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Essay: A future I would want to live in

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by JoeStrout, Nov 7, 2017.

  1. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    I ran across this blog post today: A future I would want to live in, by game designer Brie Code.

    It argues that too much of our science fiction, and in particular our games, are based on dystopian visions of the future. It further argues that instead of basing all our drama and engagement on the fight-or-flight response, we could base it instead on the "tend-and-befriend" response of forming and nurturing bonds with others. And it ends by painting a very interesting and positive picture of the near-term future (maybe 20-30 years from now, I'd guess).

    I don't agree with all the details in this essay, but I certainly agree with the broad strokes — dystopian stories are essentially negative goal-setting, focusing on the worst in humanity. On an individual level, we can certainly exert some control over our destinies by where we choose to focus; I see no reason why that shouldn't be true at a societal level too. Indeed, it's not hard to think of very concrete examples where focusing on fear and hate has led societies to make some very poor decisions, which breed more fear and hate. So sure, this makes dystopian futures believable — but also demonstrates that we have control. Maybe if we focused more on positive futures (Star Trek, I'm looking at you), then we'd have a better chance of actually creating that sort of future for ourselves and our descendants.

    And then there's the more concrete, business-of-the-games-industry argument that most of our current games only appeal to current gamers. Practically the entire house is built on a foundation of mass violence and murder, and many designers today still think this is the only sellable foundation for a game. This despite games like The Sims and Wii Play being among the top 10 highest-grossing games of all time.

    But enough from me. Go read the article — it's long, but worth it! And then please share your thoughts.
     
  2. Teila

    Teila

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    Thanks, Joe.

    I am going to read this now and respond back. I honestly think there is a market out there for games that are not all dark and grim. When I look in my Steam Box I see none of those games in there. My daughters have none of those games in there. My son does have a few. As long as we continue making games where death and destruction both in the setting and the game play are the focus, we risk losing out on a market that at the moment is being ignored for the most part. Yes, it is not hard to find short cutsie games that leave you with a good feeling, but some of us want complex games that challenge us and leave us with a story we will remember for a very long time. Some of us get tired of playing a game where we feel threatened all the time.

    Good example is TV shows. They are getting more and more like many of the games out there. While I love Stranger Things and Game of Thrones, I take long breaks from those and watch older shows or comedies or even some nice dramas that make me feel like the world it not such a bad place after all. I think we all need those at times.

    More positive messages, and games that require cooperation to overcome adversaries might find a welcome audience.
     
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  3. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Yeah, I think in large part the focus on violence as a source of drama is just plain laziness. It's easy, quick, a known formula. Putting that aside requires deeper thinking to come up with an interesting story.

    In the original Star Trek series, Roddenberry had a hard time at first getting the writers to understand that they couldn't make plots based on interpersonal conflict. They crew were professionals; they got along and did their jobs. There could be a bit of minor grousing (like McCoy's comments about the green-blooded Vulcan), but whenever push came to shove, everybody worked together, respected, and helped each other. This drove the writers nuts, as they had to dig deeper to think up interesting storylines.

    But they did, and it launched one of the biggest, most enduring franchises ever.
     
  4. Teila

    Teila

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    I remember quite a bit interpersonal conflict in the later Star Trek Series. I actually find conflict a good thing. It allows the writers to resolve that conflict, in a good or bad way. Even professionals have conflicts with other people but they know when to put that aside for the good of the company/starship/whatever.

    A sterile world where everyone gets along perfectly can be boring and unrealistic. It also misses a great way to make the viewers/players connect more deeply with the characters.

    Might be why the original Star Trek is my least favorite of the series. :)
     
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  5. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    A fair point. It could be that Roddenberry had to push a little too far in the utopian direction, just to get it through his writers' thick skulls!
     
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  6. Martin_H

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    Sorry, but TL;DR. Maybe later though, the topic is interesting.

    I'm mostly chiming in to raise the question how much this maybe is a cultural trope of western countries. In japanese anime culture I get the impression that content focused on positivity is much more common. E.g. the anime show "New Game" makes even working at a big games company and doing crunch-time look like fun. It's - for a TV show - remarkably accurate in some of the specifics of gamedev work and the tools being used. Another one that I would recommend is "Food Wars" - a show about high-stakes cooking duels and food so good it makes people's clothes fly off.

    I sometimes get a bit of that "reality isn't that bad after all" feeling when I play some of the darkest dystopian stuff, like the Utulek mission in the latest Deus Ex, or games like The Last of Us.


    I think that me feeling more weird about recommending a cutesy all-female-cast, low-conflict anime like New Game, than recommending a hyper-violent murder-fest like The Last of Us, must be a cultural thing. I can't explain it any other way.

    From Season 2 of New Game:


    And a supercut from The Last of Us - Somewhat big plot-spoiler in the last third of the video, the rest seems to just be kills and deaths. I didn't watch it all. And to be clear- that's not at all an accurate representation of the game, because much more of it is slow paced, and it only reached its critical acclaim because atmosphere, world-building and characters are stellar in this game. I just picked this to make a point.


    I've wasted quite a bit of time looking through clips from both, and I can say I really enjoy both a lot, but in different ways. It makes me want to re-watch "New Game" again (would be the third time I see the first season), and replay The Last of Us (would be the third time I play through it).
    I'm not sure both themes would work equally well for me if the medium was reversed. I've stopped watching the Walking Dead and several other shows that are rather grim and dark, and I can't imagine a game version of that anime show, that I'd like to play, because gameplay-wise I'm really into games with lots of stabbing and shooting people. It's a more instantly gratifying feedback-loop to press a button and see a head explode, compared to choosing a dialog option, hearing it being said and waiting for an NPC to react to it. I would imagine that plays a big role in the market-situation.
     
