Search Unity

Cameras, Perspective, and Empathy

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by FreeFly90, Mar 24, 2017.

  1. FreeFly90

    FreeFly90

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Posts:
    177
    I am currently undergoing the process of designing my first game, and I have a huge toubt in my mind. Long story short, I'm working on a 3D graphic adventure that will be based in one single house that undergoes major transformation during the gameplay, and I'm having a hard time deciding how to set up the main camera.

    I believe that watching the protagonist's face is a key role for empathy, people are way more likely to feel connected to a character they see and perceive, seeing facial expressions and reactions in real time create a sense of attachment that is crucial, especially in a game where the story is everything. On the other side, a total indoor game is not the best option for a Mass-Effect like camera as it would need a lot of objects culling to run smooth on the entire building. There are many options that came to my mind, but I really can't decide which one could produce better results.

    1) 3D person fixed-side: like This War of mine, I could create a lateral camera that renders the scene from one side. While it would probably be the better way not to hide stuff from the view, it is the most used camera of history, and being the project a one-house show, it'd take away not one but five view sides out of six, giving me way less space for the puzzles.

    2) 3D person fixed camera: very much like Siberia, each space will have its own camera set up, and when a player enter that area it gets activated. This solution would give me three sides to put the puzzles, but it would also make the game look old, static and probably give the player too many cues about how to solve the challenges.

    3) Orbital camera: an orbital camera would be a camera that rotates around the room in a 360 space, always focusing on the room center. When the camera is above, the roof is culled, when it is under the scene, the floor is. With this type of settings, I can use all the sides of a room, but it would be long and hard to code, and it would make the entire scene very artificial. Looking at a room from below really sucks, especially if you're on the second floor and there's another room you're hiding below.

    4)First Person Controller: this solution seems to be the best one in terms of gameplay, but it goes straight against what I've said in the post introduction. Unless I make the player live inside a house full of mirrors, it will take away a lot of empathy, and it will be harder for the player to link with the character.

    All those solutions have pros and cons, there are also a lot of hybrid possibilities that could be used, but still, I can't decide what to do. I'll probably be testing most of these solutions over time, but I still wanted to start a conversation about it. What do you people do? Does FP == less empathy? What camera would you use for such a game?
     
  2. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2011
    Posts:
    9,859
    What if you go with the first-person camera, but then also have a head shot of the player character in a panel somewhere? This is commonly done in FPS games to show health, but you could instead use it to show emotional state (assuming you have some way to simulate that). That might give you the best of both worlds.
     
  3. TonyLi

    TonyLi

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2012
    Posts:
    12,697
    To play devil's advocate to Joe's suggestion, I'd prefer a holistic arrangement with a single view instead of an overlaid head shot.

    Traditional thinking is that first person is better for games that are focused on interacting with the world, while third person is better on games that are focused on the player's character (PC), since that's what the player's literal focus will be on.

    What about a third person camera that follows over the shoulder when the PC is moving? When the PC is stationary and turns, the camera could stay in place until the PC moves. That's a fairly modern camera scheme. Over the shoulder works well for movement, and a stationary camera when turning in place allows the player to see the PC's front.

    And if the PC does something interesting, such as interacting with an object in the room, the camera could zoom into an appropriate close angle, which could either be programmatic or specified manually for each interactable object.

    This way the player can see the PC's body language, even if the camera is just over the shoulder. And more interesting events could take advantage of what should feel like a fairly natural adjustment in camera angle.
     
    theANMATOR2b, Kiwasi, Ryiah and 2 others like this.
  4. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2014
    Posts:
    2,234
    A thing to keep in mind with first person views is that there ostensibly is no player character. The PC is the player and vice versa. Add to that that FP is only seriously beneficial to shooting gameplay, and it starts looking a lot less rose tinted. You can argue that it's more immersive, but relying on FP for immersion isn't a good sign.

    If games handled nuance better (at all), I would be more inclined to agree, but it's far less important than it should be. In the middle of action, the only way for the player to reliably pick up on the character's emotional state is if it's expressed mechanically, because it's almost assured that the player has a thousand other things to worry about.

    Even in a cutscene, there are still the usual issues of cinematography to deal with on top of the costs involved. Character animation ain't cheap, much less when it's expressive, and that cost is in performance as well as labor.
     
