then suddenly, when I died, one when chosing where to respawn (you can move as far as you want in any direction, no visible cursor)



I'm sorry if this post seems overly critical. Wink
Alien Flux is a very impressive game.. I'm just trying to be analytical.

Play Minecraft!
Offline princec

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« Reply #4 - Posted 2003-08-20 17:55:34 »

Well, er, ok, criticisms aside of Alien Flux - what is it that makes it what it is?

Consider all the so-called genres of action games we've had over the years: scrolling shoot-em-ups, platform games, RTS games, FPS games, god games, space flight sims, etc. What's the defining characteristic of these games? What is it about them that's fundamentally different from the others?

If you totally removed the graphics and sound and replaced them with coloured blocks and a beep, what would you be left with? Pure gameplay?

Cas Smiley

Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #5 - Posted 2003-08-20 18:34:33 »

Quote
Whilst pondering the crappy conversion rate in Alien Flux I've had loads and loads of debates with people about changing the controls so they're the same as...


Based on my own perceptions (very highly spatially aware), I'd say the biggest problem is that whenever you move, your systems of reference for aiming and moving change in a way that humans are not well-designed to cope with - irrespective of the actual process of controlling, aiming, moving, the frame-of-reference changes are highly disconcerting.

Essentially, if I don't intentionally move my aiming cursor, I should continue to aim at the same spot. But when my ship moves, all goes to pot. Even worse, moving the mouse at all translates my whole relative-system - even if I'm taking no action other than re-aiming.

Past work shows humans can cope well with multiple dependent frames of reference for movement and firing in SOME ways - e.g. Tanks. People have few problems with SMASH-TV and tank games (essentially, one controller handles movement via translation, the other handles aiming via rotation - the DIRECTION your gun is aiming in is purely a ROTATIONAL control).

...but give someone a crosshair that they can move with the mouse, and now they have aiming on a translational controller, and movement on a complexly-related controller, whose movement system I'm not sure how to describe (?) - it's a derivative of the current position from the aiming system, and yet it's fundamentally a waypoint controller...

Note: I'm unusually good at spacial awareness, so this may be considerably less of a problem to most people (I in fact enjoy the challenge, although it ALWAYS gives me a major head-f*ck for a minute or two whenever I start playing...). I used to do POV programming, and arrange entire complex scenes in my head, including a scenegraph structure, memorising all the rotations, translations, etc, and their compositional effects.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #6 - Posted 2003-08-20 18:40:51 »

Quote
Well, er, ok, criticisms aside of Alien Flux - what is it that makes it what it is?

If you totally removed the graphics and sound and replaced them with coloured blocks and a beep, what would you be left with? Pure gameplay?


Not that, certainly. A good experiment for this (assuming you enjoy warcraft) is to get freecraft, and use one of the old tilesets, where most of the characters are purple silhouettes of badly-drawn stickmen.

It's quite an eye-opener to discover how much the gameplay is dependent on the setting, even though whilst you are playing you typically filter out the graphics, and just think in abstract terms (since it's a tactical/strategy game).

If you're interested, I've been working for the last year or so on a set of objective metrics to rate gameplay, and I'm still very much looking for volunteers to try using them Smiley and feed in suggestions/comments/criticisms...email me and I'll send you a long spiel (the introduction + explanation I most recently used on a public forum). The ultimate aim is to help people decide BEFORE releasing a game whether that game sucks (relatively easy), why it sucks (more interesting), and what you need to change to make it rule (very interesting, and this is where I've been concentrating so far).

I'm not claiming it works...yet. It can work, and it can be a very useful tool once you understand it. But I'm far from having worked out how to explain it best yet! So it's still highly experimental.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline Markus_Persson

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« Reply #7 - Posted 2003-08-20 19:01:11 »

That's what I thought I was answering.. Controls. Wink

The blow-up-stuff-fast genre is pretty much defined by the controls. You don't figure out any deep subcontexts in the plot, outwit the smart ai, or make strategic decisions that ensure future advancement..
Your main and only true opponent is the controls for the game. (and, perhaps, your hardware, if the game requires high FPS)

Play Minecraft!
Offline zparticle

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Thick As A Brick


« Reply #8 - Posted 2003-08-20 19:04:59 »

Quote
Well, er, ok, criticisms aside of Alien Flux - what is it that makes it what it is?