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  7. Teila

    Teila

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    I think it is okay that you like that.

    However, not everyone does and yet, most games out there are marketed to you. PR looks at the games that are popular today and the game developers make those games because that is what everyone buys.

    What they miss is that those are the only games out there to buy.
     
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  8. JoeStrout

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    That's a good point. A lot of anime shows are all about interpersonal relationships, with whatever backstory is going on, is there mainly to give the characters an excuse to interact.

    I'll see your "New Game!" recommendation (I've watched both seasons at least once, and also read the first two books) and raise you a "Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?" Despite the horrible name, this is a character-arc story about a young man trying to make something out of his life, not letting down the people he loves, and learning to believe in himself. The secondary characters all have their own agendas, and a few of them are definitely jerks, but on the whole it's a positive, supportive world where people help each other out — interspersed with occasional bits of monster-fighting (which in this world is just something you do, like farming or working in a factory).

    On the other hand, Japan has also given us things like Attack on Titan, and if that's not a dark dystopia, I don't know what is.
     
  9. RockoDyne

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    I got five paragraphs in and it still hasn't gotten on topic, so F*** it.

    Worlds without conflict are pretty boring, and games without conflict every ten feet tend to be pretty boring, too. Keep in mind that this general sentiment has been around forever. You can find discussion like "why are X media/genre's projections of the future so dark" crop up at least every decade, and the answers to those discussion are just as relevant as always.

    I'll saddle up to the table and raise a World's End/SukaSuka/Jesus Christ that Title is long about an iceman thawed in a world where humanity is extinct, where civilization is composed entirely of beast men living on floating landmasses, and where his job becomes taking care of a bunch of girls who are now the defenders of the realm and are metaphysically falling apart at the seams.

    Eh, I may as well raise more and throw in Yokohama Shopping Log (YKK), a slice of life show after some unnamed cataclysm. Hell, there is an entire genre of post-apocalyptic slice of life, most of which are iyashi-kei (lit. healing story)
     
  10. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    There's a heck of a lot to discuss here. I'll go through it one by one.

    I feel this is too reductive. You mention Star Trek in the same post, while (since I've never watched it) three different episodes/movies I randomly clicked on all show conflict as part of the plot. SO I'm not sure if either you're not being clear how this is the same as your initial post or that statement, or it simply isn't.

    Then there's this idea:

    ...which is far more tractable, and honestly where a great number of games find themselves.

    Thing is, the type of gameplay and the overall message of the game must be separated from each other. A game where you go around killing people isn't necessarily saying that killing people is the ultimate answer. But there are most certainly situations where conflict is inevitable, even for the "good" party (this is debatable, but world history would imply its validity).

    And then one has to consider the reality that Martin_H states, which is that combat in games is usually some of the "best" gameplay out there. It allows for player choice. It allows for "computer intelligence" (terrible way to put it, but just allowing the player to see the PC is doing some logic). It allows for plentiful content that can completely change the player's approach based on the addition of just one or two enemies to a "wave." It allows for "context" to gameplay, which despite many players' disinterest in stories and such things is still something most people crave. It has many strengths that have little to do with combat itself but are highlighted best perhaps in combat focused games.

    Meanwhile consider Mass Effect, a game with some of the most advanced dialog-based gameplay out there.

    You have a list of two or three choices at any moment, rather than the half-dozen or more in any combat situation.

    You have very minimal consequences to the choices, both short and long term. While the choices in combat typically lack long-term consequences, their immediate consequences are enormously varied (creating a completely new and unique combat situation).

    There's no accounting for player skill--you pick a choice and it happens--in contrast to combat where the player after making their choice must execute it successfully, firing a weapon accurately or slinging a grenade at the right location to inflict the maximum damage.

    There's no accounting for variability: the conversation ALWAYS plays out the same way if the player makes the same actions, while in combat you may find enemies taking different actions in the same situation, or also based on trivially different situations such as the player moving to a slightly different location on the map.

    The simple reality is, combat is basically one of the most perfect types of gameplay out there, which is part of why it's so popular. Find me an RPG with dialog that is at half the level of combat in each of these areas and then we'll talk (actually we won't because I'll be playing it :p).

    And then...

    Eh, keep in mind there are also things like Death Note or Tokyo Ghoul or Psycho Pass or anything Yoko Taro ever or what have you. There's plenty of conflict, much of it violent, in Japanese media. You're probably right though that overall they're less likely to go that direction.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
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  11. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Apologies for the double post (though I've got enough content for two), but with games there's the main consideration of how playable it is. Even if it's less interesting, if you can make a game fun to play you can probably stick it in unique and less conflict-heavy situations.
     
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  12. Teila

    Teila

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    Combat is the easiest. :)

    I agree with much of what you say but again, I think as the writer of the article was saying, if you are surrounded by people who think like you, you will all have the same ideas, or she said something like that.

    I disagree that combat is the most perfect form of game play. I find creative game play much more perfect as it allows the players to make the game play fit their style. It empowers them. It allows them to be unique.

    As for showing you games that are just as good without combat? I doubt I could do that. First of all, it is difficult to find deep games that do not have as the focus combat. Second of all, you already believe that combat games are perfect. Therefore, it would be impossible to convince you anyway, since those styles of games fit your need. You enjoy them, you have no need to change anything.

