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Rewarding the notplayer...

Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2010, 07:54:52 pm »

Experience is the ultimate award.

Again, do you give candies to the audience in the theatre between acts because "yeay, they made it from there to here!". If you will look at player-rewards you will see how offending this system is. And how much it defines videogames as something that _indeed_ doesn't deserve to be treated with respect.
Again, rewarding a person for playing is offensive to this person. Sure, it feels cool because we got used to it. Sure, it is like a carrot. But if it is like a carrot, who the hell are we? Mules? And we follow whereever our master manipulates us to go? Master = designer. Designer manipulates because he wants money and some shallow fun out of his work (and if he doesn't work 16h a day he gets it). And in the end it seems like we are not in charge of our free time at all.

God... Videogames reached the level of craziness when it comes to treating them seriously long time ago.

Experience should be the only award. Experience is the fuel for passion.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2010, 10:12:20 pm »

Experience is the ultimate award.

Sure. But I don't want to operate out of an ivory tower and just throw stuff out there and hope that some people are smart enough to get it. I want to help the player to enjoy our work. And sometimes -often- this requires a bit of persuasion, a bit of seduction.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2010, 08:48:18 am »

Great. So, when will I get my candy for going for a movie?
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2010, 12:53:34 pm »

The problem is, with a film we already know how to act - we sit down, are quiet, and just watch. Sometimes you need to steer the player through the game. It is not handing out sweets or carrots, but an understanding between the player and the designer that some level of communication has to exist.

In Dinner Date (beta available shortly!) I have icons on the screen that correspond with actions the player can take. I add new actions throughout the game, even though one could argue the character could have done these actions before and I as a designer simply said "no you cannot". Adding these actions eventually becomes a reward as each new 'paragraph' of the game adds new actions.
Furthermore, I programmed the game in such a way it remembers what actions you took and starts enlarging icons that are underused. This would be a non-tasty carrot; if you do not do certain actions, the icon becomes larger and larger until you are compelled to try it.
The whole game runs on this principle, actually, it is possible to finish it by pressing 6 buttons or so in total, but a normal player will press more than a 100 because each icon promises a new 'interesting thing' to happen - something to lure the player further.

You can be more intellectual about these lures than make them carrots obvious carrots, like Thomas says; knowledge of the situation or something else to do with the actual game. Handing out points is somewhat pointless and I personally always am annoyed at the prospect of having to gain them.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2010, 01:23:58 pm »

Would it help our thinking if we reversed the roles?

Imagine that we are the game and that we want the player to play us. What would we do? And if we take it one step further and we imagine that we, as a game, want to experience pleasure. How can we stimulate the player to give us pleasure? One way would indeed be to flat out ask the player to press this or that sensitive spot. But there's other, more subtle ways. Giving pleasure is an invitation. If we, as a game, please the player, then perhaps the player will return the favour. If we want something specific to happen, maybe we can do something to the player and hope they imitate us and do the same thing to us.

Maybe it's helpful to think of game design as design of a play mate for the player, rather than design of a play thing.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2010, 03:40:21 pm »

I think that coming up with good ways of thinking about (and solving!) this is the most important thing for evolving the game medium. Normally in games, you have some slot-machine like additive mechanic that serves has a carrot for the player. I do not like this, because it limits games that can be made and it is also kind of degrades the experience. As Kaworu said, like getting candy for watching a movie. Games like Fallout and Planescape Torment, that has a really interesting worlds and actions have a large part of the game filled with meaningless status upgrading. One could say that the leveling/looting makes you connect to the character/world, but I think it is just a cheap mechanic that adds an additive ingredient to the game. I believe that getting rid of this need for a "fun" core mechanic is crucial to evolve.

Michaël:
I really like that approach! Perhaps one could kind of compare playing a game to having a conversation? If you keep asking different questions and just get the same kind of answers the conversion quickly gets boring. If you are asked questions you need to be able to provide varied and interesting answers that hopefully makes the person talking to you want to ask other questions, tell you about themselves and so. Also, you would like to give them hints into asking talking about certain subjects that might be an area that you are good talking about.

Now, instead of talking, in a game the player has input. Translated into conversion the input could be "So what if I pull this lever?", "I am walking along this lonely road", "I would like to examine that more closely" and so on. The idea would then be to get the player to do the correct input and keep on giving interesting output as they try out things. The game gets uninteresting when the player:
- does not know what input to give
- does not get interesting output from the input given

So, with the game's role as "mate" you have to keep the player entertained and make sure that they feel like they are moving on. Rewards would then be:
- Get meaningful output from input
- Learn new inputs
And you got a sort of input-output cycle and the role of the game is to keep this rolling. It seems to me that just keeping this rolling is a sort of reward for the player. Now this could work on several levels as well. From simple things like: "push forward and the characters moves, displaying a funny animation" to more complex: "Get all animals healthy and watch how the ecology in the nature blooms"

I like the idea of having a game that, while not being on rails, always keeps the player interested and makes sure she has stuff to do. Like a good play mate would do, to use Michaels analogy! This of course gives rise to interesting and hard problems, such as knowing when a player is stuck and needs a push in the right direction.

