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December 29, 2011 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I love rules. Not following them, of course – that’s for other people. I love writing them. And since I’m the best qualified to decide how everyone else is allowed to behave, it’s only appropriate that I be in charge of everything. So it is that I have been making clear the Rules For Games, both for developers and for players...
posted by griphus (151 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
The only way to win...
posted by sammyo at 8:07 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good list. If I had to boil it down to a single DON'T it would be: have cutscenes at all.
posted by codacorolla at 8:11 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sort of bought your game

Perfect.
posted by victors at 8:12 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"DO let me carry more than two guns. Just when did we all decide that we weren’t okay with that element of unrealism in gaming? Sure, it can be set in the retro-future on a spaceship made of time, but god forbid we holster an improbable number of weapons...."

"DON’T leave diary entries by one person scattered over miles of corridors, buildings and countries. That’s not how a diary works."

Yeah, well, that wasn't how guns worked, either, but...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:14 AM on December 29, 2011


DO let me carry more than two guns. Just when did we all decide that we weren’t okay with that element of unrealism in gaming?

I'm quite the opposite. I would like to see a hyper realistic encumbrance and carrying system. If you want to have 40kg of crap with you, your character needs a big ugly backpack and can't jump. If you want to carry a rocket launcher, I want it on your back, clanking on every doorway, and adding 15kg to your encumbered weight.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:15 AM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, can I add:

DO hire good voice actors and a good composer for your music. I'm SICK AND TIRED of really crappy voice acting and annoying music. These two things ruin the gaming experience like nothing else can, apart from bad interfaces.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:17 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Absolutely agree on save-anywhere being a must, and unskippable cutscenes should force the developers to be hung on gibbets outside town.

Included in the gibetting should be the developers of Zelda:Skyward Sword. Those geniuses thought that it would be a great idea to make you buy identical potions one at a time, instead of in bulk, and make you watch an unskippable 'hey I bought a potion!' animation FOR EVERY FUCKING ONE.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:17 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


"DON’T install DirectX without checking which version I currently have. Nor a .NET framework"

And right there his creditability stopped. If he bothered to google-up on this "issue" with DirectX, he'd find out that this is the way it's supposed to work according to Microsoft. Same thing with the Visual C++ Runtime installs.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:19 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"DON’T leave diary entries by one person scattered over miles of corridors, buildings and countries. That’s not how a diary works."

I actually love this and don't find it difficult to suspend some disbelief to make it work in my own mind. Perhaps it's becuase SS2 was pretty brilliant in initially implementing it such that it added story to the game, rather than making it all about action. I just take that appreciation with me to whatever game uses it.

DON’T splash on my screen. I AM NOT A SCREEN! I’M A HUMAN!

I actually like this effect, too. I internalize it as a documentary camera that is implemented from a first-person perspective, not my eyeballs.

DO let me pause cutscenes. It blows my little mind how few games offer this option.

But this is so right on. I've gotten to the point that whenever I see a cutscreen that isn't able to be paused, I fully anticipate being interrupted by someone who has to tell me something really important, right now. Even if I'm home by myself.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:22 AM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


DON’T make me deselect Start Menu and select Desktop Icon. Who still uses the Start menu?
I do. I hate icons on the desktop, and I prefer them buried in my Start Menu out of sight. Until I throw them in the launch dock, that is. But I tend to finish games before they're worth keeping in the dock.

However, I do agree they should be auto-deselected. I should just click the option I want. Not deselect the three I don't. And the same goes for him and his preference.

he bothered to google-up on this "issue"

Ha! That's what I thought too, and was about to comment, but you beat me to it.

He also wants quick quits, but he says he plays in windowed mode (which I do not) so isn't there usually the big red X to get out of windowed games fast?
posted by CarlRossi at 8:22 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the same tack as "no cutscenes"--I really don't need to see any "filler" animation more than once. I've been really enjoying Red Dead Redemption, but why on earth to I have to sit through 2-3 seconds of unskippable (yes, I know the horse trick) animation every time I want to skin a wolf or pick an elderberry?

I get it--I'm harvesting a shrub. Just add that shit to my inventory; don't waste my time.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:25 AM on December 29, 2011


I'd suggest: If you're not certain that you've got completely groundbreaking and flawless companion AI, you need to make companions more or less unkillable. Otherwise you have companions who do things like shoot at the enemy when there's a car between them and their shotgun is pointed at the gas tank, or charge headfirst into battle with a dozen truck-sized irradiated scorpions while armed with nothing but a 9mm handgun.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:27 AM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think the whole long animation and cut scene thing comes as a result of the message mainstream players send as a whole: That they want an immersive "experience," rather than a game.

Also, I'm sure they'd be hiring writers, voice actors, and composers all over the place if they could. Shit costs money, rules guy.
posted by ignignokt at 8:30 AM on December 29, 2011


Here's a DO that I'd like to see implemented in more games. Find a way to use a secondary monitor for something useful. Like, displaying a map or something.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:30 AM on December 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


"It’s like your volume sliders go, 10, 9, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 0."

This. For almost everything.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:32 AM on December 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


Find a way to use a secondary monitor for something useful. Like, displaying a map or something.

The 1.0 and 1.1 version of Doom let you configure three monitors to use as front and 90-degree left and right views.
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, "freedom of movement during cutscenes" was probably my least favorite feature from Fable. If there is some drama going on that I need to hear to advance the plot, then just do a standard freaking cutscene, don't leave me feeling like I'm in one of those dreams where suddenly I'm up on stage in a play where I don't know the lines. And what exactly is the point of being able to move around during cutscenes anyway? So you can jump up on the table like an idiot while three NPCs are having a discussion about Important Information that you, as the main character, should properly be taking part in? Lame. And lousy. Thumbs down.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


DO feel free to let me quick save. I know, I know, you’re very proud of your checkpointing, but as it happens I don’t really want to repeat any fight in the game seventeen times because of your difficulty spike.

Yes, yes, yes. I often have to play games in short bursts, because that is how my life is arranged, and getting held up by not being able to save where I would like is really really annoying. I have stopped a number or games because the mismatch between my schedule and the designers' "rhythm" didn't work out.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Amen on the quick save and enjoying the game as I wish. The more a game allows me to adjust it to my tastes the more I enjoy it. I spent hours, oh the wasted hours, augmenting the maps on Halo 3 and felt such pride when the maps played well when I took them online.
posted by zzazazz at 8:36 AM on December 29, 2011


Metafilter: I want to stick a rocket launcher in my magic trousers!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:38 AM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


DON’T splash on my screen. I AM NOT A SCREEN! I’M A HUMAN! When it rains, this does not leave droplets running down the front of my vision. This is because I have a face, including a nose, chin and forehead.

As a human, you do, however, also have a skin sensitive to raindrops, cold, heat, blood dripping down your face and so on -- none of which you can feel in a computer game, meaning that a whole fuckton of rather vital information is lost. The droplets running down the screen etc are there just to compensate for this loss of information.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:46 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yikes. I don't comment much on MeFi these days, but this is some wrong wrongness. Beyond that, it's almost completely and utterly WRONG.

DO #1: I will assume this one is a joke

DONT #1: Games are not about "presenting a convincing world". Perhaps the author is thinking of simulators?

DO #2: "feel free to let me quick save." NO, NO, NO! This is the WORST thing to ever happen to games. This means that losing is no longer a possibility. It also means that there is no tension, ever, in the game. In short, it is the most powerful weapon ever wielded by a video game character, by far. It turns ANY player into a total omnipotent GOD.

DONT #2: I agree with this one, although this: "YES! I KNOW! I DIED! SHUT UP AND RELOAD! JUST BLOODY RELOAD! " is very telling. It illustrates how little it means when we die in modern video games. For this reason I've actually advocated that ALL new modern AAA games, which suck anyway, remove the "death" mechanism all together. Because let's be honest: death in today's games is just an annoyance.

DO #3: "DO let me carry more than two guns" uhhh... doesn't it matter what the game is? Maybe the game in question would be best with just ONE gun, or maybe exactly two, or maybe 20. Why have a weird arbitrary rule at all for the number of guns. This speaks to the generic-ness of modern AAA games: this guy feels comfortable making this statement.

DONT #3: This one is just stupid, about diary entries? Who gives a shit that that's not how a real diary would be placed?


