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October 25, 2014, 05:48:10 PM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreativeDesignsome indie game articles i found (theastronauts.com)
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Author Topic: some indie game articles i found (theastronauts.com)  (Read 3553 times)
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« Reply #40 on: November 10, 2012, 12:34:46 PM »

i think that is true, but the big issue to me is that most devs (especially indie devs) think the frame or structure is the most important part, purely because it is the essential part. but most essential and most important aren't the same thing

here's an analogy: the plot is the essential part of a novel, but it's not the most memorable or important part, other parts (characters, writing quality, etc.) can be more important than the plot. a novel without a plot (a rising sequence of events with a climax and resolution) isn't strictly a novel at all, but writers know enough about writing not to get caught up in thinking *only* about the plot and thinking the plot is the only thing that matters, because although a plot is essential, the reader doesn't actually remember the details of the plot so much as they remember the characters, setting, favorite scenes, dialogue, and so on. the plot creates the frame, but you need to fill in that frame with something besides the frame itself. if a novel is pure mechanical plot, with no characterization or descriptions of scenery, no background lore or flashbacks, etc., it'd be pretty boring

similarly, perhaps gameplay creates the frame, but if the frame is all you have you may as well be making board games or pure rule sets with no graphics, animation, sound, etc. -- in other words if all you care about is gameplay, there's no reason to use video or audio at all, or to have a setting or characters or anything like that, you can just do what "go" does and use abstract circles and lines and squares and colors (this is the inverse of the "just make a movie" thing)

i think that thing about game dev (that devs tend to think gameplay is the only important part) probably has ego as an origin. programmers tend to be guys in their 20s who like to think what they are doing is not only essential, and not only important, but the *most* important. they like to look down on the artists, musicians, writers, and so on. usually they are more highly paid, and would see it as an insult if the artist or musician made as much as they do. so to support that they've created this whole theory about gameplay and fun being the only thing that matters in a game at all, and that anything besides gameplay is just optional eye candy at best, a destructive plague at worst
« Last Edit: November 10, 2012, 12:45:25 PM by Paul Eres » Logged

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« Reply #41 on: November 10, 2012, 05:03:16 PM »

level designs are sort of a big complex thing that doesn't fit easily into memory. you can't make a meme out of a level design
Dark Souls managed to do that for me, in contrary to your assumption.
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« Reply #42 on: November 10, 2012, 06:33:39 PM »

If a game makes you do sections over and over you can commit them to memory pretty readily - Dark Souls is a pretty good example of that sort of thing.  The first two stages of Super Mario Bros are etched into a lot of people's heads, same with the castle hub in Mario 64 (and most of the levels in general, as you do each one like 8 times to beat them).  I have the first four levels of Thexder permanently commited to memory, and they are pretty maze-y.  Same with the map of King's Quest III, which the game took you through so many times due to the time limit and the frequent deaths.  Clock Town in Majora's Mask is a super-memorable location due to the 3 day cycle.
Of course, having memorable visual design and music helps all of these games.  I read an interview with Dave Wise about the Donkey Kong Country music and he thought that the reason so many people remember the Bramble Blast stage theme was that the level was so difficult.  
I remember the level layout of Chemical Plant Zone better than Green Hill Zone despite it being the second level because it has the catchier theme.
So it works both ways.  He just cherry-picked some examples and tried to make a broader point.
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« Reply #43 on: November 11, 2012, 02:15:50 AM »

actually come to think of it, level designs tend to be one of the most memorable aspects of a game. it's not like remembering what places look like is difficult.
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« Reply #44 on: November 11, 2012, 02:29:17 AM »

but the thing is, imagine ff7 without the cinematics and music and story and so on. imagine it had bad graphics, and was done on the nes, like this ff7 nes chinese remake hack:

...

the gameplay is essentially the same between the two versions of the game (there were obviously some differences, but the essential difference is mostly graphics and music, not game mechanics). but almost nobody would enjoy the ff7 nes game more than the ff7 ps1 game, they aren't even remotely the same experience

Yeah, I'm not saying elements outside of the mechanics don't matter. I mean, imagine a girl with a great personality, combines with yours like magic. Now shave her head, make her look like a man (assuming you're straight). Won't feel the same way will you?

