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Author Topic: A Theory of Fun  (Read 37520 times)
Aenovae
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on: January 19, 2005, 03:23:03 AM

This post is not so much a proper critique of the book, but a "review" to would-be buyers.

I found it to be woefully short and lacking in anything new that professional designers (or educated would-be designers) wouldn't already know.  The cartoons are cute, but they mostly serve as padding to make the book seem longer than it really is.

The first half of the book is just a long-winded way of saying, "People like solving patterns, games are patterns, so people like games."  Along the way, it mentions shockers like, "different people are better at learning different patterns," and "some people cheat, which is self-defeating."

The second half of the book goes off-topic occasionally with ideas like, "the graphics and setting of a game are different from its gameplay."  Worse, the second half is dominated by a "games are art, or will be some day, they're important, they're part of human nature just like other media, MY JOB BENEFITS HUMANITY, TAKE THAT GRANDPA!" diatribe.  No, I did not make up that grandpa bit.

Maybe the book was written for people who know squat about games, or for those who hate the medium (like Grandpa).  I don't think either of those groups is going to pick up a book called “A Theory of Fun” that analyzes the reasons we play games.

Maybe the book was written for experienced designers, in which case they will be very disappointed to know that it offers no explanation on how to apply whatever it is trying to teach.  As an example, the book briefly suggests that one could categorize all games into atomic units of gameplay (i.e. fun).  These atoms would be things like aiming, moving to all locations on a map, defensive reflex response, etc.  Unfortunately for the reader, the book does not provide a well thought-out list in defense of this idea.  I guess that's an exercise left up to the reader.

Maybe the book is just harmless mental masturbation, like Terra Nova?  That's my vote.

It's clear that Raph has a lot of great ideas swirling around in his head.  Unfortunately, this book does not present them (or does not present them well) to the reader.
geldonyetich
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Reply #1 on: January 19, 2005, 01:55:30 PM

Well, if knowing your audience is good to set a tone of argument, then you've certainly nailed that review posted here.   It's just what a jaded cynic wants to hear.

My own rather long winded review has probably missed the point as well.

Raph's Theory argues that games need to innovate in order to present new patterns for players to Grok (learn in entirety), as it's the process of successfully groking that generates fun.    This is of vital importance if you actually have tried to program fun into a computer because the question of, "What is supposed to make this fun?" comes up constantly.   Here Raph hands you "what's fun" (or at least his Theory about that) on a silver platter.   Then attempts to fully explain how people like to have fun presented due to the way people's brains seem to work.    There's a few other ideas about here why certain things do or don't work that many in the industry had to learn the hard way.   The book ends on some interesting notes as to what all this means to all of humanity if people could develop games with the proper perspective of being learning exercises at heart.   Yeah, he's proud to say that when he signed up as a game designer he ended up as a cutting edge teacher, so what?

I respectfully disagree with your shooting it down as not having a point or not being useful to developers.   Though you've good reason to be disappointed if you were hoping he would be outlining specific game designs instead of general game theory.    Personally, I can take what he's talking about and use it in the construction of new game designs by asking myself questions such as, "Is this really anything the player hasn't already grokked before?".   It help me realize what I felt was missing from my NWN mods: new patterns, new ways to play through a scenario that can exhilerate the player.    This, along with the outlined specifics of how it works exactly, is where you can pull practicality from the book.

Pineapple
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Reply #2 on: January 19, 2005, 02:42:05 PM

Quote from: Aenovae

I found it to be woefully short and lacking in anything new that professional designers (or educated would-be designers) wouldn't already know.  


Common sense. That's all it is. And yet SWG still sucked.
HRose
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Reply #3 on: January 19, 2005, 02:44:00 PM

I'm still trying to find the time to read it but I've been foced to read Don DeLillo's "Underworld" and it has "just" 900 pages ...

My first quick glance is still http://www.cesspit.net/drupal/node/410">here.

I'll probably wrote more about it when noone will be interested.

-HRose / Abalieno
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Margalis
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Reply #4 on: January 19, 2005, 03:01:29 PM

Quote from: geldonyetich
Raph's Theory argues that games need to innovate in order to present new patterns for players to Grok (learn in entirety), as it's the process of successfully groking that generates fun.  Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah...


So...let me get this straight. Things that are interesting and novel are interesting and novel, and that's a good thing?

Raph, from what I have seen, pays no attention to detail. It shows up in his games, it's not surprising it would show up in his books as well. The problem with grand theories of this and that is that if you botch all the details you have nothing.

