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DinofarmGames
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« on: May 09, 2012, 05:55:34 pm »

Hey guys.  I wrote an article today about why people don't generally care about score in videogames, why they *should*, and how we can get them to.  I hope you find it useful.

http://www.dinofarmgames.com/score-in-videogames/
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noah!
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2012, 06:41:48 pm »

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I can’t think of a single digital game that has a really great scoring system;  probably the best ones are very early games like Galaga, but even they have issues.

OK so if your knowledge of shooting games only extends to Galaga I feel like I'm totally justified in not taking you seriously.

Shmups, man. Like, you may have a point when you're talking about all these other genres but shmups, man. It's a whole genre dedicated to the pursuit of the number-one score. You can't systematically ignore that whole genre and still expect your point to be proven. That's like complaining because you couldn't strike oil while digging in your kid's sandbox. It just doesn't make sense.

So, here's your assignment. Since it's criminally unknown, and also lets me link to a thing I wrote, go out and play ring^-27. It's got a scoring system that's deep. Orgasmic. Baconman would cream himself if I started explaining the nuances of it. Yeah, I could do the old forum thing and break apart your argument with textwalls but c'mon. Play ring^-27. At least play the trial. Support indie development on both hemispheres. Feel good inside. Like, deep down inside, in the heart. The lower heart. The one down by your waist.
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DinofarmGames
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2012, 06:53:53 pm »

How do you get points in ring^-27?  I hope you read my section on Equations to know why I don't think a lot of later games had great scoring mechanisms.  To be clear, I never said my knowledge of "shooting games" only extends to Galaga.
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eigenbom
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2012, 07:26:47 pm »

If your point is that scoring systems in games is more complex than in board games, then you're right. The scoring systems in board games need to be human computable and are temporary. When you play a board game you aren't competing against 10,000 other people who played it before you. Your article seems mostly rhetoric.
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noah!
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2012, 07:36:20 pm »

How do you get points in ring^-27?  I hope you read my section on Equations to know why I don't think a lot of later games had great scoring mechanisms.  To be clear, I never said my knowledge of "shooting games" only extends to Galaga.

Whoops, guess I should've brought the walls in the first place...

OK, so ring^-27. Basically, here's how scoring goes: First, you anchor onto an enemy. Next, you shoot other enemies without killing the first one. For each enemy you kill, the number of points each enemy is worth increases (omg arbitrary multipliers!) and they also drop some little medal items too (why not just count medals grabbed?). So, yeah, it kind of fails your criteria since it abstracts and it's not good to abstract and right now I wish I had never posted that first thing at all because I hate these arguments. Shit.

So I'm dry-heaving and it's time for paragraph 3. The thing is, when you talk about how completion made score irrelevant, it actually didn't make scoring irrelevant. It made that number at the top of the screen irrelevant, but come on. It is the 90s and you're sitting down with your friend and you're playing Sonic. Empty pouches of Capri-Sun litter the scene and your controller is stained with cheese powder. Sonic's eyes bulge out and he falls to the bottom of the screen. Game over. Time for your friend to give it a go.

The music to Green Hill Zone starts up.

Your friend's hands clutch the controller. Your hands clutch the cheese puffs.

In a matter of seconds, you hear the buzz of the end goal.

Sonic has passed Act 1.

Time: 0:29

God.

Daaaaaaaaammmmnnnnn.

As your mom washes your mouth out with soap, it gives you some time to reflect on the situation. 29 seconds. He cleared that level in twenty-nine seconds. Blew through it. Yeah, you don't really remember the score, except for the fact that the tally seemed to go on a while. But still. Anybody with limbs can clear Act 1 of Green Hill Zone, but to blow through it in 29 seconds...that takes some fuc-NO WAIT MOM I WAS GOING TO SAY FUDGING NO AAAAHH

A faint gargling sound emanates from the bathroom. Your friend slightly turns his head, concerned, but the sound of jingling rings captures his attention and you go ignored.
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DavidCaruso
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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2012, 07:52:14 pm »

You have this backwards, I think: the big numbers and unnaturally complex equations are the entire reason why anyone even cares about single-player scoring in this day and age in the first place. Not that it's really a good thing, but there you go.