I don't have time to read the rest AND do all of the necessary vomiting. It's just too wrong.
posted by keithburgun at 8:47 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, it is fortunate that the eternal features and 'rules' of the medium match up with current fashions and tastes. We truly live in the best of all possible times.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:48 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


DON’T splash on my screen. I AM NOT A SCREEN! I’M A HUMAN! When it rains, this does not leave droplets running down the front of my vision. This is because I have a face, including a nose, chin and forehead.

As a human, you do, however, also have a skin sensitive to raindrops, cold, heat, blood dripping down your face and so on


I think a lot of game playing nerds (like myself) wear glasses. Raindrops on my field of vision happens every time it rains.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:56 AM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


DON’T make me deselect Start Menu and select Desktop Icon. Who still uses the Start menu?

I use the Start Menu for everything. I hate having to minimize everything to find a random icon on the desktop and also never want to waste space on the taskbar with quick start icons.
posted by octothorpe at 8:56 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm sure they'd be hiring writers, voice actors, and composers all over the place if they could.

I'd argue that if you don't have a decent story, you don't have a decent game in most cases. And crappy voice acting undoes some of the work of the programmers and artists. Games put out by the large studios (with requisite large budgets) have no excuse. Although maybe I should be grateful for this? I saves me from buying (and playing) as many games as I otherwise would.
posted by smirkette at 8:58 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, it can be set in the retro-future on a spaceship made of time, but god forbid we holster an improbable number of weapons.

Ellen Ripley carried a carried an assault rifle, a grenade launcher and a flamethrower duct taped to each other (not to mention a pocket full of flares). Following her example, if you find a roll of duct tape your weapons inventory should become unlimited.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


"feel free to let me quick save." NO, NO, NO! This is the WORST thing to ever happen to games. This means that losing is no longer a possibility. It also means that there is no tension, ever, in the game. In short, it is the most powerful weapon ever wielded by a video game character, by far. It turns ANY player into a total omnipotent GOD.

It only does any of that if the player chooses to use it for that purpose. I'm of the mind that it's better to have a feature that some people won't like but never have to use if they don't want to than to not have that feature at all. I can't remember the last PC game I couldn't quicksave on, and I used it pretty much the way the article describes: I'd like to be able to put the game down and pick it back up later at my convenience and not have to put anything on hold until I get to the next save point. This might not be as much of an issue if some games weren't so frequently scattershot about where they decide to put the damn things.

Basically I'll accept a possible lack of tension if it means I don't have to worry that, at any given moment, I could be a half-hour or more away from actually getting to turn the game off without losing any progress.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've gotten to the point that whenever I see a cutscreen that isn't able to be paused, I fully anticipate being interrupted by someone who has to tell me something really important, right now. Even if I'm home by myself.

Right? The voices in my head are constantly interrupting my videogame enjoyment.

Cat Guy: We have traveled to your land from Elsweyr to provide you with . . .
Voice: Kill the president.
Cat Guy: with great treasures . . . what did he say?
Me: Nothing, go on about the treasures?
Voice: Kill the president.
Cat Guy: I think he said "kill the president".
Me: Forget it, ignore him, I can't pause this and I want to hear about the treasures.
Cat Guy: I could pause.
Me: No, go on.
Cat Guy: um . . . across the burning . . .
Me: The treasures, get to the treasures.
Voice: Hello! President!
Me: Fus Roh Dah!
posted by The Bellman at 9:01 AM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes to all of these, enthusiastically, except maybe the start menu one.

I'm told there's an actual real reason why Steam installed Direct X so many times, and that it's unlikely to stop, but we can hope.
posted by Artw at 9:01 AM on December 29, 2011


This article was written by someone that knows absolutely nothing about actual game development.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:02 AM on December 29, 2011


I hate cut scenes. That and the two-gun-limit were two of the things that contributed to my being completely underwhelmed by the Halo games. Pseudo cut scenes where I'm stuck milling around in a room while someone infodumps at me (in Half Life games, for instance) are fine, because it doesn't break the first person flow. I also want to be able to run games in a window. And quicksave points - good God yes. (I particularly like them for avoiding cut scenes... And don't do the Bioshock thing where I come back at some checkpoint after dying but the enemies haven't reset so I can just keep attacking a big daddy with a wrench and eventually after enough iterations of ressurection, I'll kill him.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:03 AM on December 29, 2011


what exactly is the point of being able to move around during cutscenes anyway? So you can jump up on the table like an idiot while three NPCs are having a discussion about Important Information that you, as the main character, should properly be taking part in?
The freedom to act like an idiot is not an imperative to act like an idiot. I can say and do embarrassing things in real life, too, but I don't need or want a muzzle or handcuffs to prevent that.

Realistic NPC reactions would help, though. If the player is bouncing around on the furniture, take a break from telling him he's the future of the world and just look at him with dismay for a while like he's an escaped mental patient.
posted by roystgnr at 9:03 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


It’s like your volume sliders go, 10, 9, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 0.
This describes my cell phone speakers too, yes. Do some programmers just not know that human sound perception is more logarithmic than linear?
posted by roystgnr at 9:07 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


DON'T: Implement a nifty mechanic and then only use it for one thing. Skyrim, I'm looking at you. It's neat-o peachy keen to be able to rotate and zoom inventory items. They're gorgeous. But how often do I need to do that? Sing it with me, folks: DRAGON CLAW PUZZLE DOOR. Y'all seriously went to all that effort just so once every five hours I can go, "OK. Wolf, moth, dragon. Got it. Open, sesame"?! How about inscribed stuff on blades? That'd be cool. Enchanted writing on staffs? Or, and this will blow your mind: TWO-SIDED PAPER! If you implement the mechanic, use it!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:08 AM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


This article was written by someone that knows absolutely nothing about actual game development.

But who knows a lot about being an end-user of video games. It's the player's experience that matters in the final product, not the programmer's.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:11 AM on December 29, 2011 [35 favorites]


TWO-SIDED PAPER! If you implement the mechanic, use it!

Did you check out the other side of the Dragonstone?
posted by fight or flight at 9:13 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The freedom to act like an idiot is not an imperative to act like an idiot. I can say and do embarrassing things in real life, too, but I don't need or want a muzzle or handcuffs to prevent that.

Realistic NPC reactions would help, though. If the player is bouncing around on the furniture, take a break from telling him he's the future of the world and just look at him with dismay for a while like he's an escaped mental patient.


The main game that I can think of that actually does this is Half-Life 2, which I hated (in part) because of the endless exposition dumps where some NPC model gives you a boring-as-shit explanation about the next thing you have to go do while their lifeless eyes track your spinning and jumping self around the room. Just find a way to do the same thing without cut scenes and call it a victory.
posted by codacorolla at 9:16 AM on December 29, 2011


DON’T splash on my screen. I AM NOT A SCREEN! I’M A HUMAN! When it rains, this does not leave droplets running down the front of my vision. This is because I have a face, including a nose, chin and forehead.

As a human, you do, however, also have a skin sensitive to raindrops, cold, heat, blood dripping down your face and so on -- none of which you can feel in a computer game, meaning that a whole fuckton of rather vital information is lost. The droplets running down the screen etc are there just to compensate for this loss of information.


This. And also, but the same logic (from the original list, not your comment), game designers should never put useful information like ammo counts or HP on the screen unless the character is wearing a high-tech helmet. After all, I have eyes, not a HUD.

Gaming is not about 100% realism. The FPP says that near the start of the article, when he talks about carrying multiple guns, and then proceeds to rail on the "lack of realism" in a bunch of his proceeding points.

As much as I agree with some of the items on this list it is, as a whole, kind of crap.
posted by asnider at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd suggest: If you're not certain that you've got completely groundbreaking and flawless companion AI, you need to make companions more or less unkillable.

Except when you have to kill them and walk over their corpses because they will not get the hell out of the doorway.
posted by The Bellman at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


*by the same logic
posted by asnider at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2011


The first Half-Life is the paragon of how free roaming within cutscenes can go wrong for me. Every scientist had the same voice actor, and whenever you got close to one he'd start droning on with a few lines about what was happening in Black Mesa - not badly written, but also not important and they repeated fairly often, so you learned to tune them out. Then you run into one who talks for a really long time, and by the time you realize that this isn't random chatter and is in fact something relevant to the plot he's wrapping up and you've completely missed your next mission objective, because there was no cue that you were in a cutscene.

