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Messages - eluvium

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Game design / Re: Killing the main hero?
« on: July 11, 2005, 03:00:50 AM »
i hope you people don't mind thread necromancy and detailed answers:

no matter what someone's reasons for writing a game may be, in the end "all" the game does is teaching the player.
most games consist of at least two layers: the gameplay and the setting.
the riddles in an adventure may teach us pattern recognition, logic, spatial awareness, reflexes, or other things depending on their implementation and design, just as much as playing an ego shooter constantly trains most of the above. deeper gameplay may train tactical/strategical abilities (for example commanding a squad in an fps, or units in strategy games) or other more complex patterns.
the story/setting layer generally teaches less mechanical traits, for example moral values, xenophobia, that violence is a good solution to problems (fps), that you shouldn't have unprotected sex (larry 1) or whatever else the designer put in or the player is able to deduct from the game, whether it be good, bad, useful or not.

now one of the things most games can (and in my oppinion should) teach as long as their settings are somewhat based on reality and not totally abstract (contrary to most puzzle games) is that your actions do have consequences, with death being one of the easier mechanisms to implement this in adventure games.
unless you want to explicitly teach that life is unpredictable, sucks, and cause the player much frustration (prolly making him stop playing the game as well), the deaths should only occur in context, i.e. only when it makes sense, and the sequence leading to the death should be repeatable.
many players tend to immerse themselves in the game and simply don't save for long periods of time. for those permanent deaths without the ability to repeat the sequence would just be an additional cause for frustration and another reason to give up (no one likes to have to replay 5 hours, especially not in a linear game).
warning the player is the same as the autosave, only with one additional not needed step required from the player, so you could say that autosaving is a more streamlined version of player warning.
as for autosaving, with the exception of sequences with multiple possible solutions and story/path branching, it is the same as being able to immediatly repeat the sequence, only with (once again) one additional step required from the player (loading).

so the most streamlined/fun implementation of context deaths would be an internal autosave (as in also being able to quit and resume via game menue) and immediate reload for linear sequences, and an autosave and possible immediate reload in case of a total failure branch for sequences with multiple different succes paths.
additionally, in case of action sequences (time limit, requiring reflexes, and so on) the difficulty should ideally scale down with reoccuring failures (more time to react, some hints, and so on), while offering some sort of reward that also scales down with the difficulty (so people have a reason to actually try to play through the sequences on anything but the easiest difficulty).

another reason to have deaths in adventure games is the fact that a game without a possibility to fail (for example the old point and click adventures with immortal heroes) becomes trivial. whether it be deaths or simply being unable to progress further unless you solve a certain riddle, there needs to be some kind of failure mechanism, because otherwise the only thing such a game teaches on the gameplay level would be pixelsearch and trying out every item combination on every highlighted object (just like said old pnc games). and that is a lessonw hich you can skip alltogether, basically reducing the game to a non-interactive slideshow.

(in case you skipped all the text above, i chose the "only sometimes, when it makes sense, and the player must be able to repeat the critical sequence" option.)

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