Personally I like games were I'm trying to save myself not other things I can't control.  :-/

Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #9 - Posted 2003-08-20 19:17:06 »

Quote
That's what I thought I was answering.. Controls. Wink

The blow-up-stuff-fast genre is pretty much defined by the controls.


OK, sorry, my conclusion: the controls are fine, they're great. It's just the strangely-changing-frame-of-reference stuff that's a problem. Make the viewport less liable to jump around all over the place, but otherwise keep the same controls, and things might get better. Or even  decouple the movement-controller from the "current position of the crosshair".

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
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Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #10 - Posted 2003-08-20 19:27:02 »

Quote
Whilst pondering the crappy conversion rate in Alien Flux


Judging by the collected wisdom of shareware authors everywhere (as posted all over the net), and from my own experience of marketing and business-dev, chances are that your problems are market-positioning and advertising.

You probably won't answer this Smiley (commercially sensitive?) but I'd ask you to tell us - precisely! - what your target market currently is, how you're getting to them, why they should buy, what else they do with their money, etc, etc, etc (I could go on for several more paras, but that's enough to get the gist Wink).

Marketing and selling are hard. Don't beat yourself up over your game-design, when the probability is that you're getting problems from the (equally hard) disciplines of M&S - and note that when the programming stops, M&S are only just getting started. Think that the amount of work you put in on development (design etc as much as just coding) is close to how much effort you should put into M&S.

...of course, you could already be doing / have done all that, in which case fair enough. But from reading JGO I believe the vast majority here haven't quite realised how much effort normally goes into selling a product AFTER it's complete.

Have you pitched to publishers yet? The time is ripe - come up to Earls Court next week for ECTS. The last couple of years the majority of useful work being done seems to have been devs  signing distribution and/or publication deals...an awful lot gets agreed in 3 short days.

Quote

I keep arguing


Now, I seem to remember you saying something earlier about how you were making the same mistakes you berated in others? About making the game hard "because it should be" or "it's better that way"....when pre-AF you were always vocal about how "if it's too hard, it's too hard - it may be a better game as an artistic work, but as a money-maker, if people find it too hard, you're making a BAD game". Smiley

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline princec

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« Reply #11 - Posted 2003-08-20 23:27:33 »

The target market is 30-45 year old males with credit cards who used to play video arcade games back in the 80s, and who hanker after some of that old-school simplicity, and who no longer have the time to invest in today's huge modern games.

Sounds kinda specific doesn't it? Well, funnily enough, I've just described myself Smiley However it was people just like me that kickstarted the whole videogame era with our pocket money. Assuming most of us haven't died in motorcycle accidents I suspect there are still a very large number of people who fit this description in the world today - millions of them, in fact. So as you say - the big problem is finding them, letting them know about AF, and getting them to download it, and play it, and pay for it. I've spent nearly 3 months since the release of Alien Flux refining its gameplay - there's still loads to do. I've spent an equal amount of time as programming doing marketing: getting reviews sorted, directing Chaz on the website, discussing the business side of things with other indies on Dexterity, submitting the bloody demo to 387 download sites, supporting existing users etc. etc. etc.

One thing that's abundantly clear is that it's a long haul operation. I don't think, fundamentally, there is not now anything wrong with the controls save the fact that most people set the mouse buttons up the other way around to play FPSs, which I'm going to address. I know this because the people who have bought the game absolutely rave about it and frequently comment on how cool the controls are. These people, I guess, are just like me, and love a game for the way it challenges and because it feels new to play, just like all those games in the 80s did.

