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Emergent gameplay

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by imaginaryhuman, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    Your thoughts on emergent gameplay? That is, the gameplay can sort of randomly `appear` on its own. Often this seems to work in sandbox-type games.. although something like World of Goo spring to mind, or games where the environment is modified over time?Pro's cons?
     
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  2. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    I'm a big fan. If you've created a world that's interesting, it will have many opportunities for this. People will select their own goals and pursue them, and I think such goals are much more rewarding than what you get from a typical achievement system or quest dispenser, precisely because they are self-selected.
     
  3. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Its certainly great when it works. Look at mine craft.

    On the other hand its a risk. If you provide all the tools and nothing emerges, then you are in trouble.
     
  4. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    So then how does someone go about creating emergent gameplay, it is more to do with letting go of controlling outcomes?

    I suppose one example is using physics in a game... what happens is sort of figured out in realtime, rather than being prescripted?
     
  5. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    What exactly do we mean by emergent gameplay? Just because people do things that weren't expected doesn't mean you have emergent gameplay. New rules (or additional context) has to be added, otherwise gameplay hasn't changed. Consider the nuzlocke challenge in pokemon or the politics of eve as an example.
     
  6. Tomnnn

    Tomnnn

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    Minecraft mods are pure progression / emergent because as you explore and obtain new technology (of which there are various paths to progress) the gameplay changes completely?

    Crash landing is my favorite mod pack. You start in a panic because you're dying of hunger and thirst on a planet made out of dust. But you brought a sapling with you on your ship and a few machines still working on the ship can process dust to obtain ores. Jump forward several days of work... you've got machines and drones everywhere maintaining your orchards and forests, machines excavating huge amounts of dust and building entire cities, and even running torture machines underground that summon zombies just to kill them to collect their flesh to be stuffed into compost bins to get more dirt :D
     
  7. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I would say that emergent gameplay is adding new play styles and complexity, without adding new rules.

    Emergent is a term that generally refers to complex behaviours arising out of a simple rule set. Its not always obvious the behaviour that will emerge from the rule set. Flocking behaviour is the classic example. Each boid follows a very simple set of rules. Yet the behaviour of the entire flock is relatively complex.

    Mine craft is the same. The rules are pretty simple. You can pick up blocks and move them around. Yet the results can be pretty spectacular. Its not obvious that some of the amazing things that people build in that game would arise from such simple rule sets.

    On the other hand you have games like SimCity, that I would argue fails dramatically at emergent gameplay. In SimCity there is a most efficient way to build a city. So eventually every city looks pretty much the same.
     
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  8. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    +1. That post is full of win! Bravo!

    May I derail the thread with my current struggle? So, emergent gameplay is related to 'player driven tasks', which are an effective way to foster player Flow. So, when people play Block 64, they begin setting their own goals, like 'get 4 rows', 'break 500', etc. Those mini-goals work wonderfully during a game, and at the same time, I don't have meta-goals that keep players coming back day after day.

    I'm considering adding a line of quests with levels, similar to Alto's Journey iOS (PS - my absolute FAV endless runner). Those quests kept me coming back day after day, which over time, improved my skills and got me further than I ever would have otherwise. And, at the same time, it drove my play. Seems good and bad - a balance of short-term emergent behavior versus long-term retention. I'm not sure what to do.

    Gigi
     
  9. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    This could be my notion of emergence F***ing with me, but I'm pretty sure that's not accurate. As far as I am aware, emergent systems (of any kind, not just gameplay) are ones in which changes to starting conditions (let's say the starting resources/context and impediments/rules) can and will cause drastic differences to emerge over systems' lives, even to the point of altering systems' definitions of success. That last point is probably the most pertinent, since without it new styles of gameplay don't actually emerge.

    This isn't just having infinite possibilities. If the system doesn't have mechanisms to determine success, then you don't actually have a system. If the system has only one prerogative for success, then you end up with something like Sim City's efficiency ruling everything. Even if the system has multiple processes for achieving success, that doesn't necessarily mean that emergence is taking place. Multiple notions of success more often than not translates to there being several schools that each have their own rigid means of success.

    While I'm trying to behead myself, player driven goals also aren't inherently a part of emergent gameplay. If you can ask what problems are you facing, why the problem occurred or where did it come from, and what solution are you going to use and get wildly different answers across runs, you are looking at an emergent system. Player driven goals are typically tertiary to the system itself. Building mega-projects in minecraft rarely has an impact on the system as a whole. Most of the time it's for vanity and less for problem solving. Player driven problem solving, and by extension player induced problems, are what should delineate emergent gameplay.
     
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  10. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    I'm biased by Tetris, and Dr. Mario...but I think the reason you're struggling with adding quest systems is because they may not be necessary. Why do you think Block 64 needs a quest system?

    My way of playing your game is sort of like my old Tetris strategy - do my darndest to line up 4-row-completions for the biggest possible point yield (though, 3-row completions are more efficient, because 4-row-completions clear your game board.) Another player might be a more conservative player who specifically goes out to make 1-row completions. Either way, like you said - your game doesn't have meta-goals like Skyrim or Terraria.

