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What kind of single player games can still hook jaded gaming veterans?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Martin_H, Aug 8, 2018.

  1. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I've noticed that I've been gaming less and less in recent months, and googling for anecdotes from other people revealed that it seems to be a fairly common phenomenon, that getting older correlates with being less and less able to immerse yourself in games for long stretches of time. I find myself in the weird position where I think I should be gaming more, but I'm having big trouble finding games that keep me sufficiently engaged.

    I'm interested in your thoughts on 2 possible solutions to this "gaming fatigue": a) games that have stronger hooks for jaded gamers, and b) strategies for overcoming the problem directly and finding joy in gaming again without changing what you play.

    I'm not interested in multiplayer games because I think being on skype with a friend can be fun with almost any game, (and I do that almost daily) but I'm explicitly not looking for that "social fun", I'm looking for gaming experiences that satisfy desires for autonomy, mastery, and expression etc..

    Immersive sims, open world and stealth assassin kind of games always worked best for me in terms of immersion, but from those that I started recently I have finished almost none of them.

    I think this "jadedness" towards all things, or whatever you want to call it, is a byproduct of the media-landscape we live in, and I think if we don't figure out how people can immerse themselves in gaming again, the industry soon faces another huge problem on top of all the others it already has.

    I have no answers, so I won't have very much else to say in this thread I think, but I hope it will spark a constructive discussion that yields useful ideas to enrich player's gaming experiences from both sides: gamedevs and gamers.
     
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  2. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Hardcore simulation. I'm tired of video game tropes and endless rehashings of the same old concepts, but more stupid.

    I want deeper realism, deeper challenge. I want to believe I'm an engineer building a colony on mars, not a dipshit hollywood actor in a dopey action movie. I want to believe I'm an actual archaeologist with a penchant for danger, trapped between warring tribes of jungle savages in a bid for my life, not an unrealistic hot babe dancing around while the earth caves in like a michael bay movie. If I'm going to be a soldier, mercenary, whatever, I want to feel the panic of a firefight, and challenge my quick wits, not slaughter waves of forgetful nothings.

    I think, as we get older, we appreciate the world as it is more, and lose our ability to suspend disbelief.

    It seems everybody is playing it too safe these days. I want to see wild departures from the norms. If something is radically different, I'm immediately interested. In a market where the norm is bizarro S*** only a twelve year old could understand, radically different usually means something grounded firmly in reality.

    I don't need a game that focuses on sending a constant stream of satisfaction into the meat sack inside my skull. I want a game that challenges me to think about unique problems and solve them. I want a game that makes me believe I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, and I want my problem solving skills alone to be what saves me and progresses me. I don't give a damn about pacing, about rewards, none of that. I am an adult human. I am not a gnat. I can delay gratification for a while.

    I dont want games that make me feel powerful, or attempt to satisfy some insecurity-born fantasy. I appreciate ordinary people who face problems and solve them. Can involve explosions or not, I don't care. Elves, witches, dragons, space marines, whatever. As long as it doesn't feel like its written by a teenager, it's good.

    The kind of thing that passes for "mature" in the game industry seems anything but mature to me. The Witcher? That feels like a sex-frustrated young mans power fantasy. How is that mature? I think a mature Witcher would just focus on a dude working hard to kill monsters. Isn't killing monsters supposed to be pretty damn challenging? Why do I have to save the world and bang all the obnoxiously sassy, beautiful women too? It's cringey. I want to play a monster killing game without being embarrassed over it. I want to feel like the monsters are real creatures that could exist, and I want to think about how I might actually plan to kill an actual monster. I certainly wouldn't go in with a sword and flip around all over the place. That would get tiring, and also a huge monster would just swat me like a fly. I want to hunt the monsters. Lay traps. Trick the monsters. If the monster spots me, I should be killed fast. Imagine hunting a tiger. How would you do it?

    Maybe part of the problem is that games are either made by huge studios that make such a massive investment that they have to cater to the largest population to make profits, but the only other people making games are little indies trying to make a living at it, so they too have to be very careful and not take too much risk.

    What we need are more developers who are financially independent and can just make whatever games they damn well please. Then we will see some real innovation. Games are just games. Perhaps if you are treating the making of it like your life depends on it, you just can't let it be the work of passion it deserves to be.

    You know who is evolving and majorly kicking ass these days? Disney. Not games, but same principle. Rather than continue doing the same old crap everybody else is doing, they've started telling new stories. Stuff a lot of people have never seen before. And yet, they stick to common themes anybody can appreciate. Family. Individuality. Funny dogs. Very simple stuff. But rather than princess in the castle, we get Moana, or Coco. So you get a nice theme any human can understand, but you also get to experience a culture that may be unfamiliar to you or at least seldom represented in hollywood. Disneys definitely at the tip of spear in the entertainment industry.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
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  3. bobisgod234

    bobisgod234

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    Perhaps you just don't enjoy gaming as much anymore? People change over time, and their interests too.

    I recently played a few games that I enjoyed and got immersed in when I was younger and just didn't find them fun or engaging at all.

    You could try just browsing lists of games (e.g. at MobyGames) and pick some out that look interesting. You pretty much get to bypass any media/social influences that way and can just judge the game on your own.
     
  4. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Have you tried short, story-based games like Firewatch or Life Is Strange? You say you enjoyed immersive sims and open worlds in the past, but tastes change.
     
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  5. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    It's very hard to diagnose a general case of 'jadedness' in society that's not simply part of one's own perspective. I think that partly at least, it's a case of simply becoming more critical and reflective on things as you advance through life, and seeing cheap junk for what it is. However since I feel very strongly as well the sentiment that something is amiss that's not just in my head, I'll labor under the assumption that such a diagnosis is correct.

    I've always considered it to be common sense that all kinds of artwork are there to help us see truths about life and the universe that we otherwise might not. The classic movies and books are the best at doing that - the reason why they have become classic is because a) they represent real truths (often in mythological form) rather than the labored perspective of some writer's ego and b) they turn these truths into things which are to some extent abstract and timeless.

