February 3, 2009

BORT Digest

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6 comments:

Corvus said...

Krystian, it was a delight to have you as a part of the BoRT'cast and I look forward to inviting you back at some point once our format and technology issues are all nailed down.

Thanks, too, for posting some follow up thoughts!

Kylie Prymus said...

I'm starting to come (back?) around to the idea that people play games specifically so they don't have to live with the consequences of their choices. Well, in video games anyhow. When I play a pen and paper RPG with a good DM/Storyteller who doesn't have a strict linear campaign structure then I'm very cognizant as a player that my choices matter and I get no do-overs. But that a separate issue.

The problem is that if the player approaches a game as something like literature then what's the point of giving them choice at all? If they want to see what the author's idea is of the consequences for each action then they might as well be reading a book with multiple endings. By including the player in the story they will have some personal investment in it and, ideally, should stop and reflect not only on the authorial intent but also their own role in the outcome.

I agree that most games with multiple endings require far too much work for too little difference/change among endings. If you really want to engage the player with that ending and really reflect on their own role then they have to feel that they are meaningfully affecting the story at every step of the way. But I also resist the idea of letting the player save and reload just before the final choice because, while that may make it easy to get the author's message, it doesn't let the player in on it - they might as well read a book.

Majesty of Color keeps coming up because it is a great example of how this is done in a short form way. All the choices matter and the experience can vary wildly as a result of them. I think the same sort of thing could happen in a longer-form game and, if done well, the player may not mind replaying a 10+ hour game because it will feel very different each time. But I'm not a designer and I'm sure the logistical problems of doing such a thing are horrendous.

Corvus said...

I have to confess that I believe the challenges are only horrendous because we're going about it all wrong. I've written a bit on my blog about solutions I think would work, and I will likely be doing so more in depth over the next year.

dhalgren2882 said...

This is a great post, Krystian, and I enjoyed your comments about this issue on the BoRTcast. I'll second Corvus' recommendation to head over to his blog, because now I actually think I understand a little bit about how he thinks games are dealing with this in the wrong way.

It's interesting that you broke down the impact different endings have on a player quantitatively, because I think that's how a lot of game developer's are trying to improve their games, by giving the players more and more options, but Corvus' ideas seems more qualitative.

Krystian Majewski said...

I think the same sort of thing could happen in a longer-form game and, if done well, the player may not mind replaying a 10+ hour game because it will feel very different each time. But I'm not a designer and I'm sure the logistical problems of doing such a thing are horrendous.

I agree with Corvus on this one. Having a longer game where your choices affect the story every step of the way would be quite challenging in the traditional way. I also think the result would be procedural or somehow emergent. That's why I went overboard suggesting 6.480.000 possible endings. Those simple NES action games had this information density because they created the action procedurally. There were also games with embedded action and ... eh, they didn't work so well.

It's interesting that you broke down the impact different endings have on a player quantitatively, because I think that's how a lot of game developer's are trying to improve their games, by giving the players more and more options, but Corvus' ideas seems more qualitative.

Well, "more" is certainly a paradigm but note the way I broke it down has very different conclusion: shorter games work better with traditional multiple endings.

A qualitative approach is an excellent idea but:

1. Qualitative doesn't mean it isn't measurable. The methods change but you have to actually go ahead and use them - I think rarely anybody understands grasps the implications. If done right it certainly isn't less scientific.

2. Generally, there is a trend towards mixed-methods research, which I also applaud. This - of course, is even more difficult to pull off.

Aandnota said...

Great post, Krystian, thanks. I don't disagree with any of the particulars. I'm just increasingly curious about the tendency to apply literary and cinema theory to video games. They are completely different media. Theatre theory is, perhaps, more appropriately adopted as a starting point in video game discussions. Yet, it seems that most, not all, of us don't use it. Maybe it has something to do with the historical timeline of popular media? (theatre, literature, film, games) I'm not sure. I just keep noticing this trend.