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Should all games be endless?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by imaginaryhuman, Jul 8, 2019.

  1. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    I enjoy playing a good game. I like the progression. I like getting to new levels, seeing new vistas, encountering new enemies and challenges. But what I don't like, is when this comes to an end.

    Now, I realize various games are different and may not be appropriate to make every kind of game endless, but I'm coming to seriously question whether a harsh "game over" might actually be game-development baggage from decades ago that has served it's time.

    When I'm playing, let's say Steredenn, a pretty good shootemup, it's a great game, somewhat challenging, some procedural generation, but it's a permadeath kind of affair. So what happens for me EVERY time is, I play it, I get a certain distance, then total death happens. I might give it another go (I did when I would get killed sooner). But now that I'm better at the game, I get further. And then there's a permadeath, and what does that mean? For the sake of some kind of leaderboard achievement, the entire enjoyable process of "the journey" comes to a screaming halt, and then you have to start from THE BEGINNING. I find this now so incredibly annoying that it makes me more or less "rage quit" the game after the first death. And in fact, that's usually what I do - reach for the quit key. For quite a long time I also found it really disappointing that because I'd die after a couple of 'zones' I would never get to even SEE any of the later stuff, and so I felt cheated out of a huge amount of game content.

    And that's unfortunate, because while you're actually playing it and enjoying the combat etc, things are going great. It's entertaining. But when you hit this brick wall which says, "you can go no further, you have to go back to totally square one and start over with nothing", it's just such a harsh slap in the face. It's a total turn off. It ruins the game for me and makes me not want to play it.

    So I'm wondering if these kind of ultimatums are simply too strong, too harsh. Similar to how in years past everyone was paying up-front for games and then people realized that you'd get more players etc if you "softened" the barrier to entry. Well, maybe these "game overs" are past their due and should also be softened. The "exit" shouldn't be so firm. I'd accept a fairly reasonable "setback" as a result of some failure, but does the setback have to be so black and white? And why not get set back a portion of the game instead of the ENTIRE game? Is it perhaps time that we said "game over" to "game over"?

    Another example, I play some retro games on an emulator. And some allow you to cheat a bit. So I activate maybe some endless lives or something like that. And then, I sit there and enjoy playing, for ages and ages and ages. When the player is supposed to be destroyed, they don't. And what does that mean, I get to continue. And I progress, and keep seeing new stuff and enjoying new encounters. I get to "keep playing". All that a permadeath does for me is put up a huge brick wall saying "sorry, you can't play anymore". Well, I want to play, so that's not exactly a good message. And if I make a game where I want people to play as much as possible, surely that should mean I shouldn't be turning them away with such strong "denial of service" that it turns them off completely? Because that's what it does. I know the aim can be to try to reach a "final score" and get ahead of the leaderboard, but that's SUCH a small trivial achievement compared to all the benefit that is experienced during actual play.

    I get the same thing on some iPad games for example where, after a while, the game becomes "too hard". And now you start failing levels. And then you get to a point where you literally cannot get past it. And then the game throws up some requirement of paying money for what you need to get further. And then the game ends, and then you feel like f-this... not playing this anymore. Is the "benefit" of a GAME OVER really more important than the benefit of "keep playing and enjoying yourself as much as you want"? You didn't need a game over in order to feel a sense of achievement, progressing through levels, beating bosses, whatever. Why should it end?
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
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  2. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    I think you're on to something here. If the player wants to keep playing, who are we to stop them? It's not like we're waiting to get a quarter from the next player.

    On the other hand, the "softening the barrier to entry" in mobile games has pretty much ruined them, in my opinion. So I would tread carefully here. I'm still a believer that gamers should pay up front to play, and then the game design should be optimized for maximizing their fun, rather than annoying them into a continuous stream of little payments as they go.

    But, that said, once the game is theirs, then yeah, it makes sense to let them play as long as they want. Lots of games these days have a death that is a mere setback. Sometimes hardly even that; recently I was playing Terraria, where death doesn't cost you anything I can detect, except sending you back to your spawn point.

    On the other hand, I also see the lure of twitch-skill games, like Flappy Bird or my own Rocket Plume, where the whole point is to get that "just one more try!" feel after a game that lasts at most a few minutes. These are play-many-times games, as opposed to play-once games, which I think are more the sort you're talking about.