I don't think you need an entire book to explain to people that new things are interesting and old, tired things are not. What would be nice is some actual breakdown:

Here are some games that tried to do something new but really didn't.
Here are some games that did something new, but it wasn't good and here's why.
Here are some games that didn't do anything new but were still good, and here's the explanation.
Here are some ways you could morph some existing mechanics to make them newish.

Etc etc. IMO the vast majority of overly vague noodling is just nonsense. Illustration through example and details shows that someone has really thought about what they are saying.

vampirehipi23: I would enjoy a book written by a monkey and turned into a movie rather than this.
Pineapple
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Reply #5 on: January 19, 2005, 03:42:08 PM

Quote from: Margalis

Etc etc. IMO the vast majority of overly vague noodling is just nonsense.


Agreed.

But it makes the fanbois swoon, and feeds the ego of the red name.
Samwise
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Reply #6 on: January 19, 2005, 03:52:24 PM

I rather liked Raph's "heuristic of fun" (my words, not his):

Quote
Do you have to prepare before taking on the challenge?
Can you prepare in different ways and still succeed?
Does the environment in which the challenge takes place affect the challenge?
Are there solid rules defined for the challenge you undertake?
Can the rule set support multiple types of challenges?
Can the player bring multiple abilities to bear on the challenge?
At high levels of difficulty, does the player have to bring multiple abilities to bear on the challenge?
Is there skill involved in using an ability? (If not, is this a fundamental "move" in the game, like moving one checker piece?
Are there multiple success states to overcoming the challenge? (In other words, success should not have a single guaranteed result.)
Do advanced players get no benefit from tackling very easy challenges?
Does failing at the challenge at the very least make you have to try again?


Taken individually, each thing seems like obvious common sense, but it was neat to have that list laid out in front of me.  It gives me something new to think about when writing adventures and encounters for PnP games.

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
Aenovae
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Reply #7 on: January 19, 2005, 04:37:21 PM

That is a good list.

MMORPGs are massive games with lots of features, so if you were to apply a list like the above, I think you have to apply it to a specific feature or activity.  It's interesting to note that EverQuest (2) satisfies most of those questions about combat.

Do you have to prepare before taking on the challenge?
Yes, you need to buff up, organize the group, determine roles (main tank, main assist, mezzer, etc), and declare strategy ("kill the three casters before fighting the boss")

Can you prepare in different ways and still succeed?
Not really, the game encourages everyone to wear the best equipment they have at all times, and buff up fully before 99% of the battles.  Only 1% of the battles require use of emergency items or abilities.

Does the environment in which the challenge takes place affect the challenge?
No, the terrain does not significantly affect encounters. (besides pulling around trees, and the fact that different areas have different mobs)

Are there solid rules defined for the challenge you undertake?
Yes, combat is predictable and deterministic to a degree.  Players know what they can do and what to expect from the game.

Can the rule set support multiple types of challenges?
Yes, you basically quest, fight, and explore. Combat is against different types of foes (melee, caster, group, spawner) in different configurations.

Can the player bring multiple abilities to bear on the challenge?
Yes, players have lots of combat arts and spells.

At high levels of difficulty, does the player have to bring multiple abilities to bear on the challenge?
Yes.  You have to use most of them in normal fights, and boss fights require all of them (especially the emergency ones on 30-minute timers)

Is there skill involved in using an ability? (If not, is this a fundamental "move" in the game, like moving one checker piece?
Yes, you need to know when to mez and when not to mez.  You need to know which buffs stack with others and which do not. You need to know which abilities break mez, you need to know your AoE range, etc.

Are there multiple success states to overcoming the challenge? (In other words, success should not have a single guaranteed result.)
No, every battle has one success condition: you kill all the mobs in the encounter.  Some quests have multiple ways of completing them, but these are very rare.

Do advanced players get no benefit from tackling very easy challenges?
Yes, killing low level mobs nets very little or zero exp.

Does failing at the challenge at the very least make you have to try again?
Yes, but the player can pick from tons of different challenges at any time.  A few quests are required and must be completed eventually.
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #8 on: January 19, 2005, 04:49:44 PM

Quote from: Samwise
I rather liked Raph's "heuristic of fun" (my words, not his):

Quote
Do you have to prepare before taking on the challenge?
Can you prepare in different ways and still succeed?
Does the environment in which the challenge takes place affect the challenge?
Are there solid rules defined for the challenge you undertake?
Can the rule set support multiple types of challenges?
Can the player bring multiple abilities to bear on the challenge?
At high levels of difficulty, does the player have to bring multiple abilities to bear on the challenge?
Is there skill involved in using an ability? (If not, is this a fundamental "move" in the game, like moving one checker piece?
Are there multiple success states to overcoming the challenge? (In other words, success should not have a single guaranteed result.)
Do advanced players get no benefit from tackling very easy challenges?
Does failing at the challenge at the very least make you have to try again?


