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What are the "mental representations" used by expert gamedesigners?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Martin_H, Oct 23, 2019.

  1. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I have recently listened to the audio version of a book called "Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise" by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Their standpoint is that the "10000 hours rule" and the whole concept of "talent" are pretty much bullsh*t and the key to success is "deliberate practice", and adopting the right kinds of "mental representations" for a given task, by analyzing the way expert performers in a field treat their craft.

    E.g. they trained a student to memorize long sequences of random digits, that are read to him at a rate of 1 digit per second. The key to getting up to worldclass performance in that field was grouping those numbers into groups of numbers, and putting them in a "retrieval structure" that makes use of the longterm memory, because the shortterm memory is just incapable of storing huge amounts of numbers so quickly. The first student they trained had to figure out all the "mental representations" that worked for himself, the next student in the experiment received training by him and was able to progress through the first stages much quicker that way. IIrc she later hit a wall though and adapted by using a different set of mental representations for the task that were better suited for her personally.

    I wonder if and how the concept of "mental representations" can be applied to gamedesign as well, and how we could gain some insight on how expert gamedesigners conceptualize the complex and interlinked systems they are working on.

    In part this thread is inspired by the diagram in the thread "how a game works", which looked to me like the author is basically trying to visualize his "mental representation" of how a game works, and I agree with @Murgilod that it was nonsense. But I'm not sure I could actually come up with a good one myself, because I see games as such a complex interconnected web of things that affect each other and serve different needs, that I'm not sure it lends itself at all to be represented as a 2D diagram in that way.

    Curious to hear what y'all think about this.


    As an aside: I just read the Boosfights book on Jagged Alliance 2 ( https://bossfightbooks.com/products/jagged-alliance-2-by-darius-kazemi ). Thanks to @Ony for recommending the series a while ago!
    @frosted, you might be interested in that one too. A great quote about that game from the book: "They don’t make them like Jagged Alliance 2 anymore. They never did.". The book describes how the game came to be the way it was, taking into account economic factors of the development and overall state of the industry at the time.

    What I found interesting, is that it sounded like none of the developers had super intensive gamedev experience, but instead they had deeper knowledge of boardgames and P&P RPGs, and looked at those for reference. I wonder if there is an aspect to how these kinds of games are forced to implement their systems as very clear and comprehensable rulesets and dice-based RNGs, to model a certain gaming experience, that shapes the "mental representations" with which gamedesigners approach their work. Maybe this could explain to some degree a shift in the game designs that younger developers come up with, who grew up with an overall more digital gaming experience.
     
  2. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    MY first problem with game design is culture, I worked hard to create a model that would work for any game, existing or not, and any aesthetics, but I found out that a lot of game designer don't want a universal modelisation of game design, they want a modelisation that fit their taste in games, so they can sort out good design from bad design, obviously an agnostic one don't have value of good and bad, it's just allows you to link an aesthetics to a set of system.

    I'm saying that preemptively, because while there is some loose consensus on some concept, there still pretty much a fight about what's makes a game good OR worthwhile. A lot of designer want to FEEL that game be "art", and to them it mean trying to find a formula (think hollywood formula) is bad, and it's a fear rooted in a tradition of people trying to come out with definition of game that set up boundaries that claim a value territory, and of course a similar tradition of these fake formal definition failing spectacularly at explaining the birth and working of completely new genre, based on completely different set of assumption.

    And that's painful to me because "art" is chokeful of rules and principle to guide you in the creative process, in which you can diagnostic dispassionately pretty much any composition RELATIVE to its intended aesthetics. And more importantly, once you know the fondamental, you are able to compose toward any stated aesthetics, even though they were never ever done before. The principle don't tell you what's good, it tells you how to achieve your goal, if you want confusion (anti design pattern) you can pretty much apply the same aesthetics.

    And in some way, we can start talking about my personal mental representation, that is, I first separate playdesign and gamedesign. Game design is the raw mechanical lay out of rules, that's generally how we analyze game, playdesign is more about the experiential part of game design, the design of the psychological impact relative to an audience. It's important to separate teh two, because generally the second is confused and implicit in the former, so when you want to apply "rubber band" mechanics (dispassionate system), people get angry because they understand "skill less competition" (psychological impact), even though rubber band can be used in many way. And basically, the thing to understand is that the game design in itself isn't important, your goal should always be play design, game design support that, so there is no "good mechanics" just a bunch of useful tools to achieve an aesthetics, it's important to not get enamoured with a specifics mechanics (which traditional definition of game do), because there is many way to implement the same impact, it doesn't promote creativity.

    Now this context has been laid, one thing I found useful is the concept of "goal". Originally I was resistant to it, because some game don't have seemingly goal, but made a turn around because once I finished my model, I could see how modulation of this concept generalized to all known game. The concept of goal imply that someone, the agent, is seeking the goal, and that there is distance between the goal and the agent, else there is no goal, ie a goal is inherently a "lack". That distance between the agent and the goal is the "progression", and how you progress toward the goal define the game. It's not new, it's basically the greimassian model of story. Once you get that, you can derive core loops, flow state, and many more elements.

