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April 17, 2005

Comments

spoonix

I've heard about the one-button squad control feature, and I wanted to check it out so I grabbed RC for the PC. Sadly, the install media appears to be broken and the game won't install (I'm hoping that it's the media and not some wonky anti-copying feature), and LucasArts support is next to useless so I have yet to check out the game.

There's another FPS that I'm interested in checking out: Brothers in Arms. Of course, it's WWII based, but the special thing about it is that you're supposed to spend more time controlling your squad than actually firing guns and chucking grenades. I'm hoping that it's more like what I've heard RC is rather than Rainbow Six (spend 2 hours putting together a plan, execute it, and then end up accidentally killing a hostage because you tossed a frag grenade in the room instead of a flash bang).

Tom

Hmmm. I think I disagree about the meaningful choices thing. What's the point of a choice at all if it isn't meaningful? Then it just becomes a chore.

It may not have negatively impacted the experience in SW:RC too much because it sounds like they've tuned it to be more of an action game than a tactical one. Would the game not be just as much fun if your squadmates just automatically did the actions that the designers have obviously pre-decided for them, Halo style?

Ghost Recon 2 provides a couple of good examples of the benefits of meaningful choices and the negatives of non-meaningful ones.

In GR1 you could tell your squad exactly where to go using a map, in GR2, they changed it to a more open-ended 'flank left', 'flank right', 'hold', or 'suppress' system. At first I was annoyed about not being able to tell my squad exactly where to go. But as I got used to the change, it actually become a lot more enjoyable. Since the AI got sophisticated enough in the sequel to know that they should probably keep the cover between them and the enemy, having to tell them where to go with pixel perfect precision would have been a chore. But the more abstract control method sped the gameplay up immensely and freed you to concentrate on fragging, while still offering all the tactical possibilities available to a squad.

The problem with giving you a redundant or meaningless choice is also present in GR2 pretty annoyingly. When your teammate gets shot you get about 15 seconds to figure out where he is, train your sites on him and press the 'context sensitive' Y button in order to get one of your teammates to medic him. If you don't he dies. To compound the problem, this usually tends to happen when you are being shot at from who knows where and the enemy is advancing fast. You often can't even easily find your downed teammate, and when you do, there is only one choice anyway. And that choice is redundant, of course you want someone to medic him!

The choices in SW:RC sound more like the second example than the first. So I am fairly dubious. If the designers have already decided what the best tactic is, then where is the game? You just become a button pusher.

Disclaimer: I haven't played it myself, I'm just going on your description.

Bob

"What I'd love to see is this game mechanic take off, and not be another innovation dead-end like Die By The Sword, Galleon, or Homeworld."

Innovation dead-ends? What? Care to explain yourself after making such a controversial statement?

I'd take a hundred so-called innovation dead-ends to the current state of sequelitis, GTA clones, and FPS rehashes.

Christian Mogensen

Republic Commando is squad-oriented gameplay with training wheels on. The game tells you where to go at all times, and is very forgiving of mistakes. i.e. using a snipe or a granade point does not have that big an effect on the result.

Brothers in Arms is like Republic Commando but with the training wheels taken off. You get to tell your squad without the "correct" answer being highlighted. The orders are all given from first-person view. You can zoom out to an overhead map view, but you can't give orders there. It's for situational awareness and planning - you end up checking it out every now and then. Most of the time you're directing your squad to cover, setting up a flank, getting an enemy position supressed.

The first couple of levels are kinda repetitive and obvious fix-and-flank training missions, but from the half-way point and on the maps open up quite a bit and the "right" way forward isn't quite as obvious.

GR2 with the flank-left/flank-right/hold commands sounds like the next step up: less managing the squad waypoints, more AI handling the details. Of course, it depends on the AI being smart enough to know which side of the wall the enemy MG is on, and staying away from it. (Something the BIA NPCs seem to be fairly smart about, but not always).