    It's hard to call games of the 80s and 90s 'classic' in this sense (though some are no doubt classic in a slightly different way), but since you mentioned immersive games I think we are at the point now where games can become classic (or not) in the way that I described above. Yet in any case, I think all kinds of games (even very simple ones) often represent to us as gamers at least a heavy abstraction of a more substantial narrative (such as movies or books that we have read). It might seem meaningless to be wandering around and collecting things and fighting enemies, but that is only because the story is in our own heads, or at least one which we have found in a different work of art and which we are enacting through the game interface.

    In that sense, I don't think the source of any problem of 'jadedness' is games themselves. Games are merely a costume that fits over the body of art and culture that we live in. I think it's very clear now that this is the case, now that games more and more explicitly reflect those things due to having a relatively high capability of fidelity with which to represent reality.

    Which really brings me to the point. I think the problem with all kinds of art right now, one which creates a sense of confusion and meaninglessness, is the fact that the 'truths' that art represents are ones we know at a very deep level to be very superficial, labored and disfunctional. Rather than revealing the world to us, these 'truths' confuse and disorient us and create weaknesses in the foundation of our understanding of the world. I believe that this is the 'media-landscape' that you mentioned.

    Why is this the case? I think there are two reasons. 1) the new 'postmodern' way of reconstructing the world according to the whims of one's ego rather than factual truth, which to some extent has been enabled by the kind of civilization we have been able to construct, and 2) the customer-centric marketing model that drives this by operating to attract the audience by making them believe that their own disoriented life is the (entire) ultimate hero story, rather than giving them something real to aspire to that might challenge their conceptions of the world.

    I'm a very open-minded person. There are very few things that I consider to be 'wrong' by their very nature, and these are probably things that we all as human beings would agree on. And on top of everything I consider individual freedom to be the most important, with as much leeway as possible. Yet, the machinations of the society we live in do not move spontaneously. And if the media that we watch, the games we play and the books we read tell us half-truths about the world around us and the human experience, we're certainly not going to be better off for it.
     
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  6. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Not sure all of Billy's post translated into my chimp-like brain, but one thing I picked up that I agree with is how games fail to inform us of anything meaningful we can apply to our own world. In fact, I think it's worse than that. Most games and movies actively teach us things that are flat out wrong or at odds with reality. I don't mean to say all games should be simulations of reality, but here's an example :

    The strong female protagonist is pretty popular right now, which I think is a very good thing. We've seen strong male protagonist forever, so it's time to give the ladies some well-deserved attention. But, how does the strong female protagonist always look in games? She's cocky, she's sassy, she's rude, she's petty, she's arrogant. Does any of that read like strength to you? Not me. That reads like a arrogant teenager who doesn't know jack. Take Ayla or whoever it was in Horizon. She was nothing more than a super hero who was arrogant because, due to her badass wilderness training, she could kill things better than anybody else. She was unrealistic, unlikable -- a total prick.

    Strength isn't gender specific. Strength is the same in dogs and tigers and humans. Strength is quiet, responsive, and agile. The strong leader doesn't push and shove their way to bring success. They observe, listen, and when the time is right they act decisively. Strength is an aggregate of smarts, wisdom, restraint, boldness, and courage. Having badass combat skills has nothing to do with strength. That's just super hero nonsense.

    And so gamers, seeing this backwards display of strength over and over, get this idiotic impression that they carry into their day to day life. You get people shouting at the service people in a restaurant because they think demanding what they want is a show of strength -- something to be admired. Wrong! Sad!

    I want to see more games display values that gamers will know are right and true when they see it. Games don't have to have a moral or anything, but they at least shouldn't peddle nonsense idea's that reinforce S***ty behavior. Games could be a tool used to expand a persons tolerance for learning from failure, rather than encouraging them to be impatient to the point of absurdity. Games could be tools to engage the better parts of a persons pysche, rather than refining their worst parts.

    What's more is that gamers certainly want this. Not all gamers, but plenty enough. Dark Souls and its million clones are proof that gamers want to push through obstacles that challenge their own impatience more than reflexive skill. Slow, seemingly boring games like The Long Dark prove that with just the right amount of atmosphere and clever game design, a game that involves little more than a series of decisions about time management can be endlessly fun.

    I think developers have to exercise humility, if they intend to impart some moral to gamers. Disney is a great example. They don't hammer you over the head saying, "Be open minded! Be inclusive! White people are jerks!" They just show you an unfamiliar culture, but make them seem like family by sharing a story with values anybody can empathize with.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
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  7. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Lemme tell you, as a Certified Female, there is nothing I hate more than how "strong" female characters are typically presented because it's ALWAYS like this. It's the absolute worst because there are so many characteristics that can determine strength and they're never on display. It's like an insecure child's idea of what being strong means.
     
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  8. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Is there some Certified Female convention or something where ya'll can speak up, and say, "stop portraying us like this?"

    It's not like the history books lack for examples of strong females. Nor is it unlikely that the average person hasn't known a strong female at some point in their life. So where does this nonsense come from? Unfortunately, I think it's not really about portraying a strong female at all, but just a newer iteration of what is considered a sexy female. Take Lara Croft for example. They supposedly made her more "realistic", but all they really did was make her boobs a little smaller and made her look more like an amateur porn star rather than a pro. I guess her personality wasn't too grating, though I haven't kept up with the newer iterations since the first one in 2012 or whenever that was. IIRC, she just kind of bumbled along as the world collapsed around her (literally), somehow possessing all the skill to take out entire mercenary armies along the way.

    At least the old Lara Croft, being over the top on all accounts, didn't take herself too seriously, so it all seemed like good fun for horny teenage boys. Now the series seems like misguided man-childs explanation of the world, but he still can't shake his old demons, as he remains wholly unaware of them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
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  9. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    That's absolutely right. I didn't want to get too specific, because I think the problem is best confronted as a question of 'adding or removing understanding of reality and how to functionally behave within it' rather than focusing on a trending example. But yes, male and female heroes in games and movies are usually weak, immature characters who wear no scars of any substance, and who fight nothing substantial except for the superficial and illogically constructed demons of their own bored and ill-kept minds.