So I know they're out there - I just need to find 9,969 more of them over the next five years to make it all worthwhile. 10k sales is actually really a very low target to aim for in five years, with a concerted push at marketing the game like we're doing.

In this thread I moot the suggestion that the marketing and distribution of indie games is already a closing shop and the last vestiges of freedom are fast disappearing. My plan is to become a Java games publisher, and spread horizontally outwards with a number of basic target audiences: twitchers, thinkers, and pure fun. Alien Flux is not the only string in our bow Smiley But this is completely OT.

Back to game design:

Are you quite sure that gameplay is in any way involved with graphical production?

Look at Cheapass games. They produce boardgames on bits of paper. You supply the playing pieces by pinching bits out of other boardgames youmight have lying around. They are, pretty much, distilled gameplay.

Can the same be done for computer games?

Weren't those games in the 80s rather lacking in graphics too?

We're not talking about how graphics affects the marketing perspective of the game here: just purely the gameplay. I'm interested in your analysis tool thing!

Cas Smiley

Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #12 - Posted 2003-08-21 08:07:43 »

Quote
The target market is 30-45 year old males
...Dexterity, submitting the bloody demo to 387 download sites, supporting existing users etc. etc. etc.


Where do 30-45 yr old males spend their online-time? (e.g., AFAICS online games "magazines" [review sites] are generally populated by people under the age of 25). I'm asking this because I'm genuinely interested, not because I think I know the answer Smiley.

Specifically in the area of MMOG's, I know people who've had good success aiming at that age-bracket with banner-ads on appropriate websites. Again, these were self-published, and (in MMOG terms) very small scale. One was even a text MUD - and yet they quickly (in a matter of weeks, IIRC) made enough additional income just from the bannerad-attracted players to make up for the ad-spending many times over. I remember seeing some of their ads in places like PennyArcade - although I have no idea HOW they chose where to advertise, I'm afraid.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #13 - Posted 2003-08-21 08:18:22 »

Quote

Back to game design:

Are you quite sure that gameplay is in any way involved with graphical production?


If you put it that way, yes indeed. (I realised since posting that I could have come across as saying "gameplay is ALWAYS dependent completely on the quality of the graphics", which isn't what I intended...)

I've been around long enough to have seen the "ohmygod, all the games in the last 6 months have been graphics, graphics, graphics, and yet the gameplay sucks - what's happened? why have the studios/publishers become obsessed with graphics when its the gameplay that really matters?" concept happen about four or five times (originally sparked off every few years by the mainstream games magazines, now recurring much more often online in games news-sites). I'd call it a "debate", except that the arguments have been so one-sided and so strong that there's never really been much of a counter-argument worth listening to Smiley.

...and until about 4 years ago, I agreed. It's simple thought-experiment stuff: "Well, it's obvious, init? Gameplay trumps graphics. Would I have played [xenon2] wihtout the grapihcs? Course I would!". In fact, experience shows that although this is believable, it isn't true. If you remove Xenon2's graphics (get  a good clone and destroy/corrupt the graphics), people don't seem to find it fun - and this is mainly people who have very fond memories of the original. The easier one is to unplug the soundcard! (X2 of course being one of the few games of that era where the soundtrack was really important).

Or another example: when I was in my prime as an FPS player, I played Quake, Q3 and UT. But not Q2 (and judging by responses of people I played, you were either a Q1 person or a Q2 person; it polarised much of the community). My *only* reason for not playing Q2 was that I found the graphics so extremely dissatisfying. Quake had a "chunky charm" - a style of its own, as distinctive as Art Deco, or the paintings of Klimt or Muchas. And gibs had a solid "feel" to them, the way they were animated and the bulkiness of the bits. Q2 felt completely different - all the characters seemed anorexic compared to Q1, and it felt like killing people made out of cardboard, because there was so little substance to them and their world. Q3 brought back a more "funky" style (many people simplistically described it as "cartoony" but that's woefully inaccurate). It was bright and colourful, compared to Q1's drab "any colour you want, as  long as it's brown", but the colours really helped the game - you could tell someone's weapon milliseconds before your brain had recognized the shape they were holding simply by the dominant colour at chest height (red for rocket launcher, etc).

