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<  Design concepts  ~  Videogames and movies

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:05 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 30 Mar 2009 Posts: 36 Location: Liverpool
Videgames have a short History, about 40 years, but it experiment a big and fast evolution decade by decade.

In the past, videogames was just videogames, something to play, you know, rules, map, objectives, score, you can win or you can lose. In the 70's and early 80's videogames were pure, just like games, any kind of game. Bun then computers and consoles became more powerful, and it became... a media.

And then some people decide that it will be very exciting if a videogame can be something like a movie. You know, story, characters, dialogs, narrative, drama, cinematographic aesthetics, some kind of realistic logic, and so...

In the past, when you die in game, usually you start from the beginning again and again, that was the way, when save-game was not invented yet. Nowadays many people hate to repeat a level twice, they want to go forward all the time, because they want to see the story, no to beat a challenge.

And I understand why they hate to repeat it, because many times it is more a movie than a game, and you don't want to see scenes from a movie a few times, one is enough.

For me, a old school player, is annoying when a game becomes a movie; if I want to watch a movie, I watch a movie, and if I want to play a game, I play a game. Is that simple.

In my opinion, the story and the cinematographic elements should be always in a second position, and the game-play should be always the main priority. Some developers understand this point. Valve, authors of best-sellers like Half Life and Half Life 2, implement scripts with scenes and dialogs, but IN-GAME, what means that you have the control of your character all the time, you can stop and listen to the guy who is speaking, or you can move around and explore the room meanwhile. That is the right way to put a "movie" into a game. The wrong way is the way that many games uses: Stop the game, cancel your control, start a video. I don't want to watch videos!

This issue is very usual as well in other situations, in example when developers want to call your attention over a door or a button, then they cancel your control for a few seconds and the camera fly or do a traveling , a zoom or something to show you that item, then you recover the control. For me this is stupid, if the door is in the room I will spot it soon or later. I don't need that help.

The last point to criticize is the "too long deep stories". Sometimes a story improves a game, but in my opinion story should be always in a second priority, behind the game-play, specially when the story is not really that good, and most of the times is definitely not. When the story takes too long, when I must read a long text, or a character takes five minutes to tell me something that I don't really care about, something that I don't need to know in order to progress in game, in my opinion that is a waste of time. I am afraid that some game developers think that they a great story tellers, but they are not.

Well, that is just a personal opinion from a old school gamer, and these rules does not apply to some specific kind of games, like adventures or alternatives. Sorry if my text is too long and sorry for my English. I will love to know your opinions.
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Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:40 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 12 Apr 2008 Posts: 176 Location: Finland
I agree with you on a lot of these. Here are my views. : D

Games won't need movie clips. However, sometimes you need to take control away from the player, so that they would follow a NPC and hear the dialog important to the game. For example, in a shooter, you might find the previous room interesting because you noticed something intriguing from the outside, while the NPC starts to lead you somewhere in an open environment, all the while explaining something crucial to you, while you can't hear that dialogue. Later, this information is needed, but you don't know it, because you missed the chance to hear it.
Of course, creators might take this into consideration, and for example halt the actors movements if the PC isn't close enough.

Also, the second point is good.
A good story would spread over the course of multiple areas and levels, so that one NPC doesn't have to exposit everything to you. If there is some information just needed to increase the depth of the game, you can as well incorporate it into the environment.

On the opposite scale is the completetly plotless game.
I am of the Nintendo generation, where games had a plot, even if a very vague one; In super mario bros. you rescue a princess from a turtle-dragon.
Games where there is NO plot (Shooters like the Unreal tournament, sports games, retro-games) tend to bore me and make me question why I play it.
A plotful or non-abstract game doesn't have that problem: I can reason to myself "I play because I want to see how it ends. I play because I enjoyed the story, and want to experience it again. I play so I can get to know this world further."

Also, games adapted from movies also fail to grasp my attention. When I was younger, I played the game-adaptations of Disney's Aladdin, Bug's Life, Hercules, Lion King... Most of them had excellent gameplay and otherwise were executed well, and have left a positive image in my mind. I however can't find the interest to play them anymore, because I can just watch the movie instead. Today this is even worse, since the gamemakers often just ride the famous name, or if the game is good, I wish they had made it an original product instead, because that way it can be praised simply for its own merits instead of having to take the movie in consideration.
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Posted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:22 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Please allow designers to experiment with the narative potential of the interactive medium! It's normal that you like games. Games have been around for millenia! They are much older than movies!

But some people want to try and make something new with a new medium. Please be patient when they take inspiration from older things (games, movies, architecture, theater, painting, etc). These are stepping stones towards something new and potentially amazing.

Not all interactive entertainment needs to be games. And it's not because a medium is interactive that it cannot tell a story.
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Posted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:02 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 30 Mar 2009 Posts: 36 Location: Liverpool
Well, maybe I did not explain properly, or you misunderstand me. I dont say anything against artist who want to "experiment with the narative potential of the interactive medium". I am talking about wrong design, and this is something diferent.

I know that you, Michael, are not a big player, actually you uses to say that you dislikes most of the games you try. But I want to believe that every usual player who read my first message will guess what I am talking about.

I am talking about bad design that make games boring. This people are not experimenting or trying to invent anything new. They are basically misunderstanding the point of the game, and implementing the wrong decisions.

As I said at the end of my original text, my critics are aim to the "conventional games". I can give you some examples to clarify my point, but maybe in another moment, because I am at work now!
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Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:57 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I know what you mean. But I still think we should be patient. And not have too strong ideas about what is the proper use of the medium and what is not. Sometimes beautiful things grow out of mistakes.

"Boring", by the way, is a keyword I look for in game reviews. If one of those journalists finds a game "boring", I get very interested. : Evil or Very Mad
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Posted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:26 am Reply with quote
Joined: 30 Mar 2009 Posts: 36 Location: Liverpool
I like your point of view.

In internet one never knows other people's attitude, sometimes one say something in a informal way, and other people take it as a very serious or extremist message... In my case I am just expressing my personal point of view, you did something similar (or was Auriea?) in your blog talking about Braid and games in general, and in that case I thought that your opinion was quite radical (and not the only time), I mean, when you suggest that games are wrong just because you don't like basic concepts like challenge, competition, hard game-play for veterans, or violence...

Well, everyone have a opinion, I think so.

I like your blog and this forums because you people have very interesting points of view, even if I do not agree with you all the time. But at least you accept that you know what I mean, so maybe I am not wrong at all!
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Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:57 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I don't think games are wrong! Laughing
My only criticism is that games are not the only thing you can make in terms of interactive entertainment. And that we should try to develop new kinds of entertainment with the new potential that this new technology offers. Instead of only making ancient things like games.

It's ok to make games with computers. It's not ok to only make games with them. Or even to assume that games are the ultimate thing you can create with a computer. Not yet. Not when there is so much potential we haven't explored yet.
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