    For me, the worst signs come from the fact that there are very few if any creative visions of the future that are not dystopian, or which are focused on something larger than some individual battle against an abstract oppressive foe. As a society and culture, our vision of the future, rather than being a collective progression and advancement into the universe along the lines of something like Arthur Clarke's stories, seems to instead be an escapade into the figments of a wretched individual imagination that sees everything as a threat.
     
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  10. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I had a long conversation with my wife some time ago -- don't remember our final conclusion -- but we surmised that dystopian, survivalist futures are more about a deep desire to cast off first-world, depression inducing conditions and get back to a primitive lifestyle that our brains and bodies are evolutionary equipped to expect. So, if that was the case, it's not really an issue of people being scared or defensive, but more just a kind of escapism. Yearning for a simpler existence in which success is simple -- you just keep finding something to eat and fend off the monsters.

    Personally, I kind of like this stuff, but it's certainly over-done, and usually derivative stuff makes no attempt to take the simulation deeper, but rather builds more nonsense on top of stuff that was poorly realized the first time around. You end up with boring crafting that just boils down to player pressing a button to pick up whatever glows and then looking at a menu to see what they are now allowed to build. With all this iteration, we could be using crafting systems that have a player grabbing random junk and fitting it together intuitively, then, without any menus whatsoever, testing to see if it will work the way they expect. The problem is, developing something new and novel is work, and if you don't have a clear vision to do it well, the assumed risk might be enough to frighten you into either resorting to something entirely derivative, or doing a half-assed, semi-version of the novel idea.
     
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  11. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    So, I've filled up almost a whole page just ranting more or less about what I don't like. Sorry. In very short form, I'd say what I'd like to see is more developers, AAA or Indie, grab their cojones and make their dream games exactly how they envision and forget about how it will be received. Chances are, so long as you aren't a total weirdo incapable of communicating with other humans, it's going to find an audience, assuming it is a fully realized version of your dream, and dialed in to a scope you can finish and polish to a fine sheen.

    I really don't care what the games are. I just want to see something different.
     
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  12. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Some kind of sex game where I get to combine DNA and unleash a plague that eventually involves time travel of some sort.
     
  13. Ony

    Ony

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    * taking notes
     
  14. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I think this is true, but I think it is a defensive instinct. To deal with the foe that you instinctively understand, rather than the one you do not. Going by the context of many of today's movies for example, one gets the distinct impression that the hero must be forced into a primitive struggle for survival before they are able to conceive of any kind of meaningful enterprise.

    This is sad, because we don't have the civilization, the freedom and quality of life that we have now, by accident. It's not something natural or spontaneous. It took a very long time to build, it's very young and fragile and constantly faces new challenges. If we as a society cannot develop an ethic or vision of how to behave and take action that will strengthen and evolve it, it will not last long at all.
     
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  15. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I don't think there are any solutions. This isn't a symptom of the gaming industry. Its a symptom of age. Life is most intense as a late teen and through your twenties. Your body and mind are in peak condition. Every experience is new. And you still have high expectations of life in general. This applies to games as much as any other aspect of life. I can look around and still find youths just as intensely engaged in the latest video game product as I was ten years ago. So I don't think the industry has any issues.

    I tend to find myself going back to the same games I played years ago instead. I quite enjoy reliving the glory days of Halo or the original Star Wars Battlefront.

    The other thing I do is tend to play more complex games. I tend to take things slower and prefer massive puzzles to solve, over quick reaction times.
     
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  16. zombiegorilla

    zombiegorilla

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    Phil Foglio?
     
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  17. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Hardcore combat sims without skins and other kids related stuff. Games of today are created for kids not grown ups.
     
  18. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    Good stuff so far, keep 'em coming!

    I tried Life is Strange, didn't even finish the first episode I think. Also tried some Telltale games and didn't like them. Gone Home was ok, but nothing I would consider at anywhere near its full retail price, I got it with a bundle.

    I think Dark Souls is the game I've heard related comments most often about. It's also one of the series that still draws me in reasonably well and from anecdotal evidence that I found it seems many otherwise jaded gamers feel the same way about this series and Bloodborne.

    I love Dark Souls, but The Long Dark was like an impenetrable wall for me. Did not manage to get into it at all. I'll admit Dark Souls took me several tries too before I really appreciated it, but TLD also has an artstyle that I dislike and makes immersion harder for me. Plus I don't like mechanics with a great deal of timers and numbers in them and it felt rather mathematical to me in that sense.

    Those really rub me the wrong way too. As far as I remember the first (rather old now) Tomb Raider movie was one of the worst offenders. One of my favorite female protagonists so far might be Ellie from the first The Last of Us game. Not sure I'd call her "strong", but she was a believable human character to me. I'll probably buy a PS4 to play the second one at some point.

    Had to laugh at the pornstar comparison. Those games are a great example of ludo-narrative-dissonance, but still, I quite liked them. I found "new Lara" much more relatable than Nathan Drake from Uncharted 3 - a game that had me so bored, I really had to force my way through it and it left me with no interest to try any of the older games in the series. But what sold me on the new series was mainly the stealth combat and bow gameplay.

    So you think it's really just "getting old"? Like in the South Park episode with the same title, where Stan starts to hate things he used to like because they start to look and sound like S*** to him? A few years back I've shared that one with a friend of mine who is about a decade older than me and we agreed that it was a pretty good visualization of how we feel about many things. He seems to have found fun a few retro inspired games again like 6DOF shooters and retro FPS games. I used to play those too back in the days, but I don't get much out of "old school" games anymore.
    He often used to joke that I don't actually like games, I just like escapism. And there is some truth to that I guess.
    You're only around ~34 years old right?


    A question to the ~45+ year olds: Does this sound like you've felt ~10 years ago? Or is it something that is felt similarly and regardless of age accross the whole group of people that have seen the development of the games industry since the beginning of the 90s?
     