Personality and looks, mechanics and scripted shit. You need a good combo of both to make the player feel something. I'm not denying that.

edit: I see this is Sinclair's post too.
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« Reply #45 on: November 11, 2012, 02:48:38 AM »

here's an analogy: the plot is the essential part of a novel, but it's not the most memorable or important part, other parts (characters, writing quality, etc.)
...

similarly, perhaps gameplay creates the frame, but if the frame is all you have you may as well be making board games or pure rule sets with no graphics, animation, sound, etc.
...

i think that thing about game dev (that devs tend to think gameplay is the only important part) probably has ego as an origin.
...

I like your novel analogy, but I don't think mechanics are a parallel to plot in novels. Plots are constructions to drive events. The reader wants things to happen to people, or in the world, and the plot is what sets those events up, tying what the reader already knows into the event they are reading at any given moment.

Mechanics are not a "frame." They can frame, but a game with just mechanics can be extremely compelling. Go is extremely compelling. The Japanese Emperor had the country's official Go master as a member of court. Books are nothing without characters and setting. Games are still a whole lot just with mechanics. Think about Soccer. That game is all mechanics, a ball, field, and nets.

The reason mechanics are powerful is that they let the player create stories for themselves spontaneously. Well designed mechanics will do that. A plot still needs an author to step in and fill in the content. In that respect mechanics are like a frame, but one filled by the player, and are thus far more important than one filled by the creator. Well designed mechanics are a packaged experience, like a well architected house. They _drive_ experiences. I think the mechanic takes center stage in a game, while in a novel it's the characters.

It's this underestimation of the power of mechanics that lead AAA devs to say things like, "mechanics ruin games," though what they really mean is, "our lazy mechanics ruin games," something they cop-out of with the term "traditional game mechanics" i.e. "traditional game mechanics ruin games." Though even that isn't true. ... Just play Mario.

Art and visual design and sound and music and all these things are very important. Just because the mechanic is the most critical piece in a game doesn't mean it should be given the most attention. In The Walking Dead games the mechanics are minimal, but they are understood and used well, thus they _blend_ with the story - the part of the game given the most attention. Valuing mechanics doesn't mean devaluing everything else.


edit:

Yes, there's the ego thing too. Sometimes programmers devalue the other areas because they don't understand them. How many indie games have I seen blow because they have poorly - aesthetically - designed main characters... that stuff matters.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2012, 03:07:17 AM by Graham. » Logged
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« Reply #46 on: November 11, 2012, 02:52:55 AM »

actually come to think of it, level designs tend to be one of the most memorable aspects of a game. it's not like remembering what places look like is difficult.

Also, a good level design will make you remember your experiences playing through it, not necessarily the level's design itself.

I remember the chase through the projects in Half-Life 2 vividly (at the game's opening), lots of little sequences. But I sure as heck don't remember the layout.
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« Reply #47 on: November 11, 2012, 03:10:51 AM »

...
So it works both ways.  He just cherry-picked some examples and tried to make a broader point.

Not only that, the entering of Rapture was exciting because it was interactive, and indicative of the world you'd get to explore later on, as-in by interacting with it.

Driving around in GTA with the radio is heavy mechanics. You choose the station, the car, where you go, and how you drive. Yeah, that's not "gameplay."

Quote
Kong Country music and he thought that the reason so many people remember the Bramble Blast stage theme was that the level was so difficult.  

It was also awesome, and difficult. God, what a fucking maze for a 10 year old. I remember that music well.
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« Reply #48 on: November 11, 2012, 04:45:05 AM »

Those are some really interesting articles and the discussion in this thread also gives me a lot to think about.

I do think the focus on nothing but gameplay, gameplay, gameplay and "realistic" graphics is something that has hurt many other aspects of big games and somehow we ended up with very linear experiences which kind of removes the point of it even being a game.
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« Reply #49 on: November 11, 2012, 06:29:12 AM »

i think that is true, but the big issue to me is that most devs (especially indie devs) think the frame or structure is the most important part, purely because it is the essential part. but most essential and most important aren't the same thing

Had to re-read to grasp.

What you say here I agree with. Mechanics are most essential. They are not the most important, though they are the most important in-proportion to their size. A game with great mechanics and 0 (i.e. garbage) everything else is still worth playing. A game with a single terrible mechanic and a great story is garbage, unless the mechanic doesn't really have a presence.