An extreme example, but it's something to keep in mind.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:19 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


DO #2: "feel free to let me quick save." NO, NO, NO! This is the WORST thing to ever happen to games. This means that losing is no longer a possibility. It also means that there is no tension, ever, in the game. In short, it is the most powerful weapon ever wielded by a video game character, by far. It turns ANY player into a total omnipotent GOD.

Why is that a problem? Everyone here has the ability to cheat at solitaire and the game isn't broken because of that.

I understand why people don't like this mechanism in their own gameplay but it's not the developer's job to make sure you don't "cheat" -- I bought the game and I should be able to play it how I want, including noclip and godmode if I choose. Those options existing doesn't mean the game is poorly designed. The gameplay designed by the developers is not sacrosanct and can sometimes even be broken in fundamental ways that I shouldn't be beholden to as a player.
posted by camcgee at 9:30 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't agree with every rule, but I like the thought that went into it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:32 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first Half-Life is the paragon of how free roaming within cutscenes can go wrong for me.

Valve has a funny way of fixing this in Portal 2
posted by hellojed at 9:37 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


DO #2: "feel free to let me quick save." NO, NO, NO! This is the WORST thing to ever happen to games. This means that losing is no longer a possibility. It also means that there is no tension, ever, in the game. In short, it is the most powerful weapon ever wielded by a video game character, by far. It turns ANY player into a total omnipotent GOD.


I stopped playing those funny, clever Lego games BECAUSE they don't have quicksave.
I don't have an hour to play thru this one whole level that if I quit takes me back to the complete start. and my 5 year old son who loves those games doesnt have the patience to play one whole level.

/RANT on Lego StarWars/Pirates/HarryPotter
posted by ShawnString at 9:44 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


No saving at all is something that can't be speculated about without tryint it first. Go ahead and surprise yourself. Try Tome.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2011


It's broken because I SAY IT'S BROKEN and really, no other reason needed.
posted by victors at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Games with checkpointing instead of quicksaving suck for people who aren't hard-core gamers, whatever those are.
posted by maxwelton at 9:52 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This article was written by someone that knows absolutely nothing about actual game development.

I immediately go to one of my favorite Roger Waters quotes:

"In the finished article, the only thing that is important is whether it moves you or not. There is nothing else that is important at all."

You don't need to know anything about games to know whether or not you're moved to play them and to articulate some of the common reasons you're not moved. If developers spent less time thinking about user experience from the expert perspective, and listened more to the users using their work, we'd have proper UI in a number of places it is sorely lacking.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


DON'T: Implement a nifty mechanic and then only use it for one thing. Skyrim, I'm looking at you. It's neat-o peachy keen to be able to rotate and zoom inventory items. They're gorgeous.

Heh - I've finished Skyrim - over 180 hours played, done every single quest listed on the wiki except two (Boethia's is bugged and I couldn't be bothered to do Mara's). Up until now I didn't realise you could spin and zoom in on items in the inventory. I miss games with proper manuals. I actually read them, but I'm weird like that.
That being said, the feature was probably pretty much 'free' - you need the 3D imaging tools for everything else going on - no harm giving the player a better look at the gorgeous artwork.

Overall I think the list is generally good. Everyone has their own preferences - I disagree with every one of keithburgun's objections, for example. Thanks for posting.
posted by YAMWAK at 10:10 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't see a single word about escort missions.

This list is underthought
posted by Navelgazer at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


But I sort of bought your game, and arrogantly feel like I should now be able to enjoy it as I wish says the dictator as he proscribes how the gamers and developers may behave
posted by LogicalDash at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2011


Old'n'Busted: ""DON’T install DirectX without checking which version I currently have. Nor a .NET framework"

And right there his creditability stopped. If he bothered to google-up on this "issue" with DirectX, he'd find out that this is the way it's supposed to work according to Microsoft. Same thing with the Visual C++ Runtime installs.
"

And we do EVERYTHING on our computers the way it is supposed to be done?

I can't tell you how damn sick and tired I am of installing a new game (yeah, Steam, looking at you again) and then waiting for the inevitable grind of DirectX/.NET frameworks installation on a machine that I near OCD-level keep updated.
posted by Samizdata at 10:32 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Realistic NPC reactions would help, though. If the player is bouncing around on the furniture, take a break from telling him he's the future of the world and just look at him with dismay for a while like he's an escaped mental patient.

In every single castle in Skyrim, without fail, I immediately jumped on all the tables and kicked all the food to the floor.

I also liked to teabag npc's while they were talking.

I probably wouldn't do that if the game's writing and voice acting weren't completely atrocious, but as it was, I had to make my own fun.
posted by empath at 10:36 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and here's another suggested rule:

At some point in your game's development, have the cutscenes viewed by people who don't know you and have no attachment to the project. It's entirely possible that they looked really good to someone who's been working on the game for a while and is proud of what's on the screen, but to someone playing it for the first time it may be a different story.

By doing so, you might avoid the two reactions I had to two particular scenes in Dragon Age, because I don't think these were the intended reactions:

When Leliana sang her song around the campfire and the camera zoomed in on her face, and it was this agape mannequin rictus from which a bizarre disembodied (and completely different) voice was supposed to be emanating, my reaction was somewhwere between nervous laughter and an out-and-out scream.

It became full-on, uncontrollable laughter - the sort that I'm pretty sure the neighbors heard - the first time my character had a love scene.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:36 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


And right there his creditability stopped. If he bothered to google-up on this "issue" with DirectX, he'd find out that this is the way it's supposed to work according to Microsoft.

It's not his fault that the way it's supposed to work is stupid.
posted by empath at 10:37 AM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


The DirectX thing is a great example of designers needing to listen to how users feel, and less to how they express that feeling literally. The users are wrong, technically. Yet, nearly everyone who uses Steam is annoyed by this issue. Blow them off because they're wrong, right?

Or, how about changing the message from "Installing DirectX" to the more descriptive "Checking that dependencies are present" or something similar. The users might still wish the game would just go ahead and start, but now they're not misled into thinking Steam is wasting their time on a needless task.
posted by gilrain at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Games with checkpointing instead of quicksaving suck for people who aren't hard-core gamers, whatever those are.

I don't think you can really say that. I think what game designers should consider is that saving is a gameplay mechanic. It's not something you add after the game is done. It's as important a gameplay mechanic as deciding how high your character can jump or how many guns he can carry.

If you have fast saving and quickloading, your game can include absurd difficulty spikes without frustrating players, but the downside is that the game essentially has no challenge, and further, your choices as a player have no real consequences. If you don't like how an npc interaction goes, fuck it, restart the conversation. A checkpoint situation might make you think twice about whether you really want to replay the last few minutes of the game.

And some games would be pointless with quick save --- vvvvv or Dark Souls for example.
posted by empath at 10:44 AM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


@keithburgun

"DO #2: "feel free to let me quick save." NO, NO, NO! This is the WORST thing to ever happen to games. This means that losing is no longer a possibility. It also means that there is no tension, ever, in the game. In short, it is the most powerful weapon ever wielded by a video game character, by far. It turns ANY player into a total omnipotent GOD."

You're talking shite pal. No tension ever?. There was plenty of tension in the Shalebridge Cradle in Thief 3, for example, with 'save anywhere' ability. If a game is good enough then you won't need to create false tension by using checkpoint saves and having people do the same tedious boss battles 20 times.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:51 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the way VVVVVVV implements checkpoints is closer to quicksaving than it is to a checkpoint system. Maybe it's just me, but I can't see having the reflexes to simultaneously use and require an actual quicksave in that game.
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on December 29, 2011


So this is a list for people who are too busy for the jokes in Zero Punctuation?
posted by howfar at 11:18 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't buy games to lose them. I know that might be a shock to some people, but. It turns out, I kind of suck at a lot of games. My reflexes are crap and I'm not very coordinated and this is why I like, in my pretendy funtime games, to imagine that I am awesome and don't have these problems.

If I'm giving you money to give me a game, you don't need to remind me how much I suck by forcing me to lose regularly. I will know that I suck when I have to reload a thousand times to get through this boss. I don't need to be reminded, not just by dying, but also by having to go back and re-play some significant amount of the game. If I get better at it and want more of a challenge, I'll stop quicksaving every fifteen seconds.

Getting to see the end of the game should not be a reward reserved for people who are actually good at it. If you want to make it tougher for people who want more challenge, sure, give them a hardcore mode where they can't quicksave, or where you can only quicksave once every five minutes, or I don't care what. But I am a grown up with a real life, and your game, no matter what it is, is not so awesome that I am willing to devote the next week to just getting through this one boss fight because I have to start it from a save point I passed five minutes ago every time I die.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:22 AM on December 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


I don't buy games to lose them.

