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31  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Are most gamedevelopers hardcore gamers? on: April 14, 2010, 03:40:38 AM
Game developers, and gamers alike, have no imagination. And they are very protective of the thing they love so dearly. All nerds are. It's best to ignore them.
. . .You really shouldn't be so willing to adopt this kind of view.
32  General / Check this out! / Re: Anyone preordered Sleep is Death? on: April 14, 2010, 03:32:28 AM
I'd love to get it, but I really can't say whether that'll be happening sooner (i.e. in the next week or so) or later. When/if I do get it, I'll be sure to check in here again.
33  General / Check this out! / Re: Interview with David Cage on: April 13, 2010, 03:42:40 AM
Let me just get out my mental highlighter here. . .
Sometimes you just stop playing and say, "Why am I doing this, by the way?" Yeah, it's fun, but, when I turn off my console, that's it. There is nothing left in me when I stop playing.
That's a nice way to gauge whether something is an enriching experience, I like it.

In Fahrenheit, you had to look at the 3D world, what you want to interact with: look up and say, "Okay, it's this movement", make the move and look down for the result. Basically, it's really unfocusing. What we wanted to achieve is the fact that you look at something, and you know at the same time you want to interact with this. This is how I'm supposed to do it, and here I can see the result. So your attention is focused only on the object, and you got all of the information at the same time.
Interesting! I wonder if these concepts work out differently for a first-person game?

Really, you didn't pay attention, and it was a way to reinforce guilt for the player as the father. This is just role-play, and this is something I used a lot: not every single action in Heavy Rain has huge consequences. Sometimes it's just about the role-play, putting you in the shoes of these characters; making you feel bad or making you feel guilty or whatever. I really like this kind of stuff.
I am completely on the same page as this man. Unusual for an opinionated guy like me.  Tongue
And the feedback we got about this scene was just amazing because, with some people -- I remember a journalist who was raised by his father because his parents divorced, and he was like Shaun, moving to different houses with crates that were never opened because they were moving out. He felt so depressed about this scene because it truly resonated with his own personal experience. When you can do that, as a game creator, this is the absolute holy grail -- that's what you're looking for
In Heavy Rain, you make choices, and these choices could be to kiss someone or not to kiss someone; it could be to help someone or not to help someone. It could be just to make a decision affecting your psychology or how you feel about your character. I think that was the most important thing.
Damn it, I *really* need to play this game. Guess I need to make some friends that aren't as poor as I am.
34  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Are most gamedevelopers hardcore gamers? on: April 12, 2010, 10:24:53 PM
I think that most game developers love games, so they've played alot of games, so they've gotten good at playing games, so they're considered hardcore gamers. *shrug*

That's just a response to the thread title, though. I'll do a thorough reading of those posts and their comparative responses when I have time, hopefully later today.
35  Creation / Reference / Re: We The Giants on: April 12, 2010, 08:02:58 AM

This is a perfect example of how a game/interactive experience/what have you can be used to make a point much more effectively than another medium might.

That moment, proceeding on after the "tutorial" with my mind reeling at the notion that I would play that role for someone else-

And then seeing precisely how-

And then making my way up the hundreds who had come before-

And then discovering I couldn't make it up because the staircase was blocked, someone had deliberately set themselves up along the way, which is just a great point in and of itself-

Oh, I just realized! *That's* why the sections of the staircase were two wide- all the ones below and above had observed the same situation, and acted in the same manner as I!

As you can see, my mind's still reeling. This thing would not have been able to affect me this deeply if I'd simply watched it play out as a passive audience.
36  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Story + Game = ? on: April 12, 2010, 07:11:18 AM
I think there is an inherit conflict between the game part and the story, and that in order to make the player become part of the story, one has to lessen the gaminess.
I vehemently disagree- primarily with the conclusion you've drawn. The situation I see is that there's an inherent potential for conflict between game and story, as well as an inherent potential for synergy. Avoiding the former and creating the latter is a matter of execution- designing the experience so that neither aspect "pulls you out" of the other. It takes work, to be sure, but I'm convinced that it can be worthwhile- look at "Another World".

