Author Topic: Things that bug you in (old) games  (Read 9358 times)

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #60 on: September 24, 2019, 12:39:12 PM »
Now we get into, once again, "if I can't win it's bad", the scourge of modern retrogaming discourse. It is normal to die in the game. You are expected to do so. You can save and load. You are expected to do this, too. It's not a workaround, it's the fundamental gameplay. If you die in a Sierra game, guess what? It, too, is your fault. :) Reload and don't do that thing.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #61 on: September 24, 2019, 12:41:39 PM »
The terms are different, but the principle is the same. :) Don't get hung up on specific examples.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #62 on: September 24, 2019, 12:48:09 PM »
If you die in a Sierra game, guess what? It, too, is your fault. :)

It isn't though. The player can't meaningfully be blamed for the outcome as they can for Mario or Tetris or Street Fighter.

the

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #63 on: September 24, 2019, 01:04:00 PM »
If the creator has designed that mechanism to work in that way, that is their directorial decision for the way their game works, and it's up to the player to overcome it.

The fact that it pisses you off or that other games are more lenient/disallow cul-de-sacs doesn't automatically equate to it being 'broken' or 'bad design' - by saying that you're just trying to overrule their design decision to include it.

You can not enjoy it or call it shit by all means but to insist that it's an absolute technical failure just sounds entitled. The response to losing a game is to try again. (Unless you don't want to, that's your shout.)

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #64 on: September 24, 2019, 01:12:42 PM »
It isn't though. The player can't meaningfully be blamed for the outcome as they can for Mario or Tetris or Street Fighter.

I think it's odd to apply the same standards of "fairness" to a reflexes-based game like Mario and a methodical game like almost any given Sierra adventure, especially seeing as the benefit of the doubt is freely given to any number of series with contemporary relevance, but none is extended beyond these narrow ideas of what constitutes "good design". This is a prime example, I feel. You touch a piece of glass in Fritzl Quest 2 and you bleed to death, so you reload and don't touch it. This is part and parcel with the experience. "Unfair" is relative. If you expect to play on the terms of Super Mario, of course it is going to seem unfair.

The Dark Souls series, for example, has several unfair traps and "missables", but people don't shit on them. The cost of failure in Souls is much, much higher, too. And yet, community loves it. When it comes down to it, there's no meaningful difference besides the general perception of the two series'.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #65 on: September 24, 2019, 01:23:26 PM »
You get something wrong and you have to start from the beginning applying what you've learned, that's just an early version of permadeath isn't it? It's not unfair, just difficult.
This is what I was going to say.

Zetetic

  • Burying isn't the same as killing.
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #66 on: September 24, 2019, 01:59:33 PM »
You can save and load. You are expected to do this, too. It's not a workaround, it's the fundamental gameplay. If you die in a Sierra game, guess what? It, too, is your fault. :) Reload and don't do that thing.
Sure, I don't think the disagreement is even over seeing that as part of the gameplay.

It's whether that gameplay achieves anything worthwhile (and I appreciate - ostensibly - that's ultimately subjective judgement) or perhaps whether it achieves something worthwhile that we think the authors were aiming at (which is a bit narrower).

I keep 'worthwhile' in both parts there because we've seen, and will see even more, a lot of games that aim at locking people into (roughly) addictive loops and achieve this. But I'm loathe to consider this an artistic achievement.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #67 on: September 24, 2019, 02:13:13 PM »
If the creator has designed that mechanism to work in that way, that is their directorial decision for the way their game works, and it's up to the player to overcome it.

The fact that it pisses you off or that other games are more lenient/disallow cul-de-sacs doesn't automatically equate to it being 'broken' or 'bad design' - by saying that you're just trying to overrule their design decision to include it.

You can not enjoy it or call it shit by all means but to insist that it's an absolute technical failure just sounds entitled. The response to losing a game is to try again. (Unless you don't want to, that's your shout.)

This is an old way discredit a subjective response - to point out the obvious, ie that it's subjective.

If someone plays a shit old Sierra game and loves it, they're free to explain why the shit game actually rules. The people who feel that it is shit are free to accuse it of bad design if they feel the design is bad. The interesting part is in that discussion, not saying "oh but that's just your opinion".

