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Like stepping in a bucket of worms

After today's massforge meeting, zengeneral, tmehlinger, thekuffs and I spent the better part of an hour chatting about the nature of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, rendering and animation therein, and most especially gameplay. I learned something important about relative bandwidths of server-based and client-based computation in MMO games, particularly combat games with many NPCs that require physics.

We talked abuot Pirates!, Civilization (I-III), The Sims, SimEarth, SimAnt, Age of Empires and Age of Empires II, Black and White, Warcraft (I-III), Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and MMORPGs in general (including the popular Everquest, Ultima Online, and Star Wars: Galaxies franchises.

tmehlinger needs to do IT stand-up. His quick rant about meta-simulation made me laugh more than I have in weeks, and it didn't look as if I was alone. thekuffs gave a scathing critique about Black and White's gameplay and user interface that led into my current remarks.

I'll write more about those later, but today's topic is:
What makes for engaging gameplay in first-person adventure, role-playing, shooter, turn-based, simulation and "real-time" strategy games?

The context of this question is that zengeneral averred that a 15-20 minute multi-player Warcraft III game was of reasonable length for a LAN party. When challenged, our young Sith friend further asserted that it is adequate, if not preferable, to develop a game where skilled players can compete against a horde of weak players and annihilate them, rather than to impose artificial limits on game mechanics so that "realism" predominates, i.e., heroic victories are won by one or two virtuously skilled players against tens of skilled opponents (including artificial intelligent agents).

zengeneral: It's like stepping in a bucket of worms.
banazir: Which, I take it, is a good thing?


What do you think?

--
Banazir

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
masteralida
Jun. 4th, 2005 11:40 pm (UTC)
zengeneral: It's like stepping in a bucket of worms.
banazir: Which, I take it, is a good thing?


I really think the answer to that lies in the footwear or lack thereof!
banazir
Jun. 4th, 2005 11:49 pm (UTC)
More fun than a bucket of Grievous guts
I know it!

That icon makes me laugh.

--
Banazir
zaimoni
Jun. 5th, 2005 01:27 am (UTC)
When challenged, our young Sith friend further asserted that it is adequate, if not preferable, to develop a game where skilled players can compete against a horde of weak players and annihilate them, rather than to impose artificial limits on game mechanics so that "realism" predominates, i.e., heroic victories are won by one or two virtuously skilled players against tens of skilled opponents (including artificial intelligent agents).
Realism is a niche market. What's described as "adequate" is actually appealing to two of the ten basic plotlines (as inferred from Karl Menninger's The Human Mind.)

What's fun is playing how we want to break down, under stress, "safely".

[Reminds me...I'm approaching this from the opposite end in storyboarding one of my wargame scenarios. I have a decidedly unfun realistic ruleset, and am having to figure out how to doctor the plot to give the key character a chance of not-dying.]
banazir
Jun. 7th, 2005 10:42 pm (UTC)
Counting plotlines
Realism is a niche market. What's described as "adequate" is actually appealing to two of the ten basic plotlines (as inferred from Karl Menninger's The Human Mind.)
What ten plots are those?
I've got one, seven, and twenty...

What's fun is playing how we want to break down, under stress, "safely".
To an extent. I've never really enjoyed the Nightmare modes of Lemmings or the flight simulator or air traffic control simulator games. To a point, robust performance under pressure brings satisfaction; when it becomes an Olympic event, where nothing less than the absolute best will do, it's no longer fun to me.

[Reminds me...I'm approaching this from the opposite end in storyboarding one of my wargame scenarios. I have a decidedly unfun realistic ruleset, and am having to figure out how to doctor the plot to give the key character a chance of not-dying.]
Sounds intriguing! I'd like to hear more about it, if you will.

--
Banazir
zaimoni
Jun. 8th, 2005 02:20 am (UTC)
Re: Counting plotlines
[Plotlines]
You may recall that Karl Menninger is the founder of an entire branch of psychoanalysis. One of three that I would consider recommending for those who need psychiatric intervention; after that, pharmacology rather than psychiatry is the best bet. The ten plotlines are the ten basic ways we mentally break down under stress...the world as we wish it was.
  1. "I am God/a god". Poem: Invictus
  2. "I shall save the world".
  3. Sacred and profane love
  4. "I am of extraordinary birth and/or lineage"
  5. Oedipus Rex/Elektra (Greek plays; intra-familial killing)
  6. "I have sinned, and must be punished/propritiate/find a scapegoat"
  7. Administering/receiving punishment as pleasure (extreme: BSDM)
  8. "I must work strenuously to avoid contamination"
  9. "There is an omnipotent sceptre" (either must try to get it, or have it and must try to keep it)
  10. "I need to be reborn/reinvented"
Most games and novels use several of these for the viewpoint character...it's very hard to convincingly and entertainingly write a normal person as viewpoint.
zaimoni
Jun. 8th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
Re: Counting plotlines
[wargame]
The ruleset is "unfun" because it is both physics-based (loosely, each technological species has different ultratechnology) and accurately models short-term memory/perception restrictions. I'm in the middle of writing a numerically stable library to back this up, and have factored out some of the code from Franci to support this. It is entirely possible to be unable to react to Threat either because of short-term memory overloading, or because of insufficient time. (If something is visible for less than the PC's "visual frame time", the PC won't see it! Same for NPCs, of course.)