    Now we have the concept of goal, we have seen that from goal you can derive progression and agent. If we inspect progression we can further derive other game design concept. Progression is necessary, because game are inherently dynamic, and dynamism mean the system isn't stable, that there is tension that move thing around, right now we see goal as the primary element that create that tension, but when that tension resolve itself, that is the agent go to the goal, we get action.

    Because progression is a distance between the agent and the goal, everything that affect that distance become a fonction that express the system. For example distance can be decompose into a series of steps, that is the length, these steps can increase and decrease, there is a speed at which you go through that distance, there is thing that modulate that speed, you need to know also if you are on the right path, so you don't make unnecessary step, so there is thing that guide or deflect you from the path, in order to cross a step you might need to get or do something else, there might be things that stand on the way, etc ...

    Similarly you can decompose goal, what is teh nature of the goal for example? If your goal is bravery, you can't achieve it by moving physically to a given point, the step aren't physical they are psychological, so you can start to apply the distance function identified to the realm of psychology, and maybe there is a whole unexplored genre and mechanism right there. Where is the goal? who or what hold the goal? You can inspect the nature of the agent, why does he need the goal in the first place? what resources does it have to cross the step? what fonction regulate these ressources?

    Once you have done that work of identifying parameter point and fonction that act on them, you have a very fundamental model based o the concept of goal, more importantly you realize it goes beyond game, but applies to any interactions, then you realize that systematic rules are actually architectures that plug into the functions to modify parameters of that fundamental model, and that's allow you to contrast any game from any genre to any other game no matter how wildly different they are, but more importantly since it's an interaction model, you can basically turn ANY interaction into game, but also understand interactions AS games, that goes for story too.

    There is a reason that hacking in movie use the loading bar shorthand for hacking, but you start to notice progression everywhere, the police is closing in on the hacker? the loading bar is suddenly slowing or stalling? story are especially useful to understand the cross between game design and play design, some people will tells you story aren't game, in some way that's true, but fundamentally the only difference is basically you aren't actor of the "on going game" when watching in movie, it's not so much useful to draws that line because structurally they are fundamentally similar, their difference is as much as the difference between distan game genre, it is the experience.

    One useful thing that has been used to be an advice, is that in visual medium you are encourage to "show don't tell", for me it's a value thing, it doesn't inform how things works, it's a just a very practical way to makes you think about being efficient and using all the tools you have, in game when cinematics was ill used, people started to say "do don't show" as way to encourage people to start using interactive solution to cinematic problem, which lead to the modern design narration in game, however I would go a bit further by saying "be, don't do", that is less focus on the mechanical part of the system, and more on the experience, which is implicit now to a lot of narrative game, but not only, be implied enacting a role, a role implied actions, so it's not just be don't do, it's more like be don't JUST do. That is, that's the concept behind the ludo narrative dissonance, ie make the mechanism coherent with the experience.

    A great example of "be" game are simulation, notably game like sim city, they seems like game with no goal, and therefore does that invalidate the model? well the goal of the game is basically to BE the mayor, it's not a state you attained, it's a state you stay in, so where does the tension and progression comes from? The magic of that is that the tension is never resolved, you actualize the goal of being the mayor by every action you do, and basically the option you are given is the goal to enact "mayor being", the system is in constant imbalance, and being is all about maintaining that balance.

    More importantly, it rely on you interpreting what it mean to be a mayor, that is you get to set your own goal implicitly based on your reading of the state, is being a mayor is about having satisfied and safe citizen? a thriving economy? a city that grow into a megalopolis? all of that a the same times? That is goals are affordances created by the instability of the system. All these affordances point to the ROLE, ie what you "be", the only option you have are actions that define what you are.

    And you realize that goal game and goalless game get unified by the notion of "being", ninja gaiden is driven by a fixed goal, that goal is an affordanced that allows action to enact ninjaness, the main difference is that tension get eventually resolve, if it doesn't, you get ninja simulator, basically the same game but with extra rules that make sure instability reappears to enact affordances to ninjaness, quest are a finite set of baked instability that eventually get used up. Goal are basically affordances, instability create goals (ie progression) by motivating the agent through "stakes". And that also explain how you get core loops, yet another emerging concept that you derive from the concept of goals.

    Core loop is basically the set of affordances of a unit progression. With "goalless" game, we have realize that goals are just affordances that prompt a progression toward the system state, once that affordances is realize, the system shift to another state. Turns out that "goal game" have a global instability and a lot of local instability, each of these local instability represent a step in the global progression. Basically the goal structure is nested in a fractal fashion. That nested structure is what give birth to the concept of core loop, that is recurrent affordances to make the system state to progress.