Jamie Fristrom

I meant historical dead-ends. Evolutionary dead-ends. The sword-control of DBTS, the jumping-running precision of Galleon, and the 3D-ship control of Homeworld are all very cool, but no future game is going to adopt any of these mechanics. None of these organisms survived in the wild, and none of them will produce offspring.

You might ask if that matters, I suppose. Sure, I'd rather work on an innovative game than a clone, even if that innovative game was never cloned itself.

Soren Johnson

I'm with Sid on this one (well, he's my boss, so it's in my best interest!) Good games are based on meaningful decisions. However, most people interpret this as "lots and lots of" decisions, which is not what he meant. Three interesting choices are fine, and I assume you get to choose between a snipe crate or a grenade crate or no crate? Complexity is not the same as decision-making...

William van der Sterren

Another fun game featuring a great yet simple command system is IO Interactive's Freedom Fighters (where you play a leader of a group of freedom fighters in a Soviet conquered New York - released in 1993 for PC and consoles). Like Brothers in Arms, you need to work through a handful of missions to get to the cool part (commanding up to ten rebel fighters).

Brett Douville

I think the choices in RC aren't always clear. Most maneuvers aren't actually necessary to complete the game or the current objective -- only the ones that have to do with breaching (or 'slicing') a gating door or blowing up something in your way.

The most interesting choices for me, when I finally got a chance to play the game were:

a) Whether to deploy a man or do something myself. Often, I'd do something like taking down a droid dispenser myself, if I could get my guys to good covering positions. But not always. It would depend on relative health and my own personal exhaustion level (I played through in a couple of marathon sessions before we shipped -- but once the bug count had nearly flatlined).

b) *When* to do something. Even if I was going to have one of my men do something, timing was often important, and I'd find myself canceling things as well in response to changing information. This tended to be in the most intense areas -- adding more excitement.

c) Where to concentrate fire. I don't think we were able to highlight this feature in the game, so many players won't find it. However, you can hit the A button over enemies as well, and concentrate all your fire somewhere. Mostly useful against bosses, but there were times where I'd put them on a Geonosian Elite (the flying guys) or a Super Battledroid, and I'd take out all the easy droids instead.

d) When to send my guys ahead using "defend this position" (A + d-pad some direction). I tended to use this outdoors a bit when I could see what was coming but didn't feel like I had a lot of cover, or felt like I could do better in a support role (e.g. on a turret).

The choices are there, but they aren't always overt or choices that you think about. In a lot of areas where these choices become necessary, you don't even realize you're making a choice -- you're just playing with your own style, which is something we really wanted to deliver.

Thanks for the great write-up, Jamie. I always enjoy these and it's nice to have such a nice one :)

Christian Mogensen

+1 on the Freedom Fighters recommendation - very straightforward control system and it felt quite empowering. The actual fighting wasn't very elegant (devolved into melee very quickly) but there were several moments where you felt your tactical commands were making a real difference. With the right commands you could keep your fellow plumbers/rebels from getting cut up in the crossfire.

On the Republic Commando game: the consentrate fire was a god-send. The super-battledroids were almost impossible to take out unless you had grenades lying around. It also gave you a super-handy "remaining strength" read-out.

The biggest choice problem is that usually there would be one snipe position behind a rock, and then there would be another one twenty meters on. You'd use it for over-watch while the rest of the squad moved ahead, and then you'd remember to abandon it, sometimes not: leaving Sev behind while you trotted on ahead...

One great choice that no-one has mentioned are the mine markers. You can choose to lay down trip-wire mines before some of the larger and more exciting battles. Which of the many mine markers to use and how many to use was definitely something I ended up playing around with.

The first level end battle was super exciting because of the countdown clock, the mass of enemies coming at you, and the looong time it took to hack the terminal. But given there were only two snipe points on the bridge there wasn't a whole lot of choice about where to locate your team. When I completed it it was more luck than skill I think.

Tom

A little off topic here but is there any chance in getting an RSS feed for your wonderful blog?

That I can add it to my Feedreader and i'll be notified of your updates as soon as you post.