Just don't ask me why and how graphics are important to gameplay. The colour-coding in Q3 is obviously *one* of the ways they affect gameplay, but I couldn't tell you why Q1's chunkiness is so appealling and adds so much - it just is (perhaps it's simply the same kind of appeal of any piece of art? Shrug). Similarly, Warcraft without the (for want of a better word) cartoony graphics loses tons of it's appeal. And (for me)  it's definitely not any particular love of those graphics (W1 and W2 were pretty uninspiring, to say the least!)...I don't know why it works! Smiley

P.S. IMHO, the fluffies in AF are the only bits to have really good (and here I mean "in that they seem to affect the gameplay") graphics...everything else seems generic (I'm not being rude, but I've played too many scrolling shoot-em-ups Smiley) in AF, but those fluffies - which actually look so fluffy I half expect to see stray hairs falling off them - are unique. And they (and their squashed little faces inside the bubbles Smiley) stick with me as the images I associate with AF. Everything else fades from memory between games.

Perhaps an interesting experiment (if PG had too much  spare time Smiley) would be to re-do the rest of the graphics themed around the fluffy/bubble-fluffy graphics. At the moment I (personally) get a feeling of a mismatch between styles. The old-stylee 8bit "spaceships and aliens" (which for the most part would still work OK as graphics even if you had to massively down-sample them) set against new-style graphics that are only possible now we have infinite pallettes and very high resolutions - and which have been done in an artistic style of their own. I used to be an art student, hence my waxing lyrical about styles and artists, but perhaps that's the point - perhaps the way that graphics affect gameplay is via their artistic style (e.g. bitmap-brothers games ALWAYS had the same distinctive style; you knew you were looking at a BB game just from any one screen shot).

Shrug. I'm sure there are people in the industry who actually understand this graphics/gameplay interplay, but I've never read or heard anything from them Sad.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline erikd

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« Reply #14 - Posted 2003-08-21 08:55:17 »

Quote
Are you quite sure that gameplay is in any way involved with graphical production?


Strictly speaking the gameplay stays the same when you change the graphics, but OTOH the way the game is perceived changes. People love or hate a game for a large part because of the graphics. Maybe this isn't true for all genres of games, but I definately feel it's true for AF.

I have absolutely nothing to back this up though, since it's all so subjective.

Quote
Weren't those games in the 80s rather lacking in graphics too?


Absolutely not. Although they had a lot less silicon mussle to flex, good graphics were possible then too. They were just forced to be simple.
The pacman character for example is pure genius in my mind  Smiley
And of course it's also a matter of perspective. Half Life 2's graphics will surely be lacking by the standards of 2023.

Quote
The target market is 30-45 year old males with credit cards who used to play video arcade


You might shift that a bit, since I see that a lot females tend to like the game too. Maybe because of the cuteness factor introduced by the fluffies, I dunno. If you target only males, you probably should have made the guns a lot bigger and louder and change the fluffies into beatiful women  Grin

I personally think you should not change the game; I think it's all pretty much spot on, also the controls. Maybe some minor tweaks here and there at most.

<getting slightly off-topic>
Also a documentary springs to mind, 'The hamster factor and other tales of 12 monkeys' (about the making of the film 12 monkeys).
After the 1st screenings the film got bad ratings and terry gilliam mentioned that a lot of filmmakers then in panic start to change the film into something it is not, in an attempt to please the audience and destroying the whole movie in doing so. They decided not to change 12 monkeys.
As it turned out, they were right and the wrong audience watched the movie in the initial screenings and the movie was still quite a success when it was released.
Great documentary BTW  Cheesy.
I feel this also relates to AF somehow. Maybe not at all. Ah well... Roll Eyes
</getting slightly off-topic>

Erik

Offline princec

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« Reply #15 - Posted 2003-08-21 11:08:23 »

The graphics-gameplay interplay, I thought, was reasonably well understood!