The mechanic is the lens through which the rest of the game is experienced. It is what gives the game it's game-flavour. The only case in which this isn't true is when the mechanic(s) doesn't play a central role, as-in it is not prominent, as-in it doesn't take much attention from the player. But in that case we'd be discussing a game that is more a movie than a game. In other words the more a game becomes a game the more its mechanics become the most critical factor in a player's experience playing it.

Quote
here's an analogy: the plot is the essential part of a novel

I missed this the first time around. I don't agree with it. I do not think the plot is the most essential part of a novel. Many, many movies have non-existent plots that don't make any sense, even after 3 seconds consideration, however even despite that those movies can create compelling tales by focusing entirely on character development or action. Plots can hold movies together but so can characters, or themes or tones. The most essential element of a movie is not pre-defined. This is not so for games.

This is partially a result of the market and technology. If you're making a game, as opposed to a novel/movie, you are limiting your audience immediately, you are cutting out live footage (largely), you are cutting out theaters, you are acquiring consumer expectations. You have to care about mechanics because you have to make up for your losses. I suppose in the future this won't be true as the division between game and movie fades.

However, consider the case of a game sequence that is half story and half mechanics, as-in each takes 50% of the player's attention (at least of that given by him to the game). Which is the most important?

edit:

Thinking aloud now.

My answer is neither. However, consider the most common case, the one we actually deal with today. The player is always doing something in a game. He is preparing to do something, thinking about doing something, recovering from having done something or doing something. Even in FF7 when the player is doing nothing but roaming town the mechanic is minimal but fundamental to each experience. It "frames" the story, but more importantly, it frames the player's imagination and _that_ frames the story.

Mechanics set up this one-two. They throw the jab and the player throws the straight, then the linear sections react. As a result the mechanics act like pressure on one side of a lever, pushing the player's imagination on the other side, _then_ the story kicks in. No matter how essential your game's story is I can build a mechanic that gets a player to contribute to its impact. If you can lift the player 5 notches into elation I can double that with the right mechanic.

Every story works like this:
  1. Event.
  2. Audience reaction.
  3. New event.
  4. Audience reaction that is a combination of momentum from previous reaction and reaction to new event.
(repeat)

Games work like this:
  1. Event.
  2. Audience reaction.
  3. Audience input.
  -
  4. New event, that is dependent on previous audience reaction
  5. Audience reaction.
  6. (Audience input)
(repeat)

All a game is, at its very core, is a story that changes in some way based on the player's state of mind. The relationship between player state-of-mind and change in story is called a mechanic. The entire weight of each story event is a multiple of a previous event and a mechanic.

Sometimes mechanics add; sometimes they subtract.

We can say things like:
  . maybe the story changes only subtly - I'm using the word "story" here very loosely
  . maybe what the player actually does doesn't create powerful experiences
Though in both these cases we're travelling away from what a game "is."

As you get closer to a game interaction is more prominent. Here's the key I think. Mechanics are always present. Events in stories happen only once. Characters can be re-used but each situation must be written. In games mechanics generate new experiences on their own. A single mechanic can be used many times.

When I add a mechanic to a game I am adding its influence across the game's entirety. Though I suppose I'm doing the same when I create the PC avatar.

---

Conclusion: Confusion. I think the modern market demands mechanics-centric games, thus emphasizing their importance. Though in the future this will change. In complete reality the most critical element of a game is what affects the player the most. These can be mechanics; they can be something else. However a lot can be gained by understanding the impact mechanics have on a game, largely because stories are things we've been building competently for a long time (as humans) and mechanics are not.

Often devs throw mechanics into games haphazardly, and people who love games and have spent their lives playing them complain because we are being denied the most important element of playing a game, the experience unique to games. We love games because they are games. If we wanted games to be movies we wouldn't be gamers. We would be writing stories as often as we develop games.

The _reason_ people play games is because they want something that movies/books/tv can't provide. Those are mechanics. People want mechanics. If those mechanics were available to them in reality, with the same combination of other elements, then they wouldn't want games. They want games to play.

