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April 09, 2020, 09:25:41 PM

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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignHow Important is a Character Creator in a Single Player Game?
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Thaumaturge
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« Reply #40 on: January 27, 2020, 09:28:01 AM »

Forgive the double-post, please; another thought occurred to me:

Aside from it potential appeal to players, a sufficiently-powerful character creator might be a useful tool to the dev. It might allow the relatively-quick generation of NPC-characters--and even perhaps allow the generation of "random citizens". (This wouldn't be free, of course--but then, neither is the modelling of bespoke characters.)
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« Reply #41 on: January 27, 2020, 12:35:12 PM »

Of course if you use a unified system for player and non player characters you would even more likely have the MC fade into the wallpaper. Which I suppose some people like. I think of spy party where you are supposed to blend in:





Similarly you can get weird situations when you give too much characterization to games which don't need them:





It has a lot to do with player expectations: are they playing this game to try to fit into the universe, or to be the star that outshines everything in there?
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« Reply #42 on: January 28, 2020, 07:29:41 AM »

Of course if you use a unified system for player and non player characters you would even more likely have the MC fade into the wallpaper.

Eh, I disagree: after all, in RPGs (the genre that seems most likely to feature a character designer, I think), the protagonist often ends up wearing gear that no other character gets. Not to mention that the way that other characters treat the player can--for me, at least--have an effect on how I see them, regardless of similarity of appearance. And finally, a selection of dedicated player-character portraits can help to set them apart from NPCs, I think.

(And I know that I've never felt like my custom-made characters fade away into the crowd.)

It has a lot to do with player expectations: are they playing this game to try to fit into the universe, or to be the star that outshines everything in there?

I mean, I'm currently playing a game that features a character creator, and which also has the protagonists turn out to be immortal guardians against a universe-ending threat, owners of a "homestead" set in the starry expanse of the End of Time, and so on--and have found no conflict in those things.
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« Reply #43 on: February 01, 2020, 12:38:50 PM »

It can be done: characters that fit in to the universe turn out to be shining stars, and also the over the top custom character that manages to be just another soldier. I'm just saying they are at odds.

In your example, (what game is that?), it works because its a bit more like my second video: you make a custom character with all the bells and whistles and then they are the "immortal guardians" It would be against type if your custom character then was told to sit in line with 100 other soldiers and take orders,  *depending on how unique your character can be* You lose all the ability to make a group shot if your guy can be a weirdo compared to everyone else. Of course, if everyone is wearing funny hats and giant sunglasses and shirts that say down with homework, then you can still create a cohesive group. If everyone else is wearing a uniform and your guy is wearing a shirt that says down with homework, then its probably too jarring to really get into the narrative.

There is a fine line that RPG designers walk with weird custom gear and when it is ok to do that. I think of Diablo, the MC has a different set of gear than the rest of the characters, but its not too jarring. Its not like you are walking around in a Speedo. And it is goofy when players do that, remove all their gear, and there is no comment from NPCs which I guess is just due to production cost. Again, I would love to see a game where every appearance choice affected the interactions you have but the production cost would be absurd. Part of the reason I don't spend time on the custom characters is because so often those choices don't make any real difference. As I've said I hate choices that are not choices, if you make a character with an eyepatch and no one says anything, what is the point?

Just to double back to the original topic, its not just RPGs that have the custom characters. For games without a narrative all bets are off though. I was playing PUBG and wandering around as the default character without clothes on and it still worked simply because everyone knows the clothing in that game is meaningless and the game has no pre-written narrative.

I think of the sims, which is a single player game that MUST have a character designer simply because people want to make up narratives about their characters and need that kind of play. "Oh this sim is tall, that's why this other sim is avoiding them" Part of the reason I don't play the sims is because I don't really do that kind of play, but for dolls to be fun they have to look like something.

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« Reply #44 on: February 03, 2020, 10:39:32 AM »

It can be done: characters that fit in to the universe turn out to be shining stars, and also the over the top custom character that manages to be just another soldier. I'm just saying they are at odds.

And I'm saying that they're not inherently at odds--at least not for me. Note that I'm not saying that they're not at odds for you; clearly they are.

Or to put it another way: you say that it can be done; but I don't think that I've ever seen it, well, not be done, as far as I recall.

I suppose that what I'm arguing here is against the idea that this opposition is a universal truth; it's true for you, but it's not true for me, I feel. I thus don't want potential designers reading this thread, seeing what appears to be a universal claim, and thus taking it as a universal truth to be necessarily heeded.

It is perhaps worth noting that there are people for whom it is an issue, of course, and considering whether to take that into account when designing.

