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Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"
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naturon Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

The game Prey had an excellent compromise in regard to mini-games instead of flat out death problem. Since the game is heavily based upon spirituality, whenever you would die you would be sent to this "mental realm" where you would shoot arrows at these winged beasts and however many you would hit you would slowly build up your health. Once the time was up you would be transported back into the game world with the amount of health you managed to accumulate. This sounds really silly and distracting in theory, but the developers managed to work this tedious target practice mini-game into the general concept and feel of the game, and it really did work. If you died often then yes you would realize you were playing a game, but because death is not really frequent this was actually sort of refreshing in a sense. Not saying this will work with any game, but trial and error is not impossible to get rid of (even though Prey had some elements of it).
04-17-2010 02:34 PM
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TeleProd Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

Thomas:

I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean. From what I understand, you're asking me if the tension I felt was just because the gameplay was hard and unforgiving, or because the gameworld was emotionally engaging and exhausting. If that's the case, I'm not sure if I can make that distinguishment because it was both.

The beautiful thing about Half-Life (and in this case AoM) is that the character you play as is just a shell through which you perceive the world. Being a long time HL fan, I can jump right in and feel at home quickly. It is easy to immerse myself in it because the gameplay is so familiar. Everytime I see a cutscene or my character speaks, I am no longer the character; I'm an onlooker. Luckily Half-Life and AoM doesn't use much "direct" storytelling (character dialogue, cutscenes), but rather what I call environmental storytelling. It is using the surrounding sounds and visuals to convey a feeling. The good thing about it is that the conflict with the gameplay is minimal.

The premise of the mod is that you're a guy who takes drugs and starts to see and fight monsters. Only the monsters are actually real people. I think its quite ingenious actually: I was just whacking monsters like I'm used to but when I realized they were in reality people, I thought every once in a while: "who have I killed now?"

The mod was very combat oriented. In fact, the reason I think it was so tense was because it was so hard. It made the world feel VERY dangerous. It made me fear the world. The sights and sounds were suitably dark and scary but nothing extraordinary. The scares were cheap and after seeing them once, lost all their power. The danger was what created the horror. I played AoM for longer in one sitting than I have played any other horror game. That combined with my tiredness and the familiriaty of the gameplay made it become the reality. One which I was very afraid of because of its danger.

To get back on topic of the trial and error. I did a lot of it, along with other metagaming like using exploits. It did make the world lose its edge since I knew where the enemies were and in right situations the enemies were powerless. Still, I don't the game could've had the same impact on me without the harsh gameplay. It would've just become a shooter with cheap scares and a clever story premise. Could the trial and error be reduced by some means while retaining the danger? Surely, but it was still pretty damn horrific.
04-17-2010 06:28 PM
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Thomas Offline
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Post: #13
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

Quote:If that's the case, I'm not sure if I can make that distinguishment because it was both.

Food for thought indeed!

I guess that when game-mechanics are an integral part of the game world, then one must say that immersion, what ever it is due to, is immersion into the game world.

So I have to admit that saying that trial-and-error always breaks gameworld immersion was wrong.
04-17-2010 09:34 PM
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gbee Offline
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Post: #14
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

What really breaks immersion for me is the type of trial and error that you didn't directly cover in your article, where the game mechanics allow the player to do things that the programmers did not account for. There were instances of this in Penumbra and Black Plague but really it's common to most games. I'll try to explain what I mean with fictitious examples as I don't mean to start an argument over what was or wasn't possible in a particular game.

The most common example is invisible walls, you jump/climb up on some objects to reach a point or pass a barrier but you can't because this wasn't what the developers wanted you to do, maybe the map doesn't extend in that direction or they wanted you to solve a puzzle or force a confrontation to progress.

Another example is where an action taken in one place to solve a problem doesn't work in a similar way elsewhere. You can break open a heavy reinforced door with sufficient force in one instance but ordinary internal doors elsewhere remain impassable without a key. Substitute door for any item, event or puzzle.