    However we also have to realize, not all progression are toward the goal, in a BE game, like being mayor, you aren't just working TOWARD state, but also AWAY from state. That's also true for goal game, you don't just want to kill the enemy, you also want to NOT die, and some game only have the away from goal. In some way we can qualify these two kind of progression (away and toward) as WINNING and LOSING. Survival game for example don't have a winning state, but they will have a losing state, classic tetris is such a survival game, you simply can't win, but you will eventually die.

    Another way to qualify them is PUSH and PULL goal, it also turns out you can use them in tandem to create memorable experience. If you graph pull and push onto a chart, you obtain an experiential bridge between game design and play design, that's where the two connect. It also gave a familiar diagram, if player goes toward winning too easily, they get bored, if the get toward losing too fast, they get frustrated, but if you go on the diagonal, they get thrilled. Congratulation, you have derive from the concept of goal the flow chart! It emerged organically.

    More importantly it give you more intuition than vanilla flow chart, you realize that the perception of movement on that chart created different experience, what if the player goes fast toward the goal, then slow down, or reverse? or accelerate, or accelerate but toward failure? what if he has multiple goals and moving toward these goal at different rate?

    But also you can graph expectation of affordances, when the player look at two items, he evaluate the potential of how it change his position on the graph, health potentially reverse progression toward failure but a gun accelerate toward winning, that is it helps you visualize the "affordances"! And that can also translate to level design, how each "step" have potential modifier of that graph, or even mechanics and system, rubber banding is a way to snap back to the diagonal for example. All these elements are agnostic of game genre, in fact now you can compare oranges and apples, because both are fruits and taste + nutritional values are the common dimension.

    Once I realize all of that (around 2004) I tried to come up with, at the time, the most improbable situation to translate into gameplay, how about a boring meeting, how do you turn that into a game? Well what is the progression? Obviously it's the time of the meeting? what's the goal? to get out of the meeting as fast as possible without being bored? so how do you compress time? obviously you can sleep, but what are the hindrance to that? obviously it's professional etiquette, it looks like we are going toward a stealth game, that is try to nap without getting caught so time pass faster. But then how can you be sure nobody is seeing WHILE you nap? Well because you have observed the pattern of behavior and try to nap in between blind spot, what is the distance to failure? if you get caught free time you get a bad mark, is there way to recover from failure? what about a focus action, that allow you to get bit of the meeting, so that when you get caught they ask you something and you have to answer, if you were napping, obviously you couldn't answer, but using focus is a finite resource, you can differentiate different kind of colleague from the zealous one, to the one that imitate you but get zealous when HE get caught, etc ...

    Ie that is the mental representation in a nutshell applied. THis mindset ties back to board game, I'm notably thinking about euro german board game, where the design of game is protected, so you can't exactly copy another game like we do in video games, and therefore they have to have a mindset of constantly coming with new idea and original design, they see design as a very abstract composition of rules, more so than in game, and board game in general, have more thought put into aspects and impact of experience because there is no computer to make the rules run by themselves. The mental model they develop are very similar to what I describe, and less beholden to tradition.

    But genre in themselves, while video game are quite limited by them by tradition, are not bad per see, they have experiential fonction (play design), they are signal and encourage a limited literacy, especially in the case of video games, where rules, run by the computer, are bit more "obscure" in presentation, due to the nature of the media, they signal sets of acquired knowledges, an more importantly, they signal familiarity.

    However my intro is mostly about the mindset of the old guard, of gamer and gamer developer, who just want to reproduce endlessly their first gaming love, and in some way, while I tried to break the mold, and why I created that system of deriving all design rules from a set of fundamental elements, i'm also an old guard. In fact I realized, that despite all my claim and frustration I wasn't different, I was impacted by majora's mask town, and at that time there was the foolish ideals of the "game of everything", that is how do you make the game that is endlessly dynamics, infinite and fully simulated, many attempts failed flat in achieving that ideals, and was looking to not fail by finding the unifying principle of game design that would allow such a game to be created, the infinite majora's mask to enjoy forever. That was reflected in all the concepts that I had created, I wasn't as original as I claim to be back in the day.


    Today, a game of everything is almost banal and achievable. GTA, elite, skyrim, minecraft, rim world, terraria, mount and blade, the sims, spore, no man's sky, etc... all contain part of the infinite game, it's a matter of time before someone make a game that learn from all of that, we only need to innovate on story dynamism, and even that exist to some degree with Versu. And that mind set of making game out of anything, and using progression in novel way that isn't just winning are being seen in game like Edith Finch or Florence, Obra Dinn, Paper please, Kojima's P.T. or that old game "the act". The indie revolution brought so much experiment and fresh personal outlooks, the only thing missing is the blockbuster equivalent that absorbed all the lessons of these design. And board game have many experiment we can learn from, but then you have cultist simulator or fallen london channel that spirit greatly.