It's like when you go to your friends house to talk. You want to have a good conversation. When you go to the mechanic you want him to fix your car. If your friend can fix your car that's great, and if your mechanic can give you a good conversation that's also great, but neither of these things are the most important part. If your friend asks you how can he improve his relationship with you you would sooner say, "have more interesting conversations with me," than, "repair my car more effectively."

So mechanics are the most critical element of games because they are what make games what they are. If they aren't then the player should not be playing that game. They would be playing incorrectly, as-in as the result of a bad decision.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2012, 07:19:20 AM by Graham. » Logged
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« Reply #50 on: November 11, 2012, 10:25:17 AM »

Quote
that question was rhetorical, but it actually *should not* be rhetorical. many people do play games to pass time, not to create memories. the idea that the people who play angry birds, or even the people who play world of warcraft, are trying to create memories is ridiculous. they are looking for ways to kill some time, not to have their mind expanded or whatever

dude, the very point of life, it can be said, is to fucking kill the time, to kill it as best and as fast as we can! in fact, it is those times that we kill the best THAT CREATE THE MEMORIES, which is to say that THE BEST WAY TO CREATE MEMORIES IS TO SIMPLY HAVE FUN lol.

in fact, people who are playing angry birds are not killing their time as best as they could.

Quote
i think what they want is something that is interactive, but has no gameplay. movies aren't interactive

like for example, simcity and minecraft and interactive toys like those don't have gameplay, but aren't movies

first, there is no such thing as "gameplay". second, strictly-speaking almost all art is interactive (films: adjusting brightness, music: adjusting volume and EQ, books: page flipping, 3D models: changing the viewpoint, computer images: zooming, etc etc etc). third, simcity and minecraft *are* games.

Quote
if you remove *goals*

goals can't be removed.

Quote
the most memorable parts of games he listed were all parts without gameplay

clearly because he doesnt enjoy them. and the guy doesnt realize that he's not only shitting on videogames, or board games, but also on real-life games, games such as philosophy, mathematics, writing, sports, programming, SEX. all of these games are clearly not memorable! and the most memorable thing about basketball is its aesthetically beautiful court, not, say, the slam dunks and last-minute full court shots. and zinedine zidane doesn't remember marco materazzi. and rafael nadal only remember sexy ballgirls. and i totally don't know what quicksort is.

(btw, what would be sex like if we removed "gameplay" from it?)
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« Reply #51 on: November 11, 2012, 10:37:19 AM »

(btw, what would be sex like if we removed "gameplay" from it?)
Make your first experience and you will know.
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« Reply #52 on: November 11, 2012, 11:19:06 AM »

oh zing
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« Reply #53 on: November 11, 2012, 11:48:30 AM »

I'm not crazy about saying Minecraft/Simcity don't have "gameplay" because their goals aren't enforced. Mario doesn't _make_ you play by its rules. Everyone who plays it plays by a different set of rules, and the same goes for Minecraft.
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« Reply #54 on: November 11, 2012, 12:33:01 PM »

Mario doesn't _make_ you play by its rules. Everyone who plays it plays by a different set of rules, and the same goes for Minecraft.
I think for clarity's sake it is beneficial to distinguish between goals and rules. The rules are everything the game dictatates you can do. A rule cannot be broken. What varies are individual decisions and goals.
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« Reply #55 on: November 11, 2012, 03:32:35 PM »

My favourite part of gameplay is the graficks.
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« Reply #56 on: November 11, 2012, 08:30:35 PM »

(btw, what would be sex like if we removed "gameplay" from it?)
Make your first experience and you will know.

lol, nice.
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« Reply #57 on: November 12, 2012, 03:13:00 AM »

Mario doesn't _make_ you play by its rules. Everyone who plays it plays by a different set of rules, and the same goes for Minecraft.
I think for clarity's sake it is beneficial to distinguish between goals and rules. The rules are everything the game dictatates you can do. A rule cannot be broken. What varies are individual decisions and goals.

Right, and a game can only enforce rules. Goals are always player chosen. Some games just limit the possible goal-space more than others.

Minecraft offers a larger goal-space to choose your goal from (compared to most games). The point at which we start saying game X enforces goals and game Y does not is arbitrary. No game enforces goals. People pick up Minecraft and set their own goals. People pick up Mario and do the same.

--

Yes, I used the word rules incorrectly, in a turn-of-phrase way.
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