  19. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    I think it's a mix of having seen most things before so need to be inspired, you get more responsibility when you are older and also making games weirdly puts you off playing them (if you're serious about making them).
     
  20. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    That's true, I'll be lucky if I've played once every couple of weeks since a couple of years ago, and it's not entirely that I have less time. Partly I think it's a case of consciously wanting to drill down on what it is that makes games really meaningful for me, which would be hard to do if I was playing all the time by habit.
     
  21. frosted

    frosted

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    Not to totally go off on the strong female thing, but I gotta throw this in here.

    There is only one director I've ever seen able to do a really good strong female lead: James Cameron.

    His females were the real deal. Ripley in alien was a legit badass. Sarah Conner in T2 was a legit badass. Nobody else has any ***** idea how to do a good female lead.

    In the natural world, a mother protecting her young is often the most aggressive and dangerous example of her species. I've seen a defensive mother stake out territory and attack much larger animals without any fear. This is simply hard wired in many mammals. You don't have to fabricate or stretch to make women strong, you just have to actually look at examples of females actually being strong.

    I don't know why it's so hard to show strong women, but honestly, only Cameron seems to be able to do it without being some kind of awful cliche. Maybe his mom really kicked ass or something.
     
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  22. AcidArrow

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    Cameron didn't direct Alien. Only Aliens.
     
  23. frosted

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    True, my bad. Ripley was a solid character in Alien. That said, I think Sarah Conner was the single best strong female character in any movie to date.

    “Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon,” Cameron went on to say in his Guardian interview. “She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit.”

     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
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  24. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I really want "Clone Simulator" where you play a twisted doctor artificially inseminating women in a lab and the goal is to produce an army of evil minions which you can command to take over the world.

    It sounds silly, but if you actually dug into the science enough to understand how to make a unique game from it, I think I could really enjoy it. First part of the game is trial and error problem solving with hilarious, inconsequential results for failure; second part of game is Rampage with a bunch of freaks.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  25. XCPU

    XCPU

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    Games are pretty easy these days, I haven't broken a keyboard/mouse or controller in over a decade.
     
  26. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Don't derail thread with movie talk please. It's about what kind of single player games can still hook jaded gaming veterans :)
     
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  27. gilley033

    gilley033

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    I second what BIGTIMEMASTER and others have said. I think you are just maturing and not as accepting of less than meaningful experiences. I can't think of a way for you to "overcome" this so that you can go back to playing the games you use to enjoy, nor do I think you should even if there were. You are maturing as a person. Don't fight it. Celebrate it!

    Analyze those games which no longer hold your attention. What is it exactly that you don't like?

    Video games were initially developed in the same vein as other games (board games, sports games, etc.); as a means of having fun. While having fun is certainly a worthy goal, as adults I think we can all agree that there are other meaningful experiences out there. Other forms of art routinely try to capture these alternative experiences, but video games have been slow to follow suit. Personally, I would suggest that is because those other forms of art were here first, and so anyone seeking to capture those experiences naturally gravitates towards art forms where they have found those experiences captured already (in T.V. shows, movies, plays, etc.).

    We have seen more and more studios try and elevate the art form by telling richer stories, which is great. I applaud this and think there is ample space for these types of games. But a video games offer a possibility of immersion that most other forms of art cannot match. A reader reads a book; a movie goer watches a movie. But a video gamer can live the experience! We don't need to imitate books or movies in trying to tell rich character driven stories. In a video game, the player IS the character. Let's create experiences where the action is happening to him/her, not where it's happening to some character that they just happen to control (it's the different between a game like Tomb Raider, where you are controlling Laura, and a game like The Witness, where you are the main character).

    Sorry, I went off on a bit of a tangent, but my point is, I think you should take this opportunity as a game developer to explore your notion of what a video game can be. It might just be that the current form most video games come in is something you cannot accept, and it might be that you find you can do better! I was in the same position as you are now some time ago, playing Diablo 3 when it first came out. After some time playing, I stopped and asked myself what the hell was I getting out of this experience? At first the game was fun, and that was great. But eventually I realized I wasn't actually having fun anymore. I was just sucked into the addictive challenge/reward loop. The game was offering me nothing tangible, and once I realized that, my tolerance for games that rely on similar tactics has been ground down to virtually nothing.

    In summary, don't run from these feelings. Embrace them, analyze them, and use them to grow, both as a person and as a game developer.
     
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  28. CDF

    CDF

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    Tell yourself to play something for only 15-30 minutes a day. Generally I think within that time frame, something meaningful should occur in any game. If it doesn't, stop and pick a new one. If it does, hopefully you'll end up looking forward to playing that game for those brief moments every day and re-assimilate yourself into the gaming matrix.
     
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  29. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Yup. Old enough that I'm only slightly jaded. But I can see the same patterns starting to emerge in my play styles.
     
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  30. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    @Martin-H , to get into a game like Long Dark, i think you have to have a strong interest in the subject to begin with. Perhaps, with a AAA level of visual splendor, it might hook people who otherwise wouldn't care about a survival game, but I doubt that could really draw anybody who flat-out just isn't interested to begin with.

    Main point was, using minimal tools, they created something successful and super enjoyable to their intended audience. What they did different than all the other survival games was they rooted themselves in reality, and stuck to a reasonable scope. So the game feels complete.

    There is a ton of survival games out there of course, but most of them start by bordering on realism, and then just getting goofier and goofier. I think the devs of these types of games probably just didn't do enough research, or got carried away, lost focus, whatever. But Long Dark firmly grounds itself as "the actually realistic survival game", which is something a ton of us have wanted forever.

    Probably one issue a lot of game devs deal with that they don't know they deal with is that they really don't know much about anything. Anything that might be turned into a game, anyway. I mean, look at typical game content. Mountains, wars, monsters, beautiful women.... how many game developers know anything besides working in an office and which bar is the best in their city? A smart person can do research enough to learn about unfamiliar things, but nothing beats actual experience. That's why a lot of AAA developers hire combat veterans to work as advisors. They don't need the soldier to tell them the specs for a machine gun, but how else would they know that in firing a machine gun, so much dust is kicked up into the air that you can't hardly see at all, and that's what the purpose of the assistant gunner is -- to help them stay on target -- and of course feed them ammo. Or how would they know that bullets make a distinct noise when coming towards you, versus going away? (arma is the only game to even attempt this).