One of the hardest to solve instances of trial and error results from the sort of puzzle solving used in games like Penumbra. You are expected to achieve a task by performing a series of actions with specific items in a strict order. A -> B -> C -> D. The player may see a way to reach the same goal in a different way, with different items or actions A -> K -> D, but although it might have worked in the real world the game mechanics won't allow for it. e.g. If the action calls for a thin/narrow implement you have to use exactly the one determined by the developer and not any of the ones already in your inventory, or even there in the same room.* This is both frustrating and a real immersion killer.

* Ok, so I had a Penumbra/Plague puzzle in mind there, the key in lock/newspaper one, IIRC you had to use a screwdriver but there was a scalpel on the table by the door which seemed perfectly sized but after trying for 5 minutes I realised it wasn't the tool I was _supposed_ to use. The same probably applies to the newspaper, you had picked up lots of sheets of paper by that point but only the newspaper would work.
04-19-2010 10:16 PM
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wcer Offline
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Post: #15
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

I agree with gbee in that any time I can't do something in a game that I can easily do in real life I tend to end up frustrated. (Typically grabbing a ladder, crawling under something, being unable to push some shelves over while able to push others, etc.. usually mobility/interaction related).

It's not like I'm a super hero in real life who plunges down ancient mine shafts to converse with alien horrors (sadly?) but I can certainly jump/crawl/etc pretty decently.

While I appreciate games can not (and arguably should not) mirror reality perfectly, as gbee points out things like invisible walls or one-way-only problem solving are problematic.

I'm not sure there's really a solution. Invisible walls can always be filled with textures/visible objects, but multi-solution puzzles are a far more complex beast that would almost require some sort of AI to determine if what you're trying to do makes sense for the problem.
04-20-2010 03:18 PM
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graykin Offline
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Post: #16
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

(04-20-2010 03:18 PM)wcer Wrote:  I'm not sure there's really a solution. Invisible walls can always be filled with textures/visible objects, but multi-solution puzzles are a far more complex beast that would almost require some sort of AI to determine if what you're trying to do makes sense for the problem.

Either that, or the developers just need to be cognisant of every potential puzzle solution and plan accordingly. The pencil example mentioned by gbee would have been a simple one for the devs to plan for, but then what else could be used to open the door?

I mean, hell, you probably could have just used the screwdriver to remove the lock...or you could have bashed the door handle in with the pick-axe...or you could have saved a little bit of the "go-go juice" for the mining equipment and burned the door down (I think that door was made of wood)...or dynamite anyone?

There's a multitude of real-life solutions for all of these problems, but no single way to encapsulate them all. To reiterate the point you made, there's really no solution. It's all just grasping at straws, trying to keep it as intuitive as possible.

04-20-2010 09:00 PM
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Skaruts Offline
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Post: #17
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

Just like I said somewhere else, in the spiders part of Penumbra Overture, I noticed the broken lamp and the flamable liquid on the floor, but under the pressure I forgot I had a lighter, so I thrown a torch into it. It didn't flame like it should and when I realised I had a lighter I was already drowning in spiders.

I understand it's probably impossible to give all the possible options to the player, but having at least 2 or 3 whenever possible would be a good thing.
05-12-2010 12:59 PM
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Setlec Offline
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Post: #18
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

I'm really glad to have read your posts guys... multi solution puzzles are in fact required to me. in BP, the door as you said was kinda idiotic, no offence intended! I would be really glad to be a some sort of MacGyver/Indiana Jones in order to do things that could be done to open the door. After playing the 3 games, I was kinda stupid from not using any of the meat nor the dynamite but they were quite useless to me. the more possibilities offered for the player to solve something makes a better immersion and gameplay! For Amnesia you should include water/food for healing also to be able to rest is a good thing to implement, booze and drugs to improve the body like the adrenaline shot seen in L4D! Sometimes i like to go back to previous locations to search for things that I've not used or that could be useful. One thing that i've found quite hard to use was the pick-axes! It was useful to kill the wolves but very hard to use it... Maybe i might learn to use it better.
05-16-2010 09:25 AM
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Adventurer4Life Offline
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Post: #19
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

My greatest complaint in the Penumbra series was trail and error. While the game is terrifying and very immersive, there were points were I had to restart due to not saving often enough, as saving itself breaks immersion.
Spoiler below!
Blocking the door in Overture b4 the dog gets in and kills you is an example that comes to mind.
After that, now that I knew the layout of the zone and also know that unless I hear the dog there is zero danger, I could wounder around freely, with little or no emotional impact form the spooky environment.