I would suggest you do not buy any game with the word "Demon" or "Gaiden" in the title.
posted by griphus at 11:26 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I'm giving you money to give me a game, you don't need to remind me how much I suck by forcing me to lose regularly.

You could always just not buy the game. I like a lot of John's criticisms here, but I think the save system can be an artistic choice, and should be respected. If you don't like challenging games, then don't buy them, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all games should have quick saves.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2011


One way or another, it should be possible for me to put down a game and then come back to it later and pick up doing pretty much what I was doing when I left off. Maybe I lose a few minutes of progress, but it shouldn't be a herculean effort to get back to where I was when my mom called or the power went out or beer o'clock rolled around. Quicksave accomplishes that. One-use temporary saves work okay too. VVVVVV does it just fine by giving us checkpoints so frequent that they don't so much break up the levels as denote the start and end of each specific challenge; after all, the game is meant for frequent deaths. Games that force you to replay an entire stage from scratch because your cat decided the power cord was Satan incarnate do not.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love minecraft's system because it saves everything. There's no reloading if you make a mistake. If you die and all your shit went into the lava, then oh well. Be more careful next time. It can get away with that because it's a non-narrative game, though.
posted by empath at 11:35 AM on December 29, 2011


Yeah that's a legit problem, Zarquon.

Super Meat Boy deals with it by having stages that are each around thirty seconds long, supposing you are a robot who wins every time.

Playing Super Meat Boy with save states would really ruin the experience.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2011


I've been having a lot of trouble with Hard Reset because of the checkpoint system. They put a checkpoint right before you enter a new area. Once you get in, it's a huge fight with some big bots. But once those baddies are taken care of, you have to explore the area and find the goodies.

Each time you find a goody, some little buggers jump out and try to tear you to shreds. If you're standing a little too close to a car or gas tank or electric box, you're toast. So you have to go back to right before you fought the major battle.

I would much prefer it if there were checkpoints before *and* after the battles, so I Wouldn't have to repeat them ten times each.

(apparently, tho, there is quicksave if you cmd it in:
open the console (press ctrl+~) and type:

bind key save
and
bind key load_last

F9 is bound to load_last by default.)
posted by rebent at 11:38 AM on December 29, 2011


The writer has 63 understanding. I love this list.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 11:38 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


but I think the save system can be an artistic choice

"Can be" is extremely operative here, because most of the time I don't believe it is. The number of games for which that choice is properly integrated into a whole aesthetic environment are far outweighed by games where the lack of saving only serves to frustrate players in having a good experience instead of contributing to appreciation for the clever game mechanic or appreciating the ephemeral nature of all life.

Imagine the indignance if a DVD included the artistic choice that you could not fast forward or rewind or skip chapters. One accepts the linearity of a film experience in a theater because it's an inevitable part of being in a cinema, and most filmmakers probably want you to watch a film with no distractions in a single sitting, but to enforce that in the home viewing environment feels self-indulgent and punitive.

Video games have often lacked save games/quicksave either for technical or economic reasons, but when the same features are lacking without those limitations, it's no less frustrating than the DVD example.

It's possible for a game to be thrilling, challenging, and compelling even if you can save it whenever you want.
posted by camcgee at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ironically, when you're dealing with a game like Serious Sam where everything's trying to kill you as a matter of course, save states can actually make things more difficult: the player doesn't know where to stand when saving, so the odds are high that sooner or later they'll save in the millisecond between an enemy sniper pulling the trigger and their character dropping dead.

You can get around that with more than one save state I suppose. At that point are you playing the game, or the save system? If you want that kind of experience you should really be playing something like Braid.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


As frustrating as the old NES games were, when you beat a level, you had to demonstrate actual mastery of the mechanics. You couldn't just quick save every step you took that you didn't die.
posted by empath at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2011


As frustrating as the old NES games were, when you beat a level, you had to demonstrate actual mastery of the mechanics. You couldn't just quick save every step you took that you didn't die.

On the other hand, this makes gaming casually, in smallish time units, impossible. When you always start from the beginning, if you have only 10 minutes to play the game, it sucks. I remember leaving my games on pause for whole days sometimes because I couldn't save but needed to stop playing.

In the middle of the chain of boss fights, say, at the end of Dragon Warrior 2, and you need to leave? Sorry!
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:57 AM on December 29, 2011


Sadly, I don't have the video game playing hours that I did back when I had an NES. I'm not even sure I want to spend those kinds of hours in front of a video game these days. Quicksave is important to me because it means that if I'm in the middle of a level, and a friend calls suggesting we hang out, I can go out and live a life AND be a gamer.

Different gamers want different experiences. If it doesn't make development crazy-hell, why not have quicksave be an option in the settings section? That way everyone's happy.
posted by smirkette at 11:59 AM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


As frustrating as the old NES games were, when you beat a level, you had to demonstrate actual mastery of the mechanics. You couldn't just quick save every step you took that you didn't die.

There are lots of different game genres and they have different save conventions. For example in platform games quicksaves are rare for very good reason - you're expected to fail lots of times and games usually automate the failure recovery process because it will happen a lot and they don't want to cheapen the experience by allowing saves after every jump.

In an RPG, in contrast, the player can be playing for the joy of hacking dragons to pieces, exploring the world, enjoying the story or maybe they really like inventory management. Having a quicksave makes dragon-hacking easier but makes experiencing the story so much more annoying - having to do this dialogue again, watch this cutscene again etc. Overall I feel that quicksaves make RPGs more enjoyable and platformers less so.
Compare Elder Scrolls: Arena (which had checkpoints) with Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (which followed on after and didn't).
posted by YAMWAK at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2011


Uh - so much _less_ annoying. Grrr
posted by YAMWAK at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2011


Imagine the indignance if a DVD included the artistic choice that you could not fast forward or rewind or skip chapters.

Dara Ó Briain was pretty amusingly irate about the unique phenomenon of video games denying you control over the content you have paid for. 8 bit purists avoid!
posted by howfar at 12:12 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, so deeply wrong about some of these points. For instance:
DO let me kill my friends. Sure, it’s a game over. But let me! I’ve got a gun.

Yeah...friendly fire damage and game over on npc death...does anyone really need it spelled out why this is a horrible, horrible idea?
posted by juv3nal at 12:16 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


but I think the save system can be an artistic choice

This is a step too far for me.

I've *never* seen a supposedly "artistic" save game choice that wasn't, in reality, a cheap hack to make the game more difficult. It's easy and gross. I might have found an argument for it when I was a teenager or college student and had tons of time to waste, but as an adult, it's insulting and irritating.

And yes, it allows "cheating", but so what? Look, no one bitches because iTunes allows you to immediately stop and rewind a song/movie in the middle, or that books can be put down or specific passages can be re-read. Maybe that is not what the artist really wants you to do, but sometimes reality intrudes.

tldr; Sometimes you have to pee... :-)
posted by smidgen at 12:25 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't see a single word about escort missions.
It is in the very first comment though
No one has ever enjoyed an escort mission. Ever.
This should be forcibly tattooed on every single game designer's thighs like in memento.
posted by fullerine at 12:26 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


And yes, it allows "cheating", but so what? Look, no one bitches because iTunes allows you to immediately stop and rewind a song/movie in the middle, or that books can be put down or specific passages can be re-read. Maybe that is not what the artist really wants you to do, but sometimes reality intrudes.

This only makes sense if you play a game like you read a book -- to find out what happens next. Games aren't always about that.
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on December 29, 2011


Just as an example, would a quick save improve this level in anyway?

I mean, it would have meant that I could have gone through it in 10 minutes instead of spending 4 hours over the course of a few days learning how to do it, but the experience of playing it and beating the level would have been a whole lot less rewarding.
posted by empath at 12:31 PM on December 29, 2011


Just as an example, would a quick save improve this level in anyway?

I mean, it would have meant that I could have gone through it in 10 minutes instead of spending 4 hours over the course of a few days learning how to do it, but the experience of playing it and beating the level would have been a whole lot less rewarding.


I think it muddies the waters to get too hung up on a particular game or a particular implementation because there are always exceptions.

To turn it around, would including quicksave have prevented you from having that same experience, since you could choose not to use it?