Anyway, if your looking for a good one Feedburner will provide a decent free service.

Thanks :D

m to the vizzah

I played this demo a few times on the PC and found it completely uninteresting, although I'll admit it was pretty. Did it not come with a tutorial? Because I had no idea what was going on half the time. The screen is always being cluttered with random text and icons, my teammates are idiots, AND YOU CAN'T SKIP THE FUCKING CUTSCENES. Also none of the environments reminded me of Star Wars at all, what a waste of a license. Jedi Knight and Jedi Academy were both way more fun even though they were extremely derivative in many ways and had lackluster graphics.

m.

RodeoClown

This is the url for the rss feed => http://www.gamedevblog.com/index.rdf
(It's actually in the side bar, but it's not super visible)

Tom Henderson

Well, I think your both right. Sid's correct about what makes a good game but Jamey's right that many successful games are 'linear thrill rides'. This is because what we call games covers a multitude of sins. These products are rarely purely 'games' and in some of them the non-game elements are of larger importance.

I would contend that the number of successful 'games' that don't offer lots of meaningful choices is quite small and that most attempts along those lines (i.e. interactive movies) have been dismal failures. I'd say this is because the game market is predisposed towards games at least currently.

JP

<Mortal Kombat Announcer Guy>
Soren Johnson... WINS.

JP

Okay, serious question... I haven't played RC, so I don't have any predisposition to it either way, but:

Jamie, would the game have been as fun if you hadn't been playing it? Either watching someone else play it, or watching a movie-ized version of the same thing?

If you answer no, I'm curious as to why. You say there aren't many choices, or the choices aren't interesting. So where does the enjoyment come from? Is it still fun to make non-decisions? Or is the thrill pretty much all about absorbing the content passively? I guess what I'm asking is, how does the idea of participation enter into these "linear thrill rides"?

If you answer yes, then, well, okay. Just tell the people who worked on it to head for Hollywood and STOP RUINING GAME DESIGN!! </half-joking>

Aubrey

Now now, JP. Unintersting choices can still be enjoyable - just look at DDR or Frequency (though the latter has a few interesting choices in there). There's the joy of the pure achievement in agonistic goals, regardless of whether there is any great strategy involved.

Thing is, you can still get that rollercoaster aspect in a game with more depth than Commander Pander's skin deep tactics. I thought the whole point of getting skilled with interactivity was so that we'd work our brains into a state that can come up with rules and abilities which generate awesome scenarios as a reflection of player involvement... Rather than, y'know, a totally inflexible pre-rigged supposedly interactive cut scenes, which, let's face it, any linear thinker who has possibly-played-a-video-game-once can come up with.

Once the game is flexing and folding around what the player is doing, you're going to get a much greater feeling of involvement in the player. They'll see that their actions are pervasive, running deep into the game system, altering aspects of the game state, letting them understand that they can manipulate greater systems than simply whether or not the hostage infront of the gun should die or not (death resulting in "Game Over" n'est pas?). When people are able to have a deeper involvement, they get to play creatively and expressively, rather than just wondering on a minute to minute basis "what does the level designer want me to do, now?".

This smoke and mirrors bullshit really gets to me: People do it because it's the cheap and easy way out, but it has not an ounce of impact on a trained eye, and completely undersells the potential of the medium. Apologizing for it does not push us forward - it just makes us complacent.

JP

I wasn't really sniping at Jamie in this case, I'm honestly curious. And I was challenging his "no interesting choices" assertion because there is *something* there that's still interesting to do, in the absence of higher level strategizing.

Absolute agreement on the latter point though: "linear thrill rides" have sold well thus far because it's all most developers feel comfortable making. The claim that it's the only way to "tell a story" or create involvement is a cop-out, and factually incorrect at that.

My biggest (perhaps only) problem with them is that if we keep making so many of them, if they continue to be such an industry mainstay, we are never going to escape from Hollywood's shadow. Movies are still by far the best mass-culture linear thrill rides, and they always will be. We are totally fucked long-term if we don't start giving players experiences they cannot have in other media.

