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<  Design concepts  ~  Is interaction all that important?

rinku
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:10 am Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
It's true that game mechanics often require some type of goal. But that goal doesn't have to represent victory in a conflict, it could simply mean completion or accomplishment or resolution.

Novels have beginnings and ends, but not all novels are simplistic enough to be primarily about beginnings and ends.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:25 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
The best novels, in my opinion, however, end with no resolution or accomplishment. There's a difference between ending and ending in victory or defeat. There's so many more ways in which something can end. Ways that are almost all more interesting.

And one more thing, a personal one. I just realized that I've been good at many games! I've played a solid hour of Super Mario Galaxy this afternoon with hardly ever dying. Zelda Twilight Princess the day before with zero deaths. Hell, I completed Half Life 2. Not to mention Doom 2. And Silent Hill 2 and Ico too (though I needed help with the battles). But never, ever, in my gaming experience have I felt anything that can even come close to what I feel when listening to Harnoncourt's interpretation of Bach's "Mass in B Minor" or reading Marguerite Duras' "L'Amant". Can you explain this? I swear I was good at those games, enjoyed playing them, even consider some of them the best games ever made. But the experience is just not the same. Not by far.
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rinku
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:37 am Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
Yes, and reaching a goal can be equivalent to just an end, without victory or defeat. Have you played The Passage for example?

And I think it's because those games that you played aren't very artistic in comparison, in their game mechanics parts especially. I suggest trying games where the artistry is primarily in the game mechanics, like The Passage mentioned above. I don't mean that Ico isn't artistic, but its artistry is not in its game mechanics.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:06 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
The Passage is cute but simplistic.
Especially the things it expresses through gameplay mechanics are childish and empty. And like in The Marriage this is more the result of interpretation after the fact than of conscious artistic decision making, anyway.
I did appreciate The Passage a lot more because it wasn't so obsessive about being a game. But I think we can do better. And the further we move away from game structures the more chance we have at doing that.

Why do you cling to gameplay so much when there is such a gigantic wealth of other interaction available?
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rinku
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:31 am Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I agree that we can do better, computer games are still pretty young. I don't think The Passage was unconscious of what it was doing however. But you'd have to ask its author. From what he's said on forums though, I don't think it was accidental, although I agree that he relied too much on external cues to explain what the game meant.

Most art is childish and empty in the sense that The Passage is, I don't think childishness is something to hold against something. Everything seems childish to someone more mature. At the least, I think The Passage was more artistic than many Hollywood B-movies, which you said earlier surpass every game in existence artistically.

I wouldn't say I cling to gameplay, just that I think game mechanics can be used artistically. I don't even think they should always be used, or that they're the best way to do it, just that they can do it.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:09 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
The thing is, it's not necessary to make art with games, you know. Games are fine. They don't need to be art or become an art form. Many people enjoy them. Many people make them. There's no need to demand artistic value to justify their existence. And the last thing I want to see is more "art" made by engineers. I'm sorry, but most game designers just don't tend to have much to say, artistically. The world is much better of if they continue making empty games.

But if people do have something to say, I would like it if they try to use interactive technologies to do so. The technology is still too primitive and the tools to clumsy to see much of that. I hope that changes soon.

A lot of art has already been made with computers. A lot of it is interactive or generative. But almost none of it is game-like. Making games is definitely not the first thing that springs to the mind of an artist when working with new technology.

And frankly, I personally don't even want to make that kind of (museum/festival) art -even if our (game-like) work has been shown in many new media festivals and museums. I'm much more interested in creating an intelligent form of entertainment that appeals to an audience I would like to communicate with. I don't think that audience has a lot of interest in running and jumping and shooting. But I do think they can appreciate other types of immersive interactive entertainment.

It's just sad that not many designers seem to be interested in expanding the medium. They keep thinking that the people who don't play games are wrong and that one day they will be persuaded. I prefer to take a step towards those people instead.
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E.B
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:35 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Dec 2007 Posts: 49
Quote:
It's just sad that not many designers seem to be interested in expanding the medium.


Many are. But they don't know how. They base their games on previous games, only, resulting in a sort of inbreeding.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 10:06 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Hm, yes. That would explain some things.

I don't think these designers are serious about expanding the medium, though. At least within indie games circles, many developers seem perfectly content, some even very pleased with the production. They love games, especially indie games. So why would anything need to change?

No. I still think real change will come from the outside. From people who don't care about Monkey Island or Super Mario Bros. From people with completely different values and interests, who can look at this technology in a more objective and open way and see its potential.

This is why I find it so important that computers get much much faster and authoring tools much much more accessible. Now you almost have to be a fanatic to work with this stuff. And if you weren't already a complete geek when you started developing games, you probably turn into one just by learning how to use the tools and working around the numerous shortcomings of the technology.
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E.B
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 10:42 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Dec 2007 Posts: 49
Quote:

I don't think these designers are serious about expanding the medium, though. At least within indie games circles, many developers seem perfectly content, some even very pleased with the production. They love games, especially indie games. So why would anything need to change?

Well, I don't. I strongly dislike most games. I'm in games because I see the potential, I think.

Quote:

This is why I find it so important that computers get much much faster and authoring tools much much more accessible. Now you almost have to be a fanatic to work with this stuff. And if you weren't already a complete geek when you started developing games, you probably turn into one just by learning how to use the tools and working around the numerous shortcomings of the technology.

Which is exactly why I refuse to touch the technology Wink
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rinku
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:20 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
Certainly, I agree it's not necessary to make art with games and that games have a value of their own.

I might be less 'categorical' than you about art, at least in this sense: I think art is universal to humankind, that even the drawings of a child or or a sand castle they build are art. I think it's a primary human function, and despite it requiring initiation a lot of the time to appreciate, in its basic form it's as natural to most people as breathing and speaking.