It's not about improving the game per se, it's about giving people flexibility in how they experience it. People who want to experience the game in a less rewarding way should be allowed to. People play games for different reasons, and mastery over the game's mechanics is only one of a multitude.
posted by camcgee at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, it would have meant that I could have gone through it in 10 minutes instead of spending 4 hours over the course of a few days learning how to do it, but the experience of playing it and beating the level would have been a whole lot less rewarding.

The easiest solution for this is for you to not use the quicksaves if you think they are so terrible. Imagine those of us who want quicksaves as pro-choice.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


But when you fail that level, you're not set back by the four hours you spent mastering it, just the few seconds or minutes you took on that particular run. It's not remotely the same thing as going back to the start of a 30-minute-plus stage with a frustrating boss in the middle.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:44 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, not feeling like I really lost anything by playing Bioshock with saves instead of the annoying booth things.
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on December 29, 2011


This only makes sense if you play a game like you read a book

I disagree. Consider that I could just skip ahead in the book/movie to relieve whatever tension I felt while absorbing the plot -- this could be considered a form of "cheating" similar to how quicksave is used to relieve the tension of a particularly hard task in a video game.

Just as an example, would a quick save improve this level in anyway? yt

No, but it wouldn't hurt it either. Whether you can save or not is not a critical aspect of game play because *you do not have to use it*. In fact, there are plenty of times where using quicksave (as in your mario example) might cheapen the experience. But so would reading the last chapter of most books. Those who succumb to temptation will have a worse experience, oh well.

However, by taking the quicksave away, what you are doing is essentially pitting your game against my real life. You will lose.
posted by smidgen at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just as an example, would a quick save improve this level in anyway? yt

I mean, it would have meant that I could have gone through it in 10 minutes instead of spending 4 hours over the course of a few days learning how to do it, but the experience of playing it and beating the level would have been a whole lot less rewarding.


This isn't a case of one-size-fits-all. For a platformer like that, a quicksave would hamper the player and be useless. I really don't think it would have allowed you do resolve the level much faster and as you say, it would reduce the fun.

Roguelikes are another example - winning a roguelike is easy if you save-scum. In a roguelike you have all the time in the world to think and if you die, it's because you made a mistake (well, close enough as makes no difference - sometimes you get really unlucky). The game design is based around the player's ability to understand the consequences of their decisions - a quicksave mechanic there is cheating because it allows the player to choose the consequences.

Other genres don't need that game mechanic. They do need the player to do something larger than a bite-size chunk. If the player has the freedom to explore, but loose too much progress because of a silly mistake then exploring that part of the game again becomes a chore. It stops being a fun game. Some games need quicksaves. Not all.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2011


Also, I assume you can pause the game in mario, correct?
posted by smidgen at 12:50 PM on December 29, 2011


This only makes sense if you play a game like you read a book -- to find out what happens next. Games aren't always about that.

No. But then neither are books. If I'm reading something and I don't understand a passage of it, I can leave it and push on to the next bit of entertaining, enlightening content. Books often present a challenge to the reader, but not being able to master a particular aspect of that challenge doesn't make the rest of the content inaccessible or worthless.

The easiest solution for this is for you to not use the quicksaves if you think they are so terrible. Imagine those of us who want quicksaves as pro-choice.

I'm inclined to agree with this. After all, the fact that some people spoil detective stories by peeking at the end is no skin off my nose. However, there is a problem. The enjoyment of a game is only partially to do with experiencing its content, another important reason for playing is the sense of accomplishment that goes along with winning. In the book analogy, we find something closer to a person who wants to have read Ulysses not wanting to be tempted with a plot summary + notes that would let him bluff his way through a conversation about it, because he wants a genuine sense of accomplishment, rather than a veneer of success.
posted by howfar at 12:51 PM on December 29, 2011


Those people can have a "Never quicksaved in Ulysses" x-box achievement to show how awesome they are.
posted by Pyry at 12:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you're not certain that you've got completely groundbreaking and flawless companion AI, you need to make companions more or less unkillable.

Oh lord, yes. I've lost track of the times the following has happened in an RPG, MMO or otherwise.

Me: "Okay, NPC. I've carefully hacked and carved my way through an entire camp of bandits to open your cage and rescue you. Let's go."

Lemming McBanditBait: "Right! Off we--OH MY GOD! A group of five bandits minding their own business five hundred feet away in completely the wrong direction!"

Me: "No, no, wait--"

Lemming: "I will sound the valiant battle cry of my people. DERRRRRP! *is turned into beef chutney*"
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:57 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Look, games without quicksaves are for gamers without children. It's really market-limiting to insist that people play your game in two-hour chunks (with long, unskippable cut-scenes and loud, non-sub-titled, crucial-to-the-game sound things that wake my children from their naps and make it unplayable for hearing-impaired gamers) and start the chunk over if they a) die or b) can't finish in their allotted time.

My husband and I both used to be pretty hardcore gamers (he was very hardcore), but there are any number of games we can no longer play because we don't have the quantity of uninterrupted times that game developers apparently believe all gamers possess. (Also, unpauseable, unskippable cut scenes is a bat-signal to babies that it's time to have a poop-related catastrophe. Truth.)

I mean, feel free to create difficulty levels and feel free to call the quick-save-enabled level "wimpy" and the no-save "hardcore." And only give badges on hardcore. Whatever floats your boat. But if you want a broad swath of gamers to play your game -- not just a limited market of one particular demographic -- consider that not everyone games like a teenager.

Or don't. I mean, if you DON'T want parents, or people with on-call jobs, or deaf people, or whatever, playing your game, then DON'T make it accessible, but then don't complain when it doesn't sell very well or you can't broaden your market. And certainly don't talk about how gaming is for everyone when, for a great many developers, it clearly isn't. The end user is not part of their calculus. There's a place for art/games/toys made exactly to the developer's taste, and that's great, but "mainstream" gaming isn't just teenagers any longer, and "mainstream" shops should recognize that.

Meanwhile I will be over here kicking the shit out of Yet Another Casual Game because at least they let me play in 10-minute chunks.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [23 favorites]


DON’T give me a mounted gun that points back at the path along which I just ran, killing everyone by hand.

Heh, does anyone know why games do this? I've seen it over and over and can't really find any justification for it. Maybe it's intended for some difficulty mode where you have just a spork and loincloth in your inventory?
posted by smidgen at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2011


However, by taking the quicksave away, what you are doing is essentially pitting your game against my real life. You will lose.

Not every game is for every person, and that's not a problem.
posted by empath at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2011


Not every game is for every person, and that's not a problem.

That's too easy a statement to make when the problem is as common as it is. I don't think video game creators have earned the right to be this pretentious, frankly.
posted by smidgen at 1:05 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


AGH! Just installed the Windows version of the Electric Sheep screen saver.

Guess what... DIRECTX REINSTALL!

WOOHOO!
posted by Samizdata at 1:13 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


sammyo: "The only way to win..."

Is to have an obsolete government AI play tic tac tow with itself?
posted by Samizdata at 1:18 PM on December 29, 2011


Ummmm, toe, even.

Stupid rented fingers...
posted by Samizdata at 1:19 PM on December 29, 2011


YAMWAK: "Just as an example, would a quick save improve this level in anyway? yt

I mean, it would have meant that I could have gone through it in 10 minutes instead of spending 4 hours over the course of a few days learning how to do it, but the experience of playing it and beating the level would have been a whole lot less rewarding.


This isn't a case of one-size-fits-all. For a platformer like that, a quicksave would hamper the player and be useless. I really don't think it would have allowed you do resolve the level much faster and as you say, it would reduce the fun.


Well, it would have kept me playing the new Alice game as I continually die in the jumping section in the upward shaft of the Mad Hatter's realm and I can't quick save as soon as I can complete a couple of jumps. Instead, I got mad at it, stopped playing it, and uninstalled it. Luckily the install media is surviving by the skin of it's teeth and the fact I no longer have The Closet of Ricocheting Mirrors any more.
posted by Samizdata at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2011


It's good to see King Leopold getting some richly deserved bloody minded tyrant cred, even if it means giving Hitler a pass.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:28 PM on December 29, 2011


Look, games without quicksaves are for gamers without children.

Absolutely right, and that makes it totally unforgivable that, as someone mentioned above, the fscking LEGO games not only don't have quick saves, they don't even have in-level save points. If you are trying to get true-wizard on one of the Harry Potter chapters, you had better have the forty minutes or so it takes to get it, because there is no going back, baby.