    Kiwasi and FreeFly90 like this.
  5. FreeFly90

    FreeFly90

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Posts:
    177
    I do agree with this. Besides, I wasn't planning to have any UI, and having just a big face in the corner won't help.

    You know what? I like this hybrid approach. Camera could even be moved independently around the character when it's not moving, and get closer to its shoulders when it moves. This way, all the room (with the exception of the roof, maybe) is usable, but I still won't have any problem moving in closer spaces. Thanks, that's a great hint!

    Generally speaking, I tend to agree, but there are some exceptions, for example Portal, while being a TP has managed to make a memorable character, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has been a huge success while being a FP puzzle game.
     
  6. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    You're not actually asking how to make the player feel empathy with their character. You're asking how to make the player feel empathy with you. The problem you're trying to solve is that you want to show the players how they are supposed to feel.

    If you have written a good story, they will feel that way automatically. You won't have to show them the character's face, and even if you did, if they don't already feel that way they will think you got it wrong. Nothing good lies down this road.
     
    theANMATOR2b and Kiwasi like this.
  7. TonyLi

    TonyLi

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2012
    Posts:
    12,697
    That's a really good point. When I first played Mass Effect, I felt a certain dissonance when the protagonist took initiative to do things that I didn't directly tell him to do. It was a departure from the traditional 1:1 mapping of player to protagonist in RPGs. It does distance the player from the protagonist, but many people felt like it still worked. I think it's worth exploring how far one can take this distance. After all, when you watch a movie or read a book, you're completely separate from the protagonist and yet you can still empathize. But it's certainly something a designer should approach while keeping your advice in mind, too.
     
  8. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    Something I was thinking about after that post, incidentally: sometimes the protagonist isn't supposed to be you. It's supposed to be someone you control, or can direct. Like imagine a sniper team, where you're the spotter. You tell the sniper what to shoot, and he shoots it, but how he feels about shooting it is another form of feedback that tells you whether you're doing a good job.

    So there are (or at least could be) games where that's a valid part of the gameplay. The question is whether your protagonist is the player, or not.
     
    theANMATOR2b and TonyLi like this.
  9. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    Pardon me for responding out of order, but...

    I would say that the ambiguity in the original post (and their specific use of "protagonist," which implies an actual character) means that no, the player is not the protagonist (nor is the protagonist the player--I'm struggling to find an appreciable difference between the two phrases).

    No, they're asking how to make the player feel empathy with a character in the game--the protagonist. They didn't specify whether that would be a character separate from the player (such as Shepard, or Booker from Bioshock) or a self-insert. But, again, the use of the word protagonist implies the former. Additionally, note the use of the word "empathy." An assumption can be made, though clarification is probably needed.

    Worth pointing out--I agree with you about making a player feel a certain emotion in response to the story, but this isn't necessarily the case for empathy. Empathy requires an empathetic character. Sam Fisher evoked empathy in Double Agent when he lost his daughter, because of the effect it had on him as a character. If he hadn't changed at all, if a bunch of horrible things happened to him but his character in the game didn't change at all--he would not evoke empathy.

    Miriam Webster:
    We're (the OP is) not talking about evoking just any emotion from an audience, but specifically the emotion governed by the emotions of another person. Showing the emotions of that other person is critical.
     
  10. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    The character in the game does not actually have emotions. What it has is a visual approximation of what the developer thinks emotions look like, with which that developer hopes to communicate what emotions the player should be feeling right now.

    But no matter how you slice it, players have emotions of their own. And if that character is supposed to be the player, when it doesn't look like the character feels like the player feels, the character is wrong. The player has real emotions that really exist. The character has fake emotions invented by a developer.

    It can be productive, however, to show someone else's emotions so you know how they are feeling. That will impact and affect the player's emotions, but because it is not supposed to be the player, it's not universally wrong if the player feels differently about the events.
     
  11. FreeFly90

    FreeFly90

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Posts:
    177
    I'm glad I could actually generate such a positive and intriguing discussion about the topic. :)

    I think your comparison perfectly hit the spot. Mass effect is a game where you're supposed to chose between A and B many times, and modify the world accordingly. The game i am planning instead, is closer to a book or a movie, the story is there and you just have to bring it forward by solving enigmas and puzzles. The dissonance in ME is also created by ambiguous choices which usually don't produce the desired action by the character, but this is nother story....

