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Game of thrones style game. Warning Spoilers

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Kiwasi, Jan 27, 2017.

  1. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    So I've recently been playing through Mass Effect. Throughout the game you collect several companions. They accompany you on missions, and you develop a relationship with them.

    At one critical moment in the game
    you are given a choice between two of the characters. The story is set up in such a way that you can only save one. You must explicitly choose to let the other die. Once they die, they are gone from the rest of the game forever.
    At that moment I pretty much put the controller down and walked away. Which is pretty much what the designers intended. I eventually picked up the game, reconciled myself with it, and carried on.

    But this got me thinking about death and how it's handled in games. Game of Thrones is a fiction series well known for breaking the classic 'hero never dies and the good guys alway win' rules. Pretty much every character the reader builds up a relationship with dies. Nothing and no one is sacred.

    I'm curious if this sort of approach has ever been used in a video game. Most games I've played are still very much in the 'good guys always win' stage. If a good guy ever dies, it's alway in a heroic sacrifice to save the world. And it's always a big deal.

    But what about the Game of Thrones approach. Could this work with a game? Would it be possible or practical? How would a game look if it made death of named characters common place?
     
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  2. aer0ace

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    I'd say X-COM/XCOM is fairly close to what you describe. You get pretty attached to your soldiers, and when they die in later stages of the game, it could be devastating, especially if you play in Ironman Mode. The major difference between X-COM/XCOM and what you are talking about though, is that GoT and ME are story based, so there's that.
     
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  3. Teila

    Teila

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    Don't know....I really like GoT, but after a while, I just stopped allowing myself to get attached to the characters. In a game, which can be much more immersive than a book or a tv show, that detachment might come sooner.

    The big problem with GoT is that sometimes, the deaths really didn't serve a purpose in the story. There was no meaning behind them and the entire thing felt shallow. In a story where a main character dies for a reason, something very pivotal to the story, like Obi Wan, is much more compelling than death just for the shock of death.
     
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  4. aer0ace

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    Re: GoT, also fans of the show 24 learned to not get too attached to the characters, so losing characters in GoT seemed a little old hat, at least to me.
     
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  5. TonyLi

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    I agree that it would probably have to be handled even more sensitively than traditional media. Otherwise you risk training the player to think, "it's been another 3 hours of gameplay; time for the game to arbitrarily kill off a random character for shock value now..." Kind of like how The Walking Dead always kills off a regular every season, so now it's practically obligatory because the audience expects it.

    Speaking of stakes (albeit not life and death) and relationships in games, this thread made me think of this Gamasutra feature on One Night Stand. I don't think you necessarily have to kill off a character to produce the same kind of emotional impact. Sometimes death, and physical combat for that matter, are default go-to's for lazy game design.

    That said, if the story is really well served by a main character's death, it's still worth considering.
     
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  6. Kiwasi

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    I'd forgotten about XCom, thats one I have to get and play through.

    I feel you there. I first encountered game of thrones via the books. The books do provide more depth to the characters, the focus is not just on the violence and sex.

    The first few deaths come off as a brutal commentary of what life really would have been like in a medieval fantasy setting. But after a book or two I stopped investing myself in individual characters.

    By about book four or five I realised that I was now reading a story where I didn't care about any of the characters, or any of the various plot lines. To the point where I don't think I will be bothered to pick up the next one. We'll see when it comes out.

    Making the consumer not care at all is certainly a real risk.
     
  7. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Very much like Darkest Dungeon. The game is a very difficult play on death and dispair managing the team members through dungeon raids and back to town. At the town characters have there own characteristics how to deal with pain, suffering and repentance.
    Initially the characters are kind of random but after taking them on quests several times they become 'main' characters that you have to 'manage' there state of mind and afflictions in order for them to be able to perform the duties. And when the voyage lasts longer than one day more emotional and physical management comes into play when the party has to camp in the dungeon.
    If only one party member dies it is devistating to the entire party and it is unlikely they can make it out alive without much sacrifice.
    Its a pretty interesting game. I dont think Ive played any game similar to it.

    The mention of ME chioice and consequences made me think straight away of Final Fantasy VII - though in FF7 there is no choice to avoid the emotional loss of the party member. Just gotta sit there and watch it play out. ME is superior in player choice in this manner.