I think the holy grail of gaming is a interactive story that has no back tracking, each decision leading to the next and so on.. but the shear complexity of trying to predict and build gameplay for all the possible outcomes of any given situation is not, I believe, possible.

A terrific example of trail and error gameplay that works.. to a point. Is that ps3 title, Hard Rain. During the first playthough it is like watching a engaging film.. though after some restarts and save points and then trying to get the "best" results, the game turns into something more like guitar hero.. just button pressing and memorization.

There are other ways besides death and multi-paths to give a continual feeling of immersion though and discourage restarts. One that I believe is very good and works perfectly for heavily story driven games is a evolution of the character you play. A simple example is the character evolving to be a "evil" or "good". As with out changing the core gameplay of the entire title you can modify the reactions and abilities (options) the gamer has during the game to get past zone blocks. This can give the player a real feeling that his actions have physically changed the gameworld. Unlike "good solution" and "bad solution" witch as stated in this thread can be as frustrating as player death and encourages restarts. This method of changing the way the character can interact with the world bases on previous game choices can create a continual momentum of story, witch the player wants to continue though even though they might believe there was a "better" way to play said given part of the game.

PS- I would just like to also comment that I really enjoy the well though out gameplay discussions the frictional guys foster on this forum and on their blogs. To a long time.. maybe "to heavy" gamer, I find them extremely interesting.

Happy Adventuring
-- A4L
My Review Chan - http://www.youtube.com/adventurereviews
05-17-2010 01:39 AM
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Setlec Offline
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Post: #20
RE: Blog: "Why Trial and Error will Doom Games"

(05-17-2010 01:39 AM)Adventurer4Life Wrote:  I think the holy grail of gaming is a interactive story that has no back tracking, each decision leading to the next and so on.. but the shear complexity of trying to predict and build gameplay for all the possible outcomes of any given situation is not, I believe, possible.

A terrific example of trail and error gameplay that works.. to a point. Is that ps3 title, Hard Rain. During the first playthough it is like watching a engaging film.. though after some restarts and save points and then trying to get the "best" results, the game turns into something more like guitar hero.. just button pressing and memorization.

all possible solution are quite too much asking... But the trick would be to have the story writing with multiple solutions for the same puzzle, but the Ending remains the same... It makes the game more flexible than pure "trial and error".

(05-17-2010 01:39 AM)Adventurer4Life Wrote:  There are other ways besides death and multi-paths to give a continual feeling of immersion though and discourage restarts. One that I believe is very good and works perfectly for heavily story driven games is a evolution of the character you play. A simple example is the character evolving to be a "evil" or "good".

So you are saying that a multiple ending, one would be the Good way and the other one the Evil way (like on "Dark Force 2: Jedi Knight"), would be the best way to go?

(05-17-2010 01:39 AM)Adventurer4Life Wrote:  As with out changing the core gameplay of the entire title you can modify the reactions and abilities (options) the gamer has during the game to get past zone blocks. This can give the player a real feeling that his actions have physically changed the gameworld.

So like in a RPG, you would set the Int, Strength, Charisma, etc and then the class skill, right?


(05-17-2010 01:39 AM)Adventurer4Life Wrote:  Unlike "good solution" and "bad solution" witch as stated in this thread can be as frustrating as player death and encourages restarts.

I don't recall reading good or bad solution, though!

(05-17-2010 01:39 AM)Adventurer4Life Wrote:  This method of changing the way the character can interact with the world bases on previous game choices can create a continual momentum of story, witch the player wants to continue though even though they might believe there was a "better" way to play said given part of the game.

The point of multi solutions offers much more immersion and have an impact in the gameplay and gameworld but remember you are in a situation that you don't control "your environment", actually you are controlled by your environment! Like most single player games... If you try to control your environment in such game then the immersion is pointless as well as the story line...
05-17-2010 10:21 AM
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