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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallForum IssuesArchived subforums (read only)Creative"Walking simulators" yay? nay? How to "improve" them?
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Author Topic: "Walking simulators" yay? nay? How to "improve" them?  (Read 1212 times)
MagnoliaFan
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« on: October 20, 2015, 02:44:03 PM »

A couple of days ago I ended up in an article about Ethan Carter, and then I jumped into an article about Everyone's Gone to the Rapture. I read a couple of articles about it, and ended up in an article that said something I found extremely funny, but then got me thinking: "it may sound like a joke, but Rapture makes Beyond: Two Souls feel like a Dark Souls"

Basically the guy was complaining about the pacing and lack of actual challenge. I recall Jim Sterling saying something similar.

I think Gone Home did something interesting, since sometimes objects would trigger a memory, so maybe that's an option. BTW I played Gone Home with everything unlocked, so I could explore the place the way I wanted, without having to worry about hunting for keys.

One of the reasons I'm interested on this is because exploration games can be "easy" to develop, although you need a good story and a good execution.

So, I'm wondering what are your thoughts on these kinds of games, and if there's anything that could be done to "improve" them, without turning them into a different genre. For example, an exploration game could quickly turn into a full adventure game.
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Pfotegeist
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2015, 03:35:16 PM »

From what you said it sounds like a difference of pacing. The walking simulators are a combination of new graphics and old adventure games. The feeling of a pure adventure game is relaxing, but without enough direction and results for the player's input they'll never feel in control of the story progression. Excessive amounts of downtime out of the player's control is just as bad as excessive amounts of action sequences.

Other than a few joke games like Desert Bus, interaction makes you feel like you're really a part of what's happening. If I'm not in the game most of the time then I'm aware I'm sitting around waiting for something to happen holding my input pressed for whole minutes at a time.
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gimymblert
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2015, 06:16:41 PM »

Yep it's mostly pacing, it's a story telling medium, so it's all about the "mental model", it solve the problem of adventure games where the puzzle drift apart from the story, now the story is the "puzzle", it's non blocking. But that mean handling direction (ie where to find the next piece of information) and how it all mesh together. Interaction is a matter of pacing and unveiling the story.
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valrus
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2015, 06:42:07 PM »

Here's what I like about walking simulators:

  • When you've got something that's great, it lets that be front-and-center.  There's a lot of games that have a great thing and then put in some halfhearted combat or something, and become halfhearted games about combat rather than fullhearted games about their great thing.
  • It's a nice break from "todo-list gaming".  I get enough of that IRL; if I'm taking a vacation from real life it's nice to spend a bit of time where nothing much is expected of me and not much rides on what I do or fail to do.  (Not that there can't be a goal, just that I'm not checking tasks off a big checklist of busywork.)

Where some of them go wrong, for me:

  • I don't like the style of gameplay (in any genre) where you wander around until you step over the one correct invisible pressure plate, or look at the one correct object, and then plot happens and then you go find the next one.

What I haven't seen, and I think would mark a broadening of the genre in terms of story, is the combination of a walking simulator with the story structure of 80 Days or Sorcery!  The "travel story" structure (where the primary choice facing the player is "Where do I go next?" and the primary consequence is that you go there) addresses some of the structural problems that game stories face in terms of choice, consequence, and the problem of branching.  That's also the primary choice/consequence facing the player in walking simulators, so there's a natural synergy there.  The other thing is that I get the same feeling from 80 Days/Sorcery! that I do from Proteus or Bernband, the feeling that I'm going to see something interesting no matter which way I go.
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MagnoliaFan
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2015, 08:33:42 PM »

When you've got something that's great, it lets that be front-and-center.  There's a lot of games that have a great thing and then put in some halfhearted combat or something, and become halfhearted games about combat rather than fullhearted games about their great thing.[/li][/list]


It's a different kind of game (so kinda off topic), but you just reminded me of the first Bioshock. I stopped playing when I felt the shooting got in the way of the story. To me, HL was the perfect balance between story and shooting.

I don't like the style of gameplay (in any genre) where you wander around until you step over the one correct invisible pressure plate, or look at the one correct object, and then plot happens and then you go find the next one.[/li][/list]

I someitmes felt like that when playing Gone Home, although at least random objects would give you information about the other characters, even if they never triggered voice overs.
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zombieonion
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2015, 10:53:26 AM »

I've only played one "walking sim", which was a mod for UT2k4. It was very good. There was enough with just it's weird visuals to keep me entertained for a few hours.
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Koobazaur
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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2015, 02:49:51 PM »


  • When you've got something that's great, it lets that be front-and-center.  There's a lot of games that have a great thing and then put in some halfhearted combat or something, and become halfhearted games about combat rather than fullhearted games about their great thing.
  • It's a nice break from "todo-list gaming".  I get enough of that IRL; if I'm taking a vacation from real life it's nice to spend a bit of time where nothing much is expected of me and not much rides on what I do or fail to do.  (Not that there can't be a goal, just that I'm not checking tasks off a big checklist of busywork.)

THIS. One thing that bothered me in Walking Dead were the insta-death QTEs and the occasional "free-romaing-until-you-solve-arbitary-puzzle" bits. It's also why I never liked traditional PnC, too much pixel hunting and, as Jimym GIMBERT pointed out, going through annoying todo / try-every-item-on-every-item cycles.

That being said, I've been growing a bit tired of pure story/walking simulator games (on the fence about Life is Strange, even if I find it intriguing). At first they were novel but now they're starting to feel a little like "I had a great story for a game but couldn't be arsed to actually make a game"

I honestly thing 30 flights of loving is the best example of a walking simulator game. It still does not contain any puzzles, but it does exploit the interactivity enough where simply watching a Lets Play wouldn't have been the same. Jazzpunk is close as well.

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moomat
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2016, 01:04:54 AM »

This term "walking simulator" is seemingly starting to take a wider-scope definition than I had previously understood it to mean. I had thought of the term as more or less a synonym for "survival" games like DayZ. But I guess in terms of this conversation, it's referring to any 3D action-adventure game where you primary walk around within a 3D world to work through a story or puzzles or whatever. Cool, yeah I'm on board with expanding the term to include that stuff.

And yeah, given that definition, that "genre" of games is really quite played out at this point. The variations you could add to a game within that basic construct have really all been done, and frankly I'd toss FPS games into that general category as well. Basically games where you have a 3D avatar of some kind, and walk/run around and shoot/do other stuff within a 3D world.

Surely we'll see a lot more of these kinds of games, perhaps for decades to come, but the industry really needs to look at itself in the mirror and realize that perhaps the biggest part of our job at this point in gaming history is pushing some new genres and coming up with some really unprecedented concepts, because iterating through all possible variations on that basic mechanic is not tenable. People will get entirely bored (I'm already beyond bored, as a player) of games with that "standard" mechanic soon enough, unless there are some dramatically new twists to it.
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