    "We good" in video games, we just need to look out beyond our niches and tastes with an eyes to translate them in our aesthetics of choice, Versu don't have to be text game, fallen london surely can be translated in 3rd person mechanics, cross pollination is what's missing a bit, having the right mental representation as game design surely need a whole bit of that. A broad mind to look at all instance of game, board, personal, etc ... but also instance of interaction and personal existence, to translate as games mechanics and experiences. We need to transpose one familiarity into another.
     
  3. DominoM

    DominoM

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    Sounds about right. I mentally sum it up as the difference between an amateur and an expert being attention to detail. The experience part is knowing which details are important at any given point. So if you learn from an expert which details to pay attention to at which point and why, you can shorten the experience learning stage.

    I've always found it interesting how creative careers tend to run in the family. Some attribute it to genetics, but I think that's ignoring the exposure to their parents 'expertly' doing what they do boosting early learning.

    The problem is most experts don't remember their own learning process and much of what they do is automatic now. Hence why a learner has to analyse the expert process to build their own mental representations for a task.

    Game design is really interesting as it brings together so many different fields of expertise to create an experience for the player. It's literally transferring the expert knowledge of how to win at the game from the developer to the player through the game play.

    "What would an expert do?" and "When would they do it?" are two of my go to mental questions for workflows. I pull out "Am I the expert?" sometimes when I'm feeling over confident.

    Edit: Forgot to mention - a 'Game Design Document' is of course a list of what details to pay attention to ;)

    Afterthought: Emergent game play is when the student surpasses the master, and the player becomes the expert on the game.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
  4. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Wow, thanks a lot for the great replies so far!

    To clarify: I want a tool that helps improve a design in the earliest stages and make better predictions on which design decisions are "good" in the context of the game and audience one has in mind. For that there may be some overlap between a "universal" model, but ultimately I don't think it should be the "goal" to have a universal model of comparison. Or at least I don't think that alone is enough to reach the goal of reliably increasing the quality of ones gamedesign choices.

    That sounds more like what I have in mind!

    What I struggle with is how to fit all the added vectors and dimensions of "how" to achieve a goal into an easy to grasp and visualize mental representation. Goal vs agent, and progression as a function of the distance between the two, is a solid base for most games, but I think a lot of what will decide between the game being perceived as good or bad in the end does not get taken into account by that representation at all. A lot of what I care about in the games that I really like is revolving around the concept of creative player expression and emergent personal goals that are made possible through the freedom of the possibility-space that the game offers the player to progress towards the goal. Maybe it's because I'm an artist, but I probably care more about the "how" than the "why" and "how fast" for how I progress in a game. I find it hard to wrap my head around the layers and layers of choice and differentiation that you can pile onto a very basic core loop, but I think somewhere within that "mess", most of the magic happens of many of the games that will be remembered decades later.


    Yeah, that's a conclusion I've come to in the past too. I always felt it's often easier to learn from people who are one or two levels above you and not ten levels ahead, because they still have better memory of the challenges you are currently facing and how they themselves did overcome them. Also the higher up you go there probably are a couple survivorship biases among the experts. E.g. one thing mentioned in the book is that typically experts enjoy doing the thing that they are good at, but it is unknown whether that is a side effect from neural changes to the brain, made in the process of acquiring the skill, or if it simply is impossible to stick long enough with something that you don't like, to put in the thousands of hours of deliberate practice required to become an expert.
     
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  5. DominoM

    DominoM

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    In game terms, that thousands of hours to be an expert gets somewhat condensed, except maybe for speed runners..

    Mental sticking points can be tough to overcome. 'I don't like this' and 'I don't like not being good at this' might be the same emotional response. 'I'm not interested in this' is most likely something different, but good to recognise to know when to delegate to someone with that interest.
     
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  6. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    OF course I have explicitly demonstrated it wasn't necessary for mastery, good and bad is relative to the stated aesthetics, os the problem become to strongly state that aesthetics, these tools are about HOW to achieve the aesthetics once it's been stated. It's like anatomy, anatomy don't tell you how to make good drawing no matter how good you make it, however it help structure and get to the goal of making character, even character who have no reference in real referenced anatomy because it help you put the part together coherently. Hence why all of that is important.

    Read carefully the part about affordances and BE/ROLE model, it's not just about "progression" in the plain sense.

    That's the stated values, that's the aesthetics, however the problem is that it is stated as a too high level, it can be anything. One problem with creativity in general, not game design, is the definition of strong aesthetics TARGET, you have an expression problem not a design one, design can't follow because you have nothing strong to operate on. You need one instance

    Those kind of vague feeling are harmful to creation in general, most notably because they are fleeting and imprecise, but also psychologically they have give a sentiment of magical mystery, that thing are grander than they are, and it can mire some artist in never actualizing because of choice paralysis but also that narrowing down a target will move the magic and mystery out of the feeling.