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #68 on: September 24, 2019, 02:29:15 PM »
I think it's odd to apply the same standards of "fairness" to a reflexes-based game like Mario and a methodical game like almost any given Sierra adventure,

It's not about reflexes, but how a game asks you to make decisions and how you are rewarded or punished for it.

The point of fairness applies to more or less any game. Tennis, chess, cricket, poker, Worms Armageddon (the thinking man's chess) - these all require the player to balance a series of known knowns and known unknowns to make decisions, and live with the results. It's the unknown unknowns that are the problem - when you are rewarded or punished for something that could not have been foreseen.

I can provide a list of more modern games who fall into the Sierra trap (the unknown unknown problem) to one extent or another - Resident Evil and GTAV are two things I played recently that pissed me off.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #69 on: September 24, 2019, 02:31:46 PM »
Incidentally, this is why I roll my eyes whenever the creators of story games with branching narratives start talking about "choices with consequences". If you want choice and consequence play Tetris. Asking the player to choose between a series of predestined outcomes is no choice at all.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #70 on: September 24, 2019, 02:35:45 PM »
If someone plays a shit old Sierra game and loves it, they're free to explain why the shit game actually rules. The people who feel that it is shit are free to accuse it of bad design if they feel the design is bad. The interesting part is in that discussion, not saying "oh but that's just your opinion".

But the discussion is explicitly about the terms being used to frame it. :) I have already explained why I like these kinds of games and what I think they bring to the table, as well as why I object to their being described as "broken", and also my issue with the sets of standards being raised to draw comparison. Additionally I feel as though I have made it clear that the example is not the be-all-and-end-all, but it is being treated as such regardless. So the best thing to do is agree to disagree :)

It's the unknown unknowns that are the problem - when you are rewarded or punished for something that could not have been foreseen.

Even the phrase "unknown unknowns" excites me.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #71 on: September 24, 2019, 02:39:31 PM »
But the discussion is explicitly about the terms being used to frame it. :) I have already explained why I like these kinds of games and what I think they bring to the table, as well as why I object to their being described as "broken", and also my issue with the sets of standards being raised to draw comparison. Additionally I feel as though I have made it clear that the example is not the be-all-and-end-all, but it is being treated as such regardless. So the best thing to do is agree to disagree :)

Then there's no argument. Don't think it makes sense to complain that people call something broken or badly designed if that's what they think though. Just tell em why it's actually good.

Would you like me to explain some more why broken games ARE actually broken? I'm worried you might be thick and require more explanation ????

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #72 on: September 24, 2019, 02:47:55 PM »
I am actually going to explain a bit more, though not because of madhair's unfortunate and crippling thickness, and more specifically because I was in the pub with two game designers only yesterday arguing about something close to this very issue, so I have lots of rants on the topic in me at the moment.

I think the sort of thing that bugs people in (old) games, aka the Sierra problem, is in fact alive and well in new games, and here's a specific example from GTAV.

You plan and execute a series of heists. Before each heist you choose your crew: gunman, driver, and so on. But you have to make these choices blind. How necessary will a driver be for this heist? What are the consequences if he fucks up? What is the system here?

There isn’t one. If you hire a cheap driver for the first mission, he’ll always fuck up, in the exact same place, at the exact same time. The dice is rigged.

That's probably the single worst thing a game can do, in my book, and I am very happy to call it bad design. It reduces choices to meaningless guessing, so they're not really choices. It means players can't rightly be held to account for the consequences, which destroys the relationship between the player and the game.

And what's more, I don't believe the designers of GTA were really thinking about all this, philosophically, when they implemented it. They haven't gone, "We are aware of the classic fundamental concept that the player should always be to blame for failure, but we are deliberately subverting this for effect or some other purpose". It's just something that hasn't been thought about enough, or tested at all. The main reason I believe this is that I know one of the designers.

That's why most bad design in games is bad design even if you define that merely as something the creator didn't intend (which is generous imo). Games don't get made under ideal circumstances and most game industry people are thick to the maxxx. I know, I worked in it.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #73 on: September 24, 2019, 02:52:56 PM »
Would you like me to explain some more why broken games ARE actually broken? I'm worried you might be thick and require more explanation ????

:) I'd be interested in what exactly you would change about the Sierra style to "fix" it, and make the games palatable for you.