    I've already replied to this, but it's worth expanding the answer probably. I believe that there is a huge difference between crafting an environment where the player builds his own story and letting him play the story you've designed. There are many games where player can create their own custom avatar, pick up names and nicknames, and forge their experience. In that case, you are totally right, and emotions are just mechanical responses to what the simulation believes the player is feeling right now. In the other cases however, players are reading a novel, they are experiencing the story of their character and seeing his emotions. Empathy comes a step later probably, you can feel it or not, but surely the aim is to tell what the character is feeling, not what the player should feel. You can have a dramatic scene and make the player lough at the same time.

    Trying to be more specific, my game is going to be focused on just one character, with very few interactions with other agents around the world. It's going to be HIS story, and I'll try to let the player understand what he's feeling and what he's going through. With that I don't mean that the game will be sad and break everyone in tears, but there won't be much space for custom experiences. I'll tell a story, and the player will "read" it through the game. For this reason the camera design is important, it's really just like creating a movie script.
     
  12. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    That's true. The question is whether anyone wants to play the story you've designed. I'm not saying they don't - the "visual novel" is a thing that exists - but it's worth asking whether the people who want what you're making are the people you want as players.

    I had a VN-style introduction planned for my current game, but no matter how much I love the idea and think it's awesome, I am pretty sure the average player will be frustrated and annoyed by it - because the kind of person who likes a visual novel is not the kind of person who wants to play the game that comes after the introduction.

    The person who wants to play the actual game, by contrast, wants me to shut up and get out of his damn way so he can play. And that means by the time he gets to the part where he might need a tutorial to understand what he's doing, he's not reading anymore; I've burned up all the goodwill I had, and now he's just closing every window I open without reading it. So he doesn't know how to play, and he isn't learning how to play, and he probably ends up ragequitting the game and leaving a bad review.

    I'm probably going to turn the VN introduction into a YouTube video. That way, people who like that sort of thing can go watch it, and people who don't... never even need to know it exists. I'll get to go stroke my cane on the internet, and some people will watch anything that looks even sort of like anime, so I'll get my validation from the audience. But I won't get it at the expense of the player experience.

    A lot of what game developers (including me) like to do in their games is just masturbatory, and doesn't make anything better for the player. We're all fundamentally going "look at me, look at me" with everything we make, and the inherent promise is that whatever we're doing is worth looking at. Every time it's not, we have a "crying wolf" situation, and eventually people stop looking.
     
    FreeFly90 likes this.
  13. DominoM

    DominoM

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2016
    Posts:
    460
    Depending on your input system it might be worth using cinematic cameras. Cinemachine is free since Unity hired the developer. There's lots of camera techniques that can guide and enhance the emotional impact.



     
  14. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    Big assumption to make. I've read everything from G-Senjou no Maou to Saya no Uta to Katawa Shoujo, and played everything from Watch Dogs to Mass Effect to Sim City 4.
     
  15. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    Not really.

     
  16. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    Ah, nvm. I thought you were talking about a different game.
     
  17. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2014
    Posts:
    7,790
    Will the delivery of emotion/state of mind be during gameplay, or during cut-scene/monologue/dialogue sections?

    Honestly I can only remember 1-2 games that have delivered emotion through 'animation' enough to cause empathy, and of those none were never the result of facial animation.
    First game that comes to mind as I sit here typing is Ori. Ori delivered emotional tone through animation, full body action, movement and poses.
    Another one is either Uncharted 2 or 3 where your wounded and hanging off the cliff in the train car. Nathan is visibly injured and can't move well, the animations of his movement are labored and when he gets slammed into objects the cinematography of the character and camera combine to deliver a pretty believable scene.

    I can't think of any game (certainly not Mass Effect) that delivered believable empathetic facial animation - during gameplay. Do you have a game reference you are using?
    Even the highest quality productions have to over exaggerate key facial poses to portray the simplest of emotions during cinematics.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  18. TonyLi

    TonyLi

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2012
    Posts:
    12,697
    Good point. Don't underestimate body language. That's one of the reasons why I think a third person camera is good for this game concept; you can always see the PC's body, even if you can't see his face.
     
    theANMATOR2b likes this.
  19. Adam_Myhill

    Adam_Myhill

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2016
    Posts:
    342
    What a great thread, such good ideas around really difficult goals such as empathy.