    IMHO you need to use tie breaking system to decide instance of that aesthetics, I would quote alfred hitchcock "start with a cliche, don't end with it". Your problem is simply you need to explore and contrast multiple implementations of those values, starting perhaps by imitating the closest form that approximate that feeling. This process is now fully bake in other craft, in drawing we do thumbnail sketch and various rough, it's so culturally accepted we don't think of them as creative tie breaker, which they are, you iterate low quality version of the idea, until it click and you spend cost polishing a final vision. Well you can do that with game too, do small quick crappy prototype, and learn from them, that's probably the representation you are missing.

    Basically you need a mental model of working through subtraction, addition and transformation. Dare I say, you need a progression model from vague idea to concrete implementation ... :p Most notably you have lack in function guiding you toward your goal, as such you have hard time crossing the relevant step.:D
     
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  7. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I don't think that's quit accurate. I think it has more to do with that community being very small and tight-knit and it's just so widely frowned upon to copy a whole game mechanically, that no one dares to do it. And the publishers honor the license agreements they make with the designers of the games, because they are completely reliant on them for their business to continue and can't afford to have them all turn their backs and go to kickstarter directly. I found this, which gives some examples of how mechanics can be "patented", but that seems to be a rare thing:

    https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2018/07/24/the-rise-of-board-game-plagiarism/


    I've re-read your posts and looking at my own past projects, yeah, I've probably made mistakes in not picking a clear enough aesthetic to guide the rest of the design and then not focused well enough to make design decisions in support of it, instead of trying to work out design decisions "in the abstract". For JA2 they had the vision of capturing the feeling of an 80's action move, so that's exactly the kind of cliche to start from that you mention. Now, would you say when I look at all the failed attempts to revive that franchise or copy its success, I will find that in every instance they just failed to properly support this aesthetic with mechanics and design? Can this really be all there is to it? I'm not saying you're wrong but I would at least be surprised if it was that simple and there aren't a couple other layers of important factors involved.
    I just finished my latest playthrough of JA2 Wildfire, maybe I should play (demos of) all those bad sequels or clones next, to see where they failed. Can't say I'm looking forward to playing half a dozen bad games though...
     
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  8. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    I never understood having to be good at something to be able to enjoy it and why people might confuse the two.

    I blame America’s obsession with winners and losers.
     
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  9. TheKingOfTheRoad

    TheKingOfTheRoad

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    I like this thread. Thanks.

    After reading i need to see this video, don't know why.

     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
  10. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    The problem has to do with feeling and emotion, it is THAT simple but that simplicity don't make it easy. it's all down to things feeling right. Nailing feeling right is what's HARD. If you value feeling right as a metric of success, you are in trouble, by definition it's a fleeting sensation, that can change based on disposition and life events. So it's a moving target. Worse it's a moving target that is personal, so trying to bring a team around it .... Hence why you feel remake don't nail the original feeling, maybe it did to people who made the remake!

    Mix that with the blank page blocking syndrome and you are F***ed. It's basically choice paralysis, where do you look in the infinite possibility to find the best way to nail that fleeting feeling? It's a literal search problem, and most state of the art search algorithm use at least 2 main ingredient, trial and error and heuristics.

    That's why we have created a whole set of tools that integrate this, it's call prototype and concept art, it's the pre production phases, you test alternatives, look for references and inspirations and use that to narrow down the right answer. You have to have discipline and thrust the process, but you also need to courage to recognize sometimes "shot need to get done" and have to finish.

    I use to say there is a difference between creative and creator, the creative follow the process, he don't care about the feeling, he get jobs done, the creator is the perfectionism, he will endlessly chase the feeling until he nail it. The truth is that it's something you have to balance, and it's a problem as old as art. It's a mess for everybody since the dawn of time.

    The general proven working compromise is to just evolve that feeling through multiple projects instead of having a single project bear the whole burden, it's an extension of the prototype, and also one that threaten a lot less livelihood. Having many small cheap project (which is a common advice, start small), then the final one that have all the bells and whistle is also a common tactic. Or you can die a starving artist like me :p

    I mean read back to the Anthem post mortem:
    https://kotaku.com/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong-1833731964
    It's a crude example of failing to uphold the process. But also it's quite a common story for any game dev, especially those with ambition, the post mortem of bioshock infinite was similar, and you can kinda see it with the various evolution of the visual. That it ended great was more a relief than a testament.

    This was early prototype elizabeth:


    contrast to public evolution of the character:








    https://mahlibombing.tumblr.com/post/123104805173/why-bioshock-infinite-is-the-best-pt1

    Feeling = nailed

    That's ART baby!

    Okay these example are visual (but also are expression of gameplay), easiest to share, but I think you get the point, it's not specific to game design...

    But it's notable that the game had to compromise aspects to get done! The narrative branching got axed really hard.
    https://www.polygon.com/2014/3/6/5474722/why-did-irrational-close-bioshock-infinite
    The story is similar to anthem, but actually got something great in the end. The story of assassin's creed first game is also similar. Thrust the process, laid down the perfectionism (trying to convince myself here), external look on the project help, because they aren't as much attached to the "feeling", have deadline, keep unresolved for next projects.