    However.....I absolutely agree, as Rockodyne said, that a good deep game needs conflict. Conflict is essential because without it there can be no resolution. While sometimes it is appropriate for that resolution to come through combat, such as a faction attacking your village and you have to fight to save your home or family. But conflict is not just about war and the resolution is not just about killing. And in fact, in some fps shooters and survival games, the resolution never happens, it is always out of the picture frame.

    Combat is easier than diplomacy. Making a game with social resolution rather than physical combat would be challenging. If you make a game where war and killing have real consequences such as death would turn off most of the players who like games that involve combat. They want the power, not the consequences.

    Making a game with interpersonal conflict would be difficult...much more difficult. It would appeal to a different audience but one that is not readily available. The tools in game to resolve the conflict would be unfamiliar to the masses.

    The reason these games have not taken off or have not happened at all is because the status quo is easier and that is what the writer of the article is saying.

    I have looked around the net and read a bunch of articles based on this writer's material. Every single one of them parrots what I have seen in the last few posts here. :) You guys all think alike.

    In fact, unlike here, I see a lot of defensiveness. Refreshingly, it is not here yet but I suspect it will by tomorrow.

    So...to try to head that off, no one is saying you have to be the one to change things. You can keep on doing what you are doing. What we are saying though, is that there is a market out there. They may be hard to find. They may not buy a lot of games. They make not want games that are easy to make or games you like to play.

    Nothing wrong with a little diversity though in the games we pump out. :) And those untapped markets will be tapped eventually by someone.
     
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  13. Martin_H

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    lol

    Thanks for the recommendation! I've watched the first episode on youtube. I love how fighting monsters is like going to work there. Looks promising! Going just from the first episode though, it does seem to have the kind of interpersonal conflict that I find considerably more stressful to watch than shows where important characters die left and right and the fate of humanity is at stake with every battle. You know what I mean?

    If you liked "New Game", you should check out "Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid" - a show about a young woman who works as a software developer and lives together with a magical Dragon that works for her as a Maid. I've only watched 5 episodes, but I'm already fairly confident I'll like the rest of it too.
    And I liked "Polar Bear Café" too, although that one seems to me like it's slightly more targeted towards children.
    "Flying Witch" I've tried and it's definitely not bad, but I'm not really compelled to keep watching either. I'm wondering why I like it less than the others.

    Of course! I'm neither very knowledgable about their media overall, nor did I want to imply "percentages in marketshare" are different. But I get a very strong impression that there "positivity" seems to be a much more "mainstream and commercialized" thing in media. Most of the feel-good / slice of life shows that I know are from Japan, and I can only assume that they have many more that I don't know.

    Psycho Pass is on my "to watch list". The first episode left a good impression. Same with Black Lagoon and Cowboy Bebop.
    I liked Blame, Ajin, Schwarzes Marken and Knights of Sidonia. Those I've already watched all of.

    Though that's exactly what good combat gameplay is supposed to be like. Good stealth games offer a very wide range of expressing yourself within - or through avoidance of - combat.
    It might be interesting for you to look into Chris Crawford's work. I don't know how much of it made it into released products, but he always talked and wrote a lot about how he want's to make games about social interactions and was trying to come up with new ways to implement "communication" as a mechanic into games.



    Thanks for the recommendations, I'll check em out.
     
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  14. snacktime

    snacktime

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    I very much agree with what hey was saying about local maximum, or basically getting stuck in a rut. The longer you spend doing something a certain way, the greater the chance that you will miss the next evolution in whatever it is you do.

    But to me his view is the dystopian one. When people want to go against human nature, try to just pick out what they see as the good parts and discard the rest, they miss the fact that it's the totality that makes us who we are. It's the conflicts that drive us forward to accomplish new things and survive. We are competitive by our nature. And in games we can push that competitiveness to it's maximum level, or at least beyond what we can do in reality. It's a way to heighten the experience as much as possible in an acceptable way.

    I do think there is more opportunity for non violent conflict, it's just as some have said more difficult. But his point was not even about violence really, it was against conflict and winning. Good luck on that, not a world I want to live in.
     
  15. JoeStrout

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    Probably true, but I would point to, for example, The Sims. The game that Stephen Spielberg walked away from because he couldn't believe that people would want to play a game about taking out the trash. And then went on to be, at the time, the most successful (highest-grossing) video game in history. And one that I myself poured more hours into than almost any other game.

    And of course there are other highly successful games in the simulation genre (SimCity, KSP, one could wish High Frontier, though alas that hasn't caught on yet).

    But I don't think this means that any non-combat game needs to be a sim. It means that there are, quite likely, entire genres of optimistic, positive games that we probably haven't even thought of yet. It's easy to keep cranking out more titles like the old ones — and there's nothing wrong with doing so — but I do think we should try to remain open to these new ideas that, just as in a few special moments in the past, may surprise is with runaway success, in part because they break the traditional molds.
     
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  16. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Dystopian futures aren't a negative fantasy -- they're a positive one. People long for freedom, simplicity, and to feel important. Zombie apocalypse games are just a tribal fantasy born of modern livings disharmony with evolutionary norms.


    That's my theory anyway. But yeah, we are all tired of dealing with people and their sheeyit, why would you want that in a game?
     