Basically, I think the reason why score works so well in other types of games and not in single-player videogames is as follows: in single-player videogames, the "other agents" you mention aren't even part of the game world. In other words, in context of the actual game I am playing, the numbers at the top of my screen mean next to nothing (outside possibly a way to get extra lives, which do matter) -- I generally don't care about increasing them, whether your base number is 1 or 1,000, or whether your equations are simple or complex. Sure, if I'm bored with my favorite arcade game I can get more time out of it by trying to get the top score on the planet, but why would I do that when:

  • there are almost definitely other great games I could playing at any given moment, and many for the first time ever, where I wouldn't have already experienced the majority of the game's level design and audiovisuals (nobody actually wants to replay a game "infinitely," and before someone mentions it randomly generated levels are no exception to this -- the only difference is how long it takes, and also most probably crappy level design which will probably make you want to play the game less than if it was hand-crafted anyway)
  • I would personally enjoy the process of playing the game again far more if I just waited a bit before replaying it, or instituted a new natural player-defined challenge (e.g. one-lifing)
  • in many "score-focused" games, the methods for getting top scores are, if you look at them detachedly, pretty arbitrary and ridiculous anyway ("ok so you can't just kill the boss like a sane fighter pilot, first you have to take out all of his 20 arm cannons, and then when he gets angry and starts shooting the omega 128-pixel-length laserbeams you have to suicide to take out the side armor, and then you can milk the exposed cow udders underneath the armor for tons of extra points and multipliers for around 10 minutes, and when you're done you have 100 million points woohoo -- now, uhh, I guess you can take a pic of that and post it on a forum or something, or maybe tell your best friend and he gets mad at you and burns your donkey kong bedsheets")


Hence some of the reasons why I generally don't care about score in single-player games.

Also, were you really saying there for a bit that the introduction of stage progression in action games was a bad thing, or did I read that wrong? Like, you weren't really saying you would rather have us be playing Galaga clones just so that we could have precious "infinite replayability," were you? You do realize that at any given point a game is scoring your performance (in ways that can even be entirely unrelated to the number at the top of the screen that people refer to as "score") and then doing things like killing you, removing enemies from your path, or showing you a new level (the only difference being that these numbers remain in RAM instead of being plugged into a partial differential equation which is evaluated over time and gradually updated in the top middle area of the screen), and that things like stage progression make this far more interesting and engaging?
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 08:04:53 pm by DavidCaruso » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2012, 08:02:23 pm »

If people didn't care about score, then games like Call of Duty wouldn't be popular. They're all about that "one more kill, get my ratio up" mentality. Hell, most people that I know/knew that play(ed) shooters religiously always talked about their kill score in terms of k/d ratio.

Then, as stated above, shmups, and all those other things. HELL, Kotaku posts regularly about old arcade game scores in the MILLIONS that have been beaten.

People care about score. A LOT. Maybe even too much.
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ink.inc
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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2012, 08:18:36 pm »

k/d ratio is the only thing that matters in league of legends

the

only thing

 Evil
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st33d
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2012, 07:17:14 am »

I did a game for Nitrome called Snotput.

We were working on a Facebook update (postponed till we can tie it into accounts on Nitrome that haven't been built yet). All around the office people were trying the game.

Did they care about the score?

Holy shit yes.

When you can compare scores socially on a game that has a strong skill element (Snotput is about flicking a chain of springs that look like a ball of snot really far) with a bit of uncertainty (the normalisation of the springs introduces floating point underflow that produces some often random throws) you're hooked.

For a few weeks you could hear from corners of the office people flicking that snotball with the mouse.

One guy even wrote a C program to cheat by jumping the mouse (but the underflow randomness worked against him - he was still beatable).

Beating someone's score is a social thing. You're beating either the best (who you know through fame) or a friend (who you can belittle).

What doesn't work is trying to best an impossible score or the score of a total stranger.
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ortoslon
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2012, 09:35:46 am »

beating everyone is just one way to ensure that you've beat everyone you know (:

i often set score goals for my score attack videos such that i'd have to push myself but not too hard. usually i play games where i can't milk or exploit formulas but even when i can, i won't because i find it tedious and the resulting videos would only be interesting to other milkers
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pelle
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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2012, 10:17:32 am »

OP needs to stop make up his own definitions that then are used to "prove" his points, like "all score-based single-player games are technically multiplayer.  You’re competing to get the new high score".

But trying to comment on the issue, I think score in games is usually boring and something I ignore, and would not add to a game. There are many exceptions though. If there is ANY other way to track progress, or who is winning, that is almost always what I prefer, and if there is score as well in the game I will ignore it. Example: I'm sure there were score in some of the roguelikes I played, but I can't even remember that there was a goal other than reaching new levels, and not sure what score would add. Same with any shmup or platform game; I just count the levels I reach and try to complete the game.

In team sports it usually makes sense to have a score, because you can't track progress in any other way. In a race you can track progress by how close to the goal someone is, but in football I can't think of a solution other than counting score. I feel it is more like a last resort because there is no other way.