    Isnt there 1 or 2 GoT games? Ive not played them so IDK how they play, if player choice is any factor in life/death scenarios. I dont see how choice could be an option if the game has to follow the story arc of the books.

    Most memorible 2 moments of the books IMO was the stark family river crossing and the flaming harbor sequence of events. (Intentionally vague)
     
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  8. MV10

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    As kids we got all dramatic about permadeath:
    Burn the character sheet in the yard! :)

    1.jpg
     
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  9. Teila

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    The books are much better. I like the TV show but I have to watch it a bit at a time. I cannot binge watch GoT.

    As for death in a real medieval fantasy life....fantasy is not real. :)

    And in the real medieval world, people did not die nearly as often of violence as we see in the movies and in books. People died in battle and occasionally a conquered city was subjected to a lot of violence, especially early on. Vikings were pretty bad.

    But, if you read history, often cities were emptied of most of their citizens before a war (like Knights Landing was) and the conqueror wanted the incomes from the city so did not kill everyone in sight. Most wars were just like strategy games, see who could hold the land the often or sieges which usually ended in surrender.

    Deaths came from houses fighting each other, politics, murders, intrigue, all of that. But the average person was more apt to die from illness, childbirth, or old age. But that is not sexy in a book, movie, TV show, or game.

    Read about William Marshall, a perfect secondary player in any movie or game. He died of boring old age, and did many other knights, kings and princes...and peasants.

    There are a lot of misnomers about medieval life out there. They were dirty and never took baths, they spiced the meat to cover up rot, they burned witches (not until the Renaissance), death from violence was common, etc.

    Fantasy on the other hand, can be anything you want because it is all made up. GoT is a fantasy and R.R. Martin created a harsh and forgiving world. He centered on the violence because, well, life is boring. Again, I love his books (better than the TV show now as they have strayed), but it is not representative of reality in any way...other than people bleed when they are struck with a sword.
     
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  10. MV10

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  11. Teila

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    I went and looked up some reviews on this book, not from the average reader, but from those who study the middle ages. His ideas are old, based on views in the 18th and 19th century and he perpetuates many of the myths that you see in games, movies, and tv shows about the medieval period.

    So if you want to proven that those myths are true, then read it. But if you want to actually find out what historians are saying today about the middle ages, I suggest looking elsewhere.

    The book does look interesting as a lot at what one man says on the subjects, but some of the critics said that he hates the middle ages and so therefore, is focusing on negatives rather than positives. Most written documents during this time were written by the conquerors so their job was to discredit those that came before them. Until recently, most studies have been based on those writings. It is why Richard lll is now thought not to be the bad guy that was written in documents after Henry the IV became King.
     
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  12. EternalAmbiguity

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    I wrote way too much about Obsidian and games where "evil" is a viable path, but just realized that isn't what you're looking for.

    I think one major problem with that is that there's a lot of work involved in building a game character (the model, animations, unique gameplay, etc.). So much so that a company who kills off the character early is "throwing away" the work. They're bound to try to be economical with their usage.

    This is a mild spoiler for ME2, but in it
    Kaidan/Ashley only appears for literally one scene.
    Bioware wasn't willing to go far to create two different branches of content. That's more specific, though, to the choice than the fact that a character is killed off.

    I would recommend Assassin's Creed 4 Black Flag, though. I don't want to spoil it, but I found its story terribly bittersweet.

    Did you ever read Michael Crichton's novel Timeline? The "science" behind time travel is shaky at best (with its share of plotholes), but I felt it did a good job of combating old myths about the so-called "Dark Ages," insomuch as I can judge that anyway.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
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  13. Kiwasi

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    This is certainly a valid problem. In Game of Thrones every death is throwing away reader investment in a specific character, as well as the various bits of character building. In a video game you are also throwing away the models, the animation, the voice acting, and all of the other work that goes into making the actual character.
     
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  14. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Regarding the spoiler situation, I spoke out loud and that point and said "sorry mate, know how it is lol"
     
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  15. MV10

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    For whatever it's worth, it was originally recommended to me by a friend who was a history professor at FSU.

    That and a player has much more "invested" in the game than a passive reader or TV viewer. In fact, I think remaining invested in a storyline as a player is far more difficult because you typically devote most of your attention to playing. I admit there have been times where part of a game wraps up and I realize I've completely lost the thread of the overall story. Or a new section starts and I realize I was day dreaming, or my wife asked me a question, or the dog barfed on the carpet (etc etc) and I totally missed what I'm supposed to be doing next. Imagine my surprise if I then discovered some major character was erased for dramatic effect...
     