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  17. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    I think this is a little unfair. I'm not saying combat is basically the perfect gameplay experience because I prefer them. I probably spend hundreds a year on visual novels with little or no "violent" conflict. I buy any decent point-and-click adventure game I see out there. I'm a huge fan of the Myst series and bought Obduction on release (which was sadly bugged to heck and back for myself for months, and when I finally got it to work I found the experience unsatisfactory).

    I'm saying combat is basically the perfect gameplay experience because when I analyze it, that's the answer I come up with. And quite frankly, saying "I can't name you another type of gameplay that's just as 'good' because you're already biased" is kind of a cop-out. Go ahead and try me.

    You say creative gameplay is better but viewed objectively its value as gameplay is lower. It's less like a game and more like MS Paint--it's a possibility space for the player to express themselves, but it is rarely a way for the player to actually interact with the game--to have the game respond meaningfully to the player's actions. And interaction--actual exchange between the game and the player--is basically the definition of gameplay.

    I'll qualify again by saying I play a ton of visual novels (just bought Little Busters on Steam, and actually my favorite part is the baseball practice :p), which a lot of "hardcore" gamers don't consider to be games. So don't think I'm just some combat fanatic arguing from a foregone conclusion. I have yet to see an argument showing other types of gameplay being as meaningful (in a purely gameplay sense--game/player interaction, response to player choice, content which causes the player to approach a situation differently and learn from it, etc.) as combat.
     
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  18. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    I just came back and saw all these posts after my first one. But before I saw them, and after I made that initial one, I did want to come back here and say:

    All of my initial comments excepted, I don't really disagree with the premise about outlooks on the future (which this thread almost immediately strayed from). However, I think you'll find a much more positive look overall in books, which don't really have...combat portrayal as a natural strength of the medium, let's say (rather it's a weakness I would say). In a medium that lends itself better to intricate detail and purely authored experiences, you can portray a more positive (and frankly more realistic, something many games miss by a mile) view of the future.
     
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  19. JoeStrout

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    This is a really interesting point. It almost certainly is true that certain kinds of activities are easier/better to portray in some mediums than others. If games are particularly good at combat, then that drives games towards stories with lots of combat... which, if we're talking about the future, might naturally mean a more dystopian futures rather than utopian ones.

    However, I still stand by the Parable of The Sims, and suspect there are other forms of play that video games would be really good at, that we simply haven't thought of yet... and oh yeah, to make that point on topic, we can hope that these new forms of play will let us portray optimistic futures that inspire kids to create a great future, rather than resign themselves to a bleak one.
     
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  20. Teila

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    Not unfair, because the way you said it initially made me believe that you preferred them. :) As for the part about thinking like the people around you, I am afraid this is true of all of us at least a bit. I too have my little bubble. After our big election, I just shut out everyone who did not think like me, mostly because I was afraid, it was too difficult to deal with and it caused me pain.

    Nothing wrong with that. And of course, maybe you do not do that when it comes to games...as you said later stated. I could only base it on what I read. :) Glad that it does not apply to you.

    I actually enjoy novels from Cornwell and others that talk about war. Novels are reading about what others did, not having to do it myself. :) It is that flight and fight adrenaline rush that I do not enjoy in games. I am thinking of posting about that in another thread.
     
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  21. Teila

    Teila

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    But games can be good at other things too. Storytelling, living history, social environments, cooperative game play....

    Problem is those do not sell well and are more difficult to make.
     
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  22. nat42

    nat42

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    Storytelling: Life is Strange sold 3 million copies
    Living history, not sure what you mean by this but L.A. Noire sold 5 million copies
    Social environments: the Sims series has sold 200 million copies
    Co-op gameplay, I had trouble thinking of a standout example given it's reasonably widespready but few games require it almost exclusively, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (VR) atleast 650 thousand (SteamSpy)
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  23. Teila

    Teila

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    Those are very few games compared to the combat focused ones. Good for them, but still not seeing a huge resurgence of these types of games. L.A. Noire has in its descripton "action of chases and shootouts" which is too bad because I love detective stories. :) Life is Strange is a great example of the expansion of an "emotional" based game in an adventure game style. I have not played it yet, but it is on my list. :) But it's success proves that games like this have a market. Why then are there not more like it?

    Sims is not really a social game. It is a single player game and more simulation than anything else. By social games I mean games where people interact together in-game. BTW, I have played every Sims game since they first game out other than then last one....too busy, but I sometimes long for it. lol I do like simulation games.

    I do not mean co-op, I mean games that require/encourage cooperation in game, such as the board game Forbidden Islands where you cannot win without others. In the video game world, co-op can simply mean you can play with your friends. :) But some are actually games that do require cooperation. Again though, many involve combat.

    VR is great..but not all of us can play VR and not everyone can afford it. I imagine that part of the huge sales is that there is nothing else like it out there.

    Which..is rather my point. :) There is a market for VR games because they are new, different, fill a need for immersion. I believe there is also a market for other niche games. Remember, the old flight/fight response that causes gamers to release Adrenalin and Dopamine is not something everyone enjoys. Studies are showing more and more that some of us have very different reactions to stress/threats and that the flight/fight responses are actually very uncomfortable for many. From the studies, this is not a small number as one might expect. :)

    But...I will continue that later in another thread.

    Oh...and keep talking and nobody explodes is a game about fearing for your life. While the talking is cool, it still has that "threat" hanging around during the entire game. Still feeds the Adrenalin/Dopamine response. I do like the idea of it though....but no VR for me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  24. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Indeed. And, although I still feel that combat tackles these fundamental gameplay building blocks better than most other things basically by design...

    ...I don't disagree with this (my initial reply to this comment was mainly to everything after this).