Jamie Fristrom

Actually, the best linear thrill rides are still found at theme parks. There you are completely immersed, all senses engaged (including the rare ones kinesthetic, temperature). I'd argue the second best are video games like Republic Commando: you have the first person view, at least, and you're in control. Movies come last, in my book, but often offer things like good storytelling to make up for the fact that they can't compete as thrill rides. Much rather play Republic Commando than see a thrill-ride-movie with bad storytelling. (*The Rock* might have made a pretty good videogame but it was a terrible movie.)

Brett Douville

"Commander Pander"! Ha, that's a good one. I sort of skimmed right over that the first time I read it.

To be honest, we weren't shooting for super depth in the tactics. There are other games for that. We were shooting for a fair degree of immersion and something that was available to a wide audience. It's not necessarily tailored for the hardcore, though I hope they'll find something to like in it; if you use the stances a lot, it definitely feels like you have a fine degree of control, but our ability to judge that was pretty fried by playing the game so much. We could use the stances super well because we had been in the game's situations dozens of times (and with the E3 levels I bet I had done them more like hundreds). We felt really strongly that the Star Wars audience is not just hardcore gamers (and maybe not even mostly hardcore gamers), so we were aiming to provide an experience that reached out to the mass market.

JP

"I'd argue the second best are video games like Republic Commando: you have the first person view, at least, and you're in control"

To tighten the wording on my initial question: in control of what, exactly? And is that indeed what makes it worth "playing" as a "game" rather than watching as a movie?

Jamie Fristrom

Here, let me ask you this, JP: How do you feel about *Ico*? That would be a quintessential example of an awesome game that's completely linear and offers no meaningful choices.

Anne

"In control" may not necessarily be the best way to phrase it. Perhaps "intellectual immersion."

My view is slightly prejudiced, as my 6-year-old is playing RC obsessively, but what I am seeing is a completely immersive experience. Despite the fact that his team is going exactly where they should, and doing exactly what they should be doing, he shouts orders to them. He dances around, and jumps up and down. He talks about the game as if HE personally (and not the character) has had the experiences (yes, my mother-in-law hates me).

I credit the subtlety of the interface -- it is very easy to pick up, and thus, easily becomes reflexive and instinctive, rather than something you have to consciously consider as you play.

And unless George Lucas has suddenly decided to make a movie instead of an ad for his special effects company, losing yourself in the game is definitely the more entertaining experience.

JP

Jamie, just so it's clear, I'm asking those questions sincerely, not as snarky rhetorical / Socratic lure. I'm wondering what makes the game(s) interesting if there are no (or fewer) interesting choices. Aubrey brings up the obvious example of an on-rails 2D shooter, where the interest comes from trying to play "perfectly". Clearly there are others.

As for Ico, I appreciate what it was trying to do, and it had some lovely touches, but in the end it left me pretty cold - less because it didn't allow me to wander freely and make choices about my progress, and more because the game's story was set up in such a way that my avatar was not allowed to feel anything but affinity towards Yorda... when clearly, many players felt the relationship was more one-sided and parasitic than cooperative (or ANYTHING really). The linearity was more of an interpretive nature than a structural one - our perceptions and emotions were forced down a single path moreso than our destinies. A less kind term for that is Propaganda.

For the kind of experience the game was trying to provide, this was much more of a flaw to my mind. You're just not going to create a compelling emotional bond with something in a game if you make too many assumptions about how the player is interacting with that thing. More designers need to watch out for this. "Nonlinearity" is a huge buzzword now, and developers seem to be incorporating it without any understand of why it might be good... but that's another problem for another day. Fewer developers are willing to admit flexibility when it comes to how players "connect" with the content of their games - designers want only to tell *their* story and Emotioneer rather than let the player form their own ideas about things. Again, it's propaganda of the interactive sort, and the idea of a future in which players are coerced rather than invited to participate worries me.