    Without ever climbing a mountain, how would a developer know what kind of challenges are really posed? How would they know that eating a piece of cheese can warm you up enough to keep you from getting hypothermia over the night? Without ever traveling cross couuntry, how would they know that something as simple as a big draw full of thick bushes could be a major obstacle that could take days to go around?

    Instead we get mountains where the main danger is the thing crumbling to pieces as you pound an ice axe into solid granite, and you get survival games where the entire world is like a floating city with cliff edges. Traveling involves zero consideration usually, except whether or not a blood-crazed bear will attack you.

    And I know what the critics would say. "But a game about eating cheese to stay alive isn't exciting." But I'd counter, and say, "yes it is. For me it is. And I am a gamer." and games like The Long Dark prove this. Eating cheese to stay alive can be fun. You just have to do it right.

    Point is, if all oyu know is video games, how could you not be stuck making derivative stuff that can only become like caricatures of the stuff you are copying? I think game developers need to get outside and seriously broaden their horizons. Go camping, go dancing, actually talk to women and stop speculating about what they must be like, travel to a place you never wanted to go to, learn fencing, climb a mountain... do something that will challenge you.

    Not saying a developer who wants mountain climbing in their game has to go climb everest, but *if* they want a game rooted in reality to reach that audience who is looking for that authentic experience, developer should recognize their ignorance and consider taking some field trips, engaging with relevant professionals, and so on, so that they can fill their mind with all the little nuances that will really sell the experience to gamers, rather than feeling like typical hollywood nothingness.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
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  31. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    One last thing I hear alot that I think contributes to games that are too stupid for me to enjoy is this : "We tried to implement that feature, but gamers didn't understand."

    There is an article flaoting around about how some guys made a shooting game. They designed some clever AI that would flank the player, but in playtesting the players complained that the AI was cheating and appearing behind them. So they scrapped the feature.

    My thought is, if you scrap every chance to teach the player something, how will they learn anything from your game? Some players want to learn! If your core audience is morons and you want them to stay morons, sure scrap anything new and interesting.

    But there is an audience of people who, if they get flanked by the enemy and killed, and you do a good job of making that enemy tactic discoverable by the player, we will think that was super cool. It's a new challenge we have to overcome. So it's not an issue of design, it's an issue of communication. Rather than scrapping the really cool feature, find a way to make the player see it on their own. I wonder, did they devs try making the enemys call out what they were doing. "Go around on the left!" Did they explain basic infantry tactics in a tutorial? Did they use pop-up reminders for the first handful of battles to show them that enemies will flank the player?

    Making new features is cumbersome. Understanding players is probably something worthy of a dedicated profession. But taking the big risk, I believe, is what is going to keep games from getting stale for the long time players.
     
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  32. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    You mentioned a number of newer games but have you tried playing any older games? There are definitely times where I have the same problem with trying to become engaged with newer titles only to look at older ones and suddenly discover that I have the urge to go back and play them again.

    My immediate thought reading this paragraph went to the following comic. I have to wonder much of if this problem we're having isn't just information overload and that distancing ourselves from as much of it as we can wouldn't help us get back into gaming.

    Dilbert - Work at Home.jpg
     
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  33. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    It's rarely that I'm put off by something specific. It's more that there's not enough to "keep me playing". This could be related to my diminishing attention span or that the games don't offer enough novelty. Playing Fallout 3 was a revelation to me, since I hadn't played any of Bethesda's older open world games before it. It's rare that you get to play a new genre for the first time. That experience can't be endlessly reproduced, there are limits to the possible innovations I believe.

    Probably a good time to mention that I've realized I dropped gamedev a while ago and I'm unlikely to resume any time soon.

    I've doubled down on learning to compose music and have been spending more time with that recently than with gaming I think. I don't want to drop that in favor of gaming, I want to transfer a bigger amount of my idle-internet-browsing time into active-gaming-time, because I believe that to be better for me. And if I still enjoyed gaming like I used to, that should have been a simple task, but I find myself unable to "just do it"™.

    Yes, a while ago I started another playthrough of System Shock 2 that I didn't finish. I remember being slightly disappointed that I wasn't into it as much as I used to be. I have done 2 or 3 complete playthroughs in the past, and I consider it one of my all time favorite games.
    I also started another playthrough of Jagged Alliance 2, which I've probably finished more often than any other game of similar length, but again, I lost interest after a while.
    Red Dead Redemption on the xbox 360 was another one that I tried to replay, but also didn't finish.
    I was gonna buy GTA V for pc at some point (played it on ps3 first), and play through the singleplayer again, but every time it goes on sale I just think "eh, I'll never finish it anyway" and don't even wanna start. And I'm starting to feel that way about most games. I've started to remove things from my steam wishlist, that I was definitely planning to play at some point.
    The Last of Us might be the last game that I actually finished a second playthrough of, I think.

    Sure, might be a factor. If I didn't need to be online daily for my work and had more IRL social contact, I'd try going cold turkey without internet for a month, but it's unfeasible for a freelancer in my position.
    I don't have a smart phone, don't use facebook, and don't read the news, so I'm already on a fairly untypical low-information-diet, but there is lots left to cut out with forums and youtube.

    But it's not like any of that was fundamentally different when I was getting sucked into Fallout 3 and was in a deep flow state where I didn't notice how many hours passed. Christmas 2016 I binge-played the latest Deus Ex and clocked in something like 36 hours of playtime in 3 days. That's the last time I remember being immersed that deeply in a game. I tried to repeat it on Christmas 2017 with Prey, but it didn't work to the same extend. And I don't think it's the game's fault, Prey is great! I still clocked in many hours in few days, but I remember taking more breaks from it and overall being less in a flow state. And with Dishonored 2 I can't even motivate myself to finish it anymore. At least at the moment, I still plan to do it at some point.

