Author Topic: Games without monotony  (Read 15733 times)

Vanguard

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Games without monotony
« on: August 04, 2013, 10:33:41 PM »
What are some games that consistently offer interesting choices and content? 

Mage Guild and Spelunky are the kinds of games I'm talking about.  Nearly every item is useful, and nearly every enemy is at least a potential threat.  The dungeon tends to change quite a bit between levels.

Angband is a good counterexample.  The game generates a ton of items you'll never use.  Most enemies you encounter offer little to no threat.  Most dungeon levels are indistinguishable from the previous level.

What do you think is necessary to make this kind of game?  It seems to me that the recipe is a fast pace, a lot of variety, and restraint in the number objects your game generates.  Every item and every enemy should fill some purpose.

Anvilfolk

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2013, 07:42:12 AM »
It probably has to do with randomised generation of content. Spelunky's enemies are very limited (for each area). For the first one there's bats, spiders and humans. Items also are not randomised, and there's a handful of them that drastically alter gameplay. Thus, with such a limited, hand-crafted set of new items, you can really tailor how they are going to handle the player's experience.

By contrast, roguelikes have a ton of enemies that vary little (goblins, orcs and gnolls are really much the same in crawl, except for minor differences), and lots of weapons that also vary little. They don't fundamentally change gameplay, so naturally there's less options for them to become game changers. So roguelikes tend to have constant but limited progression. One more AC from the new Armour, a little bit more damage from a new weapon, scrolls that give you a little more attack or defence, and increase in a skill, etc.

I guess you could try randomising the effect of weapons and items in general, but randomisation would probably mean that you'd revert at least a little to the limited progression situation (some gloves that let you cling to wall for 1s, then gloves who let you cling to walls for 2s, etc). It would probably also generate items that are strictly worse than those you already have (which does not happen in Spelunky, since all items are simply different, and all of them useful), or items that are overpowered.
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Endorya

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2013, 11:09:33 AM »
What do you think is necessary to make this kind of game?  It seems to me that the recipe is a fast pace, a lot of variety, and restraint in the number objects your game generates.  Every item and every enemy should fill some purpose.
I think it requires a LONG and steady level of increasing difficulty completely based on the character's progress to make sure that every item is useful and that every creature opposes a challenge. Basically, it is having the world leveling up with you, regardless of the amount of items and creature variety.



« Last Edit: August 14, 2013, 11:22:53 AM by Endorya »
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Kevin Granade

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2013, 03:44:45 PM »
This is precisely a recipe, analogous to the (in)famous la pièce bien faite of theater, where nothing that doesn't contribute to the main plot is allowed to exist in the play.  This kind of thing can be fun, but it's not the only way to make a fun game, or avoid monotony.

For example, several of Jeff Lait's games, "Smart Kobolds", and "Vicious Orcs" come to mind, have a narrative and a message, and everything in the game is focused on the message, with little to no extraneous elements.

Similarly a game may focus on "the roguelike experience" and ruthlessly trim extraneous elements in order to provide just that experience.

These are a great example of this kind of game, but this isn't the only kind of game I want to play or write.

In the other extreme you have the sandbox, it's messy, there are no directions, there may not be a goal per se, but it's a fun environment to *play* in.  Minecraft and DF are exemplars of this style of game, there's no narrative at all, but they can be massively enjoyable and present emergent situations you'd never encounter with a more tightly-controlled game.

Somewhere in the middle you have 'bands, many roguelikes, Fallout, GTA, and Elder Scrolls, where there is a backbone of story, plot, etc, but there are a multitude of paths you can follow along the way, scripted or emergent.

Regarding extraneous elements, rather than excising them from the game entirely, it may be sufficient to enable the player to manage them effectively, ranging from simply greying out items that the player can't use, to incorporating mechanics that render all items potentially useful (such as Dungeonmans' museum, or Crawl's sacrifice mechanic).  Similarly with enemies that aren't a challenge, a mechanic that allows the player to eliminate or ignore them may be sufficient.  Perhaps enemies that you massively outclass simply run from you in terror and fade into the background.