Taken individually, each thing seems like obvious common sense, but it was neat to have that list laid out in front of me.  It gives me something new to think about when writing adventures and encounters for PnP games.


Ok, it's a decent set of questions to ask, but you still can't say "if 80% of the answers to these questions are Yes. congratulations,  your game is Fun!"

I tend to agree with what some others have said; you can be spot on in your theory of what is fun from a design point of view, but the rubber meets the road at the implementation of the concept.  This is tangentially related to my thread on NWN's SP game vs Kotor.  You can take the same underlying engine and gameplay elements and end up with two totally different experiences based on nothing more than how one group implemented their design compaed to the other.

I guess that's where the creative/artistic part of game design comes in :)

Xilren

"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
Samwise
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Reply #9 on: January 19, 2005, 05:10:34 PM

I may have misrepresented Raph a bit, so I apologize - reading over the context again, Raph warns that the checklist is "not an algorithm for fun, it's a recipe for checking for the absence of fun".  Which is what I had mentally shorthanded into "heuristic of fun" before copying the list out for my own reference.

So no, you wouldn't say "My game hits 80% of these, it's fun."  You'd say "My game missed 20% of these, I screwed up somewhere."  If you were to try to redesign EQ2 according to the standards Raph set out on that page of his book, you'd have to fix all three of those "no"s without compromising any of your existing "yes"es.

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #10 on: January 19, 2005, 07:00:07 PM

Quote from: Samwise
I may have misrepresented Raph a bit, so I apologize - reading over the context again, Raph warns that the checklist is "not an algorithm for fun, it's a recipe for checking for the absence of fun".  Which is what I had mentally shorthanded into "heuristic of fun" before copying the list out for my own reference.

So no, you wouldn't say "My game hits 80% of these, it's fun."  You'd say "My game missed 20% of these, I screwed up somewhere."  If you were to try to redesign EQ2 according to the standards Raph set out on that page of his book, you'd have to fix all three of those "no"s without compromising any of your existing "yes"es.


That I can agree with.

Xilren

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rscott
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Reply #11 on: January 19, 2005, 07:37:26 PM

Do they make the claim that the ONLY way to have fun is through solving patterns/puzzles?  I'm sure i've had fun in other circumstances...

It seems to me that things can be fun without having to solve puzzles.  Games even.  Especially RPG games.
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Reply #12 on: January 19, 2005, 07:51:14 PM

Quote from: rscott
Do they make the claim that the ONLY way to have fun is through solving patterns/puzzles?


No.  Far from it, in fact.

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
Raph
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Reply #13 on: January 19, 2005, 08:10:49 PM

I learned a while ago that responding to reviews is generally a waste of time. If this were a detailed critique, maybe. :)

The atomic units of gameplay thing is my GDC design talk this year, so expect more on that.

A lot of the people who have picked up the book are in fact not game designers.

I also disagree that there's no parts that provide help with formal application, but YMMV.

Quote from: Aenovae

Can you prepare in different ways and still succeed?
Not really, the game encourages everyone to wear the best equipment they have at all times, and buff up fully before 99% of the battles.  Only 1% of the battles require use of emergency items or abilities.


I would say "yes," because you can bring a different character to the combat and still succeed. A different character is by definition different preparation.

Quote
Does the environment in which the challenge takes place affect the challenge?
No, the terrain does not significantly affect encounters. (besides pulling around trees, and the fact that different areas have different mobs)


The latter is enough to meet the conditions. Also, I would say that fighting in a dungeon versus fighting in open space does matter.

Quote
Are there multiple success states to overcoming the challenge? (In other words, success should not have a single guaranteed result.)
No, every battle has one success condition: you kill all the mobs in the encounter.  Some quests have multiple ways of completing them, but these are very rare.


Having been hurt not at all or brought to death's door is an example of multiple success states.

A better example to try is to dissect crafting systems.