I also don't think there are different classes of people, some of which can appreciate and make art and some of which who can't (artists and engineers etc.). There are people who are more experienced in art and care about it more than others, but I don't necessarily think that the only worthwhile art is the art created by and for such people.

And a lot of art is just as exclusive as the games that are designed by and for those familiar with Super Mario Bros. and Monkey Island -- John Cage for instance, or modernism in general, who believe that normal people who don't like the art they do will one day get it if they were persuaded. I know you don't much like that type of art either, but I think there's a strong analogy between the two groups.

I agree very much about the need for the tools to be made easier to use, though. I'd prefer much more user-friendly computers, even ones that could interpret natural language, so that a game could be created by giving a computer simple instructions like "I want a rose garden outside of the house, and a rusted swing set, and an alley cat, and it's a rainy morning." Instead of having to model each, program their behaviors, and all that; what would be the work of a few days could be done in a few minutes with better tools.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 7:41 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
rinku wrote:
And a lot of art is just as exclusive as the games that are designed by and for those familiar with Super Mario Bros. and Monkey Island -- John Cage for instance, or modernism in general, who believe that normal people who don't like the art they do will one day get it if they were persuaded. I know you don't much like that type of art either, but I think there's a strong analogy between the two groups.


I agree. And I think we are fighting both with our work.
The reasoning behind this is that we want to make something for people. And neither most game designers nor most modernist artists care much about that. Both seem to think that making a step towards the audience somehow hurts the quality of their work.

It's quite funny to be in a position like this, though, because I don't think that Auriea and I can make work that will reach a large audience either. Just a different one, I guess.
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rinku
Posted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 9:35 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I don't necessarily begrudge people for going after a niche audience, if someone wants to make something like that; there are enough people in the world that appealing to 0.001% of people is enough to be a strong market. But I agree that they shouldn't claim that it makes something better if fewer people can understand it. I don't think it makes something worse either though, just less universal.

An example is the how people tend to look down on casual games. I don't mind hardcore games, I can enjoy them usually, but I find it weird that a lot of the people who like them think that casual games are somehow worse because they appeal to more people and are less complex. Simpler doesn't mean worse to me, Aesop's fables aren't as complex as the Iliad and the Odyssey, the fables are shorter and much more capable of being understood quickly by anyone even today, whereas the epic poems take time to get into and a few readings to really like (especially now when a lot of what they deal with requires background knowledge), but I think both are great achievements.

But I don't think casual games are for everyone either, they do get boring after awhile and tend to be mainly used as time-wasters at work, but their accessibility and simplicity isn't why I don't like most of them, it's that they don't often leave the player with anything of value after the player's done with them. Most hardcore games don't either of course, but at least they're usually more immersive.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:54 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Hardcore gamers look down on casual games because hardcore gamers look down on everything that is not equal to themselves. That extreme rightwing attitude is supported by the themes of the games that they play which are almost invariably about the strong beating the weak, about heroes defeating evil, about aggression, antagonism and hatred. The reason why they hate casual games is because they are played by women, homosexuals and negroes.

At least that's what I have learned from criticism on The Endless Forest coming from the hardcore.

Anyway, I don't think they are so different. They're both games... I too have a preference for the hardcore type because of the immersion they sometimes offer. But in terms of gameplay they are twins. And because of that, both bore me. I mean: is there really such a big difference between Pop The Bubbles and Shoot The Monsters? It's the exact same game mechanic. And the exact same game structure. If I want to play a game, I'll take a chess board or a deck of cards. I don't need a computer for that.
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MoriartyL
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:10 am Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Nov 2005 Posts: 69 Location: Israel
Michael wrote:
Ditto The Sims, which is an ultra-sad game about consumerism, selfishness and greed in my interpretation. But this is far from Will Wright's position.
You're wrong.
Will Wright wrote:
On the surface The Sims is meant to be a kind of parody of consumerism. Every object you buy in the game has a potential failure state. It can get dirty or break or need to be taken out with the trash or whatever. All the objects are saying, 'Buy me! Buy me! I'll make you happy. I'll save you time.'

But if you play the game in that way and build a big mansion full of all these cool plasma TVs and hot tubs and stuff, you'll find at some point that something's always going wrong, and the Sims are running round having to deal with maintaining the objects. The game is tooled so that they promise to save you time but beyond some point they actually become a huge time sink.
(link)
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MoriartyL
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:27 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Nov 2005 Posts: 69 Location: Israel
If you're going to make a game which goes beyond the current games, which focuses on emotions rather than specific rules, then it doesn't much matter what your rules are, just so long as you can use them to create emotions. Unless it's a totally passive experience (which I'm fine with, by the way, but that's not the most popular thing in the world), you're going to need things for the player to do. Why not the game mechanics which are tried-and-true and fun in their own right?

What really matters is what you do with it. If you just put an enemy in front of a player, you haven't accomplished anything. But if you put an enemy that is unbeatable, you've brought out frustration. If you put an enemy that is really easy, you've brought out arrogance. If you put a lot of enemies that are really easy, followed by an enemy that is only beatable after an hours-long quest, you've brought out humility. These are emotions an artist can work with.

Now, if you can do so many things just with simple fighting (provided you're thinking on that level), imagine how much more you can do with lots of different game mechanics, placed to bring out different emotions at different times. Each rule in a specific context evokes a certain emotion in the player. A game designer can create any sort of context he wishes for, and call upon any of the many game mechanics that have worked in the past, which are fun on their own. That seems like quite enough material to work with that a sufficiently good game designer (though I'm not certain there is such a person) will be able to make a masterpiece out of it. So why are you so convinced that new kinds of interaction are necessary?
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