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December 07, 2004



I couldn't agree more, especially in FPS games I have a tendancy to get too burnt out when the action is constant. All the games I've beaten (and enjoyed the whole way through) were ones that varied the playing experience (All the Zelda games, recent PoP games etc.)

The Diablo games also do a nice job of giving you breaks to catch your breath when you go back to town to restock equipment.

I think you're on to something.

Eric Lulie

You know, X-Com would be another game to add to the list: long periods of tense tactical battles, punctuated by relatively mindless stretches where you scan the skies, research stuff, build or sell stuff...geez, even the interceptor missions are low intensity compared to the battles. And I could play that thing for hours...

Contrast that with my experience with most RTS games: I can play a single battle once, then I have to back away from the computer for a long time. That single battle is usually too much of an intense and prolonged experience for me.

obi busta nobi

"Chemical release?" Are we as developers trying to produce the next big "fix?" Making sure that we don't give out too much, ebbs and flows in game designs, in order for them (our customers) to keep wanting more. In doing so, creating a new generation of "game addicts?" Oh, oh I hear Senator Lieberman at my door... quick! Hide the Zelda!!!


Actually, I think Spiderman 2 did the emotion thing VERY well. A lot of time I spent just exploring the world, perfecting my swinging technique. These times in the games were not very intense, but they were fun nethertheless, like a car ride in the country or a walk in the park.

The fact that you could spend the whole time swinging around the buildings, exploring the city, allowed you to take breathers in between the tense moments - the time-based missions like stopping robberies and advancing the story.

However, the exploration brought some intense emotions as well. For example, when I was doing the photo mission, and had to climb to the top of the tallest building in the city, I actually started becoming very afraid. The perspectives were so realistic, that I became afraid of heights, fearing that if I messed up with the control, Spidey would fall to his death.

So I find it somewhat funny that this stuff didn't really come to mind before, because you helped build a game that really seems to understand the pacing necessary with a good game.


Interesting subject.
I think the example that Eric Lulie mentioned about RTS is a bit different.
One thing is the fear, tension from many adventure games, specially horror, terror based ones like mentioned already.
And the fun, concentration, focus of highly replayable games, specially multiplayer ones. I remember PSO online sessions of around 15 hours non stop without the thrill going down. But it wasn't exactly emotion. And other times with 1 stage run I felt it was enough focused play. But I think that is not related to the emotion thing. It depends more on our mind status. If we are tired or fresh, all that. Not the chemical emotion stuff. Or maybe there is quite a mix of different feelings. Well I mean that is not exactly the same the emotion of progressing in an adventure game with its storytelling and all, and the tension or thrill of a replayable game.

Ok, I stop going offtopic.
Now I realize why I always had to play games like Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark, Eternal Darkness in small doses to maximize the emotion and the experience. Is something I did automatically without knowing the psychological reasons. I felt I needed to play that way to enjoy those games.
The problem in some games that have the mix of intense and relax moments is that many of them require longer sessions of play. Zelda and Metroid games for example I need to play them many hours consecutively in a short time frame, like 1 month maximum. If not they aren't interesting enough for little 30 minute sessions. Maybe some half hour sessions will be really dull. The compensation of high and low momments is good when taking a longer time with the game.


Very interesting stuff. I wonder if this is why Tetris is the greatest game ever? You're completely focused on the game, but the pressure is only 'on' when the blocks get up to about the 3/4 mark, which doesn't happen often or immediately. And if you fail, there's the lull in between those moments where you can get back into your groove. Granted I don't last hours on a single round of Tetris, but maybe the same theory applies.

I could easily see this being rounded into a better theory of game flow. Books, movies, and music have them. Why wouldn't such psychology be applicable to games in some fashion? So maybe the "Theory of Everything: Games" is to (ab)use these natural cycles and to make the inbetweens entertaining and engrossing. I'd go so far as to say we have the advantage. I'm sure we can devise ways to find out when the player needs to recouperate and facilitate that. I mean, that's the advantage games have over other media, right?

Imagine a San Andreas where the music changes according to the player's percieved mood. Hmm, I'm going back to reread Coercion by Douglas Rushkoff.


Yes. A game needs to have quiet moments to deliver greater emotion in the needed moments.
I come back to this post after playing Zelda 4 Swords Adventures. I can't say the game is less enjoyable or fun than the typical Zelda game. What I can say is that it really is less emotive. Probably it is not only for the reason talked here. Few dialogues, old style graphics, no cutscenes, few NPCs to talk with are among others some reasons that reduce the emotional level of the game.
Now I try to imaginate play a game like Wind Waker going straight to clear the game, talking only the minimum needed and never stopping to talk, explore in a quiet way. Imitating 4 Swords rythm and pace but keeping all characters, cutscenes, graphics and I can nearly feel how some moments of the game would have way less impact on the player.
Anyways we shouldn't forget not all games need to hit the player in an emotional way.

The last comment of Jeffool above this makes me drool about the possibilities of the future. If a computer could notice the player's mood with different type of sensors the game developers could make adaptative objectives to satisfy the player in each moment. So far this looks more appropiate for a sci-fi book or movie than a reality in digital entertainment. Can we hope?

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Jamie's Bragging Rights

  • Spider-Man 2
    The best superhero games of all time Game Informer
    Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw
    Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC
    Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine
    1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die Nomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
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    Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game
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