(And of course, if taken too far, a character designer could result in characters that look out of place. But then, if that same character designer is used to design NPCs, then this effect should be mitigated...)

(what game is that?)

Divinity: Original Sin. (Enhanced Edition, in case there are salient changes between that version and its predecessor that are relevant here; I've only played the Enhanced Edition.)

In your example, (what game is that?), it works because its a bit more like my second video: you make a custom character with all the bells and whistles and then they are the "immortal guardians" ...


... Except that you only discover that they're immortal guardians partway through the game. At the start they're members of the order of Source Hunters, sent to a particular city to investigate a murder that might involve Source (a magical power that's held to be evil).

It would be against type if your custom character then was told to sit in line with 100 other soldiers and take orders,  *depending on how unique your character can be* You lose all the ability to make a group shot if your guy can be a weirdo compared to everyone else.

To some degree--but that doesn't then preclude their nevertheless being unique, interesting, and memorable in their own right, or so I find.

If everyone else is wearing a uniform and your guy is wearing a shirt that says down with homework, then its probably too jarring to really get into the narrative.

That would depend heavily on the style and narrative in question, I think. Handled well--perhaps in a comedic way, or as a means of making them an outsider in the group--I could see it working.

Again, I would love to see a game where every appearance choice affected the interactions you have but the production cost would be absurd. Part of the reason I don't spend time on the custom characters is because so often those choices don't make any real difference. As I've said I hate choices that are not choices, if you make a character with an eyepatch and no one says anything, what is the point?

It would be nice to have that degree of reactivity--but as you say, under current conditions it likely is infeasible.

As to the point... My main characters in Divinity: Original Sin have, respectively, green hair and pink hair. Just because it pleased me to do so. I don't necessarily design my characters for the sake of the reaction of people around me; it may simply be for my own preference, or reflecting some character-point that I want in them--even if the game itself doesn't respond to that.

Just to double back to the original topic, its not just RPGs that have the custom characters. For games without a narrative all bets are off though. I was playing PUBG and wandering around as the default character without clothes on and it still worked simply because everyone knows the clothing in that game is meaningless and the game has no pre-written narrative.

I think of the sims, which is a single player game that MUST have a character designer simply because people want to make up narratives about their characters and need that kind of play. "Oh this sim is tall, that's why this other sim is avoiding them" Part of the reason I don't play the sims is because I don't really do that kind of play, but for dolls to be fun they have to look like something.

Oh, of course, and a good point on both counts. I was somewhat focussed on RPGs, which was my mistake!
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« Reply #45 on: February 03, 2020, 05:41:29 PM »

I personally find it really fun, so long as it's not a requirement and can be fiddled with later. It's definitely not needed, but if done in a fun way I would also prefer the option Smiley
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« Reply #46 on: February 04, 2020, 02:47:00 PM »

@Thaumaturge yeah I agree, re: subjectivity and objectivity this is my view and I hate the idea that there is one idea of what a game is. My favorite stuff bites its thumb at the conventions and the traditional wisdom, so yeah, if some designer see this a million years from now who even knows what kinds of things people will be making. I'm just talking about what I like.

I do think there is objective truth and that it is important to know it when we can, but doing art (making games) is very personal and I always say there are a million different paths to a million different destinations. I know a guy who actually doesn't want to use ANY characters in his game and who knows: that might make it special and cool? But its hard to imagine anyone reading my writing and thinking that it is some commandment from on high. One of my pet peeves is designers getting a taste of success and then going around trying to make it into some kind of sacred doctrine of what you must do to make art. Which the system is as much to blame, or more, than the designers who fall into that trap anyway. But if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say something that came across as telling the world what kinds of games to make I'd probably have a few thousand dollars. So I do not want to do that.
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« Reply #47 on: February 05, 2020, 10:21:25 AM »

I personally find it really fun, so long as it's not a requirement and can be fiddled with later. It's definitely not needed, but if done in a fun way I would also prefer the option Smiley

If I recall correctly, Divinity: Original Sin (Enhanced Edition, at least; I can't speak to other editions offhand) implements reworking of character-appearance in quite a fun way, and one that actually almost fits into the setting of the game. ^_^

@Thaumaturge yeah I agree, re: subjectivity and objectivity this is my view and I hate the idea that there is one idea of what a game is. My favorite stuff bites its thumb at the conventions and the traditional wisdom, so yeah, if some designer see this a million years from now who even knows what kinds of things people will be making. I'm just talking about what I like.

That's fair, on all counts.

I know a guy who actually doesn't want to use ANY characters in his game and who knows: that might make it special and cool?