• Preparation is required. Ever since the days of Ultima Online, we’ve relied on “getting the right pieces” to provide the fun in crafting. So we’ve done well on the “preparation is required” aspect of things as far as crafting goes. BUT: Preparation in itself ideally follows all of these rules recursively (eg, we should regard the harvesting mechanic as needing to follow all of these rules in and of itself). By and large, we have not done that. We also have usually failed to take full advantage of the “preparation should be able to take multiple forms” part of this—we have by and large gone with static ingredients for static results.

  • A sense of place is required. This is highly underexploited in crafting systems today. Different locales providing different advantages and disadvantages to crafting was explored a bit in Star Wars Galaxies, but has not been addressed much by and large.

  • A solid core mechanic. By and large, we’ve relied on simple combination. That’s not an interesting ruleset in and of itself—it shifts all the burden of fun onto the preparation. We need a mechanic that “fights back” as AIs do in combat. This is the core of the issue with crafting. It is currently on the order of moving a single checker piece, as opposed to playing checkers.

  • A range of challenges. This is, simply put, the range of possible craftables. However, it’s worth noting that since the solid core mechanic is missing, the range of challenges is not generally significantly interesting. The different items (as “opponents”) do not have different abilities or skill to use against you except for perhaps a variable failure rate.

  • A range of abilities required to solve the encounter. This is usually true to a degree, but currently, most crafting systems do not require interdependence between players at the actual crafting step. Instead, they put all of that in the resource gathering step. The abilities needed are part of the preparatory step, since there’s no explicit use of ability during crafting itself. Requiring multiple individuals working together to create something has best been expressed by pizza-making in Sims Online, and has hardly been used anywhere else.

  • Skill in using the abilities is required. This is missing altogether in most cases. There’s a minor amount of gambling in SWG’s crafting system, but that’s about it. Lacking a core, there’s no way to use abilities. A good core mechanic is going to provide scope for use of abilities, and for skillful application of those abilities.

  • A variable feedback system should be in place.  In most cases, we do not do this. Currently, success almost always gives you exactly what you want. This means that crafting an item is actually simpler than moving a checker piece, which has multiple possible outcomes.

  • The Mastery Problem must be dealt with. This problem crushes most online game crafting systems, as high level crafters completely block the market to lower levels players.

  • Failure has a cost. This, we usually do.
rscott
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Reply #14 on: January 19, 2005, 09:12:07 PM

Quote from: Samwise
Quote from: rscott
Do they make the claim that the ONLY way to have fun is through solving patterns/puzzles?


No.  Far from it, in fact.


Well, judging from this list of 'heuristic of fun', it would seem to be the opposite.  It must follow his list or its not fun.
Raph
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Reply #15 on: January 19, 2005, 09:15:36 PM

The book spends a lot of pages on pinning down what "fun" is, so your question isn't easy to answer.
Samwise
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Reply #16 on: January 19, 2005, 09:20:01 PM

Quote from: rscott
Quote from: Samwise
Quote from: rscott
Do they make the claim that the ONLY way to have fun is through solving patterns/puzzles?


No.  Far from it, in fact.


Well, judging from this list of 'heuristic of fun', it would seem to be the opposite.  It must follow his list or its not fun.


The list applies to a certain subset of game design and fun; it's not the whole thing, or the book would be pretty short, wouldn't it?  I'm not going to sit here and paraphrase the whole book for you, so here.

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
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Reply #17 on: January 19, 2005, 09:25:23 PM

Quote from: Raph
\  • A solid core mechanic. By and large, we’ve relied on simple combination. That’s not an interesting ruleset in and of itself—it shifts all the burden of fun onto the preparation. We need a mechanic that “fights back” as AIs do in combat. This is the core of the issue with crafting. It is currently on the order of moving a single checker piece, as opposed to playing checkers.


No, you really don't. In fact, the horrendous system in EQ2 is testament to this - I don't want to die or have harm caused to me by crafting. Generally, the nonviolent type will play the crafter. If they have to worry about getting hurt while participating in one of the more social aspects of the game, I would wager they are more likely to just walk away and find something else.

I would be far more interested in a treasure hunting system in an interesting game world. Or gardening. I'd like a garden where I can make herbs for alchemy. Hopefully this will be an option on the floating islands of Tabula Rasa.

As a crafter:

• I do not want drops off mobs to be useful to combat-types immediately.

• I want crafting to be my lifestyle in the game. I do not and should not expect to be good at combat.

