Fantastic - Or: How to design games

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  • And here's the positive counterpart of the craptastic thread. Guess it makes sense to have both in here, so we have examples of bad and good games in one place.

    Let's also use this thread to highlight hidden gems.

    1) Here's a game I found quite interesting, but never played myself:

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    'Future Wars' was created and programmed by Paul Cuisset and designed by Eric Chahi.

    In general, I think there have been a couple of very interesting experimental games back in the 80's up to the mid 90's - then things got really complex and you needed a bigger team to ship a competitive game. What a shame - but it's good to see some of that stuff is coming back now with the digital distribution channels and thanks to tools like Construct.

  • Future Wars is one of the best old school adventure games more to say.

  • And as I mentioned in the other thread: Gradius V. One of the best games ever, in my opinion.

    Part of what it does really right, is it constantly taunts you to get better. When you first start playing, you're like, wtf?? This is insane! And barely make it through 3 levels. Then it gives you an extra continue (adds 1 to the total), so you give it another shot. After trying a couple more times, and getting further each time, you get another continue. Eventually, you can beat the game either by improving or getting unlimited continues (when the total reaches 10, I think).

    But the best part of it is while you're playing, it adjusts the difficulty in real-time based upon how well you're doing. So it's like an insult when the game tones reduces the difficulty. The game is only about 50 minutes long, but I've played it for probably at least 200 hours.

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  • That game looks horrible.

    Graduis on the other hand. That's awesome.

  • old school adventure games

    m, i guess we could argue rather violently about the good and the bad of olschool adventure game design - let's not! ;)

    while i admit that the graphics look okay (for the time, i guess?) and the story & dialogue might be intriguing, playing these kind of games without a walkthrough has had me in dead ends so many times that i can't help but dislike this 'find the needle in the haystack and combine/use it in an arbitrary fashion' kind of challenge.

    maybe there is another way of presenting witty dialogue & lush landscapes in an involving and interactive manner that teases the mind?

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  • Since we're at Adventure Games now - Let's put this into the room: How could you make another Monkey Island Sequel work?

    The problem with games that keep you guessing where you can only get through thanks to trial and error is that today we just have better things to do. I've been playing a lot of the Eric Chahi games for research and it's painfully obvious that this stuff so wouldn't work today anymore. At least not in the same way it did back then.

    I even made the experiment to let a friend of mine play Heart of Darkness. He still liked the graphics (even though it's 11 years old now and someone saying that the graphics are nice is a rare thing if you throw a PSOne game into the PS2), but after dying about 10 times in a row without any further indication on how to solve a puzzle, he lost all his motivation and wanted to do something else - and rightly so.

    It's the same with all the Lucas Arts Games back then. Man, did I love wasting 3 days thinking about a puzzle back then. But you can bet your ass that I wouldn't do the same thing today. If the puzzles aren't completely intriguing and make sense ('Discworld' was another contender for the "WHAT IN 3 HOLY FUCKS WERE THEY THINKING?! price for obscure puzzles), I'll just get a Walkthrough or do something else instead. We have the internet, everyone can do amazing stuff today in his free time, I can't even remember when I was being bored the last time - so don't waste my time on puzzles that I only find out by surprise.

    I'd love to see another Monkey Island done well. I imagine that it'd be a lot more cinematic than the other games. Heck, todays realtime graphics could help creating a totally amazing art direction for that game, but it definitely wouldn't work if you'd just ship another Monkey Island 2 - you'd have to completely re-invent the game-design while keeping its charm alive, in my opinion.

  • Adventure games, I think, have more untapped potential than any other genre. However, they seem to have gotten stuck in the 'guess what the developer wants you to do' rut. It's like reading a book and not getting to read the rest of it until you guess what the character's supposed to do. And in some games, if you guess wrong, you have to reread a few pages.


    I think the solution is that adventure games shouldn't rely so much on 'use item with something else' to continue, AND they should do it better when they do. Look at Zelda. You see a cracked wall, what do you do? Everyone knows you use a bomb on it. What makes it interesting are times like in link to the past, that one wall that you could bomb, but there didn't seem to be any way to get to it because of a gap in the floor.

    The important part is that it wasn't necessary at all. The game didn't stop there if you couldn't get to it, but you were rewarded if you could - and you were driven crazy if you couldn't, which would make you want to get to it more.

    Adventure games are practically made ENTIRELY of game-stoppers. That's not fun. Or really a game. I suppose you could call it a guessing game, but there's no element of skill, and the actual gameplay isn't fun. All the witty writing in the world isn't enough to make up for bad gameplay, and that's why I think the adventure genre tanked.

    Summary: For adventure games to improve, they need to have gameplay other than guessing what to do, because not knowing what to do next is high on the list of gamer gripes, and making a game based on that is ridiculous.

  • I think to reinvent adventure games, you'd need to make one where:

    A) There are multiple, LOGICAL solutions to the problems you face

    B) To solve problems, you need to act like a human being, not a kleptomaniac packrat.