The unique strength of the interactive medium is that players can not only interpret but act on those interpretations, within the context of the piece itself (rather than film ("textual") interpretation, which is always outside the scope of the piece - if I decide Han Solo is a big jerk, that obviously doesn't change the events of the film). My earlier comment was basically that if we don't take advantage of that unique strength, we might as well just make a movie, because those are set up much better to ramrod home a particular viewpoint, and that's all most designers seem to want to do anyway.


"And unless George Lucas has suddenly decided to make a movie instead of an ad for his special effects company, losing yourself in the game is definitely the more entertaining experience."

Okay, well, good games beat out crappy movies. No big surprise there. My point was that most people still prefer movies over games for "thrill rides", because unless you're a gamer, games put up too much irksome resistance - by virtue of offering goals - to offering an enjoyable, immersive experience. Chris Crawford makes the analogy of a good book with its pages stuck together... why is the extra effort even necessary, when all you want to do is consume the contents within?

JP

I should add that said "irksome resistance" comes more from just having goals at all - making games less difficult to play and easier to learn is good, but that doesn't remove the fundamental barrier to enjoyment that is there for most non-gamers.

The answer is not to make those stuck pages easier to un-stick, it's to make something that doesn't even have pages :P

(backs away from analogy before it crumbles into dust)

Aubrey

"We felt really strongly that the Star Wars audience is not just hardcore gamers (and maybe not even mostly hardcore gamers), so we were aiming to provide an experience that reached out to the mass market."

I'd never consider myself a hardcore gamer, and am not arguing for their concerns in a mainstream title. I'm not complaining that the game isn't "hard core friendly". I don't think on those terms.

I'm saying that the issue is not simply about "hardcore" vs. "casual". I don't see those concepts as things you need to trade off against each other. I think that both can live in harmony. You can make a game which is accessible, and deep, and considering that, why make a game which is just one or the other? (Well, I suppose it's easier, and relies on a lot of conventionally held knowledge, so it's less frightening to all involved.)

As you point out, there's a way to get really good at commanding your dudes, which hardcore gamers love, but which is probably lost on casual gamers. Casual gamers enjoy the game none the less! This hint at more involved strategy is not ruining their experience.

Deeper, more systemic mechanics can still be embraced by the casual audience if presented properly. Sand box games have historically made the mistake of leaving casual gamers up shit creek without a paddle, and it's no wonder they're scared and don't know what to do, because the range of options open to them are never made obvious. It doesn't have to be this way! In the past, we've taught players to accept and submit to designer/frustrated director's direction, especially in the more linear games. We should be encouraging their creativity by explaining better the range of ways in which they're able to express themselves. If we don't, the idea that "audiences are dumb and will never understand deeper game play" will be a self fulfilling prophecy. A game is nothing without a player. Often the quality of game play is as much in the player's domain as it is the game's. Crap players make for crappy performances, so let's start enabling them (teaching them) to play in a more creative ways.

In the same way that fantastically varied situations can come out of deeper game play in a natural way, the player can also be better informed of the moment to moment options open to them - procedurally generated hints, like NPCs who come to YOU rather than the other way around (https://www.cs.tcd.ie/~faircloc/), or subtle suggestions from squad mates about a range of viable approaches to achieve the next goal, and explanation of the consequences of each approach.

I think that Republic Commando DID present its choices very well, but with the same attention to presentation of options, I fail to believe that having a wider variety of choices would scare off casual gamers. One need to give them more credit than that - players lap up choices, just so long as they know they HAVE them in the first place.

c

Seems like there are some assumptions should be re-examined. Does increasing depth and possibility space make a game more interesting and of higher quality? That depends on your metric of quality and your reason for playing. A deep but accessible game plays and feels differently from a shallow game, and isn't necessarily a better experience for all players. Meaningful choices can be scary and unwanted, especially if getting at the game's content requires learning and growth of the player. It's clear from the way games sell that the content of the game can be and often is more important to the general audience. While that irks certain designers because it "hamstrings the medium", it's also kind of misunderstanding your audience. You're assuming that your audience has spent a lifetime of playing and analyzing games. You're assuming that interesting choices are what interest players. You're assuming that players play games to explore possibility spaces. You're assuming that players buy games to be intellectually stimulated. It's funny that the industry is growing bigger than ever by doing the very thing that doomsayers say is going to kill it.

