abril 08, 2005

Designing games for the Future

by Peter Molyneux

Clear Concepts. More than ever, Molyneux said, games need to begin with a clear, absolute concept. In Fable, for instance, the concept is: "Be a hero." In Grand Theft Auto, it's "Be a gangster." These simple but clear concepts are the key to a successful game idea.

Greater Accessibility. Once upon a time, gamers were willing to spend hours learning how to play a video game. But as gaming becomes a truly mass market industry, players demand ever simpler, ever more accessible gameplay experiences. Molyneux now believes that designers have about ten seconds to grab a player before the player will lose interest.

Simple to Understand. Along similar lines, Molyneux believes that players must be given a clear sense of what they can do and what they are supposed to do in a game. One of Molyneux's guiding principles is to create games with very simple, very concise controls that anybody at all could jump right into without needing a tutorial.

Deeper Interaction. As gameplay gets simpler, game depth needs to expand. When an interface reaches critical simplicity, a player must trust that those few available commands will lead to a great depth of possible experiences.

Morphable Gameplay. The success of games such as Fable and Grand Theft Auto, said Molyneux, is that they allow a player to both play through a game, and play in the game. One person's experimentation is another's gameplay ? so allowing for a diverse range of playing styles opens the field to attract multiple gaming audiences.

Cool Stuff. Lastly, Molyneux emphasized the important of continuing to think of new, cool things to attract gamers to games. In spite of the continuing technological and creative innovations in the industry, gamers ultimately play games because they want to have fun and do cool things.
at Gamasutra

I completely agree with Molyneux. Games of the future, are for the masses and so we need to think with a wide audience scope in mind.

We can add to this, Andrew view at grandtextauto

"Without well-formed experiences - efficient pacing, filtering out the 'boring bits' - games may not breakthrough to a mass audience. Most people just don't have the time to spend hours and hours playing a game for a few moments of meaningful drama. Games will need to be as "efficient" as movies, TV and books in this regard."

And then my last thought on conventions and transparency

"When we arrive at a point where the gameplay will be as transparent as film mechanics, stories will become the center of the experience." And so emotions will be diversified enough to build unforgettable art pieces that will last for decades and maybe centuries.

Conventions, Realism and Illusion

The way an actor smiles in films of the XXI century is different of the way an actor smiles in the classic cinema period. People accepted the accentuate characterization of simulated emotions as normal, because they were seeing a movie, a play or an opera.

After Stanislavsky and then Strasberg, characterization started to become more and more real like, because emotions in characters were depicted through true actor emotions. Actors should recall emotional situations in mind that could permit him to behave as expected in that moment. This was a shock in Hollywood (it stills not well accepted in some Europeans film and theatre schools). This type of characterization was seen as a distraction of drama, was seen as suspension of the dramatic moment, because it was so real that people would stand looking and feeling for the actor, forgetting the action in drama.

So for this to have a well effect wide accepted and formed in an overall film experience reception, we had to change also the way we direct, we edit, the scenarios, etc. Today we have a machine that produces a "type of reality", that we accept as true, so real as real. However, more than ever, films are not as real as real. We?ve developed a so good transparency structure, based in developed conventions, that viewer is never aware of that.
Stories are depicted through a filter, which maintains viewer interested through the constant development of emotional moments and spectacle sequences that manipulates the overall sensation of the viewer. A true tragic event is depicted in a movie enveloped by such an amount of dramatic characterization, that takes the viewer to a fulfilled experience of entertainment, and so that makes him feel as rewarded by the 2 hours he "lost" seeing that movie.

French Nouvelle Vague, tried to broke this transparency, without success. We can develop interesting points, however they are interesting by their uniqueness. This is a challenge for the developing of original artworks, breaking the accepted rules, the accepted conventions and looking for new visions. If these visions become to be wide accepted they are integrated in the old conventions, and that's how film language becomes to evolve.

The "Dogma Manifest" has also tried to broke completely these Hollywood conventions, however even following these rules, we come to understand that this is only a different type of depicting reality, and that this is so real as Hollywood in the end.