    I don't think I've had many singleplayer games where I enjoyed playing them in such short sessions, so that's not an appealing approach to me. When I sit down to play something I usually expect to spend at least an hour with it.

    Many games related things are systemically set up to stagnate it seems. Kudos to everyone who is trying to make smart games for smart players, but I won't be surprised if they fail commercially, since it's hard enough already to stay afloat making games while targeting a lower common denominator audience.
     
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  34. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I think there is two problems there. One : People trying to make game making their living, and Two : always trying to go for the largest audience.

    1 : I think a better approach for small timers is treating the game like a passion project. Like you would building your dream home. You save and plan and when you got everything together, you take thet time off to build your dream. Trying to scratch together a living as a broke artist is no way to build awesome stuff. If you are under stress, your performance goes way down on all accounts. If you are doing something like your life depends on it, it's going to be your worst work, not your best. So I really believe being financially stable so that you can work on a project and not worry at all about whether or not it pays you back is key to making an awesome indie game.

    For instance, if I tried to build my dream game right now, it would be impossible. It's really going to take 5-10 years of working in the industry, saving money, making contacts, and then when I can hire a handful of people and afford to take time off, it's time to make my awesome game which nobody else has ever made. And honestly I don't give a hoot about reception or money. I just want to play the game. However, I got a good feeling there will be a small but rabid following if I do it right.

    This necessitates having the rest of my life in order. I.e. finances and home life, etc. Perhaps thats the biggest struggle. Having all your ducks in a row is really a challenge, and probably largely depends on luck. But I'm very lucky, so I got to make the most of it.

    2 : The largest audience is already totally taken by AAA. That's not an indie audience. People who play indie games are already looking for something different.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  35. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Have you heard of "James Bond"? I hear he's pretty popular, and fits your description perfectly.

    At what point in Aloy's backstory would she learn compassion? Or social skills? And of course she's a better hunter and fighter than anyone else - they ostracised her from birth and gave her nothing to do but practice.

    I agree that there are issues in video game writing, but in the cases of Aloy and Lara Croft I think that blaming a "strong female" archetype is missing the point. I think the underlying problem is a long list of requirements or expectations that those characters need to be written around. Regardless of gender, most video game characters basically need to:
    • be a blank slates for the player to inhabit, and
    • provide a reason for being unusually good at Blowing S*** Up.

    I don't think the problem is the writing. I'm pretty sure it's audience expectations. If we want characters who aren't badass warriors first and foremost then maybe we should look for (or make!) games that aren't 50% combat in the first place?


    - - -


    Ahem.... aaanyway... Horizon managed to keep my attention through to completion by building a pretty decent sense of adventure. A part of that was having a large world filled with interesting stuff and a story that gave my actions "meaning". But I think mostly it was done by constantly keeping a trickle of new stuff to check out. Cool locations, new cultures, different types of enemies, the layering of the two different stories. To be honest, I wasn't that into the first ~3 hours of the game. I only went back to play a second and third time because I wanted to get to the bigger open world to check it out. Until I got there it felt like "Far Cry in 3rd person with robot themed bad guys". Once I got out of the opening area, though, there was constantly something new coming up that I wanted to check out, all the way until the end.

    That's something that a heck of a lot of games don't manage. I play for an hour and I already feel like I've seen it all. Or, worse, I see the description / trailer / screenshots and feel like I've seen it all before I've even started the game.

    The exception to that is "cinematic" games, of which Tomb Raider is a decent enough example. It's just a bunch of cool set pieces thinly veiled in a save-the-world plot to give you an excuse to shoot people. There's nothing new and I don't expect anything new. The whole thing is just "brain candy" - mindless entertainment. But I do expect it to be made very well, flow nicely, and finish before it wears out its welcome.

    These are also things that a heck of a lot of games don't manage. I expect that they're also really hard for small or low-budget games to get right, purely because of the amount of testing and polish that has to happen. It doesn't take much roughness at the edges to distract from the spectacle.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  36. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I don't know, I think there aren't really that many that go for the largest audience, like Nintendo. Something that expects to sell 2 million copies is still niche in the grand scheme of things. And at least for my own tastes there isn't this clear inverse correlation between popularity of games and my enjoyment of them. I really liked GTA and Minecraft, and those sold staggering numbers of copies. On the other hand from the most hardcore games that I know, almost none interest me. I don't think making something just for yourself and skipping playtest sessions with strangers necessarily leads to something "better". I'm all for strong design visions led by a single person, but they still gotta be mindful of "what is fun", or else you get a trainwreck like DayZ standalone..


    That was my impression from what I've seen in trailers too and I don't find that appealing at all.

    I still haven't finished FC4 by the way. We talked about it months ago. Do you think we've lost an element of social pressure to finish games? Like when you'd borrow a Playstation game from a friend s/he kept asking you how you liked it or wanted it back at a certain time, so you'd try and finish it "in time"? Nowadays everyone seems to abandon games left and right and no longer feel bad about it. And with bundles and sales dropping the prices of games, it seems less of a waste too. The perceived value of each game might be going down by the sheer number of available games too. They're not as special anymore. Since Netflix took off I'm probably watching less movies than I used to, and care less about those that I do watch.



    Since I'm increasingly frustrated by PC gaming for various reasons, I'm considering getting myself a PS4 for Christmas and focusing more on console gaming for a while. There's something about going to a dedicated gaming device that I always liked about my other consoles and for singleplayer games I mostly prefer gamepads nowadays anyway.



    Edit: thought I could push through the end in Far Cry 4 and liberated the last 5 outposts and last fortress, but then I realized I still need to do the last story missions -_-.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  37. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I couldn't put more than a couple hours into Horizon because the gameplay was boring and the writing -- both in terms of storytelling and dialogue -- completely turned me off. I see screenshots of really awesome environments later in the game, but I just don't care enough. The game flat out isn't fun for me at all. Not just that, it actually irks me playing it because it pushes so much of the kind of nonsense Billy mentioned. The games narrative feels absolutely at odds with reality -- it's like really, really bad fan fiction. It's a shame because the art and all production values are through the roof, but the core game design and writing totally ruins it (for me).
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  38. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Talking with a friend about similar topics and they made a great analogy:

    Much of the games we see are like genre fiction. It's rare that you ever find any good literature.