    I'm trying (I say trying, but it's sadly been months since I was able to work on the project...oh well, when this thesis is written...) to build a dynamic conversation system (using TonyLi's fantastic Dialogue System for Unity) where the NPC will basically keep talking without player input, though pausing at appropriate moments (such as when asking a question) and reacting in an expected manner if the player doesn't respond ("Cat got your tongue?"). At any time the player can interject with relevant comments, and sometimes no-longer-relevant ones, with appropriate NPC responses (confusion at topics being brought up which were addressed several minutes ago for example) through a system where the dialog options appear for a time and then disappear. Kind-of sort-of like FireWatch or Alpha Protocol, though not just the inclusion of a timer at a dialog choice (like those games have) as opposed to the standard of waiting while characters stare awkwardly at one another.

    The goal is also to have this occur in real time, so while the player is walking to a location they'll interact with the NPC.

    Anyway. I said all that to say: it is hard. Never mind the creation of varied player comments with varied responses (I'm also working on an RPG (one for which, I will say (as related to the topic of this thread), I'm currently wracking my brain to find valid gameplay alternatives to combat because I don't want that in the game) which has a standard "stop and wait" dialogue system and the opening conversation has at least 30 nodes (probably more, but it's been a while since I checked)). The need to account for player non-responses, accounting for player responses not at the appropriate time, deciding when player responses appear and disappear (and how they'll access them while moving in the game), all while managing to steer the conversation a little bit in a certain plot-relevant direction.

    And I'm planning to talk about philosophy in this game (conversation with the NPC is the main element, or core gameplay, of this game). Politics. Economics. Think about the amount of content needed, the amount of "cross-linking" I'll have to account for. It's overwhelming.

    The simple reality is that, even ignoring any supposed benefit of combat in the gameplay department, this is vastly more challenging, both in content creation and in the tweaking of the gameplay element.

    However. If we get developers who put in the effort to make these kinds of of systems which (start to) rival the strengths of combat, I suspect we'll get a pretty decent player response.
     
  25. Teila

    Teila

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    I agree.

    We are also attempting to put some interesting NPC interaction in our game as well that is not about combat. It is hard, and I have a guy who is working solely on this right now. I have another guy working on our combat system, which is relatively simple since honestly, we do not plan on appealing to die hard combat folks. :) So do not want it super duper. He is moving along at a much faster rate and I have him working on other things as well.

    I have been watching let's play videos of games that attempted to create a more robust NPC system and have not been really super impressed. lol But...I can see how even a bit more time put into an NPC system can improve the experience. Maybe it will not be perfect. Maybe the NPC will not walk along and talk to the player. But honestly, even Skyrim like NPC interaction with more emphasis on social experiences would be better than NPCs that stand on the corner giving out quests with question marks above their head.

    You might be surprised how even some improvement on what we have now might draw players. Look at how popular the social mods for Skyrim are these days? I think the trick is that illusion of a living breathing world.

    I think our social system will be better than our combat. LOL So maybe we will be a good guinea pig to see if players really like something like this. Of course, we have to do as the writer of the article did and look for those non-gamers or those who enjoy role play or prefer social games (mo/mmo). It is the marketing that is challenging.
     
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  26. nat42

    nat42

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    I'm sorry, I was refuting that games that do the things you said in the list above (which didn't cite a lack of combat) didn't sell well, only; not recommending games for you to enjoy

    So not optional co-op, if you don't have a friend ready you can't play at all co-op. But yeah Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes counts.

    I feel this is irrelevant to the topic. There are many experiences I can't afford or can't justify in my budget. Lowend VR (cardboard + smartphone, which admittedly can't play the title in question, is pretty affordable)

    I don't understand your point, and I personally do not like "stressful" games (the time time management genre comes to mind) but I suggest this is another spectrum again to the thread.(take for instance time management games, burger flipping games can be social, non-violent, non-dystopian and yet very stressful)

    No it isn't. It has cartoony graphics of a bomb to diffuse, it's stressful in a timed puzzle communication way but involves as much fear and violence as a game of Pictionary.
     
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  27. Teila

    Teila

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    This does go along with the article. The writer talks about her non-gamer friends and how they want games that are not stressful since they deal with stress in their life. :)

    So yeah.....and that is the reason why some people do not play games. I agree that not all games are stressful, but they still trigger responses that some people do not like. Games do not have to do that, but since the overwhelming mass of gamers in today's market prefer those games and there are limited alternatives, they simply do not play games.

    That does not mean that those games are not valuable...yes they are. And they will probably always make up the bulk. But it also does not mean that developers cannot break out of that and try different sorts of games as the writer did. There is room on the market for many types of games and in fact, there are untapped sources of players, which is one reason why a games like The Sims and Life is Strange did so well.

    All of this is my opinion of course based on my own research and my own preferences. This is a discussion, not a criticism of combat based games. :)

    As for VR, I cannot play them because seconds after putting on a mask, I become ill. I get ill in boats and on amusement rides too. I like the concept, but while my numerous VR dev friends have encouraged me to try, it never works for me. So...please, no need to defend VR to me. For some of us, it is simply not an option. So...talking about making games for niche audiences also includes VR. You are right though, does not belong here. Just did not want you to feel I was criticizing a very popular game platform for devs here at Unity.
     
  28. nat42

    nat42

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    I'm not trying to defend VR or combat... I'm just lost as to what the common thread here is... but felt it's unjust to say *above* didn't sell well, if this were a thread about eatting habits I feel it'd conflate vegetarianism, veganism, freeganism, paleo, raw food, organic produce, local food...