    Isn't it interesting how game genre is a description of camera? First Person, 3rd person, top down, isometric, etc.

    The games which have connected with me the most at an empathic level:

    Ico - 3rd person, sculpted user-controlled camera. Maybe the best game ever

    Heavy Rain - Cinematic / quicktime events. One of the most emotional opening scenes

    Red Dead Redemption - 3rd person orbit camera

    Basically anything Naughy Dog does ! - 3rd person sculpted orbit cameras.

    Is the camera a factor in the empathy? Sure but not as much as good storytelling and performances.

    You've got all the tools you need in Unity with Timeline and Cinemachine: FreeLook orbit cameras, cinematic cameras, collision detection, procedural cutscenes of variable scenarios.

    Unity 5.6, Timeline, Cinemachine
    https://forum.unity3d.com/threads/timeline-experimental-preview-release-1.455265/

    Cinemachine v1.5 + FreeLook
    https://forum.unity3d.com/threads/new-cinemachine-v1-5.459352/
    (scroll down to see posts about how to use if you're not using Unity v5.6 / Timeline / PostFX)

    Here's a quick video of Timeline and CM working together


    We know the documentation is lacking, so until that's done if anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
     
  20. Billy4184

    Billy4184

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2014
    Posts:
    6,018
    I generally prefer not to see a character's face in third person, whereas I really like the third person perspective in general. Even when I see body language there's still a sense of continuity between me and the character, it kind of feels like I've just got a really long neck hehe, and I can pretty much ignore the back of their head. But the moment I see the face it crosses the line and I really feel disconnected, I start reacting to and not with the face.

    So if I were going to try to convey emotion I would definitely try to do it through body language, since there's still some sense that it's just my body, my gut, reacting to something that my mind hasn't consciously processed, and in that way it's very suggestive to me as a player in terms of feeling an emotion.
     
  21. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    Do you do this regardless of gender? Just curious. And what about if the character speaks?
     
  22. FreeFly90

    FreeFly90

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Posts:
    177
    Before any game is designed, it must have a purpose. Without a purpose, a game is just a mere chain of actions linked by code triggers. Some games, and in my opinion those are the worst piece of software you could ever buy, are crafted for the player to build their story, they let the user customize their face, skin, skills, and very often, even the story. The result is often a soulless game, where the feeling of detachment is like a noise throughout the entire experience. More freedom means that the system must be more elastic, it means that you need each single line of text and dialogue to answer each possible customization. The result are plain interactions that give nothing back, just to let the players chose their outfit.

    I honestly do not want to compromise on my story, I don't care if players like it or not, it is my story, I do the character design, and I decide whether if they are doing something or not. Players/Customers have the right to say "I wouldn't do that", or to say that the game is poorly written and doesn't make any sense, but they do not have the right to interfere with the story I have in mind. There is nothing in the world that will be liked by everyone, surely not my game, but the purpose I want to give to my creation is to build something that makes sense to my mind and let people see it, and hopefully enjoy and comment about it. This doesn't mean that I hate open-ended finals or multiple choices games, they just don't fit what I am trying to make.

    I must admin my first topic didn't give away many info about what I had in mind, but it's just because I didn't have that much.

    My game idea was born like this: I have free time, and I want to build something I like, both for my portfolio, and because I want to learn something new. It's going to be a one-man project, and I must plan it accordingly. I love to write stories, I am probably the biggest Ron Gilbert stalker who ever lived, and I hope one day I'll be remembered for my stories and puzzles, not just for my code. I have an IT background and several years of programming on my back, which means I can do the programming part quite easily, but I also have dysgraphia and I can't draw. There is no way I could do 2D art, but I've been working with blender for almost three years and I know how to model and animate. I am surely not a pro, but I am sure I can do a decent job with the right tools, and it will be easier to ask feedback on proportions.