    Block 64 however has a set of viable strategies. You could achieve something very much like what this thread is asking, if you can figure out a cool way to convince players to use another strategy (e.g. convince me to play a game where I only go after single-row completions.)
     
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  11. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I will need to read up on emergent gameplay. Don't know exactly what this buzzword means. However, based on what @RockoDyne posted this sounds like exactly the kind of thing I am looking for in games. The ability to try different things and find a solution to a problem even though it was never intended by the designers. Commonly this is only seen in the form of bugs. But if there is a wall in my way and I set off an explosive charge it may do nothing. Because the designer wants me to climb or jump over it. However, it would be very cool if I could instead apply enough damage (over time) to bring the wall crumbling down.

    To be able to interact with it beyond just jumping or climbing over it. It wouldn't really need to be unintentional. I mean the designer could have intentionally used a wall that would need X amount of damage to destroy thinking most people would not actually keep trying enough to do it. But still in this case the designer would know it was possible. That is the kind of thing I would like to see more of in games. All of the awesome graphics do nothing to preserve immersion when you suddenly find yourself in a situation that is illogical forcing you to make one choice only to get around an obstacle. This kind of thing has been in games since the very early days.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2015
  12. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Time for a definition? I checked three references, Koster, Schell, and me, before deciding that the wikipedia definition is more than sufficient (below). Of the definitions I found for emergent gameplay, none mention the solution space or the successful outcome of a puzzle. Though, Koster does guide that we can make emergent gameplay more likely by adding more player actions/verbs and by allowing goals to be achieved in various ways.

    I defined it as: "simple set of mechanics that interact together to create a complex system." Whatever the definition, it's good game design!

    Gigi
     
  13. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    It sounds good... but really what does it actually mean? To me those definitions are so broad and vague they could apply to nearly anything or nothing.

    If I play a game and I find it more efficient to avoid the enemies instead of engage them in battle going out of my way taking longer routes to the same destination... is that emergent gameplay?

    If I play a game and find more enjoyment testing the game world and finding many bugs in the process (such as certain spots of ground that are not solid allowing me to drop down into a cavern close to treasure) is that emergent gameplay?

    If bullets richochet in a game and play through the entire game only doing "trick shots" to kill the enemies is that emergent gameplay?

    I generally get more enjoyment out of games by experimenting testing the game world and just doing what I want to do. When they created a buzz term player driven goals I figured that probably describes what I do. Although to me I am just playing the game the way I want to play it. To explore it deeper than many people will.

    The definitions of emergent gameplay make it seem more like a puzzle. Like if I do this action at this time this simple thing happens. Then if I perform this action at this time I put another object into a certain state. Finally if I do something else at the right moment because of the simple things I did previously some bigger event occurs. Kind of like each simple action handled a tumbler and the final action unlocked the new event or whatever.

    I would like to see examples of emergent gameplay. I am guessing like most of these buzz terms it is something to describe some very simple normal thing. But examples would certainly help clarify it. I watched many videos on YouTube last night and based on those I would say there is little agreement on what the term actually means or it is truly so open ended it may as well not mean anything.
     
  14. imaginaryhuman

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    I think in general it refers to, as someone said, higher-level things becoming possible based on simpler lower-level rules... ie it can get more complex/sophisticated by itself... you can easily master the basic mechanic, but needing to then elaborate on that to deal with more complex/higher level challenges requires 'extra', and it's fairly open ended. Like in world of goo, you can basically figure out how to assemble a triangle of 3 blobs fairly easily, but building an entire structure to span a gap or something is more 'emergent' because now you must move up toward more strategy and bigger-picture stuff.
     
  15. GarBenjamin

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    Based on your example I would call that simply playing the game and improving your skills. Most games increase the challenge over time. Starting with fairly basic things and expanding on them as time passes. I'd just call that progressively more difficult.
     
  16. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Maybe some examples? Make a world of blocks. Then, add three actions: 1) player movement; 2) ability to break the blocks; 3) ability to place blocks. Just three simple actions combine to unlock the universe of emergent possibilities that eventually became a $2B empire.

    How about adding emergence to an existing game? Starting with a 3D explore-puzzle, multiplayer game, add in the action to press the button to make a chirp-noise. That simple action in a multiplayer game unlocks a universe of communication behaviors. Follow me, excitement, chatting, asking questions, ... all from a single chirp. And that game is Journey, by Jenova Chen.

    Simple actions that interact to create a complex system.
    Gigi

    PS - A 3rd example would be League of Legends. The whole thing.
     
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  17. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Okay. Lol So basically it is just a new term to describe normal behavior of people really into a game. I think the official definitions are not so good. Something like the following would make more sense at least to me. Emergent gameplay: when players intentionally use existing features in ways that were not intended so they can achieve something the game does not directly support or claim to have as a feature.
     