I think the worst assumption is that interactivity should be the only way a game designer shows creative expression because that's what makes it unique among other mediums. Songs are different from poems in that they have music. Should the creative expression of a song stem only from its rhythm and timbre rather than from its lyrics? Sculpture is different from paintings in that they have 3D form. Should a sculpture's creative expression stem only from their 3D form rather than from its surface qualities? Movies are different from paintings because of sound and movement, different from books because of imagery, different from plays because of cinematography, etc. It's all a holistic whole.

JP
"I think the worst assumption is that interactivity should be the only way a game designer shows creative expression because that's what makes it unique among other mediums."

Yes. Good thing that's not what I said.

"Songs are different from poems in that they have music. Should the creative expression of a song stem only from its rhythm and timbre rather than from its lyrics?"

It sounds like you haven't fully grokked the holistic approach you later recommend. A song isn't [a poem] + [a melody]. It's a new thing entirely. A good songwriter combines words and music to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. If songs were as obsessed with their poem-ness as many games are with their narrative-seeming-ness, there would be many more unexplored avenues in the medium than there are today. Games are in that spot now, and they will be so long as short shrift is given to their interactive aspects.

If someday the pendulum swings back the other way and we're all playing dry, abstract, rule-obsessed games, we will perhaps have lost touch with the value of spectacle and aesthetics-for-aesthetics sake. I don't think we're in much danger of that though. On the flip side, we are already seen by many as a marketing doormat for Hollywood:

"I think games today are what merchandising was after the first Star Wars film - a chance for filmmakers and studios (and fans) to further control the destiny of their favorite characters."
( http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.04/play.html?pg=2 )

Why people continue to be so squeamish at the suggestion that we embrace the unique strengths of this medium rather than ashamedly sweep them under the rug or cover them with a heavy glaze of non-interactive spectacle, I have no idea.

"Should a sculpture's creative expression stem only from their 3D form rather than from its surface qualities?"

No, but a painted sculpture that's 99% flat might as well be a painting.

And if 99% flat, painted sculptures were all that sold well, Michelangelo would never have created "David".

"You're assuming that your audience has spent a lifetime of playing and analyzing games."

Aren't we still talking about accessible games though? An accessible game is one that doesn't assume this, and doesn't demand extensive learning and/or prior knowledge of the player. And as Aubrey stated and many games have proven, depth and accessibility are not opposed concepts. Nor is depth always what's desirable. The popularity of both Checkers and Chess is a sign that the board games market expands to fill different needs (this is less the case in videogames, of course, for many reasons).

"It's clear from the way games sell that the content of the game can be and often is more important to the general audience."

[Jumps into a TARDIS, travels to an alternate universe where games are actually *not* marketed largely on the basis of their content]

Well, I can't argue with the sales figures. But that's like saying "The market has clearly demonstrated that there is no need for a game about Ronald Reagan Dancing In A Ballet". We won't know until we have the balls to try it.

"Meaningful choices can be scary and unwanted"

Not if:
A) the game is not advertised in a misleading way before players buy it
B) they're presented well by a competent designer

c

"Why people continue to be so squeamish at the suggestion that we embrace the unique strengths of this medium"
I don't think everyone agrees on what the unique strengths of the medium are.

"We won't know until we have the balls to try it."
I agree that the game industry could use a shot in the arm. I agree that a deep game with a procedural storyline crafted by the player would be interesting and could sell well. I don't agree that the possibility of such a game means linear thrill rides are not worth playing.

JP
"I don't think everyone agrees on what the unique strengths of the medium are."

More often it seems like they just don't care. Developers, press and gamers have been taught that whatever sells must be the best possible thing. "Furthering the artistic medium of games" probably doesn't enter into most peoples' thinking. When really the long-term success of the industry depends upon it.