    So maybe the first design question to answer is, what sort of game are you making? Is it to be played through once, or played over and over?
     
  3. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    We have a rouge-like renaissance. People are enjoying perma-death. Why do you want to remove it? I don't think all games should be endless. I think most games need to provide both options. Like they do more and more.
    Easy - Normal - Hard - Nightmare difficulty. Or whatever fits.
    I started playing in early eighties, I enjoy permadeath. I like to play games which aren't easy and aren't permissive.

    I think we can cater both camp and often in the very same framework, so I'd like to see more and more games which offer both "normal" (endless retry) and perma-death mode.
     
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  4. Owen-Reynolds

    Owen-Reynolds

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    That reminds me of the old save systems where you had to walk next to a specific save pedestal and choose which Save Slot. "Everyone" knew a Save spot meant a tough boss, but not always, and plenty of people got mad when they got killed by something super-tough that didn't seem like it would be a boss, and had to go back to a 4-hour-old save. Finally every game went to Auto-Saves. You just played without worrying about Saves. Dying always brought you back to a reasonable place to try again.

    Many games now have you start at your base, go on a mission, and win or lose you're back at your base (or course, losing didn't clear the mission). That works as a natural Save spot. Even Grand Theft Auto was little like that.

    That also reminds me of an old D&D playstation game with an Easy, Medium and Hard mode. I picked Medium and it was really easy. I got to "see" the game, but it was boring. Finally realized it was tuned for children and got the bright idea of restarting on Hard. I died more, finally learned I had a block button, and had a lot more fun.

    A lot of the old arcade-style shooters, with parma-death, were like that. If you kept dying around stage 10 you ether didn't know you had grenades, or don't know the enemies have patterns. By killing you, the game was helping you to enjoy it. But with owned games, you may as well have a few auto-save points. Even some of the the survival/horror games send you back to your base on death.

    With a rogue-like, the secret is being different every time, and being able to learn the game. In that case, every restart is fun and goes quicker. Without those, permadeath seems stupid.
     
  5. aer0ace

    aer0ace

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    I really do believe that a definitive "Game Over", is a case-by-case basis.

    The game-ending mechanic has to be designed successfully with the game such that it doesn't frustrate the player, but rather gives them enough to want to try again. So, it's part of the game design. @imaginaryhuman, It just turns out that the game you were particularly playing, Steredenn, did not design their "Game Over" mechanics to something that you would prefer.
     
  6. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Perma-death has actually been softening for some time. Auto saves and checkpoints have become pretty common features, where when I was growing up they were rare and most likely you'd have a manual menu driven save/load function at best. Something too slow and annoying to use all the time, so you end up losing a lot of progress when you eventually die.

    Some games make perma-death part of the options and in a way part of the challenge. Paradox games (EU4, CK2, Stellaris, etc) generally have auto-saves on a regular schedule so if you break your country you can just go back to the last save and try not to fail again, or let you repeat some critical point so you can try other choices to see what actually would work best. But they also have a mode called Ironman, which auto-saves all the time overwriting the previous save, not letting you go back, and they require Ironman mode for unlocking Steam achievements. So you play the game a bunch in regular mode more as practice, then you play in Ironman to see how good you really are at the game. I really like how they implemented that mix between letting you retry endlessly vs perma-death.
     
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  7. YBtheS

    YBtheS

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    I have noticed that the reason that certain games set you back to the beginning or prevent you from going further like with energy consumption for playing a match which takes time to replenish (mobile games love to do this) is because the games don't have enough content to allow the player to just run through it or else they'd run out of content sooner than the developer would like. So it can just increase play time. Whether this is a good or bad practice, I think, varies per use case. There are games, however, where this is not a problem due to enough procedural generation that has been executed well so note that I'm not talking about those games.
     
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  8. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    _Usually_ it is not the case. Usually the case is that you can buy "energy packs" for hard earned cash. A.k.a. micro-transaction.
     
  9. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    When I was younger, the longer I could play a game, the better. Thats why I liked competitive MP so much. Can jsut play that forever.

    These days, I want something I can start, finish, and be done with. I don't want something that tries to monopolize my time.
     
