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September 19, 2004



Told you that game was hard!!! I think you're right, you perception has to do with the fact that you played that game before you were sensitized by the last five-seven years of games.

I think if you want to boil down a design rule or two, the first one should be: "Cinematic doesn't mean the game plays itself for you."

What would you think about making a game with NO cutscenes?

Tom Henderson

I think a good game has to have a trajectory (although a toy doesn't). With a scripted linear game this is easy (but their are other problems) with a systemic approach you have to make sure it's there. This doesn't nessecarily mean more content or systems but it should mean that the system interactions change over time.

For instance, in GTA additional systems and locals are added in as the game progresses. These don't replace existing systems but instead change how they work. Before you understand the paint job system the cop system is a end game event (as much as anything is in GTA anyway). Later, once you understand how painting works, it becomes part of mission gameplay.

Chess on the other hand introduces no new content. Still the systems of the game and the unfolding of the pieces into play leads to the middle and end games where the existing systems interact quite differently. A Rook trapped in a corner is a very different animal then one sitting in QP6.


Your "thirty minutes of play to see one new minute of content" rule is why I never got into Out of This World - or the Oddworld Inhabitants' games. I've discovered that as I get older, the less of that...stuff...I'm willing to put up with. Once I beat a particular part of the game, I don't ever want to have to play it again unless I want to.

I think designers have finally cottoned to the fact that hard gameplay plus lack of checkpoints equals guaranteed shelvings (except the designers of Viewtiful Joe - what were those guys THINKING?!)

But the obverse of this coin is that save-anywhere makes games shorter - and it would have made Out of This World a LOT shorter. Couple this with the fact that games are getting harder and harder to make as the 3D becomes more detailed (see Jason Rubin's excellent GDC talk on this subject at http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20030409/rubin_01.shtml ) and you start getting games like Fable that only have about eight to twelve hours of custom content in them and extend their playtime by giving you some sandbox stuff to play with as well. Is this enough for gamers?

Mike Hommel

Yes, I hated Oddworld even though everybody else loved it. It was just pure, continuous, punishment!

(And I still remember a non-geeky friend who never played games saying "that game looks cool!" based on the commercial... which like most video game commercials showed ZERO SECONDS of gameplay, just a whole bunch of cutscenes)

Paul Du Bois

Perhaps you've seen this, but Idle Thumbs recently did an interview with Eric Chahi: http://idlethumbs.net/display.php?id=44

Gideon S

I player through some of Out Of this World but absolutely hated the difficulty. I am not hard core in the sense that at the first sign of difficulty I run to gamefaqs or web boards and if that doesn't solve the problem I quit playing. Fable, imho, is perfect in the sense that the difficulty level is fun but I never get stuck. I also get to fart around and laugh at inane stuff like farting in public. Oddworld, as was mentioned, Out Of this World and Jak 3 are games that I want to like but I play games to have fun, not work through some child hood trauma ( ;-) )


"if you have a few moments in your game that are awesome, players will forget that most of the game was a slog."

GAH. That's exactly the wrong lesson to take from the game in question.

"Out of This World is very unsystemic, most screens have unique elements and gameplay... Flashback is a longer game: it could afford to be. But Out of This World is the classic. So: systemic design isn't necessarily 100% good."

Stop conflating systemic designs with repetition. Systemic just means that mechanics are self-consistent, instead of constantly rewriting or introducing rules.

Also, using those two games as the basis for conclusions about the overall costs and benefits of systemic VS special-case design is silly. Flashback was a rushed, much larger budget follow-up made by an almost entirely different team. Out of This World became the classic because it came from a guy who was working almost entirely "for the love of it" and was relatively unfettered by the conventional game design dogma of the day (which is very different from the current world where special-case, "cinematic" designs are de rigeur rather than a bold experiment).

And I guess at this point it would be pointless to chastise the by-now-deeply-ingrained "sales == quality" concept. So, mneh.


i'm doing research on that right now (cineastic games & machinima) and i'd love to discuss this if you're interested. i find alone in the dark, resident evil and silent hill to be among the most cineastic / cinematic games i've encountered so far. out of the world had a very movie-like experience, but the point-of-view rather breaks the atmosphere



I came across your blog while doing a search for Heart of the Alien. You see, I am trying to purchase this little-experienced oddity. I remember playing the original (on SNES) and loving every minute of it--and I'm looking to tap into that nostalgic vibe. Two things: 1) Do you know where I can get a copy? 2) Tell me more about your psych degree--how do you incorporate it into your game development?



Vincent Hamm

I'm comming a little late on that post, but I would like to note that OotW was mostly made by Eric Chahi alone (exept part of the music) as a personal project. Just for a bit of history, as working on Future Wars, he got interested into game scripting and Future Wars engine inspired him the engine used in OotW. From a technical point of view, everything in OotW is scripted. There is no actual "game engine". The player input are just relayed to the scripts that decide what to do (I think even collisions are handled by scripts).

As he was working at delphine software back then, everybody assumed that it was a delphine game (while delphine only published it).
Flashback is a very different project. Eric didn't work on it, and it was directed by Paul Cuisset. And as Eric once said, they even used his polygon cut-scenes system without asking him, and not even putting him in the "thanks to" part of the credits...

Vincent Hamm

(and as for heart of the alien, he had little to do in the developement, and would rather like this game to be forgoten...)

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