    Being a one-man show, with a 3D environment, I had to keep the number of assets down to something i could produce myself, and I thought: what's the best way to recycle assets while not making it obvious? The answer came by itself: make it functional to the plot! Long story short, the game I am writing focuses on one boy that, for an unknown reason, wakes up every morning living the same day (just like the Groundhog day movie), but every time he is in a different universe, with different variations of the environment. By doing this, his house will be the only scenario I need, puzzles will change on every iteration of the event, and the plot will become clearer while he solves puzzles. The purpose of the game will be, very trivially, to break this loop and set him free.

    Such a games present a difficult task, which is to keep the environment entertaining and fun to play without changing the scenario too often. Of course I will play with the iteration thing, changing objects positions, shapes, colors and models, but I surely will not be able to make four different houses by myself.

    For this reasons, the design is hard, I am doing something different from other graphic adventures (using 3D), while breaking some canons of the genre (make a world where people would love to live). Most of the graphic adventures are 2D/ish games, all clues are in the background and players just need to find the right spot to complete actions. Doing this in a 3D space bring up the Camera problem I have explained above. I am currently planning to insert no cutscene of sort, some actions will trigger animations, but they will be short and real time events, they won't take the screen more than one second. For this reason, I feel like I shouldn't give up on following the character's face, I am already breaking too many rules that in a way I feel like I need to hook up onto something to make it work. I am still not sure how fun, in terms of fourth dimension wall and jokes, I will make the story, but nevertheless I still think that a sort of visual indication of emotions could help the game.

    I am currently evaluating the idea of isometric cameras that can be switched with one click (watching North-East or South-West walls, and culling the other), but I need to do some tests before to take any decision.

    I'm glad you liked the post, I do believe that game design is too often underrated and discussing about what make a game well-designed is the main reason why i joined the forum at first. You are absolutely right, storytelling and performances are way more important that the camera itself, but I don't see why can't be all good! :p
     
    TonyLi and Adam_Myhill like this.
  23. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2014
    Posts:
    7,790
    Have you considered using the static camera position (like RE and Silent Hill) for one dimension - and another static camera position (of the same room) for different dimension?

    It is going to be hard to evoke any emotion through changing facial expressions with a pulled back orthographic camera.

    Agree with you stance on compromise.
    Thumbs up
     
  24. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    This is a truly disturbing thing to see in a thread about empathy.

    If you don't care whether players like your story, why do you care how they feel? Do what you want, and when people don't like it you can call them all Philistines and stomp off into the dark to work on your next masterpiece of misunderstood genius.
     
  25. Billy4184

    Billy4184

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2014
    Posts:
    6,018
    Yes, even if I'm playing a girl I don't really consider things differently. When I'm playing the character, its me and I don't want to look at its face and see something different from what I'm feeling.

    I don't think I've ever played a game where the character speaks with the camera in a third person perspective, (except maybe mumbling some hint to themselves i.e. you), but I don't think it would work out too well - if the character speaks you kind of need a cutscene or something.

    At that point it's just one of those things (cutscenes) that games do. I'm kind of on the fence - I really like a great cutscene but I have to admit it always, without exception, does some damage to the immersion into the character and gameplay.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  26. FreeFly90

    FreeFly90

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Posts:
    177
    A terrible choice of words, my bad. What I meant is that when I design a story, I do not want to compromise on what the story should be just because people won't like it. If i believe that a character would rather sacrifice himself in a given situation, I let him do that, I won't save him just because people won't like to see him die. Call this the "George R. R. Martin Approach" if you want, but I don't like to see things like ME3 final, where bioware was forced to patch the game just because the fans didn't like how the story ended, I find it insulting. You have all the right to say you don't like it, but you don't have the right to pretend a different ending. That said, of course my goal is to make the story appealing, I do want them to be guided by certain emotions through the game and it is my job to make them "feel" something, it was just a bad way of phrasing it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
  27. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    Then why are you making a game?

    I mean, what you keep describing is a movie or a book. It goes where you want it to go, whether the audience likes it or not. It's not about them. They are spectators in your world, not agents of change. Why give them the illusion of control if they don't actually get to have any?

    Again, visual novels are things that exist, and Parasite Eve for the Playstation rather infamously gives you a scene where your entire job is to walk from your limo to the theatre entrance down a red carpet. I'm not saying the game you want to build should not be built. I'm not the boss of you.