Twed

  • What, prick? That's my child. My Johnson's child
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #74 on: September 24, 2019, 02:54:06 PM »
Just burning all the Sierra games and making the people involved in making them breathe in the fumes would work for me.

the

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #75 on: September 24, 2019, 02:57:36 PM »
Just burning all the Sierra games and making the people involved in making them breathe in the fumes would work for me.

But the smoke inhalation would be an unforeseen hazard for them, you need to signpost an easy way for them to evade it or that's bad revenge.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #76 on: September 24, 2019, 02:58:04 PM »
:) I'd be interested in what exactly you would change about the Sierra style to "fix" it, and make the games palatable for you.

Make LucasArts games instead.

Quote from: LucasArts instruction manual
We believe that you buy games to be entertained, not to be whacked over the head every time you make a mistake. So we don't bring the game to a screeching halt when you poke your nose into a place you haven't visited before. Unlike conventional computer adventures, you won't find yourself accidentally stepping off a path, or dying because you've picked up a sharp object. We think you'd prefer to solve the game's mysteries by exploring and discovering, not by dying a thousand deaths.

Quote from: Ron Gilbert, 1989
It is bad design to put puzzles and situations into a game that require a player to die in order to learn what not to do next time. This is not to say that all death situations should be designed out. Danger is inherent in drama, but danger should be survivable if the player is clever.


Zetetic

  • Burying isn't the same as killing.
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #77 on: September 24, 2019, 02:58:17 PM »
It's the unknown unknowns that are the problem - when you are rewarded or punished for something that could not have been foreseen.

I suppose the argument with the Sierra games (or something like Limbo?) might be that the failure is simply part of the learning loop of the game.

The extent to which 'game overs' in the game should be experienced as punishments for the player's failure is … open, isn't it? We come with baggage, of course, but the game gets to choose it's own language. To an extent.

That's harder to argue in the GTAV case, and I wouldn't bother. (What's the point of any of the story-related gameplay mechanics in GTAV?)

Zetetic

  • Burying isn't the same as killing.
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #78 on: September 24, 2019, 03:00:25 PM »
It's easier to argue for something like Hidden Agenda where the 'unknown unknowns' do actually serve a clear purpose in conveying something to the player. The horrible consequences of your ignorance are trying to tell you something about the challenges of trust and information in a particular kind of post-conflict society and its government.

(And the extent to which these things are unknown to the player, probably depends on a mix of their knowledge of history, their political beliefs and personal standards.)

The problem with the Sierra games is rather that their 'personality' doesn't really mean anything. Their gameplay does produce a particular experience (of course) but that experience is, broadly, pointless.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #79 on: September 24, 2019, 03:08:32 PM »
The problem with the Sierra games is rather that their 'personality' doesn't really mean anything. Their gameplay does produce a particular experience (of course) but that experience is, broadly, pointless.

?? Only in the sense that almost all other games are ultimately pointless.

The Lucasarts extracts/quotes above rather explain the toothless nature of their games, and of course miss the point that dying in Sierra adventures is entertaining in and of itself.

I think the Lucasarts style of no-stakes gameplay is favoured by people who grew up playing the likes of Monkey Island, DOTT and have tied themselves to them in some way. I played these games as a child and didn't care for them then, either. I never touched a Sierra title until I was around 21, 22, and immediately fell in love with their esoteric, dangerous worlds.

Full Throttle is still better than any Sierra game, mind.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #80 on: September 24, 2019, 03:12:20 PM »
I think for an adventure game, you have to go with the Lucas Arts-style "no failure state" model, because anything else is cripplingly unfair. The reason is that the challenges in these games is all based on essentially guessing at what the designer has cooked up for you.

There are clear, understandable systems in Tetris and Mario and chess and poker, but few systems in Monkey Island - every interaction is bespoke and is predestined to work or not work. The player then can't be blamed for trying to use the wrong object on the wrong other object, because the rules aren't clear. The only possible route out of that hole is to make it so nothing happens when you get it wrong.

Disclaimer: obviously if you like being able to go wrong when it isn't your fault, then there is no argument against that. Enjoy.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
    • International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #81 on: September 24, 2019, 03:15:02 PM »
here's a specific example from GTAV.

You plan and execute a series of heists. Before each heist you choose your crew: gunman, driver, and so on. But you have to make these choices blind. How necessary will a driver be for this heist? What are the consequences if he fucks up? What is the system here?

