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February 09, 2005

Comments

Obi Busta Nobi

Mark Nau is definetly a genius when it comes to designing games, but don't sell yourself short Jamie. "Inefficient tester?" If you're sharing the Creative Director role on Spidey 3, then I'm sure someone there thinks you're capable and you should champion your ideas. So far, from what I've read and heard, they're ideas worth at least some discussion.

Co Creative Directors? I can't wait to read the post mortem on Spidey 3 to see how that all will unfold and whether or not it was such a good idea. Perhaps the two of you will pioneer something new since not many devlopers have that sort of arrangement. It's been done on the movie side and it's been successful, look at the Wachoski brothers. I sort of wonder if this will breed a bit of cliqueeness? Where some folks gravitate to the Nau side and others to the Jamie side. How does a clear vision then get implemented? By vote, consensus?

We're having to deal with the enemy issue here as well. How do you make your enemies diverse enough and still be unique? Sure, you can dump hundreds of different kinds of enemies at the player, but after a while will enemy number 76 be that much different from 75? Will the player care? Of course, you don't want a small variation of enemies either. The reviewers love to get you on "variety!" Some of those reviewers sometimes forget the memory limitations imposed on us and don't see what a feat it was to get so much variety on the screen in the first place.

I think a player will always gravitate to what's shiny and bright, if they know they can fight it. Conflict and resolution is what part of the fun is.

One more cheer for the "inefficient tester!"

Jay

One recently-released game (for spoilage's sake, I won't say which one) features a brilliant sequence that makes the number of enemies you've killed very explicit.

The sequence occurs near the end of the game, while your character is trapped in a sort of near-death catatonia. What happens is that you are attacked by the zombie-like spirit of every single enemy you have killed so far during the game.

Your character's mobility is restricted during this frightening onslaught, and there is literally one ghost for every dead enemy, so the game is actually making you (the player, not just the character) suffer (albeit in a morbidly fun way) for the aggregated consequences of your moral gameplay choices.

Notably, the game is NOT one in which you are required to kill enemies in order to proceed. I am relatively certain it is possible to play the entire game without killing anyone. So, if your gameplay style has been cautious, stealthy and merciful, the sequence will be a cakewalk; if you were careless, aggressive and merciless, you may well come to regret the damage you have wreaked.

I had in fact been trying to play as non-lethally as possible. So I was *quite* surprised by the number of enemies whose lives I had actually ended.

Like I said, it was brilliant.

Bacon

Maybe classifying them into 'characters' and 'enemies' might be useful too.

That was just an excuse to say this: Please put back up the link to 'games without frontiers' (darkbox.pentagod.com) in your links section. There's some gold on that site. Yep, I'm just altruistically thinking of the benefits others could reap from reading it.

Jeffool

Actually Jay, I'm rather interested to know what game it is, I'd like to check the sequence (, and the game,) out. It seems like an idea that's obvious once you've heard it, but yet it's still fresh in games. We're so used to seeing bodycounts only as points and goals. Mind emailing me with the title if you're set on not 'ruining' it?

And out of curiosity Jamie, did this co-creative directors bit come from some in-development changes a time or two in the last game? I recall a post on it with an idea likened to the flying V of ducks (changing leads as necessity of stress/strain dictated.) Though like Obi said, that's probably all stuff best saved for the post-mortem.

But back to the baddie-bodycount, last post on it you mentioned the "jumping of successful games" research. Are you hoping to find out just how many bad guys makes a good game/level, or just collecting some data to see if anything comes from it? I guess it seems feasible that, using heuristics like average weapons, damage dealt, and frequency of bad guys, could possibly lead to an 'average game tempo', and see what games are outside the average to the plus or minues. Using those as examples, it may be possible to find a 'successful game tempo', but who knows until it's done. But keep this up, and eventually you'll reach the point where hit games program themselves.

Robert 'Groby' Blum

Regarding the "successful game tempo", there's this vague recollection of an interview w/ Chris Crawford in an old Edge (7 or 8 years ago, I think). He mentioned the concept of frequency of player actions and stated that there's two extremes - several actions per second (FPS, clickfest RTS), and durations on the order of minutes between interactions - with very little filling the gap in between.

