I'm a bit busy now and during this weekend, so I'll use my old trick of doing a repost of a post I wrote for AboutGameDesign.com when the topic was:
Reward and Punishment
To get the really cool power ups in games, I usually have to be quite skilled to get them. If I'm skilled enough to get them, it's likely that I'm skilled enough to beat the game without them. If I'm not skilled enough to get them, it's likely that I'm not skilled enough to beat the game without them.
I want to discuss a common problem I see in games, to which I don't have a great solution; We often make the weak even weaker and the strong even stronger.
Shouldn't we encourage the weak to keep trying and give him some help? But then, if I get rewards for playing badly, why should I try to excel?
If I'm playing a game I'm good at, I feel that it's nothing short of damn right that I get to have the good stuff in the game. I've earned them. While playing Gradius and managing to keep level up my weapons, I'm on top of the world when I'm maxed up. But when I die, I lose my powers and the game gets a lot harder.
Now, in games like those Shoot 'em Ups it might be taken to the extreme, but the effect is most often there in games. If I'm a really good shot, I don't need as many bullets to kill my enemies, resulting in me having more bullets left to spend. If I'm a bad shot, I spend more bullets, making me have fewer left while I would need way more.
It's a natural way of things. Of course we want to create incentive for the player to play as well as he can and try and not to screw up. But some people just can't help themself from screwing up and what are we going to then? We could just say "Well, then you're not the right kind of person for this game." or we could give him a bigger gun and say "Okay, try again.".
I'm both pro and against the use of auto adjustment of the difficulty level. It's a great thing since, assuming it works, all players gets the "right" difficulty, but in a way, increased difficulty can be considered a punishment.
RPG's and other games where you can level up have a way of fixing this: Grinding. If you're beat, then just stay where you are in the game untill you're stronger and then continue. People complain about "grinding" but that's a topic on its own. Either way, it works.
But really, both the difficulty adjustments and the grinding aren't solutions for the problems with rewards and punishment, only whether or not the player can beat the game.
Some games, like Ninja Gaiden Sigma starts helping you out if you die too much (which I did...) where they basically say "Wow, you really suck. Do you want to admit your failure and play on the n00b-difficulty? We'll give you some health potions.", whereas I chose to accept.
So, in a way you get rewarded for not making it, but the reward isn't worth much. But at least it's something positive.
I'm not a fan of punishing the player as long as he's trying to play the game (cheaters, etc. deserve it). I think it's better to "not reward"
As I said, I don't have a great solution, but I think it's important to look at the situation and think long and hard about it. If the game is already hard enough, it shouldn't get even harder if you're a bad player.
Hey, I'm busy playing the MAG Open Beta, so I'll just offer another of my reposts tonight from AboutGameDesign.com from the Topic:
Predictions for 2010
I'm not a fan of Achievements for the 360 or Trophies for the PS3. And let me tell you, 2010 is going to be an annoying year for me...
I'm no expert in predicting the future, but I think 2010 is going to expand on the whole social media-thingy that's so hot nowadays. Right now you can have your PS3 post your new Trophies on Facebook and I recon all the big three and Steam will deliver even more such features. I have no doubt in my mind that soon I'll be bombarded on Facebook, Live Messenger, Twitter, blogs, etc. about each and every little thing that all my friends do, even though I don't really wanna know.
Web-integration into the console is a good thing if you ask me, but I don't want to use it for Facebook. I want to have my save-games online and stuff like that.
Something I also expect to happen, even though I have nothing to show for it except for a "gut feeling" is that all these music games will have it's last year of glory. But hey, I might be waaaay of base here. But I think 2010 is going to be the year when there's just going to be too much, so it finally crumbles.
One can't be sure, but I think we'll see a huge amount of great iPhone games this year too, but they'll be hard to find amongst all the crap that's also released.
And finally, Microsoft's Natal. Will it be all Microsoft says it will? I hope so, but I don't think so. I'm very sceptical as to how well the technology actually works and I haven't had the chance to try it out myself. If it's actually as accurate as claimed, so it can detect movements on my wrists and fingers then it just might be the best thing since Surround-Sound, but if not, I find it hard to be "all that". But I'd love to do "iPhone-manouvers" in the air and navigate on the TV. I don't however, want to swing my arms around simply to browse some pictures.
Oh, and one last thing. 2010 is going to have a GREAT first half with a bunch of GREAT games!
Now, let's see if I'm all wrong on all points.
This is a repost of a post by me from AboutGameDesign.com on the Topic:
Designing Controller Input
It's fantastic how well the N64-controller suited Mario 64 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And the triggers on the 360-controller works really well for shooting in FPS and for stepping on the gas driving games.
It's by no means a coincidence and you can always look at a controller and see how it's meant to be used.
But what if that wasn't the case?
A while back I was at the release party for Dark Nebula for the iPhone and I and its designer (Anders Hejdenberg) started discussing what would happen if you gave the developers a seemingly random controller to work with.
I can't imagine how much research and surveys there's behind each and every controller Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo release on the market. There's a thought behind each button and stick, of course.
"This would be great for this kind of input. These will be great when using both sticks. Let's make this one analogue." etc. etc.
Even with the Wii Remote there's just as much "this is how it's thought to work", especially with the Nun-chuck add-on.