In a strategy game, especially boardgames (but also many computer games) victory points is often used to allow the player(s) freedom in choosing a mix of different objectives, instead of coming up with very complex victory conditions, or forcing the player to pick a specific objective. Again I do not feel the score in itself is important, it is only a pool of possible objectives the player can combine to create a plan for things to aim for (especially in games about conquering territories).

In some adventure games, mostly older ones, score is used as a way to easily give the player a sense of progress, to show if something that just happened was a good or bad thing. In general these days this is not considered a good thing, a bit of cheating compared to instead giving the player good textual/graphic clues to feel like progress is made. (In at least one graphical adventure game score was used for very good comical effect though, but I do not want to spoil it by describing that.)

Your argument about the size of scores is broken from my experience. It doesn't matter. You quickly learn to ignore the last digits (eg counting the millions in a pinball game). When there are lots of tiny goals in a game (again, like pinball) I think it is useful to keep the small digits as fractional parts. (Pinball is btw an excellent example of game where score is useful, because you're not going anywhere and you can't count levels or aim for a final goal.)

"single player games require some system of score in order to be endlessly replayable" This is weird. Maybe it works for the OP peculiar definition of "game" and "single player game", but the way I know replayable single player games I do not see score (or victory points) as a requirement and there are many exceptions I can think of (both solitaire boardgames and computer games).

"learning to master a game, just like learning a musical instrument or learning to paint or learning any other skill, should be an art that you can explore for the rest of your life" is the OP's highly subjective opinion, not useful in this discussion, and I could not agree less. I'm terribly bored with playing a game over and over "to master" it. I can play a game over and over if each time it is sufficiently different that it feel more like a new game, with a different (random) setup, but not play the same setup over and over to master it (like chess and countless other boring games I do not play).
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sabajt
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2012, 11:00:51 am »

I enjoyed the article and see valid points on both sides.  I'm glad you talk about games like Settlers of Catan.  Hardcore gaming is great and there will always be a place for it but I think digital games stand to gain a lot (and have a long way to go) by looking at well designed board games that value a balanced playing experience over technical mastery.  A great board game designer Reiner Kniza sums it up: "when playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning."  Not that games like ring 27 don't provide that (as was said above, for those players mastering the scoring system itself can make for a sublime experience) but most people won't have the patience or dexterity to stick with those games long enough to enjoy them like a pro.  That being said, the more diversity the better and obviously games that are not for everyone are the ones coveted the most by their fans.   
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2012, 03:49:55 pm »

You give scoring in board games too much credit. As a design choice, victory points are there to provide numerous winning states (for variety of play), to obfuscate each player's success during the game (to keep everyone invested), and to ensure a low turn count (for brevity). It's an effective trick, but a cheap one. The result is too much arbitrary, innate utility assigned to things, and matches that are varied yet uninteresting.

As for the Focus the Player On Your Game’s Actual Goal section, I agree completely on score in team-based multiplayer games. These games are most enjoyable when everyone on your team is overriding any personal ambitions in deference to the team's objectives. When this unity is required for team success (as in any good game of this type), egotistical players fretting over their k/d ratios and such is disastrous. People playing the game in the way they wish, as provided for by the developers, harms the game for everyone else.

The part on roguelikes irks me a little. The difference is it's not clear why, particularly in a non-linear single-player game, displaying statistics harms the game. More than that: the notion that you've a duty to discourage all ways of defining success (and therefore seeking challenge, and therefore enjoying the game) except one of your own is elitist. Even for a game designer.

What's wrong with

?

I can see that perhaps by showing the dungeon level, you lend it legitimacy as a scoring mechanism. My point is: so what?
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2012, 04:30:58 pm »

It's fundamentally wrong to use word "should" in relation to a player. The developers should or should not do certain things, but players are to only have fun. Thinking in terms that they have to/should play in any certain way is crazy.

OK, players should not take the game from the shop and leave without paying, but that's the only exception related to the player and the game relationship :D
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« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2012, 09:50:26 am »

Quote
It's an effective trick, but a cheap one. The result is too much arbitrary, innate utility assigned to things, and matches that are varied yet uninteresting.

Poorly designed board games feel exactly this way... and there are a lot of those.  But good ones do not feel cheap, arbitrary or uninteresting.  Games like Tigris and Euphraties (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42/tigris-euphrates) and RA(http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/12/ra) don't rely on this type of scoring as a "trick".  It's really that the scoring system creates the game itself... I guess emergent gameplay is the buzzword I should be invoking here.
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Fegon
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« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2012, 01:24:33 pm »

I disagree with just about everything you write there.