    I think, as more mature gamers, we might be looking for something more akin to literature. Stuff with more substance, more thought put into it. I like my trashy fiction, but if I know the end of the book and can guess the big twist two chapters in, it just can't hold my attention.

    So maybe my issues with Horizon went deeper than Aloy being unlikeable and the dialogue being cringey. It probably had more to do wiht the fact that one hour in, it looked like every other game I had played ever, despite the new setting.
     
  39. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I think one of the reasons why old games are being praised to this day, is that they were created before "genres" got deeply entrenched and a much bigger percentage of games where new unexplored concepts or at least added a considerable twist to something familiar. Like Syndicate, or Crusader: No Remorse. What similar games where there before them (not saying there aren't, just that I don't know any, which for the sake of discussing how innovative something feels at the time, might as well be the same).

    There was a spiritual successor to Syndicate called Satellite Reign (made with Unity), that really gripped me with its fresh spin on familiar concepts and settings, and influences from other classic old games like Commandos (that's what inspired some of its features, almost more than the original Syndicate imho).

    I wonder why there never was a spiritual successor to the two Crusader games? Or have I missed one? As far as I can tell they were successful and had their fans, I don't understand why this didn't get rebooted. Seems like something that is screaming for a Kickstarter project to me.
     
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  40. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Maybe we can blame AAA a bit for stifling creativity and novelty by getting gamers accustomed to games designed to deliver them instant gratification above all else.

    I think love of instant gratification is something more prevalent in kids, like 20 and younger, which is probably the bulk of game players. I don't really know. I heard once the average gamer was 30 -- maybe I'm just like a crotchety old man -- but I feel almost all games are targeted somewhere way below my maturity level. I really just want games like chess. Something simple to get into but with endlessly deep gameplay and challenge.I've found myself playing Counter Strike a bit lately, but the thing with online games is that you have to deal with annoying people.
     
  41. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    As I have gotten older I have more and more favored games with very complex systems. For example, I used to like playing the Civilization series, but now it feels like a baby's game. Instead now I prefer games like Europa Universalis IV and Crusader Kings II to scratch the same itch Civ used to, as these are far more complex games.

    Also, don't try to hand hold me through a tutorial, just drop me into the dang game and let me sink or swim. Any game that forces me through a tutorial level gets immediately uninstalled. If I have trouble on my first few tries, I am aware of this magical answer machine called Google, I don't need the game itself blocking me from playing the game to try to teach the game to me first.

    I'm also fine with being punished severely for failure. Not single player, but the same idea is playing with friends in PUBG. So our squad drops in, and I immediately get killed..... Now I have to wait 20+ minutes to get back in while the rest of my squad plays without me. That sounds horrible, but it actually improves the game experience by making success in the game all that more enjoyable. When you win it actually feels like a real achievement.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  42. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I agree with the gameplay to begin with. As mentioned, I only went back to it initially because I specifically wanted to check out the larger open world section. As a game it wasn't engaging until a while in.

    With regards to the story and writing and characterisation... In most games that's all just a designed feature with the purpose of tying the various mechanics together and telling you what to do next. Great writing wasn't ever the point. The game fundamentally boils down to "cavemen fight giant robots". That's what I signed up for when I handed over my cash. If I were looking for a deep story or meaningful characters or thought-provoking speculative fiction then I was looking in the wrong place. And, arguably, if the game focused too much on those things it would have detracted from the whole "cavemen fight giant robots" thing.

    If good writing is an important part of a game for you then blockbuster combat games are not where you should be looking. If the story is important then I suggest specifically looking for games where the story is the game, rather than just an explanatory framework for the mechanics.
     
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  43. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    For me, story is there to provide meaning to actions. It doesn't matter how simple or complex the mechanics are. Take Mass Effect 2 for example, it's just a pretty standard cover shooter, but the story makes the actions feel like something more than just mashing buttons.

    I don't think it's necessary to have really complex mechanics to insert a good story. And I think it's great when you have a context for taking these simple actions that you can really immerse yourself in.
     
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  44. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    It's not an argument of theory I'm trying to make, I am saying their execution was so awful it immediately makes me drop the game.

    It was precisely that they tried to do more than "caveman fights robot dinosaurs" that make it irksome. Cavemen fighting robot dinosaurs was all I wanted. I wanted simple people with simple, literal dialogue talking about problems of fighting robot dinosaurs. Not all this hyper contrived bullshit with such strong SJW undercurrents that I, who many might describe as militantly progressive, could not stomach it.

    I am neither for nor against stories in video games. It's just that, if they are going to be there, they need to not be so terribly done that it cannot be ignored. There's plenty of games that have stories that fit perfectly into the game and can either be ignored, or sometimes enjoyed. Borderlands was pretty enjoyable for the dialogue. Old school Ghost Recon games nailed the Tom Clancy theme perfectly. The Last of Us, I don't believe is so great as people make it out to be, but for a story game it was better than anything else as it remained believable the whole time. Halo the original had a great story. Subsequent games got weirder and weirder just like the Matrix movies. It's just a matter of execution.

    And when I say story, I am really talking about the entire presentation. One of the things that immediately made me realize Horizon was going to not be a game I'd enjoy was when you had the young boy leaping around on the cliffs which weren't normal cliffs but a Tomb Raider like obstacle course, and then you have to go rescue him after he falls. You get this big tutorial explaining all these gadgets you have to see the robots and track where they are going and what their disposition is, but then when you are given freedom you can literally just walk straight to the objective. Like, it's 2018. We've seen "sneak past the guards walking in circles" a thousand times. We know what to do. We don't need the magical visor, and we certainly don't need the main character further explaining it with every step, and then the dopey kid who fell 300 feet only to sprain his ankle saying stuff like, "how are you doing this?" I'm just walking in a straight line and kneeling in tall grass! How is this impressive you twit?!
     