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2013, 04:39:25 AM »
I guess you could try randomising the effect of weapons and items in general, but randomisation would probably mean that you'd revert at least a little to the limited progression situation (some gloves that let you cling to wall for 1s, then gloves who let you cling to walls for 2s, etc). It would probably also generate items that are strictly worse than those you already have (which does not happen in Spelunky, since all items are simply different, and all of them useful), or items that are overpowered.

Yeah, I think you're right.  I'd still be interested in seeing some experimental games that combine randomization with Zelda/Spelunky-style items.  Has that been done before?

This is precisely a recipe, analogous to the (in)famous la pièce bien faite of theater, where nothing that doesn't contribute to the main plot is allowed to exist in the play.  This kind of thing can be fun, but it's not the only way to make a fun game, or avoid monotony.

That's certainly one way to do it, and I personally tend to prefer those sorts of games that focus on drawing as much depth as possible out of a small number of mechanics.  But I don't think it's the only way.

After thinking about it for a while, I've decided that the kind of monotony I've been talking about is best described as a combination between obvious choices/content and meaningless choices/content.

An obvious choice would be finding a 15 - 25 damage weapon when your old one did 5 - 10 damage.  There's a decision to be made, but one option is clearly better than the others and you don't need to think very hard to find it.

A meaningless decision would be deciding whether cast a single target 10 damage lightning spell for 5 mana or a single target 10 damage fire spell for 5 mana on a target with no resistance.  You have a choice, but there's no real difference between any of your options.

I think these kinds of decisions should be removed as much as possible.  I'd rather have a 10 hour long game with 10 hours of good content than a 100 hour long game with 10 hours of good content.  I think finding a sword that does 100 damage when your old one did 20 is much more exciting than starting with a 20 damage sword and, over a period of time, time finding 16 swords, each with 5 more attack power than the last.

Somewhere in the middle you have 'bands, [...] and Elder Scrolls, where there is a backbone of story, plot, etc, but there are a multitude of paths you can follow along the way, scripted or emergent.

See, I feel that 'bands and the Elder Scrolls series are extreme examples of games with a lot of monotonous waste.  The huge majority of areas, items, and enemies you encounter have absolutely nothing that makes them stand out.

They have their good points as well, but I really think that a clever designer could find a way to combine their natural strengths with more meaningful variety and fewer obvious choices.

Endorya

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2013, 10:24:22 AM »
See, I feel that 'bands and the Elder Scrolls series are extreme examples of games with a lot of monotonous waste.  The huge majority of areas, items, and enemies you encounter have absolutely nothing that makes them stand out.
What the Elder Scrolls tries to achieve is giving the player a fine sense of exploration, which can only work within a big-free-roaming sandbox. Does this means it can have lots of monotonous waste? Well, it really depends on how you see it. If you seek to be specially reward each time you explore a site, it won't happen, meaning that it might feel extremely monotonous. On the other hand, if you enjoy exploring and collecting profitable items and resources to create news items, then you won't pay attention about feeling particularly rewarded about every site you explore. Personally, every time I go about exploring in Skyrim, I know I will return with my inventory completely full of items making it feel very rewarding, mainly because it will help my char develop by adding coin for training, buying other resources, a house or even allowing me to enchant more equipment.

They have their good points as well, but I really think that a clever designer could find a way to combine their natural strengths with more meaningful variety and fewer obvious choices.
I'm really not picking on you, it is just that this phrase of yours feels very unfair. It feels like you know the right formula or the right way to build a game's perfect design and that everyone who doesn't apply such formula isn't implementing a clever design. It is the same that having me saying: "I really think that a clever design would be creating a huge world with lots of places to explore and with lots of profitable possibilities and resources, period." ???

Games have a purpose and are developed having such purpose in mind.  Some focus on exploration, others in survival, others in hack & slash, others in story line and others being linear and rewarding adventures. Skyrim is about exploring, which means it needs to be big and with loads of places to explore. If you were to castrate those features the game would cease to be about exploring. I think you are mixing your personal preferences while viewing all RPG to a particular type of game play.