"I agree that a deep game with a procedural storyline crafted by the player would be interesting and could sell well. I don't agree that the possibility of such a game means linear thrill rides are not worth playing."

I never suggested that they weren't. I play them myself when they are done well (HL2) and there is clearly a proven market for them that the industry should continue to fill.

However, the only reason we have these proven successes today is because, once upon a time, someone tried something new. Before the mid 1990s, nobody knew what a Linear Thrill Ride was.

Nathan McKenzie

JP:
"However, the only reason we have these proven successes today is because, once upon a time, someone tried something new. Before the mid 1990s, nobody knew what a Linear Thrill Ride was."

Is this really, honestly true?

Embed poorly written snippets of machima into Castlevania 1 or Contra 1, and what would you have? Would it really be so different from the games you're lambasting now? Strider for the Genesis (which I love) is as much of a dense, linear thrill-ride of a game as nearly any game I can come up with, ever. I suspect if you pore over console games specifically from all the major eras, particularly the games that you've forgotten because they weren't very good, you'll find a much higher percentage of nominally interactive, totally linear experiences than you'd expect. Less movies and cutscenes, of course, but similar structures otherwise. Some of them will be great, most of them will be junk. No different from now.

As always, JP, I appreciate your sentiment and my interests in game study largely overlap yours, but for some reason I just have an urge to argue with you =P

JP
"Is this really, honestly true?"

Well, sure, if we're talking about Linear Thrill Rides in their modern form. Castlevania, Strider et al were maybe earlier iterations on a similar concept. Or maybe it's just been a smooth progression up to the form we know today.

Either way, my point is that if people hadn't dared to deviate from / develop upon the formula, we'd all still be copying Doom - instead of, err, copying Half-Life. (Not that Doom is even a good example of Linear Thrill Ride.)

And don't get me wrong, I don't think things Used To Be Better. I do think it was the case, though, that there was less to hide behind if your mechanics were shoddy. And of the games that didn't really leverage their interactivity to create a cool experience (which I'd say Strider certainly did, linearity or no), all but the very best have been forgotten.

In general, the games that truly endure also happen to be good representatives of what you can do in this medium. In a few more decades, not many people are really going to remember "Life" (the Milton Bradley board game, not Conway's cellular automata sim) or "Mouse Trap", and that has less to do with their Depth or Accessibility (or lack thereof) and more to do with the fact that they are a thin paste of rather perfunctory rules cobbled into a content delivery system. Which may have once been exciting to kids in the 60s, 70s or 80s, but now the all-important spectacle just isn't that awesome.

Likewise, in 10 years time, Doom3 will be looking pretty darn dated, graphically. I'll be quite curious to see how future generations will come to view it.

b

"More often it seems like they just don't care."
Well that falls into the rule that most things aren't good. But aside from that, Rand and Robyn Miller didn't believe that depth of interactivity and possibility spaces was the strength of the medium when they created Myst, or at least that's not the strength they chose to focus on. Tim Schafer once said something about how he creates worlds and stories and then fills them up with this thing called gameplay. In twenty years, will people remember Myst and Monkey Island? Regardless of your personal opinions of those specific games, do you believe that they weren't at least trying to further the medium in their own way? Are greater player expression, interactivity, larger possibility spaces the only way to "further the medium"?

"my interests in game study largely overlap yours, but for some reason I just have an urge to argue with you"
That's funny because many of my interests overlap as well. The reason I argue is because a lot of the things said seem narrow minded. It all smacks of the idea that "everyone is either just like me or should be in the process of becoming like me." The idea that everyone should just trust me and like what I like because it really is great. It happens in the realm of just about everything else though so I guess in a way, it's weirdly comforting that it's finally happening with video games.

JP

"Are greater player expression, interactivity, larger possibility spaces the only way to "further the medium"?"

As I've stated a few times already, no.