Film reality experience is an illusion.

Games that use storytelling, are still looking for these conventions, lots of what we have now is "remediated" from film/tv language. Players are still looking for experiencing innovation in gameplaying, because we have not arrived at a period where we can use a set of conventions wide accepted to tell a story. When we arrive at a point where the gameplay will be as transparent as film mechanics, stories will become the center of the experience.

abril 06, 2005

In game storytelling

Final Fantasy vs. Doom 3

Cutscenes in Final Fantasy are really important, not only for the storytelling but for the overall "game" experience. The same happens in Max Payne, with no "comic" cutscenes, would the game have the same feeling?

However using, pre-fabricated elements from other arts and insert them in a game could seem, a lot like "cheating". In Film you must be able to tell things through a composite audiovisual. You can use everything from text, to photography, paintings, music, and comics. But any of these pre-fabricated elements must be mounted into a new film set were no one will be prevalent upon the others. For example music can?t carry all emotions and meaning of a sequence. Music must be mixed within a complete film sequence, must be only one part of an all. Music serves as an emotional guider in the sequence, not as a producer of emotions or even as an intensifier. In a way, music must be transparent as all the other components, and then let form an overall experience.

So if we translate, the use of music in film to the use of cutscenes in games, we should have something like: cutscenes must be used to guide the emotional storytelling experience, not to produce or intensify that experience.

Comparing Final Fantasy X, and Doom 3. We can see differences.

Final Fantasy uses cutscenes to tell the story, to produce emotions and in the end they come to be almost the centre of interest in playing the game.

In Doom 3, cutscenes are used to introduce us to the playing sequences, to prepare our emotional mood for what is to come interactively. The interaction is more interesting than the cutscenes.

abril 05, 2005

Psychological Study of Videogames

Based in personal observation and some psychiatric talks. Most games seems don't reach the low tension spectre of emotions. This low tension area is divided in two areas one negative and another one positive, the first one goes for "miserable" and "sad" to "depressed" the second for "calmness" and "tranquillity" to "serene".

We started a study with real people to find out if this is true. We started the preparation of the experience 2 months ago and it will take us some more months. What we find out in the beginning, when collecting games and asking people their emotional experiences (see below), was that nowadays games seems to reach that low spectre, however these experiences seems to be very "cutscene" dependent (like Final Fantasy series).

So we are thinking in moving the experience from the "best sequence in a game" to "the best interactive part of a game". However we still have doubts about this.

The purpose is to find out problems in games now, to find out new solutions that will permit us develop a prototype with new ideas. So we need to decide, if future games we'll maintain cutscenes or not. If cutscenes will be part of games in the future, or if full time interactivity is the only thing acceptable in games?

Collecting Games Questionnaire, launched in game forums and to gamers friends e-mails
Research on Emotion Game Sequences

We are performing a research on videogames and looking for their capacity on eliciting emotions in viewers and players.

So we would like to ask some of your time and knowledge in helping me. We need to find out computer/video games or game sequences that in your opinion are capable to elicit in the player each of these emotions:

. Happiness
. Anger
. Disgust
. Fear
. Sadness
. Surprise
. Relaxed

To avoid a too much wide comparison universe, we would like to ask you to limit your game choices to the genre action/adventure or game with story, single-player, preferentially 3d. Choose a game outside this group, only if you can't find anything in there and also if you believe that this other game category is really able to reflect that emotion type without any doubts.

abril 02, 2005


CHESS - play for the competition with the other

LEGO - play for the pride of achievement

MYST - play to find out the story closure

Games with story must appeal for closure, if not it will turn out a different concept of what is supposed to be a storytelling experience.

I believe that a lot of people are trying to build games with Lego concept behind, the game can have an overall goal but at the same time it will take player to invest in wild imagination to build new ideas.

abril 01, 2005

Continuation of ideas bits from discussion at intelligent-artifice

Emergence is amazing, is delicious but we can't forget the drawbacks. I believe it'll evolve more and more, get used more and more in games and IS, but IMHO you'll need to have a story line to give them. You can't bet everything in the emergence.