Graphics are mainly about content consumption. If all the walls in Quake were untextured brown polygons then the levels would be a lot less interesting to look at, but the gameplay would remain the same. However you would feel considerably less rewarded in exploring the levels because the amount of new content would be greatly diminished.

In my game we do a very similar thing: every single level has a piece of new content in it, all the way up to level 21 where we start to randomise the content from what's already been seen. It means there is always a feeling of progress, always something new to see or shoot or hear; it's the reward.

We could have had a black background, or starfield. We could have used the same Tringle sprite for all the aliens and just made it behave differently. We could have removed the background "music". The gameplay would be unchanged but the game would no longer be nearly as compelling. Back in the 80's that was exactly the case; they had, in effect, the game I have just described. Defender just goes on and on. The only compelling reward was beating your mates on the hiscore table whislt they stared aghast over your shoulder getting the pints in*.

So you see: we can still throw away the graphics and sound effects, knowing that they are part of the gameplay, and start having a good look at what we've got left.

So what have we got left here?


Cas Smiley

*or cokes, seeing as I was about 9 at the time Smiley

Offline Orangy Tang

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« Reply #16 - Posted 2003-08-21 11:45:04 »

Quote

Graphics are mainly about content consumption. If all the walls in Quake were untextured brown polygons then the levels would be a lot less interesting to look at, but the gameplay would remain the same. However you would feel considerably less rewarded in exploring the levels because the amount of new content would be greatly diminished.


Theres the atmosphere of a level/scene as well, you're not going to induce fear and terror with flat shaded cubes and spheres. (The Prisoner being the exception that proves the rule Wink )

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Offline erikd

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« Reply #17 - Posted 2003-08-21 12:03:23 »

Quote
So you see: we can still throw away the graphics and sound effects, knowing that they are part of the gameplay, and start having a good look at what we've got left.

So what have we got left here?


Asteroids meets Defender old school arcade fun for the blind & deaf  Smiley

Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #18 - Posted 2003-08-21 12:07:05 »

Quote
The graphics-gameplay interplay, I thought, was reasonably well understood!

Graphics are mainly about content consumption. If all the walls in Quake were untextured brown polygons then the levels would be a lot less interesting to look at, but the gameplay would remain the same.


The point I was trying to make is that this isn't the case, even though it seems sensible in theory.

I've only cited one example I've been able to explain well - the effect of colours on gameplay (c.f. Quake3's colour scheme for readily identifying weapons etc).

Another thought that just came to mind is the animated character models introduce by Q3 - that let you see where your opponent was looking at, as well as what weapon they were carrying. Are these "graphics" or "gameplay"? They're definitely eye-candy, but also definitely (if you're a hardcore player) a significant part of the gameplay. Perhaps I'm just attempting to say that there is often no hard line between "graphics", "soft content", and "gameplay" - though you can deliberately create a game with a hard division. The three are often (and perhaps more often in better games?) non separable.

In MMOG discussions, we often talk about content-consumption, and its useful, but only in discussions about things like consumption-rate versus production-rate (if your players consume X quests each per month, and you have 100k players, you need enough developers to produce 100k * X  + some buffer zone. That's a rather difficult production-rate to maintain!). I'm not sure that the concept of content-consumption says much on an individual basis?

I literally would not play quake1 if you changed the graphics - even if you made them better (prettier, as rated by ME personally) - the gameplay would be different. This is definitely not the case with all games, but at least some...perhaps I'm saying that good atmosphere becomes part of the gameplay, and eye-candy effects can (but don't always) have a very big effect on the atmosphere?

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline erikd

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« Reply #19 - Posted 2003-08-21 12:10:24 »

Quote
The only compelling reward was beating your mates on the hiscore table whislt they stared aghast over your shoulder getting the pints in*.


That can still be very compelling! However, the more content you throw in just for the sake of added reward, the less important the score will become. This might have a negative effect on the replay value once you've seen all aliens and stuff.

