Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Goal Oriented Gaming

When you think about the new spate of games, the one thing that most of them have in common is a goal to end the game. They call it a story, or plot driven, but really you have to complete goals to get to the next stage of the drama.
Old games didn't do so much of this, but that meant that when it was new (such as the early RPGs), it stood out by far as a more immersive experience.

For new games to get more goal oriented, is to continue a tradition that started a long while back, but with the power of modern machines and the man power behind the products, why haven't we seen a change of tack?

Games are inherently a form of entertainment and over the recent years, they've taken (IMO) too much inspiration from films, and too little inspiration from toys. The benefit to toys is that they can be played with in many ways, think about your toy car collection, your action man, your Lego(tm).

Games are moving away from being toys and moving towards films with user controlled pace or progress.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, but in the light of the new series of very obvious film games (Heavenly sword is the main one I'm thinking of, but God of war counts too as do many others). What I am saying is that there is a niche market growing for games where the object is not to progress through a story-line, but instead to just have fun.

I believe that apart from a few small games that offer quantities of fun in small doses, we're not using the power of the next gen consoles as we could. Truly next gen almost demands a removal of the linearity of games of the past and more emergent gameplay games should be on the horizon. The little big world game for the PS3 is getting somewhere towards what I think of as true next gen, but even that doesn't appear to be completely free form.

We have the power to make games that aren't leading the players by the nose. Let's make them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fun

It is interesting to look up the definition of something so fundamental to our lives and wonder about its veracity. There's lots of research into fun and laughter, but none of it is definite. I don't assume any wonderful new and accurate viewpoint on the issue, but from that which I have read on the subject, I make a hypothesis of fun for the controlled problem domain of games.

Fun can be attributed to self growth, or the growth of your self form immersed into a virtual world (this is similar to feeling proud that your kid just scored a home run).
Growth of self when playing games is a feeling of mastery over the game (shoot-em-ups, racing games or fighting games are good examples of this kind of growth).
You can feel growth from your virtual self only when the game permits growth, and therefore most RPGs fall into the avatar growth category.

Fun can also be attributed to a release of pain, or awareness of a redirection of pain.
You can have fun by achieving goals set that hinder your advancement in the virtual world (again RPGs do this, and most modern shooters set up tasks for you to get through to add fun).
You can have fun by managing to get the impending doom switched over to your opponent (think of strategy games in this one, they are fun because you have to swing the "I am winning" over to your team)

This leads to a simple understanding of why certain games seem more fun than others. The complexity comes in when you start to understand how many ways in which this has been chopped up, mixed up, and used to reinvent the games we play today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Work in progress

I've been working and managing at the same time. Its not pretty.
I've got out of it now and I'm really understanding why we need middle management. I've not been trained to be a manager, so why was I put there?

Being back downstairs as one of the lads is a great improvement for me, I'm getting loads of work done, and I'm enjoying coding again. I'm still having all the inspirational moments that I used to get, so its not just stress related low latent inhibition.

New ideas are coming from the things I'm now working on mixed with being where I was before. I've got some ideas for how to go about making games content (not digital assets, we all know how to make them) I mean the real content of a game, the gameplay, the logic, the fun. In its most basic form it comes from an understanding of what makes things fun to play, and my gaming theories hinge on my own set of personal beliefs of humanity. Surprising? I think it should be, but also when you think about it a little, maybe not surprising at all. Maybe its just post announcement common sense? Well I'll add more when I have more time, but for now lets just say that the people that come closest to making 'fun' still seem to be the Nintendo developers. Why they are able to and whether they know what it is that makes their games fun is a topic for discussion, but what I believe makes a game fun is definitely carried out in most of their software.