Jeroen:
I like your idea of underused actions getting larger and so on giving the player of things to do. If I understand, your game is a sort of space of actions that is expanded for every action being made? Would you call it similar to a sort of branching dialog system (as seen in many adventure games), except that entire game is one big dialog? Will be interesting to try (if I get to try the beta that is Tongue)!
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2010, 04:58:19 pm »

Michael, I really like this comparison to the game being 'us'. I have certainly thought about this subject that way before and you go much further in it than I did. It seems to me to reinforce the thought you have to 'establish a means of dialogue' with the player - so if you do something uncommon, such as a (not)game, you have to 'agree' on this with the player. I am sort-of building an initial model around this dialogue concept. Of course, this dialogue can be, as you suggest, non-verbal; and I argue that apart from hyper-level messages it probably should not be too much literal 'agreements'.

But I am including an extra section in my game I had not planned that tells the player he is not controlling a character, he is performing the subconscious actions of a character. I was thinking for a while this would be obvious to the player whilst or after playing, but why should it be? To go with your metaphor, which sounds as I am sure you are aware (Wink) somewhat sexual to my by now British-trained ears, you can give pleasure, but if the person is not aware of the type of pleasure you are trying to give he may be unaware of your efforts and not reciprocal. But if you tell your playing partner what type of thing you are doing, without letting it rely on the norms of the other person (the player expecting a game-like experience), you can hook in on other types of activity or create concepts of new ones. Hence my 'you are subconscious' message, which is me as a designer saying; this is our common ground, do not ask me for anything outside of this. If you do not like it, I will not force you but then we have nothing to give one-another.

As to my work on symbiosis, this 'common ground' you agree upon would be heavily influenced by the temperance and capabilities of a person - finding that you cannot smile unless the character is happy, or that walking is slower when not happy. This all works theoretically but not unless you agree with the player that there will be no challenge hanky-panky going on where you reward him for walking; then the character being happy becomes a subservient goal.
(But perhaps we are just so used to looking at games like this this becomes our own faulty interpretation? Like only having seen soft sci-fi films and then watching Moon.)

Thomas:
In the game you perform the normally subconscious actions of a character who is waiting for a dinner date to show up. I give the player actions like tapping and looking around, and increase this palette throughout the game. At first I felt there was too little to do, but many test players found the story to be written well enough and the voice acting hooking enough (both are my work so I am happy about that result) to be lulled into doing exactly this; I can see them experimenting with how to eat soup or dunk bread in it.
But this is mostly open-minded gamers or non-gamers, I notice. What people do and expect is very much dependant on their background. The best player I had never played games.

I will certainly release my work on this forum! I think your responses will be very valuable to me, since I will be researching design techniques that I derive from my theory.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2010, 06:07:18 pm »

Yes, I was definitely thinking about sex. Not just because soon we will start working on a prototype for a game for which sex is one of the main inspirations. But also because sex, like games, is about playing and about pleasure. It's more open than a game while still consisting of a continuous feedback loop. I realize that a computer can never be as clever as a real person, but a computer has other qualities that can perhaps compensate (especially in the realm of the fictional: a computer can be anything and do anything).

Games are usually presented as objects, objects with interfaces. So players tend to be very selfish. They basically think they are alone and don't need to do anything for the game. If we can get them to voluntarily do something for the game (instead of for themselves), I think we go very far, together. There's several levels in this: you can give the game pleasure once in a while, and you can make the game happy over time. Maybe the goal of a game is to make it happy. Smiley
(which I guess implies that, at the start, the game is sad and needs something from you... -or maybe it was fine, and you made it sad by starting to play Wink )
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2010, 06:21:39 pm »

All excellent thoughts... I find it very interesting how this is developing into you looking into a relationship between the player and game, with the game as an agent, and I am looking into achieving symbiosis with a character with whom you go through the game, without necessarily personifying the game. It would not be about pleasing the character, rather learning to live with the mentality and physiology of the character, as it were.

I feel like narratively with this I am on the safe side, making your exploration of 'personified' games more exciting.

On the subject of the new game, have you by any chance read Lost Girls by Alan Moore? It was the first substantial work I read that was absolutely 'about sex', even classified as pornography, without giving up being 'far more'. Even if you will just allude to sex it may be interesting to see how open a book can be about the subject without being tacky, vulgar or mystical. I think as taboo subjects go, the greatest dangers for people trying to break them are that they are merely a counter-culture, incapable of being positive about it in its own right; unless they encounter previous artefacts of this nature on which they can build. Perhaps that is even a bit of a danger with notgames themselves.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2010, 06:40:56 pm »

Maybe the goal of a game is to make it happy. Smiley

Very interesting thought.  I think you could take this perspective with current games even.  They want you to treat them as an entity, so they expose their rules as a system to make you more aware.  And then they want you to make them happy by conforming to those rules and goals.
Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2010, 07:17:15 pm »