It sounds quite interesting, at the least! ^_^

But its hard to imagine anyone reading my writing and thinking that it is some commandment from on high.

And it may be more in my reading of your words than in your writing of them that this issue--if issue it is--exists. To me, your wording did seem like a statement of objective fact, rather that subjective experience.

But anyway, I think that we've cleared that up now, at least. ^_^
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« Reply #48 on: February 12, 2020, 08:45:46 PM »

i think it depends on the person, for me i like when there is a fixed character for a single player game that feels fleshed out. If you are good enough at writing you can really make an iconic character. i think im fatigued when it come to the vague "chosen one" type character who is basicly a wall.
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« Reply #49 on: February 14, 2020, 03:08:58 PM »

@TwoSaint I once got an email from my publisher that called my game [GAME NAME] and I sort of wanted to make that into a deconstruction of game tropes, like the main character is the most bland chosen one, and the enemy is named big bad and stuff with just the most basic game structure you can do. I never felt it was worth doing it though.

A game version of this:




Happy valentines day kids. Stay classy.
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« Reply #50 on: February 15, 2020, 06:27:18 AM »

Hopefully I'm not interjecting too much, but the discussion I've been reading, especially through what Thaumaturge is saying, reminds me a lot of the aesthetic of 'Expression' noted in MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.

If your game is intending to allow the player to express themselves, then a character creator is definitely a tool to consider, weighed against development costs, of course. Whether it's worth it is based entirely on knowing the target audience's wishes.

In truth, it doesn't matter to me what my character looks like. Still, I can understand why it would be important to another subset of players. There's no mechanical differences, but visual aesthetics allow a sizable playerbase to get more invested in the universe, as indicated by the twitter post included on the first page.
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« Reply #51 on: February 15, 2020, 12:26:15 PM »

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I once got an email from my publisher that called my game [GAME NAME] and I sort of wanted to make that into a deconstruction of game tropes, like the main character is the most bland chosen one, and the enemy is named big bad and stuff with just the most basic game structure you can do. I never felt it was worth doing it though.

I feel like something interesting could be done with this; perhaps by removing the names that might personalise the characters and reify the setting, it might be easier to examine the tropes that they commonly take part in...

(I'm also--if I may plug a friend's webcomic--reminded of the comic The Fourth, which is built around the position of being a villain in the sort of setting that a Zelda-like game might occupy. Of note here is the traditional Link-style hero, who is literally named "Blank".)
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« Reply #52 on: February 15, 2020, 12:57:39 PM »

Hopefully I'm not interjecting too much, but the discussion I've been reading, especially through what Thaumaturge is saying, reminds me a lot of the aesthetic of 'Expression' noted in MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.

That paper is all hunckie dory and all, but I find that I disagree with this statement in the first paragraph after the abstract:

"All artifacts are created within some design methodology."

No. In fact I find that my best work is done without planing or thought. I submit as an example:


When I made this "I got in a car and just drove" to quote Ricky Bobby. I can't say the same process works for everyone, so maybe the MDA framework is a helpful thing to some?

My cursory understanding of the MDA framework is that it seeks to make art as if it were a clockwork orange, a mechanical process for something that *can be* something completely organic and spontaneous. Indeed would we suggest a MDA framework for the composition of Jazz, one by which following a series of steps we get something that must be an artifact of music? I say NO to that Mumbo Jumbo!
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« Reply #53 on: February 15, 2020, 01:31:31 PM »

It took an unreasonable amount of search and seizure to find this "The Fourth" webcomic.
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« Reply #54 on: February 15, 2020, 02:53:14 PM »

I suppose that I could just post a link. Tongue

https://www.thefourthcomic.com/

(I think that I tend to be a little nervous of posting tangential links like that, as it's the sort of thing that may be reprimanded for being off-topic.)
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« Reply #55 on: February 15, 2020, 11:49:08 PM »

My cursory understanding of the MDA framework is that it seeks to make art as if it were a clockwork orange, a mechanical process for something that *can be* something completely organic and spontaneous. Indeed would we suggest a MDA framework for the composition of Jazz, one by which following a series of steps we get something that must be an artifact of music? I say NO to that Mumbo Jumbo!

I agree different processes definitely work for different people, there is no one way to skin a cat after all. And while I feel you're giving the paper poor consideration--looking at it purely as 'this is a theory on making games'--the core I'm aiming to takeaway from it is that different people are looking for different things in their gaming experiences. That's pretty much it's jist, for all its bluster.