While I don't think this measure, or game tempo, or body count, are useful for the creation of a successful game, they might indeed make good ways to categorize games. Anybody who's got any links on this? (And is Raph's ToF going into it? I know I should've read it by now, but he's still a good way in my to-read queue....)

JP

"But keep this up, and eventually you'll reach the point where hit games program themselves."

I'm still waiting for my personal robot assistant.

Obi Busta Nobi

Anyone else remember a psx game called, "Loaded?" I think there was a sequal, "Unloaded," too. That was all about mowing down an endless count of enemies. I remember it being kinda fun too. It's funny, I think the game was controversial back then for all the killing... it's probably tame for today's standards. That game was focused all around body counts.

Jay

Monster encounters transform a lesser game experience, ably restoring something otherwise lacking in design: the heroic ritual. "Evil" enemies serve nicely as kamikaze empowerment -- endless antagonism, to enable release.

(If that foray into Conradian analysis seemed a little obtuse, not to mention cliched, it's because the initial letters of each word spell out the name of the game I mentioned in my earlier comment.) ;)

Eric Lulie

Jamie, it might be interesting to get some kind of very rough "versatility" benchmark for how well a player can use alternate means of getting past an enemy; I would think you'd do as you'd done, and count the number of enemies, but:

a) have you or the playtester mark the method of getting past the enemy (e.g., kill, sneak by, stun opponent, bribe opponent, etc.)
b) have you or the playtester re-load a position before meeting that enemy, and see if they can choose a different means of getting past the enemy, again marking the method the new method they used to get past the enemy

(Alternatively, you could have the playtesters play through the game one way -- killing the enemies, and then have them try to replay the game where they will attempt to use a different option to get past the enemies; if they can't use the new option, then they can resort to killing the enemy.)

You could probably expand this to obstacles or puzzles, too; that kind of data would give you a basic, rough idea of how flexible the game is in allowing the player to using different choices that the game provides or allows.

It might also give an early indication of where you might want to tweak or refine level design (say, there are too many enemies or obstacles in an area which prevent "sneaking" from working; you may either want to give the player the information that "sneaking will be risky" in this area or redesign the level so that there is a more optimal path for sneaking that the player can discover) or tweak or refine game design (continuing with the sneak example, if the player has the "sneak" option, but the player can only sneak past 50 or 300 enemies, you may want to cut the sneak option or give the player the ability to increase the effectiveness of the sneak option -- say, gradually with increased use of the sneak ability or through augmented stealth gear).

Jay

I've only played a wee bit of the recent Spiderman 2, but I seem to recall that some of the attacks at your disposal are more toward the "web 'em up and leave 'em for the cops" style, while others are more the "punch them until they are, uh, 'knocked out'" style.

But it didn't really matter, did it? As I recall, webbing up baddies just did damage to them, or something -- it was ultimately no different than bludgeoning them with melee attacks. If those two styles represented genuinely distinct forms of dealing with enemies, then you could create interesting consequences.

For instance, maybe you've got to watch out for Spidey's local reputation. Being the "friendly neighborhood Spiderman" wisn you friends in friendly neighborhoods -- but in rougher parts of town, the citizens would prefer to see the bad guys beaten up.

Patrick

OBN:

"Loaded" was lots of fun. I don't remember the sequel ("Re-Loaded") being that great though. I think the idea of an on-screen body count is interesting, especially if that's what your game is about (killing). While it's not literally a body count, I think Four Swords Adventures awards the players for the number of enemies they kill at the end of each level. Which is kinda fun when playing co-op.

Obi Busta Nobi

Ugh! Right!!! "Re_Loaded!" Thanks Patrick. It was sooooo long ago.

Was Spidey 2 ever about the combat and enemies? Or, was it more about the locomotion and the ability to free roam? Maybe both? The bosses of course were important to fight.

Are there ever polls or stats, an analysis and not just sales, on how a game does after a certain period of time goes by (say a year) to see how well it's stood up?

I suppose Gamasutra's last poll of the best games of 2004 is something that does that. Right?

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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
  • Schizoid
    Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award
    Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game
    Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game