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<  Design concepts  ~  The presence of goals

Michael
Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:15 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I had an odd feeling of association yesterday when playing Endless Ocean. It reminded me of Grand Theft Auto. Shocked

Contradicting my own insisting on the importance of setting and story in game design, diving around slowly in the blue ocean gave me a similar feeling as driving around at high speed in a stolen car in Liberty City. It isn't the actual minute-to-minute gameplay that is similar (it could hardly be more different) but the overall structure, the openness that generated a certain emotion, a sense of freedom that is very relaxing an amusing.

Now, a thing that GTAIII and Endless Ocean have in common is that they have missions. And that there is absolutely no pressure coming from the game to make you do these missions. But I remember very clearly that I stopped playing Grand Theft Auto when I had done all the missions and got my million Dollar reward. And it's not like I was mission-crazy. Most GTA play sessions for me involved simply driving around a bit, playing with the game systems. I often stopped playing hours later without having made any progress. But as soon as the opportunity for making progress disappeared (when all missions were completed) I somehow stopped playing.

The mere existence of game goals was motivating me to play the game, even if I did not have any intention to actually try and accomplish any of those goals. Just knowing that they were there was enough.
Obviously this makes me doubt our own stance more or less against the necessity of goals. My biggest problem with rules- or goal-based structures in game design is that they happen on an abstract level that moves your mind away from the narrative and immersion. But if the goals you can accomplish are so trivial and, above all perhaps, if there is no pressure to accomplish them, then I don't see how their presence could be very distracting. If their existence helps to motivate people to play, we should probably find a place for them in our design philosophy.

Not that I think games should be demanding or addictive. Even though I would love to experience Grand Theft Auto again and I'm kind of sad that I can't find the motivation to do so, I don't think it is bad that I stopped playing the game at a certain point. A film ends, a book ends, a song ends. A game can end too. Since games are often non-linear and interactive, we get this idea that they could go on forever. But they really don't need to. I's ok to stop playing a game that you like.
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E.B
Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:28 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Dec 2007 Posts: 49
Maybe that's why you're not compelled to play Electroplankton.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:23 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
So you're saying it's just me? Wink
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E.B
Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:38 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Dec 2007 Posts: 49
Probably a lot of people, I suspect.
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axcho
Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 4:06 am Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Jun 2007 Posts: 66
That's a very interesting point, about having missions compels you to play an open-ended game even if you don't intend to actually complete them. I can see how that might work. I'll keep it in mind for any open-ended games I might design in the future. Smile

What sort of missions are there in Endless Ocean? I've never seen that game.
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Anomalocaris
Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:43 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Jul 2007 Posts: 50 Location: the Cambrian ocean
Perhaps the fact that there are goals/missions 'out there' adds to the believability of the virtual world. They suggest that there are people or things out there doing stuff which you may interact with at will, even if you decide not to. Once all missions are done, this aspect disappears.

Imagine you're hiking in the wild in the real world. It's pretty cool. But now suppose you'd be there knowing that there is nothing for you to accomplish otherwise and no-one who cares. That'd be pretty depressing! For most people. No matter how fun exploring the hills is.

I imagine there's some future in the 'procedural' generation of goals in games. This is awfully complicated stuff though; right now things are probably still mostly at the "need to go to A in the morning, to B in the evening" stage. I wonder how it works in the Animal Crossing series but I don't have a chance to try it.

And in multi-user games the other players provide a lot of that comfy goal-oriented backdrop. Like when you see another deer scooting past in the distance in the Endless Forest. You may not do anything about it, but unconsciously you'll know it's up to something which makes the forest alive. Or you can run after it and get a goal yourself.
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the_architect
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 6:15 am Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Feb 2008 Posts: 4 Location: Coimbra, Portugal
Hello,

after reading this thread so far i'd like to leave two questions:

1. is it the goals that give you comfort while playing? or is it the melancoly of the acknowledgement that you finished them that leads a player to stop playing it? if the game never had goals to start with, would you miss them?

and

2. (this one implies online gaming) should games have NPCs? Or should the goals, when existent, be given by other active gamers' characters? Couldn't we in this way both eliminate the goals and permit the goals? There would be no programed goals, but players could ask one another to do this or that like in a true community.