Is your goal to tell the best possible story, or to blend story and game in the best possible way? Because I think the two are quite different problems.
I want to have my cake and eat it too, mostly. Tongue

To give a real answer: I want the experiences I design to be meaningful, enriching, to have as much of an impact on the target as I can give them- where "impact" is the depth of someone's response multiplied by the strength of their response. And from where I stand it's looking like experiences which include both game and narrative elements (in a cohesive fashion) could prove a highly effective method towards that end.
37  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Story + Game = ? on: April 10, 2010, 07:22:18 AM
Hah! Rereading some of the older threads, I come upon Michael talking about this exact same thing. Whoops.
Indeed, that's what I was thinking too. That it was just good storytelling. Because books can achieve the same effect. You enjoy "following" a character probably more when their behaviour "makes sense".

Yet in the game, it really felt like I had done something. It would not have felt the same at all if I hadn't pressed that button to make it happen. I was feeling good about myself. I didn't just empathise with the character or approve of his actions. It was me because I pressed the button.
And that's what frama is.
38  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Player death and the suspension of disbelief on: April 10, 2010, 07:19:02 AM
I don't think we're even talking about death.

I think we're talking about 'groundhog day' loss conditions where the player goes back and tries again until they "get it right"- creating an experience where the outcome was fated all along.

The best exception I can name is Mount and Blade. That game doesn't even let you reload, unless you wuss out and enable that option at the start of a character's game. You spend hours building up your army (for whatever purpose you might intend, from bandit raids to mercenary work to leading a revolution that'll restore a rightful leader to the throne of a nation), losing good men every time a battle goes poorly for you. Mess up too badly and your force could be crushed- you'll likely be taken captive and hauled about for weeks until you escape or someone decides to pay your ransom. You'll find yourself starting over from scratch, albeit with some better skills than the last time and a handful old friends who'll quickly rejoin you if you meet again.

It can make the game absolutely riveting at times.
39  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Story + Game = ? on: April 10, 2010, 07:03:40 AM
Why does the protagonist's goals needs to be so separate from the player's?
In your "shooting wolves" examples, does the player and protagonist not strive to achieve the same goal? Is it not better to let the player be part of the drama and not just an outside observer trying to achieve her own goals?

It seems to me that by separating story and game from the start, you are sort of creating the problem you are trying to solve? Perhaps I misunderstood something?
I'm just talking about the way things are- players are a finicky bunch, it's not easy to inspire a specific reaction. My "shoot arrows to protect loved one" scenario only works if I've managed to actually make the player care about the character who's in danger.

In other words, I don't see this as a problem to be solved but a skill to be developed. It takes one kind of craftsmanship to make a compelling story, and another to make an engaging game. It takes a third kind to align those two elements up against the border between fiction and metagame, so that they form two halves of a whole.
40  Creation / Notgames design / Story + Game = ? on: April 09, 2010, 09:42:39 AM
I've been clarifying my own thoughts on this matter as of late, and it seemed like the appropriate time to bring this matter up for discussion.

The long of it can be read here, but the short of it is this: Let's define "story" as the fictional character's struggle to achieve their goals, which creates drama, and "game" as the real-life player's struggle to achieve their goals, which creates fun. When the parallels between those two sets of struggles and goals are strong enough, they begin to merge in the player's mind. This chemistry between the two ingredients generates something I might well have to invent a buzzword for- a gestalt between drama and fun that's more than the sum of its parts. Tell you what- I'll call it 'frama' for the purpose of this discussion.

For example, a game where I win by shooting arrows accurately enough to kill several wolves in quick succession is fun. A story where the protagonist must try to kill several wolves with arrows before they can reach his loved one is dramatic. And if I'm immersed in both my role and the challenge- so that the thought going through my mind isn't "I must shoot these wolves to beat this level," but "I must shoot these wolves to save this person"- then my experience is framatic. It resonates with us because we're living the story, rather than just following along with it.