Offline blahblahblahh

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« Reply #20 - Posted 2003-08-21 12:10:42 »

Or, to put what I'm describing badly Sad another way, I would shoot fewer bubble-trapped-fluffies if you replaced the graphics with something less appealing. There is satisfaction to removing the fluffie from the magnified, squished effect. My macro-strategy for playing the game would probably be the same as always, but the statistics of the decisions I made on a micro level would change.

If it changes the way that the players play the game, then surely, by definition, something is part of the gameplay?

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline princec

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« Reply #21 - Posted 2003-08-21 14:08:24 »

I don't think it would change the gameplay at all - just shift the emphasis from content consumption to mechanisms. The atmosphere in Quake is part of the content - it's what you're consuming, not the gameplay. You could design a dark, broody level in Quake which had a door in it; just outside the door there could be a happy meadow with flowers and bees and the sun shining. Has the gameplay changed? No - you've only virtually walked a few feet - how can the gameplay change in a few feet? You are simply consuming the emotional content of the game. A designer leaves the atmosphere of a game lying around like an odour. It's like the emotional fingerprint of the game.

The fluffies in Alien Flux have an emotional aura which we wanted you to pick up on. You might remember in the diary when Chaz first designed them and they looked a bit like some kind of mutant squid. They were so ugly it was actually fun wasting them to put them out of their misery. The mechanisms of gameplay didn't change - kill them all and the jellies came after you - but the emotions we inspired in you shifted the emphasis of the game.

Now: think again about what you've said about Quake 3 head positions. Replace with a sphere with a stick showing which way it's pointing. Graphics... or gameplay? Replace the nice detailed gun with a large coloured oblong block so you can easily identify its firing rate and damage characteristics. Graphics... or gameplay?

Cas Smiley

Offline Mojomonkey

Senior Member




ooh ooh eee eeee


« Reply #22 - Posted 2003-08-21 14:13:15 »

Perhaps a players perception of gameplay is affected by content/graphics?

Don't send a man to do a monkey's work.
Offline erikd

JGO Ninja


Medals: 16
Projects: 4
Exp: 14 years


Maximumisness


« Reply #23 - Posted 2003-08-21 14:25:09 »

As an aside:
I remember when harcore quake2 players would choose software rendering, all detail levels to 'low', all in order to maximize framerate and 'clarity' of the picture (so that no beautiful smoke trails get in line of sight for example).
In effect they turned down 'content' in favour of 'gameplay'.

In my perception, gameplay is just part of the whole gaming experience. An important one (depending on the genre), but still 'just' a part.

Offline erikd

JGO Ninja


Medals: 16
Projects: 4
Exp: 14 years


Maximumisness


« Reply #24 - Posted 2003-08-21 14:31:43 »

Quote
Perhaps a players perception of gameplay is affected by content/graphics?


Definitely  Smiley

Offline blahblahblahh

JGO Coder


Medals: 1


http://t-machine.org


« Reply #25 - Posted 2003-08-21 14:46:03 »

Quote

The fluffies in Alien Flux have an emotional aura which we wanted you to pick up on. You might remember in the diary when Chaz first designed them and they looked a bit like some kind of mutant squid. They were so ugly it was actually fun wasting them to put them out of their misery. The mechanisms of gameplay didn't change - kill them all and the jellies came after you - but the emotions we inspired in you shifted the emphasis of the game.


When you play a computer-game, the "game" you are playing is not usually the same "game" as the "game" played by everyone else who plays that computer-game; it'll be the same as some of them, but there are many different "games" that people play with the same tool (computer game). This is a concept which MMOG desigerns have (been forced to...) come to terms with over the past 5 years (or much earlier for some of the more enlightened MUD admins), and which is now pretty much taken for granted. It's the key to understanding why there are always griefers in every MMOG (amongst other things which it explains).

Hence....
Quote

If it changes the way that the players play the game, then surely, by definition, something is part of the gameplay?