'This doesn't work' as a sweeping statement is rarely useful. Some players look to express themselves through a game and a character creator, in certain contexts, can help with that. That's my personal stance, anyway.
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« Reply #56 on: February 16, 2020, 04:11:24 AM »

So I have now read the MDA paper, it defines some vocabulary that might be useful, though I usually use other words for what is described in the paper. Mechanics being the rules, dynamics being the play. Aesthetics I have a completely different view of what that word means and I think Hunckie sort of shoehorned that one in there to appeal to the artsy types. She circles around the concept of aesthetics being fun, but I don't think you can break up fun into categories and then just say "well that's the aesthetics" when in fact that word already exists in a different context. I know there is a politics of the word fun, which I myself have written about.

https://matchyverse.com/index.php/2018/10/30/finding-joy/

In terms of AI being a black box: I think Hunckie has never gotten to know or friend someone who writes heavy AI code, as any proficient coder will be happy to explain exactly the mechanisms by which AI works like... a clockwork orange. So I found that to be odd that she kept harping on "We cannot know AI" but then I come from a CS background. Just ask.

But yeah, now that I've inspected the MDA thesis thoroughly I'm not really swayed by its 3-5 vocab terms. I never said 'This doesn't work' as a sweeping statement. Simply that I say no to Mumbo Jumbo, but really this isn't mumbo jumbo, its just really a bit of vocab building.
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« Reply #57 on: February 16, 2020, 05:57:12 AM »

So I have now read the MDA paper, it defines some vocabulary that might be useful, though I usually use other words for what is described in the paper. Mechanics being the rules, dynamics being the play. Aesthetics I have a completely different view of what that word means and I think Hunckie sort of shoehorned that one in there to appeal to the artsy types. She circles around the concept of aesthetics being fun, but I don't think you can break up fun into categories and then just say "well that's the aesthetics" when in fact that word already exists in a different context. I know there is a politics of the word fun, which I myself have written about.

I agree! You don't need to necessarily break down fun into categories to try to aim toward it. But I personally find this particular lens useful in my experience of game design, as inexperienced as I may be.


Let's give this a looksee!

Quote
Every day we are busy watching out for what is ahead of us, yet it is difficult to take the time to enjoy where we are in life. Fun is fundamental for our health, our sanity, and our peace of mind – this is why it is important to rediscover that sense of joy in our lives.

In game development, there are all kinds of words wasted on the definition of fun, even though it is mostly defined by common sense. The word ‘fun’ becomes loaded with all kinds of baggage for many designers, so they try to avoid it as if it were a bad word. Anything can be construed as fun, so there is a lot of confusion about the subject.

Can't say I've had the same experience with people yet regarding thoughts on the idea of fun, yet. But I can agree that developers losing sight of their idea of fun is sad.

Quote
So what is fun then? The best answer I can give based on times I’ve said “I’m having fun” is this: Fun is taking pleasure in doing things you want to do.

I love how you put it here. Fun is, boiled down, taking pleasure in what you enjoy. And that varies from person to person, so they must take time in their lives to discover what that is.

Quote
We are assaulted with constraints and rules and people who want us to throw away our birthright of who we are and what we want to do with our time.

Can't say I wholly agree here, though the later sentiments of this paragraph I've found to be sadly true.

Rules, however, are something that I feel are vital to fun. Let's take 'tag' as an example. The game is simple and there are many variations, but the core seems to be something like this:  1. Someone is 'it'; 2. If someone is 'it', when they touch another person they become 'it.'

Rules, of course, don't define fun. Nowhere in there did it note 'running from the 'it' is where the fun is' or 'being 'it' is fun,' all that's noted are rules. People take the rules and implicitly create fun from the experience they bring about.

This is my perspective though, but I think it's a useful way to look at it.

Quote
It starts with school, then comes work, and eventually life just happens to all of us.  This is why fun has an inherent childlike quality to it. Because the world does not care about what we want and often pries it away from us, let alone rewarding us for behaving in a way that we want.

This part is sad to me though. Especially because systematically, the world often does work this way and doesn't have to. I feel, as you note later, that games are a great way for people to explore what they want in a world that makes it hard to do so.

One day, I hope we can debug the 'society' game and make it easier to do things that are good for you, or making important 'adulting' necessities more fun in and of themselves. I believe we can really change the world that way through games.

Quote
What do I want? I want to play with the firetruck again. I still remember the joy of experiencing something new to play with. Something that fills me with wants and then rewards me for acting on those wants. Eventually it got harder and harder to find that joy in life because the world kept pushing me away from what I wanted to do into all the things I am supposed to do. I love experiences that feel rewarding in play, experimentation, innovation, and that have no time limits or constraints. This is why I love childlike wonder, where fun seems natural and easy.