In the latest installment of the Taxthandi War, Tarkayai is repurposed as a heavy weapon operator from city defense — she's the only Badger native to Taxthandi with the right mix of paranormalisms to operate a "starfire throne"¹.

The question is how to doctor the plot so that she can be one of the one to two thousand native survivors out of a population of millions. The storyboard indicates a couple of alternate roles (indeed, different games) for "romantic interests", but I'm not authorially obligated to make those survivable. Tarkayai is referenced later.
¹A booster circuit that enables a clairsentient pyrokinetic to reset a target's temperature to 50,000°K — the temperature of the surface of an O-class star. She's qualified by her day job in the Resourcearchy: pyrokinetic tempering of machine parts. One of her half-day shifts is 4 robot-days of work.

The usual heavy weapon position for incoming spacecraft is a nuclear gunner. The station for that lets a normal Badger target a spacecraft for teleporting a tactical nuclear bomb into it. Only the Badgers have anti-teleport screens....

A starfire throne is much better than a nuclear gunner station, if much more power-hungry. The starfire throne uses no ammunition.
twinofhugin
Jun. 5th, 2005 01:39 am (UTC)
ever play kohan?

as a side note, kohan is the game where average games lasted 1 hour,and long games went up to 4 hours.

actually come to think of it, maybe you guys should look at allegiance, it's a kick-ass game that integrated a lot of neat points and did a lot of things right. too bad microsoft just used it as a test bed for DX9.

the entire project's source is also available for download...
zengeneral
Jun. 5th, 2005 06:31 am (UTC)
actually
I have... I liked kohan, but it suffered the same problem as many other games...

Two equal skilled players would clash having gained equal shares of the map, the victor of the first battle is the victor of the game. So any time after that drags on the game unnecessarily...
twinofhugin
Jun. 5th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC)
Re: actually
that's what the four hour games were. it isn't always about the first battle.
chandra
Jun. 5th, 2005 02:48 am (UTC)

Must I turn gamer to get a chance to meet you? :oP
banazir
Jun. 5th, 2005 07:46 am (UTC)
Aww
Nope. And I'm not a gamer, at least not muchly any more.

--
Banazir
zengeneral
Jun. 5th, 2005 07:04 am (UTC)
and?
If game mechanics allow "gods" to rise, then where is the problem?

skilled players can compete against a horde of weak players and annihilate them

Would you expect to win against a professional soccer player? Would the CS faculty hold against a professional football huge motha?

Of course not, keep in mind, virtuoso is normal…
heroic victories are won by one or two virtuously skilled players against tens of skilled opponents

virtuoso gamers find each other and train together. To limit game mechanics to prevent virtuoso gamers is a sin, and it will ultimately be boring since there is a ceiling.

-- as to AI,
it would be a sad day for humanity when AI can beat humans at games... (a good day for AI researchers). Suppose, there existed a super AI for a 3D FPS that you couldn't ever beat. What would be the point of playing? you know the outcome. You would be surprised as to how "good" some AI is ... to some people. I know people that can't beat Quake3 Nightmare mode, but for some, this barrier is easily passable. For those that cannot beat nightmare, they practice until they can. Those that spend the time learn and conquer which should the point of any competitive game: get better!

-- as to Games,
There are two types of games to measure fun:
non competitive: anything goes, RPG/Adventure: an engaging story will win with solid game play mechanics
competitive: it has to be like a sport, simple rules rule (and yes, Warcraft III has simple rules). FPS/Strategy/Fighting require balance and full disclosure of the rules

zaimoni
Jun. 5th, 2005 06:01 pm (UTC)
Re: and?
Suppose, there existed a super AI for a 3D FPS that you couldn't ever beat. What would be the point of playing? you know the outcome.
And I'd suspect a problem with the physics model of that FPS. [There should be sufficient military intelligence to prevent that in-game.] At the very least, I'd expect one AI for each NPC agent....

The problem with "last stand" games is that you need a very convincing background story.

[In the example I'm prototyping, I know that there should be native survivors for plot reasons...one to two thousand, out of a cast of millions. Doomed roles in the startup dialog will be labeled as such...but that doesn't cover keeping dumb luck away.]
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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