In the end this comes to the mixing everyone was and still looking for: Sims + GTA III. San Andreas tried that a lot more with the character management within the game. However, if you had no missions at all, could the character really evolve his "respect" without doing some predefined missions, based in what? In the number of killings performed, number of robbed cars, number of insane car manoeuvres arbitrarily like in real life? What would be the goal for the player, live a virtual life of crime in a virtual copy of our world? With what purpose? What would be the fun of that? Would people really find any reward for playing it?

Storytelling goal is not to be life like, but to be a slice of life. Storytelling is not a window to life that you can try to enlarge through IS. I believe that IS is more like a bridge to that slice, something that can bring it closer to me, making me feeling it more intensely. Interacting with that slice is in IMHO the goal.

Storytelling is well cared event selections of the real world, expressively worked upon. Life is boring :-), stories are not boring it's not their goal :-). Sure a system like that can turn to be believable, but not in story like framing but in a life like framing. We should then change the name from Interactive Storytelling (IS) to Interactive Life-Like (ILL) :-)

My position regarding IS is more in consonance with

Andrew view at grandtextauto
"Without well-formed experiences - efficient pacing, filtering out the 'boring bits' - games may not breakthrough to a mass audience. Most people just don't have the time to spend hours and hours playing a game for a few moments of meaningful drama. Games will need to be as "efficient" as movies, TV and books in this regard."

Aubrey says: «"Edge Metaphor". It's a precievably logical reason why the player can't leave the designated world space. Understandable reasoning for limitations [..] like Halflife 2's [..] force fields [..] GTA3 [..] islands. It applies not just to world space, but to game system space [..] and story space."»

"Edge metaphor" can be translated into storytelling by the story-line. Like HL2 "you're never in a position to affect the overall invasion" :-). This sentence is our story edge metaphor. We can't break it, if we do the world will become uncontrollable, story will disappear, and it will only rest a playground to be used by players as they like, waiting for some emergent story that can never occur

I'm not trying to knock-out IS, on the contrary I'm also looking for it, however I don't agree or better I don't believe in all the paths to arrive there, firstly because I believe that we have already some types of IS, so we're not discovering the wheel. Also I'm not a believer for "branching", "intelligent automate story managers", "emergence only" or "build your own story". I'm looking for interactive mechanics transparency that can carry an authored story directly into the player "heart". Looking for interactive mechanics that can give the player a feeling of participation in the telling, of sharing and helping in the act of telling with the "storyteller", not sharing the act of story creation with the story writer or even to be the writer himself.
ideas bits from discussion at intelligent-artifice

Any game that tries to tell a story will use interactivity to develop a shared process with the player to drive story progression in game. So, it's nothing else than an Interactive Storytelling experience.

Storytelling is not really a quantifiable matter. Storytelling stands for the art of developing meaning in the mind player through the creation of events grouping. Putting the player in the position of the events grouping creation and not of the meaning developing is changing completely his role in the relation with the artefact.

Spore. At http://www.gamespy.com/articles/595/595975p1.html they said : «"Owning" the content in this way means that all the stories that the gamer creates are much more meaningful. Putting two and two together, Wright concluded that there had to be some way where users could create content, instead of armies of developers, and a way to make a game craft itself around the user's contribution. »

This is far from true. People want significant stories delivered by others. They are looking for surprise, for learning new visions, different social approaches. The "doing" can't be mixed with the "receiving". Most humans "do" things firstly to show to the others and then feel great for the feedback of these others, with the exception of narcissists. People want to interact with the thing, people want to feel like being part of the thing, and so people don't want to have to build the thing.

Going back to the actual IS games, we can see that we have already interactivity and storytelling. That we can interact with the artefact and at the same time feel surprising sensation of learning new ideas, of being surprised by story content.

Sure, we can improve on this. Having better stories, invest in characters expressivity, invest in virtual body interactions among characters and invest in the developing of new technologies like natural speech.