I agree. We must all explore our lives to find fun. It is definitely useful to look from the perspective of ourselves as children to find what we enjoy for ourselves and I'm glad you found that experimentation and innovation with as few constraints as possible to be things you enjoy.

I'd love to discuss in DMs your thoughts on Zachlikes like Magnum Opus or SpaceChem because it feels that's a bit too off-topic, but I feel you'd have a lot to say on the matter.

Oh! And your Matchyverse games are now on my ever-growing to-play list. :D

In terms of AI being a black box: I think Hunckie has never gotten to know or friend someone who writes heavy AI code, as any proficient coder will be happy to explain exactly the mechanisms by which AI works like... a clockwork orange. So I found that to be odd that she kept harping on "We cannot know AI" but then I come from a CS background. Just ask.

But yeah, now that I've inspected the MDA thesis thoroughly I'm not really swayed by its 3-5 vocab terms. I never said 'This doesn't work' as a sweeping statement. Simply that I say no to Mumbo Jumbo, but really this isn't mumbo jumbo, its just really a bit of vocab building.

Perhaps this is a misunderstanding? I don't remember any point in the paper where she indicated that we can't know AI. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is opposite her point. This feels a bit like one of your 'knee-jerk reactions' noted in your piece above.

Is this the point in question?

Quote
Now, let us consider developing or improving the AI component of a game. It is often tempting to idealize AI components as black-box mechanisms that, in theory, can be injected into a variety of different projects with relative ease. But as the framework suggests, game components cannot be evaluated in vacuo, aside from their effects on a system behavior and player experience.

I ask because isn't this agreeing with your statement? That while it is "often tempting" to say that AI components will suddenly make a game 'fun' is fallacious? That we, as designers, must aim toward an experience we're attempting to create? Like how you noted that 'innovation' and 'experimentation' are valuable to you; I presume I could expect to find those values in your Matchyverse games?
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« Reply #58 on: February 16, 2020, 08:04:15 AM »

Quote




Can't say I wholly agree here, though the later sentiments of this paragraph I've found to be sadly true.

Rules, however, are something that I feel are vital to fun. Let's take 'tag' as an example. The game is simple and there are many variations, but the core seems to be something like this:  1. Someone is 'it'; 2. If someone is 'it', when they touch another person they become 'it.'

Rules, of course, don't define fun. Nowhere in there did it note 'running from the 'it' is where the fun is' or 'being 'it' is fun,' all that's noted are rules. People take the rules and implicitly create fun from the experience they bring about.

This is my perspective though, but I think it's a useful way to look at it.

Rules to me tend to get in the way of fun, and AT BEST are a necessary evil needed for fun to occur. That is: rules often stop us from doing what we want, and thus are antithetical to my own view on fun. Now rules don't always have to stop us or get in the way:





And of course some rules are for safety, which are always important. I've heard of experimental games where people were seriously injured just because the designers didn't think out bad cases.

But I categorize those kinds of rules as different than rules like "if you draw a flower you get points" which are controlling and limiting but at least lay out a reward for doing something you *might* want to do on your own, thus they create fun. Unless you hate drawing flowers, in which case that too would be a miserable rule you would try to break.

A better rule would be to give a reward for drawing something you are proud of, but again, there are flaws in that because how can we measure what one is proud of?

Again, as I wander into rule structures that are more fun to me, the rules get fuzzier and more focused on rewards and structure to encourage what the player already wants to do. If you create a really attractive button that is just dripping with juice and the visual language that says "click me" and then you reward the player for clicking that button though some scoring system would you call that a rule? I mean its not that, its more like enabling the player's true wants and enforcing their sense of self, rather than setting a rule that goes against what the player intrinsically wants. Extrinsically controlling a player and imposing a rule structure on them that rewards what the game designer wants is more like learning: oh you wrote the letter wrong, now you get an F on your homework because that's the rule: NO this is not fun.

So what do we call it when something stirs up a want or desire in you and then rewards you for acting on it in a safe and controlled way? I don't think that is the definition of a rule, it is something else. Surely such experiences are *fun* but saying fun is related to rules is like saying air is related to running. Yes, you need to consume oxygen to run, but that's not what running is about.

BTW I'm happy to break this into multiple threads or what? I'm not sure what the etiquette here is.
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« Reply #59 on: February 16, 2020, 08:46:32 AM »

BTW I'm happy to break this into multiple threads or what? I'm not sure what the etiquette here is.

I'll go ahead and make one, if we're questioning the etiquette, that's probably a good sign that it's time to hop to a different thread.
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