    I just think you need to know the answers to these questions, so you can put whatever you build in front of an audience that will actually like it. We live in a world where every couple of months, someone produces five to fifteen hours of storytelling, and most people can access a massive collection of that storytelling for ten dollars a month via Netflix or Audible or Kindle Unlimited.

    Why would those people choose to play your game instead? And if you can't think of a good reason, why is it a game?

    The empathic vocabulary of books and movies is, after all, pretty stable and mature.
     
  28. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    What do you think of Hideo Kojima? David Cage? Tetsuya Nomura? All very successful people who typically have very focused (ridiculous? Insane? Drug-induced?) visions for the story of their games. It doesn't prevent the gameplay from being worthwhile on its own.

    It's also entirely possible for a creator to have a very specific direction for a game's story, that either incorporates or is enhanced by the "game" part of things. Examples: Nier, FF VII Crisis Core, Undertale, Far Cry 3, point-and-click-style adventure games (including stuff like Life is Strange), I'm sure many more. All games where there is a directed story being told, but it's enhanced in some way by the gameplay.
     
    theANMATOR2b likes this.
  29. LMan

    LMan

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Posts:
    493
    I know what you mean. Artistic vision can benefit from critique, but ultimately it comes from the artist, and you want to stay true to the things about the story that made you want to share it with other people in an interactive medium.

    I think you can get a lot of mileage out of studying cinematography or even taking a photography class. Camera Angle is only one of your tools- framing, lighting, movement for instance.


    You can't really see her face, but you don't need to to see that she feels oppressed. The lighting draws your attention to her silhouette.

    All the information is already there- she's being swallowed up by the darkness of the cave- it almost looks like a spiral.



    The framing of the shot gives the statue/doorway a dominant and imposing feeling- you get the feeling that everybody has a sense of foreboding about what may be beyond that door.
     
    theANMATOR2b and TonyLi like this.
  30. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    ...who are openly hated by significant numbers of players, primarily for their self-indulgent garbage getting in the way of gameplay.

    I know people who want to do the same kind of thing always think they're Kojima coming up with Solid Snake, but chances are much, much higher that they're Lucas coming up with Jar-Jar Binks.

    EDIT: Jar-Jar Binks was, in all fairness, an amazingly animated and integrated CGI character. He just did not belong in a Star Wars movie. In a smaller role, he might have been acceptable in Star Wars, but in a different setting made specifically for the kind of person who would like him... he could have been a timeless classic.
     
  31. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    it's hard to see past the subjectivity here. You say "self-indulgent garbage," a fanboy says intelligent, intricate (for 1 and 3 at least), and compelling plot.

    For what it's worth the only game of any of "theirs" I've played is MGS V (and I didn't find the story impressive at all), so I don't have a dog in the fight, but saying that someone won't be successful doing that--

    --is silly, when there are well-known examples to the contrary.

    And I don't think any of them are too concerned over a few people who complain about their games, when their legion of fans keeps buying them.

    I hold Solid Snake in no high regard, and the only knowledge I have of Jar-Jar Binks is a random name that people mock, so I can't speak to this.

    I'm a little disappointed you didn't address the second half of my post, which was a direct answer to your challenge ("why are you making a game?") rather than the tangent the beginning was. Is that (it can enhance the story) not a valid reason? Are those not valid examples?



    Now for a number of them, it gets into the idea of player agency. Some might argue that player agency isn't a valid interpretation of a "developer-directed" story, but I would disagree, if the player agency is deliberately integrated into the story.

    I plan to have a sequence in one of my games where the player is following an "ally" NPC who traps them, and then kills them. However, that's not the game's real ending (nor are the next two endings). The player can only progress by playing that portion again and deliberately not following the NPC into the trap (worth mentioning--they can avoid it the first time too if they know; they're simply most likely to follow blindly).

    It's player agency, but it's deliberately put into the story. It's still me telling the story the way I want to, but it incorporates a gameplay element in a way you never could a book or movie, to produce an effect (a sense of betrayal and complicity - "I could have avoided this outcome") you really can't (at least to that extent) in a book or movie.
     
  32. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    To what?

    "I'm not saying the game you want to build should not be built. (...) I just think you need to know the answers to these questions"

    My position is inherently subjective.

    I stand by my assertion that a person who does not know why they are doing something has larger problems than figuring out how to do it.

    Which, again, is necessarily subjective.