    Anyway people that consider themselves gamers are a subset of people whom play games.

    EDIT: and if it helps, given I have little to add I don't intend to post further here ;) I just didn't want to let the myth that games are only for "gamers" (and not say also for "filthy casuals") or just for "boys", or just for people that enjoy the latest AAA ultra-gritty war simulator 2000 only. It's 2017 and visual novels are mainstream and grandmothers play words with friends on their iPads
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  29. JoeStrout

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    Yes, OK, so our discussion thread here is wandering off the original topic... as the OP, I hereby declare that I do not care, as all this stuff is interesting and valid game-design discussion. :)

    So on the rich NPC conversation: I submit that the fundamental problem here is that conversation trees are the wrong way to go about it.

    The only way we'll get significantly better conversation is to build conversational agents that actually understand, to some degree, what they are saying. They have a database of things that they know and would like to know; they keep track of what they think you (and other characters) already know; and they convert all that data into utterances that fill in gaps in your or their information (which, really, is the point of most conversation).

    It's not as ridiculous as it sounds. My 1998 Loebner Prize third-place winner worked this way, and could have all sorts of varied conversation about nearby places, current events, favorite foods and restaurants, etc., either following your lead or suggesting a new topic when the previous one petered out. And that was nearly 20 years ago (!).

    Today, actually speaking to your computer, and having it understand you, is an actual thing we can do. Amazon provides a service for it; so does Google, and Nuance (the tech behind Siri). So, if someone's going to object that players don't want to type dialog to an NPC, there's a possible solution. But of course on most MMORPGs, people already type dialog to each other, so I don't know why they shouldn't interact with NPCs the same way.

    Indeed, a few MUDs I played back in the day had some NPCs that could at least sort-of carry on a half-decent conversation. The bartender could talk about the weather, the quality of his food, recently-seen characters, etc. As @Teila said, it doesn't take very much of this to make a much more interesting character — way better than standing in the same place with a question mark over your head, and always making the same comment.

    Agreed.
     
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  30. Teila

    Teila

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    Agree!!! I do not think I ever said that. Everyone who plays a game is a gamer. We just have different tastes, sometimes for different reasons. My guess is your comment is directed toward the writer. I ignored that part of her discussion because I do not see the point in discussing something that is not substantiated.
     
  31. nat42

    nat42

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    It doesn't sound ridiculous, and a few games have tried, Starship Titanic and Façade, come to mind but I know that there are others.

    But it's got to be almost an impossible amount of work to make a character from the ground up that can feel like it can discuss anything the player might want to talk to it about, and have a distinct personality, and serve the needs of the plot, and times that by the number of characters... inevitably limited dialogue systems may even be more "fun" for less work (player and author).

    I'm reminded by the reduction of text based parsers in adventure games down to one or two point and click actions. The promise of text parsers that you can enter practically anything never delivered and left many players to play guess what the author was thinking

    I look in at the state of the Leobner's every so often, has the tech really improved much over those 20 years?
     
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  32. Teila

    Teila

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    True...if the conversational agents were the main feature of your game.

    But...as for us, right now, we are incorporating our social NPCs into a game that has more than just social NPCs. If we were making a game that was just about talking with NPCs, then I would definitely put the time and money into developing such a system. However, this is only one part of the game. I imagine this is true of many people are doing the same thing or similar to us.

    Plus, our game is more about the players, their stories, and their role play and their adventures. So the NPCs are there to give life to the world that will drive the role play and the stories. They can react to players based on their affinity and can retain memories and their interactions can drive needs.

    A single player game where NPC interaction is the main feature of the game though would be great if the NPC could actually converse with the player. Although, I do not think it could ever be as interesting as conversing with actual other players from all over the world. :)
     
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  33. EternalAmbiguity

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    That seems very useful for a game with more generic NPCs, though I also want voice acting. In this particular case, however, the point of that game is that the NPC is supposed to be me, so it actually has my opinions on these things.

    To go back to your point however, while something like that sounds neat, the point is less on the specific topics being discussed (that's a higher level thing), and more on the fact that the gameplay is dynamic--that the player is taking other actions while doing this, it occurs in real time with the player having to decide whether to respond to something or let the conversation continue in a certain direction.

    The idea there is to enhance the dialogue-based gameplay. Giving it some more context is valuable, but as I mentioned before the actual gameplay component of dialogue is woefully lacking compared to combat, and the goal is to try to make up for that (this gets back to the first off-topic point of moving away from combat in games--we can keep this somewhat related :p).

    Edit: I suppose it's making dialogue more like combat in a sense. Not in terms of mapping conversation exactly to a standard combat system (like Undertale does with turn-based combat--it's basically just turn based combat using other non-combat options), but identifying how combat works and applying those principles to dialogue (and really, just making dialogue more like real life--I typically "stand" in the background and observe in social situations frequently, and I find interaction intriguing).
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  34. Teila

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    Can that be done? Or should the game with enhanced dialogue-based game play center around something other than combat?

    Politics? Philosophy? Diplomacy?

    "Social combat" happens every day based on people's opinions or beliefs. In fact, I imagine in the real world, words have a great deal of power as we see in the conflicts today.

    I imagine that it will attract different types of players though than a physical based combat game. Why would such a game be woefully lacking? Could not a rich story be built around such a feature?