If I were to give you my opinion about CRAWL's game play, I wouldn't have one single positive thing to say about it, which doesn't mean the game is not cleverly implemented. CRAWL was meant to be a straight forward hack&slash game and I believe it does his job pretty well, if you are into hack&slash. ;)

« Last Edit: August 16, 2013, 06:23:21 AM by Endorya »
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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2013, 03:22:37 AM »
I'm really not picking on you, it is just that this phrase of yours feels very unfair. It feels like you know the right formula or the right way to build a game's perfect design and that everyone who doesn't apply such formula isn't implementing a clever design.

The Elder Scrolls games are full of deeply flawed and sometimes outright incompetent design decisions.  It is possible to make a game that removes at least some of their flaws without losing their strong points - just replace those boneheaded decisions with more sensible ones.

Endorya

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2013, 08:37:26 AM »
The Elder Scrolls games are full of deeply flawed and sometimes outright incompetent design decisions.  It is possible to make a game that removes at least some of their flaws without losing their strong points - just replace those boneheaded decisions with more sensible ones.
Well, it has its problems yes but I don't think Skyrim is deeply flawed, though I would think of Morrowind to have serious balancing issues. Deeply flawed games don't score a 9 out of 10. There are many games I don't like and that scored above 9. How can you explain this? The answer is on my previous post about CRAWL. No need for me to repeat myself.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2013, 09:41:46 AM by Endorya »
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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2013, 09:59:34 AM »
Well, it has its problems yes but I don't think Skyrim is deeply flawed, though I would think of Morrowind to have serious balancing issues. Deeply flawed games don't score a 9 out of 10. There are many games I don't like and that scored above 9. How can you explain this? The answer is on my previous post about CRAWL. No need for me to repeat myself.

The explanation is simple: your premise is wrong.  Deeply flawed games do score 9 out of 10.

Skyrim is a game about exploration where the huge majority of the places you can explore are very generic and samey.  It's a game about freedom and choices where very few quests have multiple solutions, and the game puts completely unnecessary limitations on what you can choose to do (immortal NPCs are an obvious example).  It's a game where nearly all of your problems are resolved through combat, and nearly all skills and items exist to improve your combat ability, but Skyrim's combat mechanics are not good, and it has very little enemy variety.

Skyrim's balance is poor.  There are not many meaningful ways to interact with the world.  It has few if any memorable NPCs.  The whole game is just all around shallow.

Those are serious flaws.  Some would be easy to fix, others would take a lot of effort.

Endorya

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2013, 10:23:22 AM »
Well, it has its problems yes but I don't think Skyrim is deeply flawed, though I would think of Morrowind to have serious balancing issues. Deeply flawed games don't score a 9 out of 10. There are many games I don't like and that scored above 9. How can you explain this? The answer is on my previous post about CRAWL. No need for me to repeat myself.

The explanation is simple: your premise is wrong.  Deeply flawed games do score 9 out of 10.

Skyrim is a game about exploration where the huge majority of the places you can explore are very generic and samey.  It's a game about freedom and choices where very few quests have multiple solutions, and the game puts completely unnecessary limitations on what you can choose to do (immortal NPCs are an obvious example).  It's a game where nearly all of your problems are resolved through combat, and nearly all skills and items exist to improve your combat ability, but Skyrim's combat mechanics are not good, and it has very little enemy variety.

Skyrim's balance is poor.  There are not many meaningful ways to interact with the world.  It has few if any memorable NPCs.  The whole game is just all around shallow.

Those are serious flaws.  Some would be easy to fix, others would take a lot of effort.
I guess those serious flaws you mention turned out be very entertaining as I really enjoy it (among other hundreds of thousands people). I really hope my game can become as flawed as Skyrim, scoring a flawed 9 and profiting more $600 mil. Yeah, I can definitely live with that.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2013, 11:02:30 AM by Endorya »
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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2013, 11:08:46 AM »
Surely as a roguelike fan you can understand the difference between popularity and quality.