    It is the design process.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
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  11. TheKingOfTheRoad

    TheKingOfTheRoad

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    Im not an expert so i will just write what i think right now while working on something.
    If i analyze this video and i analyze videogames, for example Chess board game, or Turn Based games
    or even Getting Over It, Tetris, Baldur's Gate or Ultima, Half Life or Witcher 3 i see a pattern.

    Even if i analyze the 10M games on existance, i see some pattern. I want to believe.
    I wish i can analyze RPG board games but i've never played it.

    In EVERY game i can think right now i MAYBE managed to see this:

    You are playing with limited capabilities. (not always, maybe a game can get your
    senses augmentated?).

    Because you are controlling something that has no real freedom, just the ilusion of
    freedom inside a virtual experience.

    And you are playing in a DIFFERENT SCALE than reality has, so that's aesthethic, yes.

    It's the aesthetic of this little scale that attracts us to videogames or board games?

    Add that to the history, empathy we can feel about this world, universe, aesthethic,
    characters...

    Then BOOOM!

    It's the simplification of reality (see chess board) that makes the player feel like a God (or a King or just nobedy trying to survive) while he
    or she plays with tiny creatures?

    So, it's the possibilities besides the inmersion in this different world.

    So, if you control Mario or a Box or 8 Companions inside an RPG game,
    you still are getting in an agreenment with the game designer (or game designers
    or play designers yes even beta testers) about going into this ride, using DIFFERENT
    capabilities than the one you have in real life, but extrapolating some of them, not all (
    we dont have smell in mainstream games for example).

    So, any game seems to be a form a limiting our bodies in many cases, while this experience happens.

    So, to be in the game it's good, but you surely want to have a sense
    of progression and win, if not, it's just torture, because you already
    have some limited senses while playing.

    But in the end of the day, a videogame it's art. When you see a painting, your senses gets attracted
    by SCALE. (and color if you can see color).

    Even more, if you listen a song, you are attracted by melody or rhytm,
    anyway, MANY ingredients needs to be super awesome.

    So, we are attracted by SCALE and the possibility to control this character or just be.
    Design meaning it's like Drawing. So Game Design, needs to have the SCALE factor inside it, besides
    anatomy and composition. (mechanic, core loop, systems, UX, UI, etc).

    In VR for example, i've tried Jurassic Park game, things are getting different. You still have LIMITED
    senses to interact in this Virtual Reality (same pattern) but SCALE starts to feel real, so it's different experience,
    now you are having a different SCALE to interact with a virtual environment.

    Game Designer mental thinking needs to be to design a performance car engine (if it where a car), so he or shee needs to visualize all systems working together. If you add more Systems, the more complexity. If you simplify systems, less complexity and easy to visualize and control.

    Besides Scale and Rol (or be) and progression, there's the complexity part. IMO, a game it's made for the player to solve complexity.

    Tetris Game? To solve one form of complexity.

    Sims Game? To solve another form of complexity.

    Getting Over It? To solve even another form of complexity.

    Flappy Bird? To solve more simple but challenging complexity.

    Then we have scale of this little Template or Prototype, we want to make it challenging (even if it's Point and Click)
    and we want to let the player solve complexity we will add. If we fail on making the player SOLVE the complexity, the game it's too hard and unbalanced.
    If the player SOLVES the complexity in 1 minute, then the game it's too easy. Then you can add progression
    for level 2. If the player DOESNT WANT or it's UNINTERESTED in solving the complexity (or game) then i can see many factors.

    1-The game can still be good for the public interested in that kind of game still to be found. The Loyal Players of every kind of game.

    2-The game it's just bad and nobody wants to solve the proposed complexity. For example, games that has GAME BREAKER bugs and designers doesn't care to solve them at all. (i see many). BUT, even in this type of games (let's call this games S***ty games that needs to be improved), there where always be Loyal Players that likes this "genre" or POINT OF VIEW of game to IMPROVE this S***ty game to make it better, more intersting and fun, have more quality and so on. So, if you have a prototype that looks and feel S***ty ! WORRY NOT! just look for Loyal Players of this kind of game and ask them for help or feedback to IMPROVE it.

    3-The game proposal for the player to solve the complexity has already been done 100000000 times in the past. Then, as a player, why i will bother? I've already solved this complexity before. BUT, there will be always Loyal Players of this genre or point of view that will like and play your game.

    How an expert thinks? Maybe we need to ping him:






    @neoshaman "....Mix that with the blank page blocking syndrome and you are F***ed. It's basically choice paralysis" LOL. Thank you so much for your posts. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
  12. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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  13. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I guess you're right! Simple but hard...


    I'm less sure about that one. I think if you look at the design decisions that were made and how people react to them - both players who knew the old games and those who don't - you'll see that all these games are just pretty objectively worse and even among the few positive reviews I don't think I've ever seen a single one say "this is so much better than the original JA2".