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  45. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    That scene I described in Horizon Dawn; I might enjoy it a lot more if it looked like this :

    A kid is carefully walking on a steep path above the robots and he's sweating and trembling because he doesn't want to be seen. He loses his footing and falls. No ridiculous leaping around like a monkey in the trees. It's just a narrow path and he loses his footing due to being scared stupid by the machines. Immediately player gets a sense that the machines are very dangerous, rather than getting a sense that everybody in this game is an idiotic superhero. Dangerous enemy = challenge I want to overcome.

    Then the machines, having actual decent sensory functions, immediately detect the fallen boy and move in to murder him. Because they're evil. But Aloys father says, "quick, I'll make a distraction, you get the boy," and he runs off whooping and making a scene. All the machines take after father and Aloy dashes for the boy, but on the way she splashes through a creek and the loud noise alerts a straggling machine. So you teach the player that loud noises attract the machines. Aloy dives behind a rock, then the task becomes to get past a single machine, and it would be hard because the machine has much greater senses than the default game. Hard enough that the average player would die a few times before learning how to get around the machine and save the boy.

    So that is a game experience that would draw me, a mature gamer, into the story rather than reject me. It's simple, believable, and makes me respect the game, rather than laugh at it.
     
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  46. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Sure, but it also doesn't respect the rules that the rest of the game works with, thus defeating the point as a part of the tutorial portion of the game. And the tutorialisation was pretty clearly their priority, there.

    This is exactly what I was referring to earlier with the list of requirements and/or expectations I mentioned. (That post was way longer before I slashed it down.) It's not that writers are terrible or that they think this stuff is quality writing. It's that the writing is one feature among many, it has to serve a specific purpose, and there are constraints dictated by the other things it has to work with and around. Fair enough if you can't stand it and choose to do other things, there's other stuff that would make me do the same.
     
  47. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    That's the thing, the entire game is designed in a way that I feel, is stupid. I totally get that an audience that I am not a part of likes it. But this thread is about jaded, mature gamers, which I think I can identify as.

    So yeah, I thought Horizon was beautiful and of course I wanted to get into an action game about robot dinosaurs with slick controls and high production values, but when the game is asking me to suspend disbelief ten times a second, I just can't get into it at all. You know?

    I want to believe that I'm a robot dinosaur hunter. That's all I wanted. I don't want a tale about an unrealistic girl with a chip on her shoulder, told in a super contrived, you-cant-guess-the-twist-because-it-doesnt-even-make-sense fan fiction fashion. I don't want a robot dinosaur hunter game to put the robot dinosaurs in the rear view mirror and try to make some half-thought-through points about social injustice. What gives? Is that the time or the place? No, it's not. I want to play a game, that's all.

    If the dev's really had some deep and meaningful point to make about society and could leverage the primitive people aspect in a way to tell it, sure that's great. That might be what you'd call good writing. But they tried to force an out of place narrative into a game it didn't belong in. That's what I mean when I say "bad writing". It's not a knock on the individual writers, more just on the overall design.

    Anyway, enough hating on Horizon Zero Dawn which was, by most metrics, a great game -- but it is also a great example of thet type of game jaded gamers like myself cannot enjoy in spite of all its merit. The more games I see like Horizon, the more I say, "eh, gamings just for kids."
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  48. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I haven't played the game, but I would have said it's probably just the difficulty of wrangling a story into a game per se, as well as the possibility that game studios just see story as so much wasted effort when they'd rather be focusing on addiction loops and IAP or some other such thing.

    The only problem with that theory though is that if you go to the local bookstore and flip through the latest scifi/fantasy stuff, it's very much the same and they have none of those constraints or priorities.
     
  49. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Yeah, I don't think its the issue of merging story into game. Most of the time it just boils down to really awful dialogue, or basic beginner writing no-no stuff like trying to make some big dramatic change before we even know who anybody is, let alone care about them. There is plenty of examples of games that seamlessly blend story into the gameplay -- I don't think it's a mystery any major studios shouldn't be able to solve.

    The big companies are hiring the best artist, animators, programmers, but it seems like they are using the cheapest, unproven writers when it comes to story and dialogue. So when they put story front and center, it really shows.

    I'm always praising The Long Dark like a fan boy, but there's a low budget indie game that actually told a decent story. It isn't something you are going to carry with you through the ages or anything, but it's interesting, stays within its scope, feels appropriate, and isn't full of annoying characters and cringey dialogue. Game stories really don't need to be anything special. They just need to be serviceable. I think, a lot of times, that means "don't try to make the story special." Just tell a basic story with at least one character we can root for. That's all.

    The Last of Us, for example, is a very simple story. It's like, zombie story 101 level. Nothing clever there. But you have a few characters who feel real, and the story is metered out with storytelling skill. You study any basic "how to write novels" books and you can see all the basic, tried and true storytelling methods at work there. So it becomes a gaming classic.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
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  50. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
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    That may be a part of it. I think another part is that the story just isn't often given priority, and is instead added afterwards to a thing made with little or no consideration for it. I found this article particularly enlightening.

    Back to the thread's point, personally I think this highlights the issue. Once the game gets going I think the narrative is fine. It's just the opening section I thought dragged, but that's no good for people who've already moved on. With mature / jaded gamers in mind I think a really importnat thing is to not drag out your game's intro. Just get to the point. If you don't there's other games we could be playing.

    As a counter-example, I think The Witcher 3 pretty much nailed it. I got that game just to see what everyone was raving about. I did not intend to complete it. I played the first quest, which was also the game's tutorial, and just didn't stop. "You're a monster hunter looking for your daughter. Here's how you hunt monsters." Which led straight into "here's a clue about that daughter thing", which led straight back to "the world's full of monsters!" Just like in Horizon that intro section did include some social commentary, and it did take pains to set up the kind of no-win dilemma that Witcher stories typically hinge upon. But unlike Horizon's opening sections it didn't feel like I was being kept from the real game around the corner.