I play Lego Harry Potter with my kids occasionally -- but only very occasionally because they are young, and bed-time or something else comes along and they are justifiably pissed when we have to start some level all over again. It's a kid's game. How hard is this?
posted by The Bellman at 1:32 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


As I read these I filtered them into three buckets:
1. Decent criticisms.
2 Whiny ass titty baby crying.
3. This person has played too many shitty PC games.

At the end, I found bucket 1 to be almost empty.
posted by fleacircus at 1:33 PM on December 29, 2011


Er, anyhow, while I realize his joke is that he's being over the top absolutist, he needs to remember that good games tend to look different, but bad games tend to have a depressingly large number of things in common. There are lots of good reasons to not follow his rules (and yeah, some of them are nitpicky).

I can't agree enough with the importance of letting me pause and go back and re-watch cut scenes, though.

But then we get to the part where tab is the map key. IMPOSTER! With the exception of Bethestda (who use Tab as the every damn thing key) everyone knows "M" is the map key and "I" is the inventory key. Holy Wars have been waged for less!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


No one has ever enjoyed an escort mission. Ever.

Hm. The next big game design contest should have this as the challenge. Escort Mission. Make it fun. It just has to be possible. It isn't intuitive that escort missions must be terrible. Keeping safe a baby duckling during a fire fight should not be a lesson in frustration, but yet, it always is. I'm reminded of the stealth/evade/sneaking missions. There was a time when they inevitably sucked. And that time was the time before they released Thief. Before Thief, sneaking missions were either simple timing exercises one would overcome through trial and luck and error, or invisibility power ups. But then Thief went, hey, how about a darkness system? It turned the activity of sneaking into a game of consideration and planning, no longer merely rote memorization of guard patrols. The simple idea made what was once a frustrating trope into a genre. I imagine that for Escort missions there may be some similarly simple mechanism that could make it work. But what is it?
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:13 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO BE PRETENTIOUS
posted by LogicalDash at 2:13 PM on December 29, 2011


If your position is that most games should have quicksave under some conditions, you should include those qualifiers in your opinion. Otherwise people will quite reasonably assume that, when you ask designers to "feel free to let me quicksave," you mean all the time--because that has been the default implementation since Quake or so.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:18 PM on December 29, 2011


Hm. The next big game design contest should have this as the challenge. Escort Mission. Make it fun. It just has to be possible. It isn't intuitive that escort missions must be terrible. Keeping safe a baby duckling during a fire fight should not be a lesson in frustration, but yet, it always is. I'm reminded of the stealth/evade/sneaking missions. There was a time when they inevitably sucked. And that time was the time before they released Thief. Before Thief, sneaking missions were either simple timing exercises one would overcome through trial and luck and error, or invisibility power ups. But then Thief went, hey, how about a darkness system? It turned the activity of sneaking into a game of consideration and planning, no longer merely rote memorization of guard patrols. The simple idea made what was once a frustrating trope into a genre. I imagine that for Escort missions there may be some similarly simple mechanism that could make it work. But what is it?

Ico is a game-length escort mission that at least some people like.
posted by codacorolla at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


No one has ever enjoyed an escort mission. Ever.

In my dream game, it will turn out that the NPC is escorting you. Far from being some fragile scientist made of glass, this will be a man that makes Rambo envious. Thousands of monsters? No problem - they all hit the floor dead before you even have the time to turn around. Instead of following you at a snail's pace, he's always in front of you while still responding to your pace. And at the final moment, when a monster manages to sneak up on you both, it bites and cripples you, and for once it's the NPC hero that carries your useless ass the last few meters, while fighting off dozens of beasts.
posted by ymgve at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO BE PRETENTIOUS

Game save... art or not?
posted by smidgen at 3:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Defense games are maturing as a genre. A good escort mission could simply apply those lessons and mechanisms to a scenario where your base is moving.
posted by NMcCoy at 3:26 PM on December 29, 2011


Defense games are definite game type where no save should be needed. Also with games like Defense Grid, where your plundered resources float back to your base, there's sort-of an escort like aspect.
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2011


Defense games are a bit different than the experience of protecting duckling crossing traffic. In defense games we engage in an 'armoring' of the macguffin. What is likely to come across, what isn't? How should we queue the upgrades? Will I survive the siege? It is much more about toughing out then any real sense of protection or assistance.

There was a game a year or so back where you had to protect your own space ship as it traveled through space; it was a defense game on the move. Instead of producing the fear of vulnerability and relief, I felt joy and power mad omnipotence -- due to my triumphant laser cannons and optimal traversal of the upgrade tree. Defense games are about building really good dams, and then luxuriating in the complete failure of your enemy.

For an escort game, you do not clad the macguffin (or as autocorrect wishes to type, ragamuffin) in all the sweaters and mittens you can knit. You do not not because you cannot, but because you are not home, about to leave, going into action; you are returning home, back to safety, out of action. The ideal experience of an escort, I imagine, would be more along the lines of juggling your baby infant, traversing a labyrinth, and scaring away the bear.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2011


Escort Mission. Make it fun. It just has to be possible.

Done!

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The whole game is one long escort mission, and it's well-written, inventive, and fun to play.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm totally pro quicksave, but I was about to consede things like Mario Galaxy. I mean obviously that's different, it's just a few minutes at a time and being able to do them without dying and making sure you have a coin and all of that is all part of it. And then I thought about it some more. You know what? I would have played Sunshine and Galaxy a shitload more if I could have save-scummed through them. I just don't have the time to be replaying the same level more than once or twice. If I've got 20 minutes of game time, which is the absolute max I manage these days, and often it's less, I don't want to see just one level five times.

Sure, call it super wimpy mode or whatever, but let me quicksave. It's the number one reason I barely game anymore.
posted by markr at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The ideal experience of an escort, I imagine, would be more along the lines of juggling your baby infant, traversing a labyrinth, and scaring away the bear.

I'm a just take this out of context as a very odd comment about prostitution. sorry
posted by juv3nal at 4:27 PM on December 29, 2011


empath: And some games would be pointless with quick save --- vvvvv or Dark Souls for example.

Dark Souls is a perfect example. It lets you save and quit (almost) anywhere, anytime, but it autosaves constantly and you have only one save file for each character. It's based around the idea that you will try something, die, reappear at a checkpoint, try again, die x20 then finally succeed - but the checkpoint resets most of the enemies so that you have to defeat each segment of the game completely, in one try. It also has other delightful features like other players invading your world to kill you, and a vengeance system that lets you indict attackers so that they can be tracked down by a kind of volunteer police force.

I've put a lot of time into it over the last few months and I've had absolutely no desire to play anything else. I think it may actually have made it impossible for me to enjoy any game that does allow free saving/reloading, even more than roguelikes already had.

Obviously not every game needs to be like this, but I'm glad that at least some are instead of being designed around the player's ability to save and reload repeatedly at any point. Fortunately it seems to have been a commercial success so there is at least some demand for this kind of thing. Bring on the sequel!
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2011


Just as an example, would a quick save improve this level in anyway?

I've played Mario 64, Mario Sunshine, and Mario Galaxy on emulators that feature quicksaves.

For me, it made the difference between the games being super fun and super frustrating.

So absolutely yes, quicksaves made those games at least 300% better for me.
posted by straight at 5:10 PM on December 29, 2011


But then we get to the part where tab is the map key. IMPOSTER! With the exception of Bethestda (who use Tab as the every damn thing key) everyone knows "M" is the map key and "I" is the inventory key.

DOOM was tab-for-map, wasn't it?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:23 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one has ever enjoyed an escort mission. Ever.

Hm. The next big game design contest should have this as the challenge. Escort Mission. Make it fun. It just has to be possible. It isn't intuitive that escort missions must be terrible.


Well, I've played a couple that weren't terrible. But they were terrible because the whole time I was cursing the game and waiting for the stupid instant death that would herald another run at this mission, and then another. Would the NPC bring it on himself, or would it be something that actually requires multiple replays because I have to be in exactly the right spot from second to second to prevent my ward becoming hamburger? So in these couple of cases it then ended and I felt relief. For it to actually be fun, I'd have to not expect the worst, which in this case is a nigh-impossible order.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:10 PM on December 29, 2011


I favorited everything that said quicksaves were good / a must.

If he bothered to google-up on this "issue" with DirectX, he'd find out that this is the way it's supposed to work according to Microsoft. Same thing with the Visual C++ Runtime installs.