I.e. I can be sitting in front of your computer-game, but the "game" I'm playing might be, for instance "how big a score can I get in 5 minutes", or it might be "I like seeing fluffies get swallowed". In the latter case, I might ignore the mechanics of your game, and play it in order to see as many fluffies get eaten as possible - even though this forces me to cope with the ultra-hard jelly incursions etc. Players of these meta-games will typically ignore the game-rules if it suits them as part of their game - so e.g. if they like killing fluffies they will intentionally commit suicide in order to restart the game with full fluffies, rather than play through as far as they can go, because it's a more efficient way of getting back a full complement of fluffies.

Changing Quake's graphics changes the meta-games I'm willing and/or choose to play. Therefore, de facto, it changes the gameplay of the ACTUAL "game" (combination of computer-game + current meta-game) I'm playing, even if fundamentally the computer-game itself may not seem to have changed it's own gameplay.

I count this as part of the computer-game's gameplay, since most good designers innately design-in the opportunity to play various meta-games within the game, and I credit them with  all the meta-games for their game.

Does this make sense?

Quote

Now: think again about what you've said about Quake 3 head positions. Replace with a sphere with a stick showing which way it's pointing. Graphics... or gameplay? Replace the nice detailed gun with a large coloured oblong block so you can easily identify its firing rate and damage characteristics. Graphics... or gameplay?


The point I was attempting to highlight was: why have the animations at all? why not just have a single oblong for the player? How do you decide that the player-model (soft-content, traditionally ALWAYS considered part of "graphics etc") is actually a gameplay-feature (as you implicitly have in your para above)?

I was trying to find some way in which soft-content can more obviously affect gameplay...and maybe the example I chose is wrong.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 343
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #26 - Posted 2003-08-21 17:15:08 »

Indeed, you picked the wrong example but in your previous paragraph just there you have shown yourself to be an enlightened wizard.

Meta games.

Meta games are what we forget all about when we grow up. Meta games are what we did when we were kids. We didn't just push Matchbox cars around and round and then put them back in a box. We played with them, which means exploring all the fun and different ways of bending the rules purely to amuse ourselves.

Your thinking here is sheer genius, and it shows us how we can't see the wood for the trees.

What I'm trying to get at here is maybe best served by an analogy: imagine playing with a ball. The ball makes up the fundamental rules of any game you play with it. It weighs so-so, it bounces like this, it's about so big and hurts this much when it hits you on the nose.

All the games you can subsequently play with the ball are determined by all of its unchangeable characteristics. You can play football with almost any sized ball. You can throw it at each other. You can just bounce it up and down if that's what's fun for you.

Sometimes we make some further arbitrary rules around the ball to try and make playing it more fun, maybe with the aid of the interaction with a few other immutable rules like a certain flat area to kick it around on or a pair of jumpers to kick it between or a racket to twat it with.

I believe we can draw some direct parallel between any game we play as kids and any kind of computer entertainment.

So back to a specific example: what's the metaphysical "ball" in my game? What's the arbitrary ruleset I've imposed, and what's the scope for having fun by bending the rules?

Cas Smiley

Offline DanMacDonald

Innocent Bystander




Java games rock!


« Reply #27 - Posted 2003-08-21 19:01:32 »

By "Meta Games" aren't you actually just referring to emergent gameplay? Emergent gameplay is what happens when you mix a number of simple well defined systems, these systems interact in a number of ways to create a depth of gameplay that none of the individual pieces provided.

For the example of the ball, the ball has limited abilities. Basically it's round, it can bounce and it is impeded by forces like gravity and friction.

Then you have a kid, a kid can kick a ball, he can carry a ball, throw a ball, spin a ball, bounce a ball etc.

By himself a kid can merge the two rule sets, he can take advantage of the force of gravity on the ball to spin it in place on his finger, or he can kick it in the air and see how many times he can kick it consecutively without letting it touch the ground.  He can even see if he can kick it through his parents bedroom window.

Add a few kids and a lot of things can happen, Dodgeball, keep away, tag, hacky sack etc.