All I'm saying is that those things are currently falling by the wayside in the mad rush for more technology, higher production values and more profits. And that's not good for anyone, long-term.

"In twenty years, will people remember Myst and Monkey Island?"

Yes, absolutely. Monkey Island perhaps moreso than Myst, simply because Myst really doesn't go too much further than being a Content Delivery System, and as such the connection the player had to the world and story wasn't really that compelling. Play it again yourself and see how it holds up. It's a pretty pictures game, one that rode the coat-tails of the CD-ROM revolution at that, and I'm sorry but time is not going to be as kind to it, contributions to the medium notwithstanding.

Monkey Island was a fantastic marriage of humor, good writing and adventure gaming, and I lament the death of the genre as much as anyone.

"Tim Schafer once said something about how he creates worlds and stories and then fills them up with this thing called gameplay."

I don't understand how that makes the gameplay any less important. This isn't about gameplay Versus story, or anything Versus anything. It's about understanding interactivity better so that the content it's part of can be better appreciated. Gameplay *IS* content, and if you're a creator then you're throwing away everything else if you settle for shoddy or "filler" mechanics, just as much as you'd be wasting good mechanics on a game with a lame, perfunctory story and setting. And frankly, Tim knows better than to do that... which is why he employs competent designers.

"The reason I argue is because a lot of the things said seem narrow minded. It all smacks of the idea that "everyone is either just like me or should be in the process of becoming like me.""

You make a lot of assumptions about what I think.

"Well that falls into the rule that most things aren't good."

Everyone makes quality judgments. Am I arrogant because I have opinions? Because there are things about the world that I feel could change for the better? How am I demanding that you agree with me?

a

"You make a lot of assumptions about what I think."
Yeah you're right. I think I'm misinterpreting some things that were said like "if we don't take advantage of that unique strength, we might as well just make a movie" and the Chris Crawford quote. I guess it comes down to what a person considers shoddy mechanics or mechanics that don't connect well to its content. A game like Dragon's Lair would be an extreme example of the glued book and yet it's considered a classic as well as the root of other popular games. 12 years after its release, you can still find Myst on retail shelves in some form. Milton Bradley's Life apparently has been around in various forms since 1860.

"Am I arrogant because I have opinions? How am I demanding that you agree with me?"
No, not at all. I have opinions that slightly differ from yours and discussion is good. And what's a good discussion without some passive-aggressive jabs here and there? =)

Plamen Kovatchev

Don't you hate it when good arguments go unread and eventually forgotten?

Nobody played Monkey Island. Everybody played Myst. Monkey Island was a niche, "cult hit". Myst was mainstream. Myst was connected to the sorta important "CD-ROM revolution" and could be identified with it. Monkey Island wasn't connected with anything. Monkey Island will not be forgotten, but will continue to be of marginal importance.

Please continue your wonderful debate, I'm sure I'm not the only one listening.

Brett Douville

Hell no, you're not. :) I'm happy to see the game I worked on spark one of the longest comment threads in gamedevblog history. Thanks for the bump, Plamen.

B-

MDB

My vote for Star Wars: Republic Commando 2. I just completed it this evening and I am hooked. I had been messing around with the demo for ages but decided to grab the full copy. Well worth the money and I sincerely hope Lucas Arts makes a sequel.

M.

Philip Corson

I have learned alot from this post about SWRC, i mean, i went all over the lucas arts website and found didly sqwat. I tried to find a contact number on their site and they dont have one. I have played SWRC over and over as well as on live and i enjoyed every minute. i have been hoping for a sequal since i beat the game... which was right when it came out. I really want to know if lucas arts is going to make and RC2... or Imperial commando 2 or whatever. can someone post some info for me so i can actually talk to someone involed in lucas arts and say, "hello, lots of people want a sequal, so make one!!" ty a bunch!

Star wars geek

I agree with the above There needs to be a sequel or somebody is going to get hurt. not dissing on the game or anything but the ending was worse than the Halo 2 Ending I mean COME ON!

Morris

Will be there a sequel?

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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