    Seriously asking, not being sarcastic. :)
     
  35. EternalAmbiguity

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    I may have been unclear in that previous post, or I may be misunsderstanding this post. But I wasn't trying to say the game will focus on combat. I'm saying the game will focus on dialogue, with the gameplay being more similar to combat in terms of how the player interacts with it.

    I'm saying how dialogue is done currently (click an option, watch cutscenes, hit a choice where everything stops, click an option, so on) is woefully lacking compared to combat, and the method I'm attempting is trying to change that.

    Is that more clear? Or did you mean something else?
     
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  36. Teila

    Teila

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    Got it. :) Sounds very cool and I hope you are able to get it to work the way you want it to work.
     
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  37. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Maybe once AI technology improves some, you could have games in which you can type dynamic responses and it will respond in a way that makes sense. Much the way that those Amazon voice recognition bot things work, I imagine.

    As technology stands right now, I don't think there are too many feasible ways besides dialogue trees to introduce to video games.
     
  38. Teila

    Teila

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    You know what I like about these discussions?

    You guys all know so much more about games than I do. I play some, but my focus in gaming is quite small compared to yours.

    But...I enjoy thinking outside the box. My perspective is different and every little thing, like the article quoted by the OP and the discussion about social npcs and dialogue just fascinates me.

    I really love it when you guys go there...things that are new, innovative, etc. I bug my team members all the time. Fortunately, I have two other women who can debate some of this with me while the guys are coding away at combat and whatever.

    Regardless, I learn a lot and you give me more to chew on which is so much fun!!

    Meaning I appreciate you all even when we do not agree. Please never think I do not.
     
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  39. Martin_H

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    Following your suggestion I skipped right past those and read the rest of the article.

    Honestly I found your summary of it a much better base to start the topic from, than the actual article itself.
    I think the article could be summed up cynically with "Wouldn't it be great if everyone was nice to each other?", and it sure would, but I don't see remotely feasible suggestions for implementing it. Most importantly it does not account at all for the vast differences of personality in people. What is her utopia would be somebody else's dystopia.

    A better living situation for all needs massive systemic changes to the status quo, something we instinctively reject because our brain doesn't like drastic change, it always prefers what it thinks is safe because of what it knows already.
    E.g. I'm sure not many would jump at the chance of abolishing government in favor of a benevolent AI, although in the future that probably would be a great idea.

    Regarding the discussion on games about social interactions instead of combat, I feel the need to mention Event 0 once again:
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/470260/Event0/
    It's a game mostly about talking to a computer and exploring an abandoned space station.

    And regarding the idea of "self-care game" (mentioned in the article) I was reminded of something that I have seen recently:



    In the Deus Ex Mankind Divided DLC "A Criminal Past" you are on an undercover mission in a high security aug-prison and you have time jumps between your post mission debriefing in the office of the psychiatrist at interpol. You get a few choices to make in the prison and have to rationalize about them in the debriefing. That kind of feedback loop would be conceivable to be expanded in a game where you e.g. play a cop and fill out reports at your desk that reflect on your choices in the "other gameplay mode". If it's text only it could be a much more free form and interactive experience that triggers much different areas of the brain of the player than a multiple-choice dialog tree with voice acted characters does.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
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  40. Teila

    Teila

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    Wow, sounds great, Martin! Thanks for those examples.
     
  41. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    I haven't read the article, but I was recently reading a book about a certain country and found something interesting. In it they mention that while many people from other areas look poorly on this country of study and their governmental system in comparison to the one they're used to, what these people are actually doing is comparing the ideal of their own government to the reality of the other government. Ideals never match up to reality, so in reality the two governments aren't as different as they seem. But by only considering the ideal of one side, one might get a skewed view of the actual difference between the two.

    I suspect that's something you could say about this statement. We can paint this ideal of "benevolent AI," but if we do we should compare it to the ideal government (whichever form that takes for the interested party), rather than the clearly inferior reality. Or, we should consider the reality of a "benevolent AI" (aka, there is no such thing) in our comparisons to current government systems.
     
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  42. Martin_H

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    I know what you mean, but I'm trying to be realistic about such things to the best of my abilities. E.g. I'm pro self-driving cars, even if they occasionally kill people because of software errors. They just need to kill considerably less people than the average human driver does. I believe statistically we're already there, or at least I've never read anything claiming otherwise.

    I had written a whole rant about politics here, but since the forum is rather strict on the no-politics rule I thought I better just delete it to avoid a thread-lock.
     
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  43. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Yeah I'd love to discuss the "benevolent AI" thing in more detail but that really only lends itself to troublesome discussion probably not encouraged here.
     
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  44. Fera_KM

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    I'd also love to discuss more the "benevolent AI" theme. It's sort of the hidden theme of the (very very small) game I'm working on right now.

    I've spent the past few weeks looking into cyberpunk theme, which I guess one could classify as a dystopian future.
    My conclusion is basically that it's much more about "lifting the curtain" on situations that exists today rather than transcribing a dark future. With technology in focus of course.

    Of course there are other themes that picture worse fate for humanity, but for many "dark future themes" its actually closer to where we are now, if you care to look for it.
     
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  45. Teila

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    Maybe....but maybe not. Definitely for some, but not for all. We always think our times are the worst of times. I hear it all the time from my friends....things are worse now than ever, we are doomed....eeek! They say this from their nice suburban homes with plenty of food and healthy kids. Really.

    But..if we could time travel, we would find that there were many times when life was much harder and people had much less control over their lives. I remind my friends too....you think it is so bad? Try going back a hundred years from now and being a woman. Try being poor 300 years ago. How about being a Catholic during the inquisition or a Jew during the pogroms. Try being a mother with children in the middle ages where most of them would die before their 3rd birthday.

