Another question that someone else posed and I attempted to answer. What came to mind for me was cases where a player decides, of their own volition, to keep an NPC safe when they could easily have let them die instead (and the GM/game designer likely expected them to), and the amazing dedication they can show when pursuing this self-determined goal (as opposed to the utter frustration people feel towards escort missions).
I'd frame it as a subversion, similar to fathom. You could do a 2-D side-scrolling action game with a B-movie feel, reminiscent of Metal Slug. The level opens with a shot of a diner, then monsters burst in and start wreaking havoc. Pan left (with "GO!" flashing several times, big enough to fill the screen) and we see your character emerging from the bathroom, with an exclamation point appearing over their heads as they see said havoc spill into view. A bouncing arrow points out a shotgun to the left, so you grab that and then use it (along with a jumping kick attack) to fight your way out of the diner and down the hill to an oversized boss. Except that when the boss dies, the music just stops. We see the character walk offscreen back towards the diner, cutting back to the back hallway where we first started playing. He walks over to the body of one of those background NPCs from the intro, and shows some kind of grief- whatever body language and gestures prove the most expressive for the character model. Fade to black.
If you play the game again, you'll likely notice that the woman in question dies *after* you gain control of the character, in what looked like a scripted event. And if your first action is to run to the right and attack the monster with your difficult-but-functional kick attack (which the game doesn't tell you about for another 20 seconds, so you don't know about it your first time through), instead of grabbing the shotgun first, you can actually save that character, and continue to defend them as you fight through the rest of the level. They'll die if any monster gets to them, making it very difficult to make it through to the end of the game without them dying; but it's still possible.
Perhaps you'd actually expand on the gameplay- every section of the game sees the woman doing something else while you fight the monsters, changing how you play during that section. She'd interact with elements of the apparently-static background, demonstrating alot of resourcefulness and ingenuity (though not any combat prowess). It's important to note that her efforts to help herself and you never make the game easier; they just create another slim window of opportunity for you to keep the two of you alive a little longer, and by extension give the game experience noticeable variety.
I'm not doing this because I have any love for the "damsel in distress" option, I'm doing it to deliberately remove outside incentives- where there's no rational reason to shoulder all this hardship except that you care about what happens to this person, damn it. And when you stick with that approach, you wind up getting alot more out of a life that used to be much more effortless and predictable.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Someone raised the question in a discussion I had a while back. This was my response:
I think it's important to consider what stories are, underneath all the different ways we tell them (all the mediums, plot structures, et cetera). I could bring up Robert McKee here, but instead I'll lift a quote from this piece:
During a good game, the player is trying to overcome interesting challenges.
I suspect there may be some potential synergies here. :P
Let me shift from theory to the pragmatic end of the spectrum. The most powerful storytelling trick I've noticed in games so far has cropped up in these isolated moments in a number of different games. Some examples from video games:
-In Metal Gear Solid 3, standing there as you wait to pull the trigger of a gun- one that's pointed at a person you love more than anyone else in the world.
-In Modern Warfare 2's conclusion, staggering up to a crashed helicopter and its injured pilot, a knife in your hand.
-In The Darkness, watching a movie with your girlfriend on the couch, knowing you can press a button at any time to get up and leave.
-In Assassin's Creed, using your one available action during conversations (walking around within a 20' by 20' area) to pace in circles, turn your back on someone and walk away, etc.
Moments like these stand head and shoulders above the rest of the game experience in terms of having the story be engaging and meaningful to the player. It took some reflection, but I think I've figured out why. The thing all these moments share is that the narrative that's playing out contains a variable which has been given dramatic significance by the game, but is now determined by the player. If Solid Snake stands paralyzed while the minutes drag on until he finally pulls that trigger, that's a different story (in a dramatic/significant way) from the narrative where he hesitates for all of a second. While that moment lasted, the player had a degree of genuine control over the narrative while it was unfolding. Psychologically, they went from an audience member (albeit one who gets to walk around the set and sometimes give an order in the director's place) to one of the actors on the stage.
And as a bonus, the narrative has gone from being a mass-produced experience to one that only this player has had, something that can be very important to people.
Any of that make sense? Read all
Monday, June 21, 2010
"Oh my god, it's like 1945 on steroids."
"Wow pretty good. I liked the speed and control and level progression."
"Nice. This is much harder [than a previous build], forces you to cope and change strategy every minute."
"I gotta say this game is tough, and I'm totally okay with that."
I was never in any hurry to get into computer game design, because you can spend so much more time working on the implementation rather than the design itself. I underestimated the siren call the 132 design process would have for me.
Milestone 1 for this game has been to put together a loadout that allows for potent playstyle customization, as the emergent result of small number of choices. This is basically a test for some of my own ideas about how to have the substantive mechanics seen in the "rpg" video game genre, without resorting to artificial reward cycles to keep the player involved. The standard here was (and is) a moderately balanced set of choices that all mattered, so that changing any one of those options has a noticeable effect on the "smart" way to play the game.
This build's aimed at milestone #2: Fun core gameplay. The standard here is for the basic, underlying mechanics to be fun enough (in and of themselves) to make for a passable endless mode. To this end, I've temporarily taken out the options to choose your loadouts; instead, it cycles to a new random arrangement once every 20 seconds.
Feedback and reactions are always welcome. If nothing else, let me know what you think about the different weapons and what sort of scores you can get.