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  16. AndreasU

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    The Walking Dead from Telltale has important people die. GoT from Telltale too, of course.

    In The Witcher 3, depending on player choices, a story character can die off screen.
     
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  17. Teila

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    There are a lot of historians and all have different opinions. However, I would worry about a book that paints a very negative view of a culture. A more balanced approach would help. I can see though how that negative view would paint a nice broad stroke for a game environment. History is interpretive so I guess we can look for what interpretation best suits us. lol

    FSU, huh? I was looking at their art program for my daughter recently.
     
  18. Kiwasi

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    GoT is particularly negative. In many ways the series is a reaction to overly positive depictions of medieval times in typical fantasy literature.

    I'll admit GoT probably goes too far. But I reckon it's closer to reality then something like LoTR.
     
  19. theANMATOR2b

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    There was also a game created based on that book. Not suggested for playing - the dev team questionably set out to develop a game that was created for people who are not gamers. This is roughly quotes straight from the developers mouthes when they were presenting the concept at my college.

    Results of the finished product were completely as expected. The game bombed because it was developed for people who do not play games (gamers).

    I think what the developer intended to say was they wanted to create something that has less focus on common shooter mechanics and more focus on non-fps shooter mechanics.

    Agreeing with most of your post however I pose a thought - What about the majority of books written about Nazi culture?

    I've also heard really good comments about the FSU art program from several people who attended FSU for other areas of study - business and training related courses.
     
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  20. EternalAmbiguity

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    Interesting. Wasn't aware. It's always a little interesting when an acclaimed author has videogame variants of their books, such as Tom Clancy or Terry Pratchett.
     
  21. TonyLi

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    Since we're already going off the rails, I'll put in my two cents: People have been people for longer than they've been tropes. Contemporaneous art and literature of medieval Europe suggest that even the less privileged classes had most of the same worries, follies, and expectations that most of us do today. Heck, given the medieval tradition of 1/3 to 1/2 of the year off on holidays and festivals, a medieval transplant into our world might be horrified at our living conditions.

    Weaving back to the topic, @theANMATOR2b's mention of Crichton's video games reminded me of playing an early video game of his, Amazon. And that reminded me of Planetfall, which was released a year before Amazon and had a scene very relevant to this thread:

    The beloved NPC robot, Floyd, famously dies. Steve Meretzky wrote about the design of Floyd and his story in this article, which I excerpt:
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
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  22. Teila

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    Hmm, well, considering all the people who who were brutally starved and killed, not soldiers, but helpless unarmed people, I can't imagine that we are being overly negative about the Nazi's. Of course, I am sure, like in any situation where we label people as evil, there are many shades. Still, the gruesomeness makes it difficult. We are humans after all.

    I think it is more difficult in the modern world for the conquerors to permanently malign the conquered. First of all, our written history is much more prolific and then you add in print and film journalism and today social media. Just phone videos of injustices have made a huge difference in how we look at our world today.

    Even 70 years ago, news spread slower than today and their were not as many voices. Today, good or bad, anyone can create a blog and record history/news/events, etc.

    Of course spreading propaganda today is much easier as well.The world seems so much smaller. I learn what happened in Australia from my online Aussie friends soon after it happens, and sometimes as it is happening. Amazing if you think about it, especially to someone like me who remembers when the internet didn't exist and when inputting data meant using cards with holes in them. :)
     
  23. theANMATOR2b

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    Thanks. Very insightful. This was the first thing that popped into my mind, and I couldn't logic it away, besides thinking there are (maybe?) some books that suggest that culture had some positive redeeming qualities, overlooking the major/strong negatives, which I can't imagine one can do without a strong bias.

    The main problem I find with authors who write about historical events - 300+ years ago is the only experience they have on the subject is based on research of what others have written, and they unfortunately bring there own point of view into the writing based on that historical written information, which also is infused with that authors own bias
     
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  24. Kiwasi

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    Deleted a big long post. Cause it was getting too political, even for me.

    No movement in history can be described as all bad or all good. There are always redeeming qualities if you want to look for them. And there are still a few lessons we can learn from some of the things the Nazis did well, even though many of the results of the system were horrendous.