  18. GoGoGadget

    GoGoGadget

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    Exactly this. As a (very small) example from my own game, the other day I implemented gesture animations, one of which puts the players hands in a "surrender/hands up" animation. That day, players had worked out how to make their characters animate in such a way that looked like they were making "snowmen" on the ground. Of course, this has no real impact on gameplay, but certainly wasn't an intended/known mechanic when I implemented that gesture animation.

    I'm gonna go ahead and disagree that Minecraft is a good example of emergent gameplay - it's more of a sandbox with infinite player choice, but the actual gameplay mechanics don't ever change.
     
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  19. AndrewGrayGames

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  20. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    The problem there is I would define the central mechanic of world of goo as "using geometry to solve puzzles," at which point there is nothing special or mystifying about using geometry to then solve puzzles.

    As far as horribly reductionist definitions go, they work. This does pretty much mean that every team based sport/game is inherently emergent though, as you end up with two tiers of systems: the individual and the team.

    The biggest problem I have is that these definitions are stuck in 1980 when games only had three mechanics in total. These days every game has RPG systems that feed into mechanics which feed more systems that dump you further into mechanics that... We don't consider them emergent though because that's how it's designed and you never really escape the designers scope.

    I hate to put it this way, but it's a romantic's term for "S*** just happens and it's F***ing amazing." What ends up lost in understanding emergence are the all-important how and why.

    If you really want to define emergent gameplay, start by defining emergent systems. It shouldn't be hard to find emergent gameplay piggybacking off of those systems.
     
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  21. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Perhaps a negative definition would help? There are plenty of games that are not emergent. As in pretty much every thing you can do was anticipated and built in by the designers. This covers most games, from you average FPS to you average RPG.

    If every action you take is something the game designers considered and built into the game, then the gameplay is not emergent.

    It's also worth noting that this is a scale. Most games have some emergent game play. But some have far more the others.
     
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  22. GarBenjamin

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    Okay. This seems reasonably clear and that def I threw out still fits.

    Emergent gameplay: when players intentionally use existing features in ways that were not intended so they can achieve something the game does not directly support or claim to have as a feature.

    Although we could probably clean it up a bit at least. Something like: when players intentionally use existing features to achieve something more than they were intended to be used for.
     
  23. Gigiwoo

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    Are the designer's intentions relevant? Notch intended players to be creative; Riot intended players to engage in crazy battles; and Chen hoped players would talk. Whether or not the designers foresee the interactions doesn't make them more or less emergent. What makes them emergent is the sophistication of the possibility space given the simplicity of the actions.

    So how is this useful? I think emergent gameplay is a great addition to my designer's toolbox. It helps me design better games by looking for SIMPLE actions that interact in interesting ways to create a COMPLEX space. Of course, I also have to juggle this against other elements of design such as goals, feedback, motivation, story, simplicity, and balanced difficulty.

    It's subtle, and powerful, whether the goal is the Sims, League of Legends, or Block 64.
    Gigi

    PS - Making a simple game into a multiplayer experience is a great design technique, because human interaction is sophisticated, which by definition, creates emergent gameplay!
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  24. Ryiah

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    Your example of a snowman is not gameplay related either. If we're going to go with a similar example, Minecraft has redstone for creating contraptions. I don't know the intentions of Notch when he added them, but I can't help but think he wasn't expecting individuals to build 8/16-bit computer systems.

    The core mechanics of Minecraft may not change, but the way they are carried out very much did on a regular basis as people discovered tricks around the limitations within the game.
     
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  25. Tomnnn

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    Hi all, just stopping by because I forgot to make this joke previously regarding this topic:

    Does alien have emergent gameplay? Because, you know... aliens emerging from people's chests and...

    Carry on.

    We're defining emergent gameplay as interesting things that arise from simple mechanics interacting, right? Redstone definitely has that covered lol
     
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  26. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Or bugs interacting with the game. Dwarf Fortress is a good example with the many bugs that have appeared over the years. Such as Cacame Awemendinade the dwarven king who is really an elf. Or Planepacked an artifact with an absurd description length and value.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015
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  27. XynDigital

    XynDigital

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  28. XynDigital

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    The systems in place, for controlling the elements invoke the need to explore how else one could play with in the world.
     
  29. pixelknight

    pixelknight

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    With emergent gameplay, players engage in complex decisions which inherently have more "fun". Whereas simple predictable decisions posses less fun. The more a player gets the chance to express their creativity in a gamespace to explore with their own goals in mind.. this has much more emotional attachment.

    In comparison if the player is merely "finding the correct path", that series of complex decisions turns into simple decisions when the path gets discovered. Rocket-jumping became a pretty famous emergent gameplay as it more-often-than-not enhanced the intended gameplay.

    Then on the other side of the fence, game imbalancing emergent gameplay becomes unfun pretty quickly as the other intended complex decisions become simple decisions too fast... exploits are essentially emergent gameplay correct? An emergent gameplay that gives you unlimited currency in an RPG might in fact disrupt the balance and cheapen several experiences.
     
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