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  10. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    Well, the stuff I'm working on is deliberately "old-school"-ish. I do not use either save points nor auto save. You will have slots (on easy to hard difficulties) and you will have one slot on "nightmare" (aka perma-death) and this will be locked when you die.
    Although I'm planning to give more opportunity to tweak all the difficulties (kinda' the new tomb raider style, or some indie games): separate difficulty for the puzzles, for the combat, for the exploration. So everyone can tweak how they enjoy the games most.

    But I really oppose the notion that "all games should be endless". Nope.
     
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  11. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Gotta agree with this. There are massive swaths of games where the concept of endless play does not fit at all, even in entirely ludic experiences.
     
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  12. xVergilx

    xVergilx

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    Design your games to be played forever.

    New Game+++, randomization of spawns / locations, endless levelling / equipment rolls are exactly exist to address this issue.

    Surely not. But some may benefit from it drastically.

    I'll just leave this here:
     
  13. imaginaryhuman

    imaginaryhuman

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    I used to think a permadeath was a good thing to. To some degree it does drive you onward to try again. But if the trying again puts you so far back you have to wade through all the stuff you already did, it gets pretty annoying. Like for example in some shootemups where you basically could not win without memorizing specific attack patterns and likely had to die in order to be exposed to them, so then had to replay EXACTLY the right moves in order to get to the same spot, to get further. That's very gruelling.

    One major point someone made is that basically it's harder to make an endless game, because if someone has to sit and hand-craft a level of types of enemies etc then it doesn't scale. Back when just about every game had an end, it was largely because they had to stop somewhere within a budget or timescale.

    Steredenn is somewhat procedural (aka the term rogue-like which I hate, because it just means procedural with death at the end and procedural was happening long before rogue games) ... which does help to soften the annoyance of starting over.

    I'm not sure if its the starting over that's the annoying part or just the intense slap in the face that you suddenly failed, not just a failure you could maybe recover from but a TOTAL fail. That the entire game grinds to a halt. I mean, at least let the player go back to the start of that level or something, not to the start of the entire game.

    Shorter games and shorter procedural games like flappy bird can get away with it more because games are so extremely short lived and repetitive that you don't expect to discover new vistas up ahead. Or a huge amount of these ios games that are like this, the toys, where you do something hard and don't get very far so you try again. But it's the getting far and then flunking and having a really huge setback that I find annoying.
     
  14. aer0ace

    aer0ace

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    Again, I really think it's largely dependent on the design of the game, and how you, the player, had expectations that the developer failed to deliver on. I don't think it has anything to do with the perma-death mechanic per se.

    I agree, it was pretty damn annoying back in the day when you had to start platformers and shoot-em-ups from scratch, but those were the days of limited to no memory. Technology limitations. We're beyond that already.

    I'm going to throw out more examples. Cogmind is a rogue-like that I love playing, and it's a permadeath game. I don't mind starting over, because it's about the journey, not the destination. Also, XCOM gives you the Ironman option, a game design option that was mentioned above. I hate playing this way. And by modern development standards, games that don't offer an alternative to permadeath is either lazy, or the designer's idea of how to torture their players. Hmm, I guess maybe you are proving your point by my realization of what you might be talking about...
     
  15. Owen-Reynolds

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    Oh! You didn't know rogue-like refers to the actual game Rogue. It was from the '80's and pretty much only college students could play it, since it ran on the main University computer. An even better example is NetHack. Those were the first procedural dungeon games, since they were the first dungeon games.

    The main reason they used perm-death was anything else would have seemed ridiculous back then. This is when you felt a little dirty for saving the game frequently (you had to justify your infrequent saves with "vacuum cleaner might pull out the cord). Rogue-likes were also one move at a time. Wen you got in a dangerous situation, where death was serious and very possible, you looked at your potions, changes on wands ... and sighed with relieve when you got out of there alive.

    You also learned A LOT as you played. At first you starved to death if the monsters didn't get you. Then you learned you could eat dead monsters, which were poisonous, that resist poison made those edible, about how long until they went bad, and how a "tinning kit" could preserve dead monster meat. You learned which alters were safe to pray at. Some restarts just screwed you -- no good weapons, all cursed scrolls. But those were fun just trying to stay alive as long as possible, and you might get lucky.

    Basically, real rogue-likes have no grind. Restarts feel like a fresh game -- not a punishment. It recently became popular to make rogue-likes again. I assume that's what you meant. FTL probably started the trend (never played it, so can't say if it's a "real" rogue-like).
     