Endorya

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2013, 03:29:50 PM »
Surely as a roguelike fan...
I do love open-space games having exploration as their main focus while containing strong RPG elements, despising if they are roguelikes or not. My contact with roguelike games happens by having a handful of roguelike games containing these features I'm really fond of. I'm definitely not a roguelike fan. All those roguelike games with deep roots around the original Rogue concept like Crawl or Brogue, feel extremely boring and repetitive as far game play goes. But it is not my place to say they lack quality or that suffer from major flaws as I fully understand their concept and game play goal. What happens is that I'm simply not fond of their concept. This is the basically the difference between the two of us. The difference is that don't imply that the games I don't like to be flawed or not having the "clever" design, where you think they all have a dumb design with tons of flaws.

...you can understand the difference between popularity and quality.
Not only I can tell the difference between those two words but also unerstanding that quality itself can be as relative as time and space. Rogue, the game that gave birth to the roguelike genre, it itself got popular for its apparent quality. This means that popularity can be achieved by doing something good or bad, and not exactly having popularity meaning "low quality" as you seem to imply. Proof of this is that I find Skyrim to be the most enjoyable game from the last 2 years (along with Mount&blade) even after your mediocre review about it.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2013, 06:28:12 PM by Endorya »
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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2013, 06:27:54 AM »
The difference is that don't imply that the games I don't like to be flawed or not having the "clever" design, where you think they all have a dumb design with tons of flaws.

But I didn't do that.  Everything I said about Skyrim is undeniably true.  Morrowind is one of my favorite games of all time, but it has a lot of the same problems as Skyrim does.

Endorya

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2013, 10:54:19 AM »
But I didn't do that.  Everything I said about Skyrim is undeniably true. (...)
I won't repeat myself. Unless you really want me to.

(...)Morrowind is one of my favorite games of all time, but it has a lot of the same problems as Skyrim does.
That's something everyone that played both games can disagree with, hands down. Skyrim has improved The Elder's Scroll's franchise in several ways, mainly at balancing game play. Morrowind suffered from a horrendous combat system as well as of an incredible unbalancing game play, even the Devs acknowdleged this when they were developing Oblivion, which made then implement a (unfortunately) not good solution either for Oblivion game play wise, where the world would level up with the player.

In Morrowind you would become invincible at lvl 20 rendering the game pretty much useless afterwards; I was in fact defeating Golden Saints (as you may know the game's most deadly opponent) at lvl 17 and you could find equipment too powerful at early stages of game play, like me finding a freezing dagger at lvl 1 and becoming a God immediately afterwards. When I complain myself of finding this dagger at the forums, people blame me for exploring too much LOL! Yeah, this is how retarded fanboys can be.

The only feature that kept me playing Morrowind was the exploration of the big Island, as the combat system, quests and loot were either too boring or not impressive, something I didn't find in Skyrim or even in Oblivion. So, in sum, I can't really agree with you, about this comparison of yours of Skyrim vs Morrowind.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2013, 11:09:17 AM by Endorya »
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zasvid

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Re: Games without monotony
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2013, 11:20:13 AM »
I think there's no point in taking criticism against Elder Scrolls games personally. It's Bethesda's problem. No-one is saying that liking them makes anyone an inferior person in any way (well, at least no-one is saying that here). The Elder Scrolls games are probably the best at giving you big and pretty fantasy sandboxes to explore, which is a splendid reason to like them very much. However, they also are (sadly!) deeply flawed in the "mechanics of the game" department and I can attest to the fact that it can be a turn off even if one likes the concept (and I do, I've played Daggerfall, Morrowind and Oblivion, of which I've only been able to finish the last one and only due to 100% permanent invisibility gear to bypass all the fights). Now, maybe Skyrim isn't deeply flawed as the previous entries, but after 3 games that managed to derail the awesome setting exploration with their incompetently designed mechanics I couldn't put down the money on such an unfavourably stacked gamble to see for myself.

To sum up, a game can be great even when flawed, but wouldn't it be so much better if it was flawless?