Emergent gameplay is what happens when you design a few simple systems with well defined rules and don't place any limitation on how they interact with one another (within reason of course).  This allows the player to invent his or her own strategies and goals that the designer of the individual systems never thought possible.
Offline blahblahblahh

JGO Coder


Medals: 1


http://t-machine.org


« Reply #28 - Posted 2003-08-21 20:50:45 »

Quote
By "Meta Games" aren't you actually just referring to emergent gameplay?


Related, but not the same. The lesson from MMOG design has been that meta games are ALWAYS played, no matter what the computer game you are "interacting with" (merely to differentiate between playing the meta game and playing the c-game, I'm going to call the latter interacting, even though it's still playing Smiley). Whilst a games developer might not realise in advance some of the ways their game will be played, if they thought about it more carefully, they could work it out. Emergence is about things that, by definition, you could not possibly - ever - work out in advance that people were going to do.

Emergent XXX comes from "the emergence of unexpectedly complex and unpredictable results from the composition of simple rules". The first time I encountered it in Computer Science was with fractals and chaos, where infinitely complex chaotic systems *with infinite data* can be generated from tiny mathematical equations which can be recorded with only a tiny number of bits. And the generation of the chaotic systems is actually entirely deterministic (!).

(a definition I used to use, from notes on previous research I did years ago):
"Emergent behaviour is where the behaviour does not lie in plain sight, but emerges over the course of a simulation - i.e. the simulation may well be deterministic (i.e. 100% repeatable, leading to the same results every time), but there is no way of predicting those results in advance, without actually running the simulation, and recording the results for later retrieval; there is no simplified mathematical equation for prediction. In several ways this is similar, in practice, to non-determinism - both encompass the need to actually simulate/execute to find out what happens."

For instance, if you have 5 sets of equations, and each can be combined with the others, you have some number of combinatorial permutations. Typically this is considered not sufficiently complex to merit the label "emergent", because nothing has emerged - you're instead just witnessing the obvious predictable logical side effect of combining those terms.

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline Athomas Goldberg

Junior Member




Grrrrrr...


« Reply #29 - Posted 2003-08-22 01:27:36 »

At the risk of veering off the current (and quite compelling) thread I just wanted to address cas's original question regarding the "gameplay" in Alien Flux by quoting from H. J. R Murray's History of Board Games Other Than Chess in the chapter entitled "Hunt-Games"

Quote
...Hunt-games are played by two persons, one with many pieces and the other with not more than four pieces, and the player with the larger number of men endeavor's to take his opponent's men or to hem them in so that they become immobile. The larger body represents a party of hunters and the smaller body is their quarry, a small number of dangerous animals which can kill a hunter who has lost touch with his comrades...

Murray goes on to discuss the history of hunt-games, citing evidence that indicates an Asiatic origin, followed by a migration through India into the Arab world and then into Europe by way of Spanish Moors. By the middle ages hunt-games were extremely popular throughout Europe. He also describes the evolution of the gameplay as the number of pieces and types of movement changed and varied over time and across geography.

It isn't difficult to view Alien Flux in these terms, with the computer playing the "hunter" and the player & his fluffies, the "prey". One could argue that there are tons of video games that could fit this category (including Asteroids) This isn't surprising, given that the majority of academic texts on board games cite 5 major categories of games, into which pretty much all board games throughout history can be classified. One advantage to studying these classifications is that they help in distilling gameplay to it's essential elements independent of graphics, sound, etc. One way to get at the "gameplay" in Alien Flux, or any other game, is to look at the history of games that led up to it (and I recommend going back earlier than "SpaceWar"Smiley), examine the things they have in common, and then from there look at how the game adds to, or varies from, those basic elements to make the gameplay unique.

This was not meant to detract in any way from the discussion of "Meta Games" only to add a little historical perspective to the conversation on gameplay as it pertains to AF.

Athomas Goldberg
Project Lead / Wildcard
Game Technologies Group
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
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