There isn’t one. If you hire a cheap driver for the first mission, he’ll always fuck up, in the exact same place, at the exact same time. The dice is rigged.
Is there anything in the game before that which teaches you that it's not a good idea to skimp on the skill of the driver you're hiring? It certainly sounds annoying but it could be read as the game giving you a choice you're not supposed to take, because if it starts saying "your driver will need X skill to get past this bit" then it might as well just do the booking for you.

That's probably the single worst thing a game can do, in my book, and I am very happy to call it bad design. It reduces choices to meaningless guessing, so they're not really choices. It means players can't rightly be held to account for the consequences, which destroys the relationship between the player and the game.
I agree, to a point, but I'm not sure the problem of a game becoming impossible at a certain point because you didn't pick something up three levels ago is necessarily the same issue. But this thread is about stuff that bugs you, not an objective set of rules for video game design, so I won't bother pressing the issue.

If the game is enjoyable to play, those moments are all "well, I'll have another go through and check all the places I didn't bother with the first time, or read a guide to see if there's any cool stuff I missed", but I appreciate my take is not the only one.

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #82 on: September 24, 2019, 03:17:36 PM »
And yet on the other hand, including stuff like that in a game because it has some payoff can turn it into a good thing. Like at the beginning of a game to make a historical reference, for instance. Or in a way that is easy to recover from.

I don't understand your comment.  The aim in Jet Set Willy was to collect a number of keys which were distributed throughout the game.  One of the keys was impossible to get because the programmer got the co-ordinates wrong and placed the key in a place that was impossible to reach (the Software company even admitted to it) without hacking the level.

Zetetic

  • Burying isn't the same as killing.
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #83 on: September 24, 2019, 03:21:32 PM »
Asking the player to choose between a series of predestined outcomes is no choice at all.
A slight jump, but this is an odd idea. Particularly if we consider many of our choices outside of games.

The point with narrative choices, is that the consequences should make sense within the systems of the world portrayed in the narrative.

(Where making sense isn't the same as being predictable, but that you're still able to make reasonable choices based on an understanding of those systems. Systems used very broadly to include human emotions and behaviour etc.)

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #84 on: September 24, 2019, 03:25:21 PM »
I think for an adventure game, you have to go with the Lucas Arts-style "no failure state" model, because anything else is cripplingly unfair. The reason is that the challenges in these games is all based on essentially guessing at what the designer has cooked up for you.

Why is it cripplingly unfair when you can save and reload instantly? Is it because of the artifice of that system? "Save early, save often!" is very much part of the ethos of these games. I think it's a fascinating and fundamental difference here - I find dying/game over less irritating than "that doesn't work, those don't go together", because the former triggers a mental opportunity to regroup and think, and the latter just causes me frustration!

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #85 on: September 24, 2019, 03:26:55 PM »
This thread turned out FUCKING interesting!

Zetetic

  • Burying isn't the same as killing.
Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #86 on: September 24, 2019, 03:31:11 PM »
?? Only in the sense that almost all other games are ultimately pointless.
I disagree.

But perhaps I'm being misled by thinking too much about the Police Quest games because those clearly purport to be about, even to simulate, something. And the experience of failure often doesn't serve that. (Although in fairness, sometimes it does?)

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #87 on: September 24, 2019, 03:33:17 PM »
I disagree.

But perhaps I'm being misled by thinking too much about the Police Quest games because those clearly purport to be about, even to simulate, something. And the experience of failure often doesn't serve that. (Although in fairness, sometimes it does?)

I'm probably misunderstanding you, or you're being oblique, or maybe I just don't have particularly lofty expectations. I feel like this is a confusing thing to say:

The problem with the Sierra games is rather that their 'personality' doesn't really mean anything. Their gameplay does produce a particular experience (of course) but that experience is, broadly, pointless.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #88 on: September 24, 2019, 03:42:30 PM »
I suppose the argument with the Sierra games (or something like Limbo?) might be that the failure is simply part of the learning loop of the game.

Right. I actually wrote an essay about this whole idea a while ago to share with my game design mates - here's what I wrote about this:

Quote

I think you can crudely divide modern video games into two varieties, which I’m going to call loop games and story games.