    I don't see why I need to. If games like this exist and there are audiences for them, which I have already explicltly stated, then of course they are possible.

    These objections don't even make any sense to me.
     
  33. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    Fair enough. I think we're speaking a different scopes however.

    I definitely agree with you there.

    The point wasn't that games with a heavy story focus are "possible," but that story and gameplay can integrate to form something greater. But I suppose it's kind of off topic from the discussion.
     
  34. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    Those games also exist and have audiences. Saya no Uta would not be as effective in any other form, even though it is at best a simplified Choose-Your-Own-Adventure which gives you all of three meaningful choices. Similarly, Long Live the Queen is another surprisingly engaging little piece of work, even though you simply iterate over the same choices over and over. Both are emotionally-charged games which are both engaging and affecting largely because the amount of control the player exerts is limited. Arguably, Dragon's Lair is an early example of this, but where SnU and LLtQ improve on the model is in the inherent explanation of why player choice has been limited. The protagonist in both situations does not enjoy the same freedom of agency that, say, Steve in Minecraft does.

    Sometimes this is done badly. In the early stages of the game Risen 2: Dark Waters, I am walking around with a pirate's outfit. I am not allowed to put it on because I am not a pirate yet, but the pirate outfit is DLC that I paid for. I paid actual money to wear a pirate outfit, and the game is telling me I can't wear it... without giving me a meaningful reason. Sure, I'm not a pirate, but I can still put on a pirate costume. Refusing to let me put on my own clothes doesn't make any sense.

    I am just sure that when I walk into the pirate camp they are going to say something like "you don't look like a pirate" and I'll be sitting over here thinking "well, that's not exactly my fault." I am also just sure that the writer of the game said "but it's important to my vision that the player arrive in the pirate village not looking like a pirate!" when he was arguing about whether the DLC would let you dress as a pirate when you started the game.

    But I paid for the privilege of not caring about his vision. I paid to have my vision, of jumping up and dressing as a pirate and shrieking "ARRRR" at the top of my lungs while I run off into an ostensibly-open world to act as I think pirates act. Instead, I have played this game for four hours while it leads me by the nose through some bad writer's artistic vision.

    This game is supposed to be about me being a pirate and fighting huge sea monsters, but I'm almost three movies worth of time into the damn thing and so far it is about kicking crabs and collecting junk. Meanwhile, it's advertised as being "set in the most immersive RPG game world so far." Kick crabs and collect junk while not wearing your own clothes! Just like real life.

    Someone, somewhere, thought it was a good idea to intercept me putting on the clothes in my backpack and say "you can't do that because of story and plot." They thought "it makes perfect sense in the game world for only pirates to dress as pirates." Meanwhile, I am supposed to be trying to join a band of pirates, and I can't dress the part. I can't do what feels smart, because the writer thinks it is important for me to be stupid.

    My
    story is about angrily rejecting my former life to embrace piracy, because that feels like how I'd behave in this situation. But apparently the writer prefers that I have some angst-ridden personal crisis about giving up my former life to join the pirates, which is not making me into the tortured emo kid he seems to imagine plays his game. It is making me into an annoyed and offended customer who thinks his game is bullshit.

    The whole thing is a question of "why?" - I didn't really get a solid handle on who I'm supposed to be in this game. I got a solid handle on the main questline and the mission I'm supposed to be on. But at no point did the game impress upon me that I am supposed to be a certain kind of person. It kind of suggested I'm supposed to be a maverick and a loose cannon who drinks too much and ignores authority, but then it won't let me dress as a pirate.

    This doesn't add up. It's acting like I'm so deeply committed to the ideals of my former order that it's painful for me to walk away, but that doesn't feel right. I'm already casually associated with pirates. I'm entering the story in medias res, but I don't feel like the kind of person the writer thinks I should be in this story. It's a bondage-and-discipline exercise where I'm being punished for wanting my open world game to be, well, open.

    Which is probably why the game gets a significantly lower Metacritic score than the original Risen, which as I recall gave the player total freedom from the very beginning. I should reinstall that and check.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  35. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    In what way do you feel this is enhanced by the gameplay/player choice? Additionally, what are the three choices? It's been a while, but the only meaningful choice I remember was whether you chose to remain "afflicted" or let her put your mind back to normal.