    Unfortunately, reducing the amount of obscure inventory puzzles would drastically shorten most adventure games (therefore annoying people who want time for money) - though if you made the game less linear, there might be more replayability.

    Or you could go the other way and make it *more* linear, so that the player can't wander to the wrong place and miss the solution. The Several Journeys of Reemus turned out well along those lines. It's still a reasonably traditional adventure game, but the amount of objects you can interact with is drastically reduced - each screen is stand alone and you're not carrying around a ton of crap. So you know that you have everything you need to solve a given puzzle, you just have to work out how to combine it.

    (Still sometimes has the annoyance of not noticing a small object that's crucial to solving a puzzle, though. Rgghh.)

    ( ... -chapter-2)

    I suppose the real problem with adventure games is that you can't crank up the difficulty to increase the length of the game (at least, not without making it a bloody pain in the arse).

    In platform games, if you make it difficult, there's a kind of fun associated with that. You die again and again, improve, learn more about your character's abilities, figure out attack patterns, and finally succeed on your own merits and feel good about it. You play a lot and get immersed in the game.

    Whereas if you make an adventure game difficult, people say, why the RIGHTEOUS HEAVENLY HORSESHIT would I think to use the herring as a lockpick?

    (Yes, that's actually happened to me in an adventure game.)

  • if youve ever played myst, or its 10 cd borther riven, you know why adventure games might be the most frustrating games in existence. theyre even more unfair than IWBTG. extremely complex non-sensical puzzles do not make a game fun period.

  • I don't know, I played through Myst and Riven, and Myst's puzzles weren't too bad. Riven got annoying though, because to get from one area of the game to the other it took you forever, and also because half the areas were hidden in some way, and to find them you had to either be lucky, or...yeah, pretty much be lucky. Its solutions weren't as logical as Myst's though.

    Tried to play through the third one (Exile), but I got a serious driver defect a little ways through and had to backup my computer. It didn't quite make the cut on things I wanted to backup, it was too much of the things I didn't like about Riven and not enough of what I did.

  • Since we're at Adventure Games now - Let's put this into the room: How could you make another Monkey Island Sequel work?

    Funny written script and hints. (and more hints if you're stuck or die)

  • I just bought a super simple game on the Xbox Live Community Game Store:

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    That game is fucking addictive! It's addictive because of the same reason Harvest Moon is addictive - you're basically doing labor, but you're getting more and more cash and you can invest the cash in getting shit done faster, improving yourself.

    Simple premise, AWESOME time-waster. If you have an Xbox, buy this game.

  • that looks pretty cool! i like these kind of very simple games; they are so honest about the one thing the game revolves around. they avoid much of the non-gratifying sloth by staying close to their core.

    the mining part reminded me of clonk, although that is an entirely different affair. it is more complex, but i always got a similar feeling of accomplishment when harvesting resources & building something from them. it also worked awesome in cooperative multiplayer.

    about wasted time: i'm also concerned about wasting time with these kind of games, which is funny, because i don't have that strong a feeling of time-wasting with other, more complex games. arguably, i'm still wasting the same amount of time regardless which one of these i play, right? what do you think of this analogy: i feel less guilty about reading a book that has an intriguing story, an accomplished author, or is scientifically relevant, than reading a book with white pages just because i like the way the book feels in my hands? it's basically the guilty joy of pushing buttons ;)

  • Yeah, I think the simple answer to your guilt is that you could learn more by reading that book that could probably even change your point of view on various things than 'wasting' your time with a task that's basically just repetitive and formulaic.

    Now, if you compare the book and the game again - what happens if you play the repetitive game with a girl you know? Would it change whether or not you'd feel guilty? The outcome of the book could be that you become smarter or that it would affect you in some deeper way, the outcome of playing a game with a girl could be sex / a relationship, whatever.

    We're just always comparing the outcome of the things we're doing is what I'm saying. Let's take the uber-addiction that is World of Warcraft - I'm pretty sure that most of the 'druggies' that are hooked on WoW don't keep playing the game after they reached the level cap because the quests are still so much fun or because they really still feel the urgent need to get the bracelet that'll add +2 to strength - I'm pretty sure they keep playing cause there are a lot of cool people that are playing with them that are in the same ballpark as they are.

    So, would you still feel more guilty if you'd prefer a game where you'd have fun and where you'd socialize to a book with an intriguing story? I'm not sure it's about the complexity of the game, rather, it's about the outcome and what we hope to gain.

  • Most of the people I know who've played World of Warcraft have ended up playing it compulsively - to the extent where their in-game socialising interfered with real-world interactions. Some players sounded happy, but some of them said they couldn't stop, and those who had quit sounded relieved and vowed never to return.

    So I try to stick to games which have limited content: if you're on something like Planescape: Torment, you know that you'll eventually reach the end, and won't find yourself playing just to reach the next level or get the next bit of gear. There's always a chance that the game will introduce something that will challenge your ideas (like the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon, which was a weirdly religious experience).

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