• As per the above, I do not want 'jack of all trades" to be a possibility like it was in SW:G. Example (before nerfs): near Master Merchant, Master Smuggler, Pistoleer, and Medic. I was the [un]holy trinity all wrapped into one. That shouldn't be possible.

• I don't want to rely on combat types to bring me crafting goods. I'd rather be good at evasio and find my herbs, ore, oil, etc - On My Own.

• I don't want crafting to be a chore...a second-thought...the Other System - particularly when a child can come up with the combat systems that most suits pitch as "inventive." There's nothing inventive about shit that was in MUDs 20 years ago.

• I don't expect everything I make to be even remotely useful to me.

• I want to open shop somewhere in a game and call it home. I don't want there to be merchants. SW:G was very, VERY good about this. It was probably the most inspired idea in the game UNTIL urban sprawl hit. Which unfortunately did not take long.

• I want to be self-sufficient.

• I want to have the ability to work in a mall-type area, like a player-city, or be a loner selling stuff out of a suitcase in a dungeon - like potions. Much like the merchant in Resident Evil 4 - but he only sells overpriced potions. That's horribly annoying and a topic for another story.

• I don't ever want to have to participate in PvP and I'd like a flag that doesn't put me on either side of the fence. If I want to hawk my goods to Imperials, Rebels, the Alliance or Horde - it should be an option. America does it. I should be able to in a game.

• I don't want to deal with cycling resources. It was cute at first in SW:G. Then it became a job. Stupid, stupid idea.

• I want to deal with hunting down resources. If I need to wander out to a tree in the middle of Yavin 4 for a seed, when I bring it back home, I should be able to plant the seed and be self-sufficient. No one else should be able to rob my tree as well - since I won't be good at combat.

• If making merchants a part of PvP - in a Fable sort of way - is necessary, I want the ability to hire armed guards from either faction who can protect me in enemy territory. As for home, I want the ability to put down something akin to bear traps around my seedling, or whatever.

Basically - crafting is ass, ATiTD is the only game going in the right direction - but it gets boring. It's time to go back to the drawing board on it. At the same time, I hope the drawing board for a skill-based combat system is making progress. I can guarantee you, no game is going to be able to do it as fun as City of Heroes does. They've won that race. Next.

Edit: To add - I'm not a crafter most of the time. Though I always try it out hoping for something interesting. The best places to look for good crafting are character types already in games. The merchants in Planescape or RE4. The games in Animal Crossing. ATiTD. There's a wealth of resources out there - and not a single one fo the MMOG designers today seem to be paying attention.
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Reply #18 on: January 19, 2005, 09:31:17 PM

Ooooh, I missed the last 2 bullet points, scrolled too fast:

Quote
• The Mastery Problem must be dealt with. This problem crushes most online game crafting systems, as high level crafters completely block the market to lower levels players.

• Failure has a cost. This, we usually do.


1. Guilds need to be of limited size. I don't mean should - NEED. And there should be no alliances. Also, raids and required grouping - EQ2 is the extreme and WoW is the minimum. All the bases have been covered. Time for a new mechanic.

2. Failure should do nothing more than lose a small percentage of the resources. It adds up over time. People hate salt in fresh wounds.
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Reply #19 on: January 19, 2005, 09:41:42 PM

Quote from: schild
Quote from: Raph
We need a mechanic that “fights back” as AIs do in combat. This is the core of the issue with crafting. It is currently on the order of moving a single checker piece, as opposed to playing checkers.


No, you really don't. In fact, the horrendous system in EQ2 is testament to this - I don't want to die or have harm caused to me by crafting.


I don't think "fighting back" necessarily means that you take damage if you lose.  It just means that the act of crafting should involve some sort of interactive challenge.  In SWG, the act of crafting an item, given a big stack of resources to start with, could be completely scripted because the crafting process never offered any sort of variety or challenge.

I heard that EQ2 has some sort of crafting minigame (along with the chance of incinerating yourself in your forge or something silly like that, which I assume is a separate beast entirely, and the one that you take issue with, schild), but not having played it, I can't comment on whether the minigame is successful to any degree in making crafting more engaging.

Quote
Or gardening. I'd like a garden where I can make herbs for alchemy.


That sounds immensely fun to me for some reason.  Maybe because the thing I liked most in SWG was decorating my shop.  Combine that small potential for artistic expression with some nicely rendered plants, maybe some artificial life underpinnings to make it behave like a real garden, then add a goal to it in the form of crafting.... *drool*

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
rscott
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Reply #20 on: January 19, 2005, 09:57:34 PM

But even involving some 'intereactive challenge' is what i asked.  Only if you want the game to be fun in a 'certain' way.  It can certainly be fun without having that challenge.  Fun<>challenge.  Nor does it require it.