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Now let’s look at some video game scores.  You play a game of Galaga and then it tells you your score was 744,315.  Okay

You´re right, that is not exciting, and how exciting is Counter Strike if played offline? Good scoring systems are based on competition or atleast some kind of motivation of achievement. It´s like you credit feeded Galaga on MAME and came to the conclusion that scoring is boring because you forgot about the context. In SMB and Sonic the score is disconnected from what the game is about, very unlike competetive games like Catan and Carcassone where you score to win. I would claim that the goal of Galaga was very much about beating other players, in the Arcades in the eighties.
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Graham-
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« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2012, 11:16:44 am »

I don't really understand what your point is. You want scores to matter? (I read the article)

Feedback is critical. Making the player's progress clear is debatably as important as making him/her experience progress in the first place. "Score" is a dated method for relating this information. A number is literally a one dimensional measurement tool that, as you said, is hard to conceptualize past a certain range. The correct replacement for score is feedback of any kind, that reflects the most relevant information about the player's progress to the player clearly and elegantly.

This is a critical problem in game design. You have to know what the player needs to know, then present it to him/her at the times he/she needs to know it - and never do anything else. I think any game design that fails to do this is flawed. All designs are flawed, so that's okay, but what's interesting is that it always can be fixed by stripping and iterating the design. There's never any excuse not to fix it.

Yeah, your conclusion, that games should be endless isn't great. A game which you can play endlessly, receiving consistent value, is a dream - a very potential one. But assuming that such a game is easy to create, let alone necessary all the time, seriously sells short the value of your player's not-playing-your-game life. That game is more like an ideal that we should always shoot for. If you expect it, you'll shoot yourself in the foot.

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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2012, 02:19:36 pm »

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I can’t think of a single digital game that has a really great scoring system;  probably the best ones are very early games like Galaga, but even they have issues.

OK so if your knowledge of shooting games only extends to Galaga I feel like I'm totally justified in not taking you seriously.

Shmups, man. Like, you may have a point when you're talking about all these other genres but shmups, man. It's a whole genre dedicated to the pursuit of the number-one score. You can't systematically ignore that whole genre and still expect your point to be proven. That's like complaining because you couldn't strike oil while digging in your kid's sandbox. It just doesn't make sense.

So, here's your assignment. Since it's criminally unknown, and also lets me link to a thing I wrote, go out and play ring^-27. It's got a scoring system that's deep. Orgasmic. Baconman would cream himself if I started explaining the nuances of it. Yeah, I could do the old forum thing and break apart your argument with textwalls but c'mon. Play ring^-27. At least play the trial. Support indie development on both hemispheres. Feel good inside. Like, deep down inside, in the heart. The lower heart. The one down by your waist.

Most shmups have questionable scoring systems, tho.  A lot of the most widely used mechanics like chaining/point-blanking/grazing etc. actively make the game a pain in the ass to play after a while (for the non-Asperger's-affected).  Many a promising game has been ruined by turning it into a tedious rigmarole/obscure puzzle.  From the outside looking in they seem really complex and sophisticated but after you play them for a while it becomes clear that more than anything else it's just a matter of doing it 'right' rather than putting a lot of thought into it.  I'm overgeneralising, probably, but screw it.
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noah!
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« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2012, 03:28:33 pm »


Yeah sorry, whenever people disparage shmups it tends to turn me into a condescending ass. It's like the whole Jekyll and Hyde thing, except completely pathetic and dumb. It turned out cool though; once the rage went away I reread the thing and I understand the dude's point now. I still don't think it matters, but whatevs.

And it depends, really. Personally, I think that there are some shmups with absolutely stellar scoring systems. Like Espgaluda, as well as the aforementioned ring^-27. Maybe Saidaioujou too, though the hyper-chaining exploit makes me iffy about it. But yeah, I'll admit that chaining and milking and all of that ilk does start to wear on after a while. (can't really give an opinion on grazing, and i still love the raw concept of point-blanking)
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chrisjan
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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2012, 02:21:16 am »

ok so you can't just kill the boss like a sane fighter pilot, first you have to take out all of his 20 arm cannons, and then when he gets angry and starts shooting the omega 128-pixel-length laserbeams you have to suicide to take out the side armor, and then you can milk the exposed cow udders underneath the armor for tons of extra points and multipliers for around 10 minutes, and when you're done you have 100 million points woohoo

This is the typical game over screen I see in most online games:

Quote
Congratulations! You finished the game!
your final score: 1,000

Top 10:
1- Sup3rP0wn3r  10,000,000
2- Sup3rP0wn3r   9,999,999
3- Sup3rP0wn3r   9,999,999
4- Sup3rP0wn3r   9,999,999
...

why should I care about the score?
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