    So...I am not sure the dystopian TV shows, movies and games have anything to do with today. Our future could be like that or it could be like Star Trek. :) Or it could all depend on where you live in the world.

    Nothing wrong with dystopian games, but it would be nice to see more that have a more realistic view of life, both in the future or in the past. We seem to exaggerate the past as much as we do the future. :) We want the past to be all brutality and death and disease when in reality there were good times too, just as there are now. Remember the book 1984? I remember 1984 and while it was not perfect, I do like the music!

    Truth is...we have all been conditioned to want more action, more excitement, more grit in today's world. Although, maybe not as it seems a lot of the teens, even boys, are really into My Little Ponys!
     
  46. Teila

    Teila

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    Just thought of something...anyone read the book Wool? That is a post apocalyptic world that would make a great game. The monsters in the game were within, not some zombie or mutant. Very deep and wonderful book.
     
  47. Martin_H

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    I don't really read books, but I can tell you that there was a geeknights book club episode about it:
    http://frontrowcrew.com/bookclub/18/wool/
    So if you'd like to hear people discuss the book and can't find any here, it's worth checking out.

    You make it sound a little like one can't enjoy both on their own merit. I believe the two geeknights guys are outspoken fans of the first seasons of MLP but they also like plenty of violent games and movies. They have a rule of "you can't mock it until you've tried it" that got them to reluctantly try things like dance dance revolution or MLP, and they ended up really enjoying them.


    I didn't watch this video (although I probably did at some point in the past), but it sounds rather relevant so I thought I'll just post it and y'all can just ignore it if it doesn't interest you:

     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  48. Teila

    Teila

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    No, I think it is a good thing that teen boys are into things like My Little Ponys. I meant that they not only play their violent games, but they also are not afraid to show their soft side. That is very different from the boys when I was a teen. My daughters have male friends that are much more confident about who they are, which is very cool. :)
     
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  49. Teila

    Teila

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    It really does interest me, but I cannot handle the game running in the background. :( It reminds me to much of real life these days. So...had to turn it off.

    I think every person reacts differently to violence, whether in games or film. I respect that some folks can handle it without any discomfort. I do wish more respected those of us that feel uncomfortable. I only say that because I am constantly bombarded by people who tell me to try this, try that, and when I explain why I am not interested, they keep on pushing it on me.

    I have never pushed The Sims on anyone. lol

    I have no plan to join some movement to rid the world of violent video games. :) But...I have no desire to play them. It is not the combat, it is the gore, the blood, and the ultra realism that bother me.
     
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  50. neoshaman

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    ON the list of game without violence as a main mechanics, are popular, focus on social interaction and are perfect!

    VERSU
    Harvest moon
    Stardew valley
    animal crossing
    Phoenix wright
    Tokimeki memorial
    Princess maker ...

    Tetris is a perfect game without combat!


    That's the pitch of this series, who was quite popular and isn't alone in the genre ... and was popular in the west too when I was a kid and anime was introduced through fan sub. I mean just the 2 first minutes says it all, it's super peaceful and it was my first introduction to realizing you don't need "conflicts™" in story for it to be enjoyable, I was floored as a child!

    Basically instead of conflicts a better way to look at the situation is to think of "stakes" and "mystery" and have "twiste in the reveal of mystery or resolution of stakes. And stakes can be anything really!

    But even then you don't need stakes, Lucky Star taught me that "contemplation" is a valid enjoyment and can actually be "fast pace", it's base on the simple appreciation of knowing people and see them evolve in random situation that reveal who they are, ie just like you appreciate your friends!

    And it's not that hard either!

    In term of game I had studied the ren ai (romance genre) who are basically more sophisticated dating sims (less gross and less instrumental of the characters). What I have learn is the concept of transactional objects. What they did (unlike gross dating sims) is to not have "gift" as a "love currency" but a context puzzle, ie you can't say or offer things without first understanding the person, and the same action in different context don't have the same outcome.

    Which is a simple system that it is easy to replicate and have bigger pay off than a dialog system (which is basically scripted events, it only happen in certain place with the same options and same outcome, ie it's janky and not flexible).

    Another thing similar is the event system, ie event can fire in specific condition but have outcome changed base on broader context, so a reveal happening in office or on the beach. The player fill the gap due to the continuity of his own experience during a game sessions, which create a lot of emergent stories!

    To understand how that works, is to look back at the kuleshov effect, first described on cinema, the same scene juxtapose to different one create new meaning due to continuity effects, event based systems in these jap game exploit that to reuse similar events that create new story simply due to having a different context.

    for example in princess maker 2, my daughter was suspicious when she met the lord of evil because she had high sensibility, but my daughter with high sin and high combat was exciting to met such a wonderful foe that boosted her spirit to get as strong as him ... she became queen of darkness (you can't beat evil, only replace it).

    Both walkthrough was very different in story just because my trajectory within the same events was different and had different outcomes. Game like Crusader King 2 takes full advantage of this system too! they are wildly acclaim for their emergent story!

    Ultimately it's just a problem of game design and ... taste ... it doesn't matter if the best system works if it has never appeared in a game you like the world. I doubt anyone here will start playing Tokimeki memorial to make their brooding rpg ... which mean good design get left into the dust until someone bridge the gap with a good title.

    I'll keep advocating with hope such a person see this do the job LMAO