    I've played the demo of Arma tactics, and it's just worse in every single way. Feels like a bad mobile game, doesn't offer the gameplay systems that would allow a player to feel "clever" in the same way they could in JA2. It's all very simplistic, streamlined, soulless, RNG heavy... I'm glad I didn't have to buy this.

    Then I've briefly played the demo of Jagged Alliance - Back in Action. That one looks a lot more detailed in comparison and I would argue isn't entirely without merit if you don't compare it to the original JA2. But if you do, and you've read the book about JA2's development, you will wonder why they essentially made the kind of decisions that the original dev team explicitely changed their mind on to better create the desired feeling in the player. JA2 originally was supposed to be realtime and they switched to turn based to make it feel fairer, give the player maximum control and communicate the gamestate in a clear and chronological way. One thing happens after the other. In JA:BIA you have a realtime-with-pause system, where you can queue up commands and link commands in the queues for simultaneous execution. In theory that sounds innovative and tacticool to make a plan for how your mercs should sneak up on a couple guards and then shoot them simultaneously, but in reality it seems to be more likely to result in a chaotic mess where you don't utilize your mercs efficiently, don't clearly see what enemy causes what kind of damage to your guys and it doesn't feel fair in the same way JA2 feels fair. All the issues get amplified by the "modern" visuals that sacrifice a sort of symbolic clarity for an attempt at realism that doesn't even look good, feels clunky, and severely harms visual readability of the gamestate. Plus the attempt at making everything "3D", and not tilebased, makes many things less predictable in a way that feels bad. I also really didn't like the balancing where it seemed impossible to drop an unaware guard with a single headshot from a proper rifle.


    I struggle with that a lot for sure. I was hoping for some kind of revelation that makes it easier to narrow down the choices.

    I haven't read that one yet, but in general I get a strong feeling from every single AAA game I've played in recent years, that they fail HARD at delivering the aesthetic/feeling they advertise their games with or the ones that would make narrative sense. E.g. Ghost Recon Breakpoint, The Division, Anthem, Destiny, ... I hate all this looter-shooter crap. And with Fallout 4 I was blown away how much closer I could get the game-feel to what I wanted by using mods and ignoring the main storyline.

    I haven't played "the outer worlds" yet, but from what I hear it's supposed to be better than Fallout, in case anyone cares.

    Thanks, that was a good talk!
     
  14. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Well I wasn't targeting that game specifically, was talking in the broader sense of honest remake ... but if you had the less ideal reality to cope with market force, money and simply resource limitations, you get a whole new layer of problem that mess with the so call artistic purity. :p balancing reality and the art is another debate, not so distant from this one.
     
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  15. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    That's a good point and in the book about JA2 they stress the point of how unique the circumstances of JA2's creation were and report on a level of freedom for decision-making that permitted a level of "purity" of the artistic vision that nowadays pretty much no project can hope to reach.
     
  16. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Didn't read everything as it's very long. Just wanted to add, visualization is common practice among top tier athletes. You simply spend lot of your free time mentally visualizing the goal you are working towards. Standing on podium with gold medal, pushing hard past opponents in race, etc. You do it because after awhile that result seems to be inevitable, and then you have full confidence.
    With confidence you don't have fear. Without fear you have no second guessing. That way you will perform your best at go time.
    In my own projects, games and otherwise, I continually try to build a mental experience of what the thing will be like when finished. I try to visualize others engaging it as well. This boost confidence and helps to refine goals.
     
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  17. DominoM

    DominoM

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    Visualising an outcome and correcting anything that feels incongruous to that outcome is something I do in most things. While not a top tier athlete (or an expert game developer) I do compete in crown green bowling and have found a little pre-match visualisation helps me stay competitive with the top players in my town despite not putting in the practice hours they do. During a difficult match I find visualising myself as happy often helps too.

    Positive thinking and perhaps even prayer seem to be variations on this theme. Daft as it sounds, I've sometimes wondered if peoples belief in magic comes from rituals enforcing a strongly visualised intent and thus occasionally producing results, or at least a bit of confirmation bias.

    Being able to visualise an outcome and break down the steps to get there certainly helps my programming skills.
     
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  18. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Good point! In the book there actually was an example of a top athlete that during once did a run through a wood where his father stopped the time and the father had felt that his son's motivation was struggling a bit and so he lied to him about the time he ran and told him one that was a lot more impressive than he actually managed. But it ended up giving him to confidence boost he needed to keep going and later he did indeed become a top athlete, running impressive times on his own.

    I used to be a lot better at this kind of visualization based self-motivation. But I think looking at the indie games market you can't really blame anyone who's losing hope there. It's a bit of a different topic, but one that I very much want to encourage people to comment on too, because I think it's ultimately one of the greatest challenges to overcome on the way to finishing a game. And I think in some way the "delusional" people who have faaar more confidence than actual skill actually often get farther than more skilled but less motivated peers. I'm thinking of someone specific outside of gamedev here, so it's not aimed at anyone here.

    Does that work on multiplayer FPS too?