Frama can only occur when an experience is both a story and a game. But then, the definition of "game" I've used here is alot broader than the one this community/initiative favors. So here's my first and foremost question: Can my concept of frama be pursued by something that falls within your concepts of a notgame? If so, I'd love to explore and discuss the potential that exists there. If not, I can keep my thoughts on this topic out of the community's discussion. What say you?

(My second question is whether anyone has a better idea for a name/phrase than "frama". Please say yes.)
41  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Engagement in notgames on: April 03, 2010, 05:43:18 PM
Just seemed like it might be a good way to identify some alternative priorities other than engagement, which'd be useful for the discussion.
42  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Some thoughts on story telling on: April 03, 2010, 01:31:08 PM
I'm not sure it *can* be applied generally (though I don't want to discourage you from trying to figure it out). The question is how a given 'scene' in a story can have some dramatically significant in-game variable- creating different narratives depending on how it plays out- which is then controlled by the player. I suppose your answer to that question can be one that works for all the other scenes in a game, but beyond that my suggestion's to approach this on a case-by-case basis.

Last time I discussed this, I asked the game dev students I was chatting with to just give me a random example of a scene where the player couldn't do anything. One of them offered the start of one of the games in the Dungeon Siege series, where the player's first 60 seconds are spent in a prison cell/cage (I forget which) while someone walks up and talk to you through the bars. One way to introduce a variable there would be to let the player press a button to slam on or rattle the bars at any time while the NPC's speaking to them. The in-game narrative variable this creates is how their character reacts to their confinement and the things the NPC says to them- they can take things in stride but then react violently to one of his statements in particular. You could expand on this by having the NPC pause his speech and shake his head the first time the player rattles the bars once he's started speaking, then look away the second time- the behavior of the player's character leads him to demonstrate his own character. (Another Robert McKee lesson here- someone's habits, demeanor, vocal quirks, those are all characteristics. Character is what someone does, when faced with a given situation.)
43  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Engagement in notgames on: April 03, 2010, 11:02:03 AM
Interesting point, Michael-getting someone to pay attention's not the same as getting them to think. In fact, I suppose even pieces that are deeply moving and inspiring don't necessarily push someone to reflect and contemplate- look at propaganda and political rallies. Plato's ideal utopian republic would have treated storytellers as serious threats to society- the man understood what a powerful tool narratives could be for those trying to persuade people to believe in a falsehood.

So what's the quality that those films do have, to make them your favorites? I'd love to hear some specific examples of what makes them great, things they do that we ought to take notes on.
44  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Engagement in notgames on: April 01, 2010, 08:48:11 AM
Hard fun and easy fun would definitely match challenge and curiosity. I hesitate to use the word mystery, because the player's drive is rarely abated by knowing approximately what will happen- the important thing is to have gotten the full experience (not counting any remaining elements of that experience which don't feel like they'll be worthwhile).

Altered states strike me as a confused catch-all that covers the ways numerous other factors affect us on an emotional level (the biggest one is being immersed in the game's narrative, which roughly same as emphasizing & identifying with the protagonist of a story). This isn't to say I disagree with the idea of games as therapy; experiencing emotions can be therapeutic in the same way that eating food can be nutritious, regardless of how those emotions were triggered.

Other things that would motivate and engage players? There's external rewards (which are just a kind of challenge that takes longer to overcome), escapism (which I believe exists, but have yet to noticed in my experiences), social elements (as identified in that essay, and brutally leveraged by facebook games) and various psychological tricks like loss aversion. Personalization is also effective. Any high-quality elements of the production (The writing, music, imagery, choreography...) can have the same lasting appeal that similar works have on their own. The player will be more inclined to immerse themselves in that element (so as to better savor it), and by extension become more immersed in the game as a whole (at least to whatever degree said element ties into that whole).
45  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Some thoughts on story telling on: April 01, 2010, 07:55:04 AM
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 story, the protagonist is trying to overcome challenges in order to pursue their goal.
During a good game, the player is trying to overcome interesting challenges.
I suspect there may be some potential synergies here.  Tongue

All right, let me shift from theory to the pragmatic end of the spectrum and address Thomas' original question. 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:
-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 are striking; they can singlehandedly make a story much more 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 make a call 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?
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