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Problems With Points

Problems With Points
« on: November 23, 2011, 11:12:46 pm »

Long time lurker here deciding to take a more active role in the conversation suddenly.

Earlier this year a non-gamer friend found herself changing an old video project into an online game of sorts. In her research for this she sent an email which read:

Quote
"Honestly,
My head swims reading about points, restrictions, etc, specializations, spending points,
'health'.  all sorts of garbage.  What a waste of time!  Please explain to me what is so
interesting about playing games and keeping track of points?  I'd never be able to keep
track, boring!
 
Pleasepleaseplease explain."

And here is what I responded with:

Quote
"Points in games are an antiquated remnant of an age when video games were monoliths that sat in pizza parlors. Clusters of friends would pile in on Friday nights to devour mountains of greasy pepperoni, play some Galaga and tag their high score with initials as a way to challenge future players. Years later, while back in their home town for high school reunions they would end up back there, astonished by the fact that their initials were still sitting in the top 10, never knocked off the charts by some unknown assailant.

Pinball for example is known in many Spanish speaking countries as "Millions Machine" because the scoring systems are different on nearly all machines, with ludicrously high scores possible to the point where it looses all meaning. Tournament pinball ignores the actual on-machine score and instead uses number of balls used, special bits unlocked and length of gameplay to judge who's the better player.

Or put in a shorter way, points are an evolutionary byproduct thats lost its purpose

Unless of course we're talking about a Role-playing system, then points are a way to simulate real world consumables, like food, water, stamina, strength, and as enemies/obstacles are encountered your chances of overcoming it are a game of your numbers versus the obstacles. Usually a dice is rolled to randomize the outcome a bit, adding to the player's "stats" to help them out. For example, if I were to create a character meant to be a bank robber and he came up against a Vault Lock which had a higher difficulty than his lockpicking skills, he wouldn't be able to get around it, unless the dice roll boosted his skill level higher than the lock's. In this case points are there to add a level of realism, through abstraction, because in real life we all encounter obstacles that are beyond our CURRENT skill level, but with time we can overcome them.

So the only place points are useful in modern gaming are as a way to keep track of simulated values. Using them as a communal competition board is pretty much worthless these days, except in the occasional online/social game. In general though I avoid those because I'm an antisocial gamer, raised in a time when gaming was frowned upon and thought of as a nerdy hobby done privately, in shame.

I guess what I'm getting at is if you see typical gaming elements that don't make sense to you don't use them. Come up with something that fits your style and understanding of the world. If all else fails, steal elements from board or card games you've played, because other people will recognize the mechanic instinctively and not have to apply additional brain power to figuring out something new."

What do you think about points?
« Last Edit: November 23, 2011, 11:21:26 pm by etchevalier »
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Re: Problems With Points
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2011, 11:56:19 pm »

Your friend sounds very wise.

I think points are – if you'll forgive the pun – pointless. In most games they serve no real purpose. Either the experience is worth having without points, in which case the points aren't needed. Or the only way to make the experience engaging is to add points, in which case the game isn't needed. I get tricked into playing games just to collect points from time to time – I think everybody does. All it ever does is leave me with the stale taste of wasted time in my mouth.
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Re: Problems With Points
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2011, 01:12:46 am »

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Re: Problems With Points
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2011, 01:22:51 pm »

I am currently working on a notgame, where you can get 1 single point in total. Also, you can never reach that 1 point. You would need to spend an infinite amount of time, to get that 1 point.

I think I am done with making games with points... they devalue the art. Imagine going to a museum and getting points for looking at and thinking about paintings. It would devalue the paintings.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2011, 04:56:15 pm by György Dudas »
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Re: Problems With Points
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2011, 06:34:34 pm »

As etchevalier (hello and welcome!) said they aren't useful EXCEPT when creating a simulation of any complexity. At least to most of the people working on stuff on this board. All physics and science use mathematical models to represent the real world. Role-playing games use models that are orders of magnitude less complex, it's sort of Newtonian physics Vs. string theory but they are still necessary. While Newtonian math isn't as accurate, it is useful. Speaking of which, I imagine something like Havok isn't running anything close to even a true Newtonian model but it has to be somewhat realistic to be acceptable. All computer games are crunching numbers in the background. It all comes down to which numbers you are important to your (not)game.
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Irony is for cowards.
Re: Problems With Points
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2011, 10:17:02 am »

I disagree that points are useful for simulating complexity. Quite the contrary, points invariable simplify reality. In fact, I think that's why they are useful in game-games. Because such simplistic structures ("defeat obstacles and win") are not served by the ambiguity and complexity that is otherwise so enjoyable in other art forms.
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