What you guys think?
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Michael
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:26 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Anomalocaris wrote:
Perhaps the fact that there are goals/missions 'out there' adds to the believability of the virtual world. They suggest that there are people or things out there doing stuff which you may interact with at will, even if you decide not to. Once all missions are done, this aspect disappears.

That's an interesting point!
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Michael
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:30 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
the_architect wrote:
1. is it the goals that give you comfort while playing? or is it the melancoly of the acknowledgement that you finished them that leads a player to stop playing it? if the game never had goals to start with, would you miss them?

I'm pretty certain that I would not have spent as much time in the game if it were not for the goals. That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing! The amount of time you spend on something does not necessarily reflect its quality.

the_architect wrote:
2. (this one implies online gaming) should games have NPCs? Or should the goals, when existent, be given by other active gamers' characters? Couldn't we in this way both eliminate the goals and permit the goals? There would be no programed goals, but players could ask one another to do this or that like in a true community.

I like the idea of multiplayer games in which players play different roles in the story. Most multiplayer games cast players in the same role though ("hero") with only minor differences between players. I guess the NPCs serve the purpose of playing the roles that real players don't want to play.
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the_architect
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 4:37 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Feb 2008 Posts: 4 Location: Coimbra, Portugal
Exactly Michael, i too think they have the NPCs for that (sadly). But are you sure players wouldn't wanna play other roles besides the hero?
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Anomalocaris
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:05 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Jul 2007 Posts: 50 Location: the Cambrian ocean
On the subject of multiplayer player roles: even if people take on less typical roles, I think they like to break out of their limited role (slave, stablehand, whatever) if only to keep things exciting for themselves. Every slave turns into a Spartacus, in actions, thoughts and/or feelings. If you want a dependable, dull slave in your game, that's perhaps best played by AI...?

But I like the "different roles in the story" idea. Like playing out Little Red Riding Hood with, what, 4 players, but where things depend on the interactions.

Back on goals in otherwise freeform games: perhaps another aspect is that a player with an exploratory nature will have seen much of what the world has to offer by the time all missions are finished, since she will have taken a lot of detours. And so without novelty in the game world nor any more 'stories' which the missions implied, it gets empty.
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the_architect
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:18 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Feb 2008 Posts: 4 Location: Coimbra, Portugal
but that is it... i do want the slave to stop being one if he so wishes... and so the slave owner would either have to do nothing and be with one less slave, buy another slave to replace it, track the slave and reimprison him or whatever other action (or non-action) you can think of.

I agree with your seen all, done all theory, so perhaps the trick might be in two aspects.

An everchanging realm, that would be always modified fisically by interactions, lost of whole forests by fire/chop down, constructions of new cities with walls (or not, now that i think of it) and that it could also be endless like your forest (i have to admit i haven't played or read much about it yet, so i don't know exactly what is it about).

And that also aplied to the character himself, with possibility of new skills, powers, levels.

Imagine a game like spore for instance where you start like a microscopic unicelular... hum... well, cell (lol) surrounded bt millions of other players' cells and you can go all the way to become an all powerful god in a pantheon with other gods that rule over several planets that you as god create and influence and that contain more cells that will become future gods that will create their own planets to rule... lol... i got crazy somewhere in the middle of that, but it seems like a nice design.
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axcho
Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:37 am Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Jun 2007 Posts: 66
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince, page 93:
"I was astonished by a sudden understanding of that mysterious radiation of the sands. When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and legend told us that a treasure was buried there. To be sure, no one had ever known how to find it; perhaps no one had ever even looked for it. But it cast an enchantment over that house. My home was hiding a secret in the depths of its heart . . ."

The last time I had read this book I was very young, and did not understand what was supposed to be so interesting about it. But tonight I have just read it again, on account of this, and I find it very compelling and very inspiring.

Have you read this book? Do you like it? I imagine that it could easily be a game, possibly be something just as or even more compelling if adapted to interactive form.
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Vrav
Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 9:26 am Reply with quote
Joined: 25 Oct 2007 Posts: 168 Location: Oregon
That's a great idea, Axcho. Need more metaphors in games. Not read it since I was a little boy either; should go reread. Smile
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Wildbluesun
Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:57 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 12 Dec 2006 Posts: 4266 Location: London, Land of Tea and Top Hats
The Little Prince...

That would be a marvellous game, if done properly.
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