    Actually there may be something to it. I played a lot of "Insurgency" online with a friend. And sometimes you're just unlucky with the team compositions or have a bad day and get killed a lot more often than you kill the other team. The game is designed in a way that it's fairly easy to get extreme K/D ratios on both ends, because time to kill is low and often one bullet is enough. When I really underperform I sometimes say "F*** it, I'm going pistol-only next round", because I really enjoy pistols in FPS games, but they are objectively worse weapons in almost every way. Surprisingly though, often I then perform significantly better with the worse weapon. And I wasn't able yet to pin down whether that comes down to me enjoying that gameplay more that way, or if the act of "letting go" of the determination to compete is what I need to get relaxed enough and perform better. I feel like there's a lot to learn, but we only ever scratch the surface because it's so hard to measure any metrics that would give us meaningfull data.


    P.s.: possibly slightly related - I remember the dev of "John Wick hex" saying that the most determining factor of how well a playtester does on the game wasn't previous gaming experience, but whether or not they had seen and internalized the movie before playing. They had aligned the successful strategies in the game with the typical moves seen in the movie, and thus the movie created the right mental representations of combat situations that would allow a player to make good choices in the game. I thought that's a really clever way to piggyback on existing knowledge.
     
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  19. DominoM

    DominoM

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    It's not always motivation that's the difference. The "delusional" people will just say yes they can do something, the skilled peer might point out any issues they see before committing. Logically the second is better, but from an executive point, the first appears less hassle. A topic covered by Dilbert in great depth..

    Yeah, a field where the only information is anecdotal isn't easy to measure. There are self help programs like "The Sedona Method" which is all about "letting go", meditation to find stillness, perhaps being in the zone falls in this category too.

    My happy visualisation is a brain hack pathway to that kind of centeredness in adverse situations. When you picked up the pistol, it sounds like you chose happy over winning. My hack works because I'm happiest when I'm winning, so I'm taking that as anecdotal evidence it works for someone other than me ;)
     
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  20. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I think to make it in indie you need enough passive income to support yourself for years while you trial and error learn. Anything else is too risky.

    The line grunt always thinks they know more than the boss. But most the time they don't. That's why they still the grunt. There is whole nother realm to decision making that goes beyond technical considerations.

    Whether you work alone or on team, main tool you working with is humans. In planning, many people aren't considering this. It's like going on road trip and not considering the car. Recipe for failure. You have to understand the human mind and body and plan around that as the central pillar.

    Persistence always wins in any endeavor, so as long as you have means to persist I don't see how you could fail.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
  21. AcidArrow

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    Right? That’s what I’m trying to explain to the person I’m currently stalking, by sending messages, letters and leaving voicemail around 100 times a day, but they don’t get it, bah!
     
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  22. AcidArrow

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    Sorry wrong forum.
     
  23. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Lol hey that's how I got the world's best wife. (A lesser degree of creepy persistence, but persistence nonetheless)
     
  24. DominoM

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    I'm always wary of declaring something to be always true, but at least you added the 'most the time' get out clause for your while (true) statement. I think it's much more nuanced and the context of the people and type of knowledge involved can swing the balance either way. Part of my "what would an expert do?" mental process involves figuring out who the expert is, and sometimes it is the grunt. A simple example would be if I'm hired to write a Word macro I won't be picking the CEOs brain to figure out the best approach, perhaps their secretary, but odds are the expert would be in the typist pool.

    There's that 'always' again. As another contrived example, it wouldn't matter how many marathons I run, I won't be winning any of them, without perhaps a context shift to count finishing as winning. Even if I persisted until I was at peak human fitness, someone perhaps in lesser shape but with longer legs would beat me.

    I'd phrase it that most failures come from giving up too soon, rather than saying persistence will always succeed because sometimes it won't. Persisting with unrealistic expectations is only going to frustrate, unless you've a shoot for the stars, hit the moon kinda thing going on.
     
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  25. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Persistence always wins if the goal was possible in the first place.

    It's a simple phrase one can remember and apply to many situations. My goal isn't to say the absolute and complete truth, because that would take forever and also be impossible.

    Like you said, many failures come from quitting too soon. Or not fully committing to one's work. Ingrain an attitude and habit of persistence, you can overcome this. The details and particulars can't be predicted and have to be dealt with by the individual.

    So yes, persistence alone only get you so far. But you won't get anywhere meaningful without it. That's the thing.

    Btw, if you gonna blame losing the marathon on length of your legs, I say you need more persistence. :)
     
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  26. DominoM

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    I thought I'd wandered far enough off topic without going into the intricacies of leg torso ratios, I've lots of things to blame before I get to legs anyway, but yeah maybe not the best example to pick ;)
     
  27. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Well not leg length but leg thickness, turns out there is more to winning a marathon that persistence, once at the top, ie equal persistence, the small factor ... factor! Heat dissipation due to leg shape being one reason why many african of a certain area are top marathon performer.
     
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