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Persuasion versus freedom

Persuasion versus freedom
« on: February 14, 2010, 02:05:07 pm »

I'm not sure if the terms in the title to this post are adequate. But this is about a topic that has been popping up a few times in discussions here: the conflict between guiding the player through the experience and offering the player total freedom of exploration.

I'm really on the fence in this conflict.

On the one hand I think the player should take their own responsibility. They should do an effort to step towards the work and they should find what interests them in it on their own. I guess this is the traditional way of making art. The great advantage of this method is that the active engagement of the player constitutes them almost as a co-author, making the work more meaningful to them and actually easier to execute for the artist. The risk in this approach is that you might lose the player very quickly because they don't understand what they are supposed to do, they are not interested in your content as it appears on the surface, or they get bored after a while.

On the other hand is what could be called the design approach. Here the work reaches out to the player, invites the player more actively, perhaps it even tells them what to do in some way. The advantage of this method is that it is easier for the player to interact with the work (and thus a larger group of people will at least get something out of it). The disadvantage of this approach is that it is actually very difficult to lure the player in (especially if you want to avoid cheap game tricks or breaking the immersion) and that there is a risk that the player simply does what is expected of them and does not use their own imagination and powers of interpretation.

I keep swinging between these two. I wish I could find a compromise between them.
Your insights are most welcome!
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Re: Persuasion versus freedom
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2010, 03:32:20 pm »

A mixture of both, in my opinion. I like what you guys did in "The Path", with just a simple statement at the beginning telling the player what to do - whether the player follows the advice or not depends on him or her only. On a separate note, I believe that notgames should be in 3D - the level of immersion increases dramatically even if the gameplay is shorter. I still replay "The Graveyard" from time to time just because of the beauty of the actual scenery. Also, the player would want to explore your work more just to take in everything that the author wants to offer.
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Re: Persuasion versus freedom
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2010, 07:00:52 pm »

Oh, another issue I recently have some troubles with!

In one way, the problem lies some what in the questions: "Is okay if the player miss content?" and "How much should I force the player to find content?"

Since we (frictional games) make very story oriented games, there is often a lot of info that the player needs to get, some more important than other. I am against spoon feeding the player with information, but at the same time not too much should be missed. We try to make most of this information redundant, but one does not make repeat things too much either. For some bits, it is not that hard, but it can be kind of hard when some piece of information is very important. Near the start of our upcoming game, we have a piece of info that is kind of crucial for the player to get, but it is possible to skip it. So should this be forced by some cheap trick like denying the player to progress or just force feeding the info (eg enter a room and it is automatically shown). We settled on making it highly unlikely that the player miss it, since we thought using cheap tricks would just spoil immersion and this was not good especially this early on. I think that it is important to take risks with interactive works and not always force the player down certain paths. Often so few player miss out on it, that it is more than worth it for all the rest that get the intended experience.

Another way this is a problem is when wanting to have a certain situation and atmosphere. Another part early on in the game, the player needs to find two pretty visible objects in order to progress. However, one of these is in a room that is not that easy to spot. The reason for this is that we want the player to wander around the dark and make them feel unsafe. Making this door visible would severely decrease that feeling and destroy the mood. So in this case too, we opted for freedom instead of forcing/spoon-feeding the player.

So to sum up: For me it is all about what is intended. If you want the player to feel lost in a forest, then always giving directions destroys that feeling. However, I think one should always try and make an easy start before making giving the player too much freedom. I think one can start the game by doing your best to educate the player at the start. Once the player understands how the game is played, I think one should only concentrate on creating an experience and never sacrifice that to be sure that everyone gets it. This is at least how I want to do and I cannot say that I always follow it, but I try to at least Smiley
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Re: Persuasion versus freedom
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2010, 08:07:39 pm »

How about the moral issue?
Do we have the right to hook our players?
Does it suffice for us to think of our content as important to justify the player's addiction?
Or is it simply ok for an artist to be immoral?
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Re: Persuasion versus freedom
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2010, 11:23:14 am »

From my experiences I would say that there should be freedom of exploration (within the restricted, prepared by designer/coder world) and if things might be confusing, adding some (optional or not) tips or guidelines.

Tips or guidelines can be like riddles, this opens some space for additional play between designer and player. They can be more or less obvious. But they will never treat a man behind the screen like a baby whose brain and emotions are in a state of stagnation.

There is something to the fact that vast majority of this industry wants player to be comfortably numb by which kids, teenagers and even adults become less sensitive, less thoughtful or insightful. I believe it is wrong. Morally, for sure. But I think there is something more to it. We create. We can create. Not everyone on this planet can. We are minority. Treating it in a COOL way, we have some tiny special powers. Let's use them for something more than turning other people's brains into pulp Cheesy
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The world needs organization ^_^
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