Okay why the scare quotes around "issue", and can you please explain why, in one or two sentences, DirectX has to reinstall over the same level of install?

What scares me is when I play an old game and it's trying to do a DirectX install of a previous version. I'm always afraid, "Is this going to fuck me somehow with my games that are currently working?".

On the quicksaves - this relates to a theme I feel about using "cheats" and so forth:

You Cannot Cheat a One-Player Game.

My bf thinks I am crazy, but I think: If I pay for the content, I deserve to experience that content in any way I so choose. Those bits on my hard drive are *mine*. Anything I do is fine, cheats, godmode, whatever. As long as I'm not fucking some other dude over the network, then it's not kosher.

I really liked this guy's list, I liked the way he used language and named the various game-players and NPC's. It was playful and funny and I thought it was great.
posted by marble at 9:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


For me, it made the difference between the games being super fun and super frustrating.

The frustration IS the fun.
posted by empath at 10:24 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Defense games are maturing as a genre. A good escort mission could simply apply those lessons and mechanisms to a scenario where your base is moving.

Look into Anomaly: Warzone. You basically escort and manage a tiny train of mobs as they navigate and destroy the enemy's towers.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:02 AM on December 30, 2011


Well, it would have kept me playing the new Alice game

Alice's problems would have been helped by a quicksave function, but that would only alleviate a symptom and not the disease. The real problem with Alice: The Madness Returns seems to be that the artists over-ruled the level designers (or the level designers weren't very good). Breathtaking artwork, great imagery, some terrible level design and not enough restore points. It's a shame because the artwork in particular really was exceptional.

Could have done without the long Victorian London sections where you just wander around until the plot progresses enough to get back to the actual game.
posted by YAMWAK at 2:05 AM on December 30, 2011


Look into Anomaly: Warzone. You basically escort and manage a tiny train of mobs as they navigate and destroy the enemy's towers.

I'm stuck on the mission where they have to escort a helicopter/plane.
posted by Artw at 4:26 AM on December 30, 2011


Playing Ico, I came to a realization:

There Is No Such Thing As A One-Player Game

Ico was one long conversation with the designers. It concerned the things that make us empathize with fictive characters--Yorda didn't even really have any characterization in the usual sense, just some really compelling animations and idling behaviors. She never really took any initiative beyond playing with some crows. She was not particularly more intelligent than your average Press Square To Summon NPC. And yet, I felt fiercely protective toward her. It kind of helped me understand why benevolent sexism is so compelling to so many people; a male character in Yorda's position would have been far harder to pull off.

The game is not postmodern. It does not call attention to its manipulations. It still plays you. Good scripting does that. Good level design does that.

If you can't be bothered to engage in conversation with the designer through your play, then I think the designers are entirely justified in not bothering to support the game you are playing when you fail to play the game they made. Use an emulator or a third-party cheat device if you really want to.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:53 AM on December 30, 2011


Although, Ico did have a save-anywhere feature. So, as for games that benefit from not having one, you'll have to read the rest of the thread, sorry.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:00 AM on December 30, 2011


The problem with escort missions is that you are assigned to escort someone or something through a hazardous area, and they almost never have clue one about not getting into trouble, but make up for that by being incredibly fragile, worthless in a fight and completely clueless about tactics. In addition, the victory conditions or such that, should one bad guy manage to get close enough to give your ward and angry glare (thereby killing them) you get to start over.

To make it worse, the victory conditions in games are typically all or nothing, such that, if they were using the same strategic logic in WWII, every time a wolf pack of U boats managed to pick off a Liberty ship or two, they'd send the entire cargo convoy back to New York or Philadelphia and court marshal the captains of the destroyers.

I'm not sure how improving this is even a challenge as everything about it is wrong.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:13 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I can't believe I didn't think of it until now, but one of the best escort mission type things I've ever done was play The Hunted in Team Fortress Classic. The Hunted is a fragile, fat businessman who's only defense is an umbrella that hits for even less damage than usual melee weapons. One player is the hunted, and the other members of his team are soldiers (the combat class), medics (the support class), and heavy weapons guy (the slow-but-deadly tank). This team spawns at the lowest point on the map.

The other team is made entirely of snipers, who spawn on the upper levels of the map that are inaccessible to the other team, giving them an almost permanent height advantage. There are about 5 different unique paths that the hunted might take from his spawn point to his destination, and it's up to the defending team to protect him from being killed by the snipers, and also to work as a team to set up fakes, patrol the perimeter, and try to obscure where the hunted currently is while figuring out where the snipers have posted themselves.

Since the hunted is a player character he has (you hope) actual intelligence, and a skilled hunted can be an asset instead of a hindrance. The whole thing is run on a timer, so it gets really tense when the hunted is 200 feet from his destination, and there's a huge field of snipers all gunning for him while the defense scrambles to get him across the goal line.

The closest analog in TF2 is the push-the-cart maps, but since the cart is invulnerable (aside from being able to be pushed back by the defending team) and on rails it's not really the same. I wish another FPS would match the gameplay in The Hunted.
posted by codacorolla at 8:29 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There Is No Such Thing As A One-Player Game

Ico was one long conversation with the designers.


A conversation? Because it had interesting ideas? Would a book with the same content have been a conversation? If no, why not? If yes, what does the word "conversation" mean that "book" or "game" doesn't already cover?

Conversations typically include reciprocal engagement with the other participants, and typically both participants are capable of changing their position based on what goes on during the conversation. Could Ico's designers change their position because of something you did while playing the game? How?

If you can't be bothered to engage in conversation with the designer through your play, then I think the designers are entirely justified in not bothering to support the game you are playing when you fail to play the game they made.

But conversations aren't the same thing as lectures, are they? If I find an aspect of a conversation disagreeable or boring, I can negotiate with the other participants to change it, or I can walk away. If I am having a conversation with someone who refuses to give any ground on the subject of the conversation, it will probably escalate into an argument, and then we won't talk after that.

A designer or creator is always justified in doing anything they think will make their creation better. That is the creative prerogative. A consumer is always justified in telling them it sucks. That is the critical prerogative. Legitimately exercising prerogatives of this sort is no guarantee against being completely wrong.
posted by howfar at 8:45 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because you have to interact with the game and not the book.

Usually the player has a severely limited degree of control over the conversation, but the same is true of many conversations in life.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:28 AM on December 30, 2011


Because you have to interact with the game and not the book.

You interact with them in different ways, but I don't see how this distinction is very clear. You play a game and you read a book, both of these are active process of engagement requiring the application of a variety of skills to the "text".

Even if we were to accept your distinction, what has it got to do with it being a conversation with the author? I interact with my oven when I'm making dinner, does that mean I'm having a conversation with its designer? I dance to music (badly, I admit), am I having a conversation with the band?

Usually the player has a severely limited degree of control over the conversation, but the same is true of many conversations in life.

Well, that is true in situations where the creators have some awareness of, and ability to respond to, what I'm doing. If I were dancing to a live band, then there is probably something akin to a conversation going on. However, by definition, no conversation involves one participant being totally oblivious to what the other is saying. The designers of Ico do not know what your response is to their output. I suppose you might be arguing that the conversation is with the game, but I'm not sure how well that holds up either. After all, your responses make no difference to the content of the game. The next person to start the game, even your copy, will have an experience entirely uninfluenced by yours.
posted by howfar at 9:50 AM on December 30, 2011


the creators have some awareness of, and ability to respond to, what I'm doing.

Like a game.

Admittedly the creators do this by limiting what you can do. Still, I'd like to see your oven do that.

Actually I really would like an oven that takes over my body and makes it cook food. So convenient.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:55 AM on December 30, 2011


the creators have some awareness of, and ability to respond to, what I'm doing.

Like a game.


No. Game designers have the ability to anticipate reactions to their product, just as the author of a book can anticipate different interpretations and readings, and oppose or manipulate them according to taste and skill. A live gig involves a qualitatively different kind of interaction with the audience to that involved in either of these. A live performance can be transformed for both performer and audience by an unpredicted response of an audience member. That is similar to a conversation. No matter what my response is to the game, no-one's experience is changed but mine.

Admittedly the creators do this by limiting what you can do. Still, I'd like to see your oven do that.

I don't know what this means. My oven responds to what I do with it in a variety of complex way, many of which were intended by its designer.
posted by howfar at 10:14 AM on December 30, 2011


If you can't be bothered to engage in conversation with the designer...