Though perhaps I am reading too much into it.  Perhaps he isn't saying it must have a challenge, or it isn't fun.  Maybe putting challenge in is the poor mans way of making something fun.  Easy to do if you can't think of anything else.
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Reply #21 on: January 19, 2005, 09:59:45 PM

Quote from: Samwise
That sounds immensely fun to me for some reason.  Maybe because the thing I liked most in SWG was decorating my shop.  Combine that small potential for artistic expression with some nicely rendered plants, maybe some artificial life underpinnings to make it behave like a real garden, then add a goal to it in the form of crafting.... *drool*


I've laid out a lot of design mechanisms for shit like that. I've thought it through and made sure it sounds fun when I talk about it. I could go into more - but No One Is Paying Me to Give Them Good Ideas. I'll just keep laughing when they make me place harvesters - or whatever replacement the next game might have.
Margalis
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Reply #22 on: January 19, 2005, 10:12:23 PM

IMO, the key to all *lasting* fun is interactive decision making. Tic tac toe isn't fun once you figure out that you will always draw. There is zero decision making process at that point. Decision making in crafting is typically non-existent. There is no strategy or tactics or any sort of real decision making involved. You just decide what to craft, then craft it.

From what I understand SWG crafting is at least a bit different in that you have some room to experiment.

People want choices non-trivial choices. That's what defines fun games to a large degree. I have at least two things I can do, and it isn't brain-dead obvious which one is best.

Challenge is related to that, but it's not the same thing. It doesn't have to be hard. It can be creative or personal expression. But you have to be actively involved.

Most crafting systems, and most combat systems, either have no choices, or have a set of choices that easily reduce to one. (In game theory terms you could talk about having a single Nash equilibrium or something like that - all your supposed decisions are strictly less than the one best set) Not having any choices is bad, and having only trivially easy choices is not a huge step up.

Wack-a-mole is not true interaction. Decisions are interaction.

Edit: There is one question you have to ask yourself always, just one:
At every step in the process, is the player making non-trivial decisions?

And, if you are making a MMORPG, the second most important question:
How are players going to abuse this?

vampirehipi23: I would enjoy a book written by a monkey and turned into a movie rather than this.
Samwise
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Reply #23 on: January 19, 2005, 11:30:18 PM

Quote from: Margalis
From what I understand SWG crafting is at least a bit different in that you have some room to experiment.


Pssch.  "Experiment" was the most horribly deceptive word they could have used to describe that process.  It consists of clicking a couple of buttons to roll dice to see if your item's stats improve.  The dice are weighted by how much XP you've ground out (if you're a master you get 10 dice, if not you get 1, or something like that... I vividly remember being unable to make even half-decent weapons until I bit the bullet and ground to master weaponsmith) and how good your resources are.  There isn't a single iota of player skill, creativity, or "experimentation" involved in the actual process of crafting (even without sites like SWGcraft, it'd take a braindead lemur to miss the correlation between resource stats and crafted item stats).  Sorry, I'm parenthetically ranting again.


Schild, I can't pay you, but I am tremendously curious to hear what sort of stuff a really fun MMOG might have.  I'm just sayin', in case you ever feel like letting a few of those Good Ideas leak on this site.  ;)

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
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Reply #24 on: January 19, 2005, 11:37:34 PM

Quote from: Samwise
Schild, I can't pay you, but I am tremendously curious to hear what sort of stuff a really fun MMOG might have.  I'm just sayin', in case you ever feel like letting a few of those Good Ideas leak on this site.  ;)


I've been told - by people in position of gaming authority - that no one cares about my ideas. I know them and my real-life friends know some of them. I mean, it's all just evolution of the genre. I'm not a big fan of revolution. But, for the last 5-6 years or so, my brain has been poured into the whole online gaming concept. Basically, it's the future, whether we like it or not. As such, they need to evolve past this fantasy swords, elves, and dragons shit that they're stuck in. And slight evasion (the half-assed sci-fi theme of Tabula Rasa [what we've seen thus far, I could be, and hope to be wrong] - isn't evolution. It's just what I said, half-ass.

Auto Assault, City of Heroes, MxO (for better or worse...) is at least an escape from the norm. I don't know about Auto Assault - but beyond the skins, I can tell you CoH and MxO are nothing more than clever skins and some timer changes.