And some games even bring their own hardware along, like the recent Tony Hawk Ride which seems to be an utter failure. We also have my personal favorite, even though I unfortunately haven't played it. Steel Battalion with their huge kick-ass controllers.
Seriously, how can one not want to play around with equipment taking up your entire table?
Anyway, my point is that there's always a plan of how the hardware is to be used. A convention most developers abide by and make games that fit that grand scheme. Most FPS are controlled the same. Most Driving games are controlled the same, and so on.
But as mentioned, what if you gave the developers a seemingly random input device? Imagine a sphere with buttons all over? Or just a lump of clay which the computer can use to determine the pressure and current form. Wouldn't that be awesome? But what would happen? Would we start getting new kinds of games or just new ways of mapping "old" ones?
Personally, I have no idea. But I'd love to see it happen.
The following is a re-post of my post from About Game Design, posted November 1st:
I realize there will be a ton of people disagreeing with me here, but I think people overall are way too touchy when it comes to politics, religion and violence in games.
And I don't think video game makers should have to be more careful than movie makers. If it's okay to have in a movie, it's okay to have it become gameplay.
There IS a big difference between movies and games. Movies are passive, all you do is receiving while games are active and you're performing actions within a magic circle.
However, they're both crafts and products created most often as entertainment creating fiction.
Of course, everyone has to be considerate of our cultural rules and the law, even if they differ around the world. But aside from that, I think it IS okay to have a game where you take the role of a sadist out to torture civilians. It might not be for everyone, and it shouldn't be sold to just anyone, but I don't think the developers would be doing anything wrong by creating that game.
Developers should also be able to express strong religious opinions in games, but if the game isn't of that particular culture's favorite flavor, it would never see the light of day. I'm not saying I'm a big fan of Jihad or whatever, but I wouldn't be upset if there was a game about it in the shelf of the retailer.
As I experience it, it seems movies can get away with more stuff than games. Maybe because it's been around longer or maybe because it's often executed with more skill than games.
I'm not saying I find a lot of pro-Jihad movies on the shelves here either.
Right now there are articles online about how horrible it is that you can kill civilians while trying to infiltrate a terrorist group in Modern Warfare 2. The journalist describe this act as very brutal and awful.
But tell me, why is it more brutal to kill a civilian than a soldier?
Anyway, there would be absolutely no problem with having that scenario in a movie. It could even be called a strong and effective scene. Why should game developers have other social responsibilities?
There's a poll on Aftonbladet.se, a large Swedish news paper where the question is:
- Should video games be able show terrorist deeds against civilians?
66.4% out of 22557 people voted "Yes, of course". Another 12.9% said "Yes, if there's a good reason" while the rest said no.
I'm glad about 80% said Yes and I hope the attitude will spread.
I think game designers have the same social responsibilities as any other person and no stricter "rules" due to the media of gaming. And I think it's about time people loosened up!
This is a re-post of my post over at AboutGameDesign.com and is my response to:
can a good game designer design any type of game?
The topic which I'm to discuss is one that I think most people have an opinion about. Can a good game designer design any type of game?
I've decided that I'll break it down to two different ways of answering that.
Can a good game designer contribute to any type of game? Yes, absolutely!
Can a good game designer unfamiliar with the type of game in focus, design that kind of game by himself? No! Well, yes... But... It depends... A definite "maybe"perhaps?
I'll start by discussing the first answer, as it's not only first but also simpler.
I think a good game designer is a good game designer no matter what. Even if he's only done FPS action-games, he's a valuable member in a design team working on a funny platformer. It's still about making a fun experience for the player, thinking about tweaks, balance, features, pacing, interaction, etc. It's impossible for a designer to be completely useless in one project while being invaluable in another.
Not all designers work or think the same way, nor do we all have the same set of skills. But we all have something to offer, just like even programmers (no offence) might get a good creative idea every now and then.
So therefore, if you're a "good game designer", we can assume that you have a broad skill set but also a good understanding of what makes a game tick, and in one way or another an idea of what "fun" is.
But of course, just as you're probably better at cooking one kind of food than others, it's the same with game design. You might be better at the FPS action-game or not any particular kind of game, but an area like Human Computer Interaction (HCI).
Which brings us to the difficulty of answering the second way of wording the question.
I do think expertise is needed and hence, not anyone can do everything. So if you're gonna develop a game about social interaction and power struggle, it might be wise to get a designer that actually knows that kind of stuff.
But here's the thing; how do the designers with the expertise know what they know? They've learned it! And there's nothing that dictates that no one else can learn that stuff as well. So basically, a good designer lacking that particular expertise could work hard on "getting there". Reading, doing research, etc.
So what it comes down to now are two things:
- The possibility to learn - A lot of the expert designer's skill is probably based on actual experience and not just theoretical practice. Some or all of those experiences might be impossible to replicate and are therefor unique to the expert designer.
- Time - With enough time, the good designer lacking the expertise could probably get there, but time is the one thing that there's never enough of within actual development.
Meaning? In reality the expert designer has knowledge of the particular kind of game, that a good designer doesn't. The good designer is a truly great asset for the team and he can take the game a really long way, creating something great. But for that something special, the extra edge within the type, I do think an expert is needed.
But let me end with this. Every rule has an exception, right? So of course there are designers out there without the expertise that could elevate the type X of games onto a whole new level, but I don't think it's fair to say that that's normally the case.