Throwing rocks and yelling ethnic slurs can be classified as a conversation in the broadest possible terms, and the motives of an angry mob are probably more pure (or at least less mercenary) than those of the designers of some games that I've played. Also, angry mobs don't typically have glowing, if factually incorrect, ad copy and reviewers doling out inflated scores telling you how good they are.

Yet, somehow, it's not a conversation I want to be part of.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:32 AM on December 30, 2011


No matter what my response is to the game, no-one's experience is changed but mine.

Depends on the game. In Dark Souls what happens in your game impacts other people's games in a lot of ways -- you can leave messages, they'll see your deaths played out, you can attack them.

Would a book with the same content have been a conversation?

You can't have a book with the same content as a video game. I suppose you can write down, word for word what happened on a single play through, but the important thing about a game is that a single play through is only one of many ways that a game could have played out.
posted by empath at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2011


Depends on the game. In Dark Souls what happens in your game impacts other people's games in a lot of ways -- you can leave messages, they'll see your deaths played out, you can attack them.

Yes. There are some games that are conversational in this way. We might compare them to gigs. The fact that gigs exist does not make music, per se, a conversational art-form.

You can't have a book with the same content as a video game.

You are correct. Games as a medium have the capability to express things that books cannot. I suppose what I meant was "persuasive intent". What I getting at, clumsily at that moment, was that this does not make them conversational in nature, which was central to LogicalDash's point about how we should engage with them.

It's trivially obvious that games can be art. The odd thing is that most art forms allow the person experiencing them to determine the conditions and nature of that experience. That includes exerting self-control where it improves the experience (most obviously not checking the last chapter of a detective story).

When we talk about games as art, we have to recognise that "art" is not all they are. Just as a painting can be a decoration as well as the subject of an aesthetic experience, or a piece of music something to chant on the terraces at a football match, games serve a variety of purposes, not all of them artistic. By all means argue against including save-points in games, but do it for the sake of their competitive aspect, for the sake of the pride that comes from beating them. Don't stick with the horribly troubled aesthetic argument simply because it sounds more significant.
posted by howfar at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2011


That includes exerting self-control where it improves the experience (most obviously not checking the last chapter of a detective story)

And probably also not yelling "GET ON WITH IT ALREADY" during a Shakespeare Monologue.
posted by empath at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2011


And probably also not yelling "GET ON WITH IT ALREADY" during a Shakespeare Monologue.

Precisely. Although mainly it's refraining from punching people when they do that special Shakespeare Laugh. You know the laugh. The one people do to show that they know whatever piece of amusing Elizabethan ribaldry they've just heard was meant to be funny. Audience interaction isn't always a good thing.
posted by howfar at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2011


Of course, the plays we know as being Shakespeare's were shaped by hundreds of performances worth of audience interaction.
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2011


Of course, the plays we know as being Shakespeare's were shaped by hundreds of performances worth of audience interaction.

Yep. Also, the jokes were probably funnier when they were commonly being played for laughs by actors more concerned with entertainment than art, and interacting with many baser audience desires. As I remarked not long ago, Shakespeare's scripts really aren't that funny to modern audiences (and I'm not sure that in themselves they ever were), but when written the gags could be supported by whatever got a giggle, without our furrowed browed concern about the integrity of the play. Not that there isn't a place for such concern.
posted by howfar at 2:08 PM on December 30, 2011


Yep. Also, the jokes were probably funnier when they were commonly being played for laughs by actors more concerned with entertainment than art, and interacting with many baser audience desires. As I remarked not long ago, Shakespeare's scripts really aren't that funny to modern audiences (and I'm not sure that in themselves they ever were), but when written the gags could be supported by whatever got a giggle, without our furrowed browed concern about the integrity of the play. Not that there isn't a place for such concern.

Modern productions of the comedies sometimes do play them for laughs. It's often not even necessary to understand the particulars of the language because the performances support that particular goal (i.e. with pantomime, conspicuous winking, thrusting of hips etc.). I don't see how laughing at something like that is derived from somehow knowing it is "meant to be" funny. It's like saying Chaplin isn't funny any more, that people only enjoy his films because they know they are meant to be funny. That makes no sense to me.
posted by juv3nal at 3:39 PM on December 30, 2011


the performances support that particular goal (i.e. with pantomime, conspicuous winking, thrusting of hips etc.)

Oh god. The bane of Shakespeare performances, when actors feel like they have to do a "GET IT?" pantomime for ever "ribald" joke. I'd rather watch every Metal Gear Solid cut scene twice than have to watch another "I SAID SOMETHING NAUGHTY!" hip thrust. Bleah.
posted by straight at 3:50 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm partly exaggerating my position (you may recognise it as comic hyperbole), but I also believe, firstly, that Shakespeare simply wasn't that funny. Certainly, to pick the most obvious contemporary example, he wasn't as funny as Marlowe. Shakespeare was the finer playwright, without question, and one of the superlative geniuses of known history, but his jokes are generally weak puns. Of course there are funny things in his plays, both comedies and tragedies (the distinction between them having little to do with jokes in the first place), but surprisingly few when he is compared with other British writers of even vaguely comparable stature.

As for the "I know that's a joke" laugh. I just know it exists because I've seen it. Fuck, I've done it! I'm not proud of myself. Of course there are laugh out loud moments from time to time, but these are few and far between in the sea of mirthless tittering.
posted by howfar at 3:57 PM on December 30, 2011


Oh god. The bane of Shakespeare performances, when actors feel like they have to do a "GET IT?" pantomime for ever "ribald" joke. I'd rather watch every Metal Gear Solid cut scene twice than have to watch another "I SAID SOMETHING NAUGHTY!" hip thrust. Bleah.

I'm not saying you should like Shakespeare done that way (or even that it's a good way to do Shakespeare), just that it happens and some people do find it genuinely funny.

As for the "I know that's a joke" laugh. I just know it exists because I've seen it. Fuck, I've done it! I'm not proud of myself. Of course there are laugh out loud moments from time to time, but these are few and far between in the sea of mirthless tittering.

I'm not saying that what you describe never happens, but I think it depends a lot on the performance and the audience which type of laughter happens to be in the majority. In productions that are pitched at kids, for instance, I think you'll find much less of that "I know that's a joke" kind of reaction.
posted by juv3nal at 5:10 PM on December 30, 2011


howfar: Shakespeare was the finer playwright, without question, and one of the superlative geniuses of known history

Bah! Someday we will have the respect which is our due...
posted by kittenmarlowe at 5:24 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


YAMWAK: "Well, it would have kept me playing the new Alice game

Alice's problems would have been helped by a quicksave function, but that would only alleviate a symptom and not the disease. The real problem with Alice: The Madness Returns seems to be that the artists over-ruled the level designers (or the level designers weren't very good). Breathtaking artwork, great imagery, some terrible level design and not enough restore points. It's a shame because the artwork in particular really was exceptional.

Could have done without the long Victorian London sections where you just wander around until the plot progresses enough to get back to the actual game.
"

Can't blame them too much. I played the original Alice and knew it was "jumpey", but I didn't do the research and grabbed it. And continue to be trapped at the same damn spot.

Also, as per single player cheating, I do it sometimes. Like Space Marine. I semi-recently aired my displeasure with a game play change, and, after the 947,366,221,578,963th time through that section, I said "Bugger this for a game of soldiers!" and tracked down a trainer, which I only used through that section. Next save spot after that (was very close), exited the game, exited the trainer, then went back in to (eventually) finish the game. A combination of bad spacial perception issues and jumping lead me to restart a few times.

I still feel a happy sense of achievement, as I finished the game in the fashion in which I feel it was meant to be played, namely, without god mode, beating the Emperor's own crap out of all kinds of spiky boys and demons, as well as outsmarting the programmers who resorted to a game tactic I can only see as a way to artifically inflate playtime.

And, no, I do NOT feel the use of the trainer opened me to the predations of the Warp.

The Emperor protects...
posted by Samizdata at 8:54 PM on December 30, 2011


Damn it, a videogame thread turned into a Shakespeare debate and I missed it? WHY WAS I NOT TOLD? I bought the ExampleSignal for you people for Christmas for a reason.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:08 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was ambiguous, Example! We couldn't be certain whether or not your monologue was directed at us, the audience, or at yourself.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:38 PM on December 31, 2011


Fie on't.

That's right. You heard me.

Fie.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:30 PM on December 31, 2011


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