I'm a big fan of the converting single-player immersion to an online-format. I mean how cool would it be to watch a multi-branched set of scenarios unfold in a conspiracy story a la deus ex - but online with friends. Even if it's on tracks - it would be much more fun than EQ #whatever. I have a good deal of time devoted to the concept of a multi-branched online games based on single player mechanics. And I think it would work - and well.

The gardening thing was just part of an idea (as of this moment, partially incomplete) for a 'new world' scenario. Post-apocalyptic for sure - but more based in rebuilding (very very lightly indebted to ATiTD for the inspiration of a non-combat MMOG) rather than trying to patchwork the old world back together (read: Fallout style). Of course, the idea is much more streamlined than ATiTD and doesn't force tedium down your throat.

There's no excuse for elves. They're overplayed, and if someone else doesn't stop this fantasy shit, If they don't change the genre of MMORPGs, I'm at least going to put my ideas down on paper. Maybe in the next few months I'll open a development section on the site devoted to re-written mechanics. Game Designer Fan Fiction if you would. Only without furries and Captain Kirk.

Edit: Clarity.
Calantus
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Reply #25 on: January 20, 2005, 12:09:07 AM

Quote from: schild
Game Designer Fan Fiction if you would.


This is why people who say that "people aren't interested in your ideas" are wrong. I like hearing ideas even if they suck. And I like hearing them regardless of whether they will ever, or could ever be adopted into an actual game. As long as they are well thought out of course. I liked reading Musashi's design theory for the same reason (and have read it multiple times over the years) even though I know it's entirely irrelevant in changing the industry.

I'm also reading Hrose's blog now as his ideas are interesting because they are well thought out (to a degree, I'm not implying he's spent years mulling over the nuances of an idea), even if his writing style is quite disorientating.
Velorath
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Reply #26 on: January 20, 2005, 12:47:54 AM

Quote from: schild
I'm a big fan of the converting single-player immersion to an online-format. I mean how cool would it be to watch a multi-branched set of scenarios unfold in a conspiracy story a la deus ex - but online with friends. Even if it's on tracks - it would be much more fun than EQ #whatever. I have a good deal of time devoted to the concept of a multi-branched online games based on single player mechanics. And I think it would work - and well.


That's more or less what I had hoped Resident Evil:  Outbreak would have ended up as, but it was way too short and had a lot of gameplay and communicaton issues (and of course wasn't multi-branched).  I'm hoping Outbreak File #2 isn't just more of the same.
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Reply #27 on: January 20, 2005, 01:18:20 AM

"Fight back" was a metaphor; it basically means interactive choices and decisions that have consequences.

In a lot of ways, Puzzle Pirates is the one to get it right--everything important is a complete game.
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Reply #28 on: January 20, 2005, 01:19:53 AM

Quote from: Raph
In a lot of ways, Puzzle Pirates is the one to get it right--everything important is a complete game.


You saying that, it brings a tear to a big man's eye. Thank you.
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Reply #29 on: January 20, 2005, 07:25:50 AM

FWIW, I'm finding it a useful book.  Even where I don't agree with it, or think it is incomplete, it does an excellent job of structuring the debate and helping me organize my thinking on the subject.  I think that's probably what Raph hoped to create, rather than an authoritive and final text on what "fun" is.

--Dave

--Jello Biafra: "If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve."
rscott
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Reply #30 on: January 20, 2005, 11:16:23 AM

Well, that is an interesting question.  Is watching TV fun?  i would say it is, assuming i like the show.  Trying to pin down what  fun is seems a bit of chore by itself.

I have fun exploring/sight seeing.  Even if its trivial to do.  For example, i have fun exploring the edges of the madelbrot set.  Perhaps someone else doesn't.
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Reply #31 on: January 20, 2005, 11:33:15 AM

Quote
• The Mastery Problem must be dealt with. This problem crushes most online game crafting systems, as high level crafters completely block the market to lower levels players.


You had this in SWG beta. You wussed out of it and didn't develop the idea enough.

Force players to choose what plans/ schematics/ parts/ items they want to craft.  There should be a limited number of these patterns they'll know how to make.  That way they can be self-sufficient and create a very small pool of items on their own from parts through to complex items.  Alternatly you can have a crafter who doesn't know how to make the parts, but have a broad range of advanced items they can craft while relying on different crafters to provide the parts.

The reason players disliked the system was the way it was sold and designed.  You fell into the whole advancement trap and so that's the way the professions (and heck, the whole skill system) were approached.