    And I didn't feel the impact of the story was really affected by my choice. By that I mean, it would have been just as poignant if it was an automatic "Yes, put my mind back to normal."

    I've debated back and forth on getting LLtQ, but never have because it didn't seem like there was a story in any extensive way. Is that wrong?
     
  36. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    Choice 1: Let her fix you back. This produces the single most boring story you can get in the game.

    Choice 2: Don't let her fix you, then later call Fuminori.

    Choice 3: Don't let her fix you, then later call Ryoko.

    The game ends the way it does because of your choice. And the three endings are all very, very different. I rather like the one where you call Fuminori; that's the way I would have ended the story if I were writing it.

    There's a really extensive branching story. Just look over the Steam achievements; one of them is to die in like twenty different ways. It's an excellent study in how a single iterated choice can make for an engaging and powerful game.

    One of the things that struck me was that the process is so simple, a game like this could be readily targeted to a very young audience - using symbols and audio, rather than reams of text - providing four and five year old children with a massive, complex adventure that was accessible even if they couldn't read.
     
  37. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    Boo. I thought the 4ever alone ending was rather bittersweet.

    Didn't know there was a difference. I just read up on that one and thought the whole "remake the world in our image" thing was weird. Unique, maybe, but I wasn't interested in it.

    I suppose that qualifies, though I feel it's different from a situation where there's an actual "gameplay" element the player interacts with, and which changes the story. Consider the Little Sisters in Bioshock (though I understand that was a little flawed).

    I have trouble calling a "choose your own adventure" book a "game" with gameplay elements (not a disparagement, I just don't think they're the same).

    Dying a bunch of different ways doesn't equal story any more than a bunch of mechanics in an immersive sim equals story.

    I was under the impression that a death was basically "An assassin/regent/tentacle monster appears to murderstab/reprimand/ravish you! Your agility/ignore/unattractiveness stat is too low, and you die!"

    When I say story, I mean story like Saya, like Danganronpa, like Kara no Shoujo. Perhaps I'm using the wrong word, and should be using "plot."
     
  38. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2014
    Posts:
    2,234
    If you haven't played anything in the vein of princess maker, it's worth trying at least once. Imagine if a roguelike had a story system as complicated as the rest of it, now rip out the roguelike. That's basically what the genre is like. It's too much minmaxing for it to be totally palatable for me, but it's definitely something to try.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  39. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    Same here. The distinction I draw is between games, which people agree on how to play, and toys - where agreement is either irrelevant or unnecessary. A lot of people get really offended at this, because it implies strictly single-player games are toys.

    Well, yes, but you still have to make the choices that lead you there. There are eleven different deaths in the game which can be achieved from fifteen specific events. If you don't get to that event, you can't die that way. So at a bare minimum, you must figure out how to reach more than two-thirds of the possible death events to get that achievement.

    But yes, when you actually die, it basically says "you died because you did the thing and your stat was too low." Unless your stat doesn't matter.

    LLtQ very definitely has a plot. There are upwards of a hundred meaningful choices in every game.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.
  40. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Posts:
    3,144
    I saw Princess Maker and it seemed interesting, but the hideous art kept me away.

    Edit: I say hideous, but I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    Alright, the two of you have convinced me. Fitting time, too, given the sale.

    ...sorry for all this, OP.
     
  41. cdarklock

    cdarklock

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    Posts:
    455
    It should be an interesting example of how players decide whether to buy a game, and whether they care about story.

    Clearly the three of us care about story. It matters to us, and if we feel like a game has no story, we're not interested. And at the same time, depending on the story, it's okay if you have little or no agency - we both enjoyed Saya no Uta - so long as the story justifies it.

    Meanwhile, you're looking at Long Live the Queen and Princess Maker thinking their stories are probably not worth experiencing, even though they hold a promise of greater player agency. In the case of PM, this decision is driven by the game's artwork, even though artwork has nothing to do with agency or story - because it's an economic signaling device. If someone doesn't do good artwork, chances are they didn't do a good story or good gameplay, either.

    These are important considerations for game design, because they affect who buys and plays your game. Even if you don't think the artwork is especially relevant to your game, because it's the story and gameplay that matter, people are still going to make decisions based on your artwork.
     
    EternalAmbiguity likes this.