    Good and bad are values we assign after the fact, once we can see the result of a long chain of actions and ideas.

    And vainly struggling to bring this back to the OP, the same idea can be seen in Mass Effect. Many of the desicions you are presented with have no clear right or wrong answer. The Rachni was one of my favourite ones, the question of what is good depends a lot on who's perspective you ask the question from.
     
  25. EternalAmbiguity

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    Have you played any Obsidian games? That's kind of their candy stick. Bioware does do some of it (just venture onto a Bioware-centric forum and look at the Templar-mage discussions), but they still try to make the main character generally morally "good." You always stop the Reapers (in a sense--I won't say more because spoilers). But Obsidian is more aggressive about, as I mentioned before, "evil" being a viable path.
     
  26. Kemonono

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    I think death is a very cheap narrative solution.
    And video games treat it, almost always, as an alpha omega solution to player immersion or "grand event" storytelling.

    I would like to believe that it would be a much more traumatic event for the player if a party member you were attached to, or your LI had suddenly just left with a parting note saying "I can't stand being around you anymore, don't contact me anymore." Or something more than Baldur's Gate alignment system.

    That said, I think video games in general could do so much more with the storytelling, like for instance, be much more free with character attachments, than what the norm is right now. I'ts such a different medium than a movie, so most could have a much more different script.


    edit: For whatever good and bad, in "The Sims", death is inevitable for all the characters you'r getting attached to.
     
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  27. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    If you'd like to play a game that has a couple similar concepts and haven't already played it, I'll suggest Darkest Dungeon here again.
     
  28. Kemonono

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    I completely agree. I would recommend this to other people here as well.
    I think Darkest Dungeon do so many things right, it's interesting to break down and do a study session on,
    even if that specific game (type) doesn't cater to you personally.
    (I'm also putting Sunless Sea in the same "boat").
     
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  29. Kiwasi

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    Niche does a similar thing. The point of the game is to go through dozens of generations. It's not quite the same effect as GoT. Since characters growing old and dying is reasonable, it doesn't have the same brutality to it.

    However the more we discuss this the more inclined to think that I wouldn't want to play a game with that much brutality in it.
     
  30. MV10

    MV10

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    ...says the guy who bashes people with sticks IRL. :p :)
     
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  31. Kiwasi

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    Even in Sword Craft characters permanently dieing is a big deal. And it happens pretty rarely.
     
  32. EternalAmbiguity

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    This makes me thing about the idea of combat in games where the fail state is NOT dying--which is rare. In most games you are attacked/attack until you die. I've played a few games, though, where the default is for someone to fall unconscious. I feel in that case dying would have a greater impact.
     
  33. theANMATOR2b

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    Wasn't one of the early molyneux games original premise to be very life cycle centric - on top of what it ended up being? I can't remember which one, either Populous or Black & White was supposed to have mechanics 'involved' in the life cycle where events like the death of the leader, or maybe God was part of the game and was part of the event cycles, something that needed to be managed. I hate memory block.

    It's especially hard to remember when the final game doesn't turn out anything like how it was originally pitched or advertised to the public (classic molyneux even back then).
    I might rummage through my old PC mags to see if I can refresh my memory.
     
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  34. EternalAmbiguity

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    I know that for Fable he claimed that if you planted an acorn in the ground, it would eventually grow into a tree.

    Not related to people lives, but hey.
     
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  35. MV10

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    They were both "god games" -- Black & White had you more "involved" in the lives of your people but I always felt B&W was just a more focused and much more modernized spin on Populous. They were thematically and otherwise so similar, I often have trouble remembering what was in one versus the other, despite playing both much longer than they probably warranted.
     
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  36. theANMATOR2b

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    Same experience here. I purchased B&W simply because I remembered playing Populous back in the day, and learned B&W was from the same guy. And reading the write-up in whichever magazine at the time was covering it, seemed to suggest a great advancement in terms of player ability and flow compared to Populous.
     
  37. frosted

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    I think the game that most closely captures the feeling of GoT is a smaller indie called Battle Brothers.

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/365360/

    Really great game. They basically put permadeath and a hex based tactical game onto a Mount and Blade style agent driven map.

    The combat feels shockingly realistic. They did an amazing job with this game.

    This is one of my inspirations, along with Darkest Dungeon, XCOM, Mordheim City of the Damned, etc.

    I love permadeath games.