Since system was sold as a hierarchy and called items 'basic' and "advanced" everyone wanted to rush to the end and be advanced.  Why? Only Noobz "basic" parts, and MMO psychology says we all want to be uber.  To be uber you have to be advanced.

The past cannot be changed. The future is yet within your power.
Glazius
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Reply #32 on: January 20, 2005, 12:43:16 PM

Quote from: Merusk
Quote
• The Mastery Problem must be dealt with. This problem crushes most online game crafting systems, as high level crafters completely block the market to lower levels players.


You had this in SWG beta. You wussed out of it and didn't develop the idea enough.

Force players to choose what plans/ schematics/ parts/ items they want to craft.  There should be a limited number of these patterns they'll know how to make.  That way they can be self-sufficient and create a very small pool of items on their own from parts through to complex items.  Alternatly you can have a crafter who doesn't know how to make the parts, but have a broad range of advanced items they can craft while relying on different crafters to provide the parts.


Hmm. So, a crafter starts out knowing how to craft parts, but at some point has to forget that? Or they start out being unable to craft anything without help from other players?

What about something like:

There's a discipline called BioPharmaChem which takes biological matter and turns it into useful pharmaceuticals. Taking a chunk of animal flesh and running it through the basic trade tool results in a basic blood-and-protein health stim with roughly the same quality as the original flesh. It heals damage, preferably with some crash-like aftereffect that doesn't make higher-end stims universally better than lower ones. After just a little work in BioPharmaChem you can make basic stims out of any sort of flesh, from rodent up to dragon.

When you get to the higher end you can run that same chunk of flesh through a distillation coupler, pull out, concentrate, and amplify the hormones, and wind up with a metabolic booster of a much greater potency than the original flesh. Rodent boosters are great for people with the constitution to handle them, but a dragon booster is going to result in a brief period of power followed by a long period of being dead. Their primary use is in the construction of "boost frames" by another discipline - rough organic exoskeletons that need that sort of raw power to even register. (Similarly, the required degree of distillation couple, from a ChemEng discipline, would turn a weak explosive into a solid nugget of unreactive compound while a much lower degree would amplify the damage nicely.)

The higher-end tradeskills amplify their base components' value much more than the lower-end tradeskills, but the lower-end tradeskills still produce usable items. A higher-end player could craft lower-end items is if he were deprived of most of the tools of the trade, or as a favor for someone else - but they can jack the value of the component up a greater amount in the same time when well-equipped.

Though even as I type it I wonder if that would be enough of a barrier.

--GF
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Reply #33 on: January 20, 2005, 02:16:00 PM

I had an idea at one point for each crafter simply choosing a subset of items that they "specialized" in making.  Say, for example, you get to pick a total of 6 items as you progress through your skill tree (one at novice, one at each of the levels in a particular branch, one at master).  Those six items might be finished products, or subcomponents, or a mix.

The idea is that any item that you specialize in will be one notch better than the same item made by a master who doesn't specialize in it.  Even if you're a novice.  So if a master is making a rifle and he doesn't have a specialization in one of that rifle's subcomponents, it's in his best interests to seek out an apprentice who can help him by focusing on that subcomponent.  If he doesn't want to deal with an apprentice, he could make a deal with a parts manufacturer and buy those uber rifle barrels in bulk (or buy a schematic, or whatever).

The antisocial crafter who doesn't want interdependence and still wants to make uber items can do that; he'll just be limited in how many uber items he can make.

The main goal of this system, as I saw it, was to make it so that novice crafters could make something that would be useful in the economy.

"I have not actually recommended many games, and I'll go on the record here saying my track record is probably best in the industry." - schild
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Reply #34 on: January 20, 2005, 05:08:48 PM

Quote from: MahrinSkel
it does an excellent job of structuring the debate and helping me organize my thinking on the subject.

That's definitely what Raph does, book or not.

I guess it's not a case that he is a creative director and he says that his work is about helping designers to create the game they have in their minds. Even in the introduction to the book Will Wright underlines that this is what he does better.

(About the topic of this thread and the "fun": I still believe that Raph's approach is good but partial, as written in the comment I linked. He just looks at the "fun" from a "formal system" perspective but he doesn't consider the cultural weight. This makes sense because his theory is for "game design" but even in the game design the cultural aspect is extremely strong. The archetypes, the genres, the influences, the feeling of the space and the body, the visual awe etc...)

-HRose / Abalieno
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