Michael, Jeroen (and anyone else who thinks similar to them), I don't know what you guys want to achieve my making something interactive but notgame. What I know, though, is what I want to achieve and these are digital interactive stories that do something different than stories tell with any other medium, while in the same time try to offer what any good story would have to offer. Which means that I don't give a shit, absolutely don't give a damn about something a trivial as FUN. Dear player, want to have fun? Go and buy yourself "kill more Germans" game or jump from one platform to another with your exciting Mario. But, if you want to read my interactive stories, interact with them, participate in them and explore my artistic vision, then I want you to laugh, to cry, to feel melancholic, shocked, moved, touched, surprised, etc. I don't want you to feel happy. What am I, a pet? I want you to feel exactly what you would feel in theatre, cinema, reading a book, observing a painting/graphic or listening to music, but in different, new way as all mediums differ one way or another. And that's it. I'm not a clown, I'm not an entertainer, I do not perform on the street. I write stories and begin with the stories because story is always the most important part of experience to me. I believe that problem with interactive medium is that:
1) It can be treated as a vessel for stories. BUT also...
2) Can be treated as a medium to show beautiful artwork or groundbreaking special effects.
3) Interactivity is something unexplored.

First way shares the path with literature and theatre. And most likely with the cinema which, although tries to be more and more pretty in look, is highly acclaimed by unique stories and ways they have been presented (camera work, music, lighting, etc.). Paintings and this part of cinema that looks concentrates on looks seems to share the second path for (not)games.
Third one is a big problem so far.

So now, I can turn every single story that I use for my interactive stories into a play, novel or a script. And if the story isn't compelling enough for my reader/viewer/player, then there is nothing more I want to do. As a creator and author I would be seriously offended to give my reader candies for getting through another chapters of my works. If he/she doesn't appreciate, understand, response to my work because of what it is and what it represents, then OK, alright, doesn't have to. But if she/he response to it, understand it, interpret it, then I want it to be done because of the story and the way I present it with the interactive medium, not thanks to manipulation. Not by a carrot that offends me and my audience. My and their intelligence and emotions. And, what is worse, wastes their time and is obvious waste of my time that I have in my life to do something more. Much more.

That's what I believe in and I speak for myself. If you find it interesting or inspiring (one way or another), then it's fine. If you don't, it's fine as well. We are all different and difference should not be lost in the world of ours that tries to be more and more unified and alike.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #26 on: February 13, 2010, 09:51:18 pm »

On the subject of the new game, have you by any chance read Lost Girls by Alan Moore? It was the first substantial work I read that was absolutely 'about sex', even classified as pornography, without giving up being 'far more'. Even if you will just allude to sex it may be interesting to see how open a book can be about the subject without being tacky, vulgar or mystical.

Our new game will not be about sex at all. Smiley
It will be far too abstract for that. We're just thinking of sex as an inspiration for the structure of the game. The aesthetic inspiration comes form flowers (which are sexual symbols, sure).
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2010, 03:53:12 am »

I like the idea of having a game that, while not being on rails, always keeps the player interested and makes sure she has stuff to do. Like a good play mate would do, to use Michaels analogy! This of course gives rise to interesting and hard problems, such as knowing when a player is stuck and needs a push in the right direction.

This sort of thing *is* possible though. And it doesn't have to be sophisticated or accurate to be effective either. I'm doing something similar in my own game right now, and even though my approach is very simple, it still enhances the experience far beyond how it would be without the dynamic pacing system.

For example, the AI Director in Left 4 Dead:
http://www.valvesoftware.com/publications/2009/ai_systems_of_l4d_mike_booth.pdf

Or even the very rudimentary player-directed system used in flOw:
http://www.jenovachen.com/flowingames/thesis.htm

Some good info in those links, by the way. Worth reading. Wink
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2010, 08:19:19 pm »

Or even the very rudimentary player-directed system used in flOw:
http://www.jenovachen.com/flowingames/thesis.htm

I just read this -for the first time.
I'm especially intrigued by the last paragraph:
Quote from: Jenova Chen
The Flow researches have been mainly focused on the relationship between challenge and ability, which naturally assume the interaction. However, Flow-like experiences also exist in passive media like movie, literature and music.

Games like Sims and Cloud has already proven that there are more interesting aspects in the field of Flow that are beyond challenge and ability. Thus, the soul of video games should also be able to leap far beyond challenges and conflicts.

It makes me think that, perhaps we can replace the words "challenge" and "abilities" (as well as "boredom" and "anxiety") in the typical Flow chart by others that are more appropriate to the particular content that we're dealing with.



Because I just don't want my games to be like tests. It's often not appropriate to challenge the player or to require that they prove their skill. And I don't want to be forced to choose my subject matter just because it needs to work with the Flow model.

So it would be interesting to me if other flow models can be imagined with different terms but that still apply to interactive media.
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Re: Rewarding the notplayer...
« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2010, 09:23:01 pm »

Quote
So it would be interesting to me if other flow models can be imagined with different terms but that still apply to interactive media.
Gonna give stab at this, what about:

Abilities -> World Knowledge
Challenge -> Interaction possibilities
Boredom -> still boredom
Anxiety -> I guess anxiety still works, but perhaps confusion is better?

And for some more flow info, this video is a good start:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXIeFJCqsPs
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