  16. kdgalla

    kdgalla

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    All the games that I play already do this. Even though Rogue-likes are big now-a-days, aren't games with perma-death still very rare in the big scheme of things?
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
  17. YBtheS

    YBtheS

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    Yes, it does that too in some cases. It serves as a way to make revenue and slow the average player down especially for crappy mobile games that don't have enough content to work off of.
     
  18. Vryken

    Vryken

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    Permadeath is just part of the rogue-like genre, and rogue-like games are typically very short with tons of random elements to keep things interesting.
    Games like FTL, Dead Cells, The Binding of Issac, and Spelunky for instance, can all be completed in roughly one-two hours maximum, whereas other genres of games take at least maybe 20 hours at minimum to be completed.

    "Going all the way back to the absolute beginning" sounds terrible, and it is in any other video game genre, but because rogue-likes are very short, "going all the way back to the absolute beginning" only means "going back 5-60 minutes ago", and when you do go back, things are randomized to give you a different experience in the next run. Even though you are technically playing the same game over again, you aren't doing the exact same things over again, preventing the game from feeling like an endless grind-fest.

    I will say that I would however like to see more "New Game+" modes, as those seem to have been having a falling-out in recent years.
     
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  19. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Agreed.

    For one reason of many... "Endless" necessarily means "procedural", because humans can't literally hand make an infinite amount of content. Certain types of experience just can't be made procedurally, or at least not very well.

    For another reason, games do have an end. Even if there is infinite content, at some point every single player will play their last game, and not return. There is zero point in having more content than your most persistent player reaches.

    Personally, I like games which have a definite end. I value my time (many people seem not to), so I appreciate it when someone has figured out the right duration or pacing of engagement to ideally portray some experience. Someone crafts an experience, I have that whole experience, it is wrapped up nicely, I move on to the next experience. On the flip side, I don't like it when I feel like an experience is being dragged out just to keep me around, or to arbitrarily fill in more time.
     
  20. bart_the_13th

    bart_the_13th

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    endless? No
    replayable? Yes
     
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  21. bielyobrazok

    bielyobrazok

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    I enjoy playing epic games, deciding what to do, every time I end it, I want to play once again and make different decisions.. I dont want the game to be endless. I want to see how will end surprise me by my decisions
     
  22. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    It's like asking if all vehicles should be capable of going at 200 km/h. No, you get something for a particular thing, and hopefully it's very good at that thing you got it for.
     
  23. Owen-Reynolds

    Owen-Reynolds

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    The original Q is put in an odd way, to seem like 2 different topics. I feel like the Q is really: what is a reasonable way to stretch out the content of a game? Is permanent-death one of them?

    Many games are better by making you replay levels. You beat it once, barely, taking a few tries. Later, after getting some new skills, you need to beat it 5 times. That's a chance to re-use your old knowledge, and directly see how useful the new skills are. And this time you're figuring out a "speed run". Run #5 is starting to get a little boring, but it feels good to know you've can do it perfectly in 48 seconds.

    In RPG games, it's fun to run around in the same zone. Eventually you learn the area, the shortcuts, the landmarks (what in the? Oh, that's the back of the farm. There should be a gate... ). Even a few "kill 30 cows" missions is fun, since you've gotten new AoE spells and you know the 3 areas to find cows and the best paths between them.

    Of course we all know that Freemium games drag this out. They find the fun amount of repetition and double it, or more, unless you spend a few bucks. But that's a different topic. Imagine you're making a game that is fully playable with a $5 spend, otherwise it slow down, either a little or a lot. Maybe free plays get screwed more and more as the game goes on, or made they still just have a 30% penalty.

    For games where permadeath makes sense, I like the "global power-up" trick. You get points based on how far you made it before you died, which you can use to unlock power-ups for starting characters (or to unlock new chars). It almost makes it so you want to get as far as you can, then die so you can spend the points. Many of the power-ups are things you'd normally collect in the first 5 levels, so act as a "jump ahead". Solomon's Boneyard (free on iOS), sequel to Solomon's Keep, does this. Another old trick is getting a secret tunnel to level 10, or simply allowing new chars to start 5 levels behind the best you've ever made (with power-ups). As a designer you just need to use the usual tricks so they can't grind and buy upgrades that make the next 10 levels boringly easy.