Loop games are games in the traditional sense. They’re designed to be played over and over again, with different results. Sports like tennis and soccer are loop games, as are board games like chess and Monopoly, or card games like poker —  or video games like Tetris, Team Fortress, Mario Kart, Fortnite, Worms, or Pac-Man. The fun of loop games is to improve, to win and lose and win and lose again.

Story games are actually less like traditional games and more like authored narrative media such as novels or films. Unlike loop games, they’re optimised for the first time you play them. They emphasise experience over mastery. Half-Life, Zelda, Uncharted, Shadow of the Colossus and Resident Evil are story games. You’re led along a path with a beginning, middle, and end, and that’s more or less it. The path might be wide (as in Zelda) or narrow (as in Half-Life), but your progression is on the whole fixed. You might replay a story game, just as you might reread a novel, and your experience is broadly predestined.

Loop games have no unknown unknowns — they kinda can’t, by definition. How wouldn’t you know about them?

But story games are stuffed with them. Something is always waiting for you around the next corner in Half-Life, but there’s no way of knowing what.

How do you stop this from sucking? Half-Life designer Ken Birdwell wrote in a 1999 Gamasutra article: "If the game kills them off with no warning, then players blame the game and start to dislike it. But if the game hints that danger is imminent, show players a way out and they die anyway, then they’ll consider it a failure on their part; they’ve let the game down and they need to try a little harder."

Case study: among the enemies in Half-Life 2 are alien barnacles that dangle their long tongues from above and lift objects that pass under them into their mouths. The first time you encounter them, you’re blocked by barrels you have to push out of the way. The barrels roll down a slope into the patch of the barnacles, which pick them up.

The sequence teaches you what the barnacles do and how to avoid them, rather than let you wander into the trap blind. In other words, it shows you the unknown unknown in advance, so it becomes a known known.

But the designers can’t do this for every unknown unknown. You can’t know, for example, that in two hours’ time you’re going to shoot a gunship down with a rocket launcher, and therefore perhaps you ought to save your rockets.

To deal with this, Half-Life deals mitigates every unknown unknown with failsafes. Whenever you fight a gunship, there are rockets nearby. Your choices are short-term and impermanent: whether to use the shotgun or the machine gun, whether to dodge left or right, whether to fire at this moment or this. Stockpiling munitions for safekeeping isn’t part of the equation. If you get hurt, there’s always a medipack nearby. If you die, you lose only moments of progress. Whereas in Tetris your every decision creates ripples of consequence that last until the end of the game, your millions of microdecisions in Half-Life are filed down to a uniform result.

The upshot of all this is that story games are, really, almost completely devoid of stakes. That’s fine by me. It’s the only way to create these sorts of authored adventures while defusing the problem of the unknown unknown. Nothing else would be fair.

In the case of Limbo, it mitigates all the billions of novelty ways to die unexpectedly by making the failure extremely brief and impermanent. You respawn immediately with no loss of progress, and a clear understanding of how to avoid it.

Re: Things that bug you in (old) games
« Reply #89 on: September 24, 2019, 03:48:54 PM »
A slight jump, but this is an odd idea. Particularly if we consider many of our choices outside of games.

Ppart of what makes a game (a traditional game at least) a game is that it focuses all the complex rules of real life (like the rules of physics) into a very narrow set of knowable rules, which are easier to make predictions about. Making career choices are choices, of course, but for the purposes of game design they're not great, fun, meaningful choices, because it's not real life.

Think about a very simple game - guess which hand I'm holding the prize in, left or right? The solution is predestined and arbitrary. You have no system within which to make predictions, so it's a coin toss. Is that a choice? Yes, in the sense that you can choose which hand. No, in the sense that it doesn't matter which one you choose. It's what I'd call a meaningless choice.

Quote
The point with narrative choices, is that the consequences should make sense within the systems of the world portrayed in the narrative.

(Where making sense isn't the same as being predictable, but that you're still able to make reasonable choices based on an understanding of those systems. Systems used very broadly to include human emotions and behaviour etc.)

But this is critical I think - "human emotions and behaviour" are not systems, or at least certainly not systems in the game that can be understood. There's nothing to understand - you're just picking left hand or right hand. Even if I wink when you hover over the left hand, or even if a character says she'll jump off a roof if you don't say her shoes are nice, these are not systems. What if I'm giving you a red herring when I wink? You can never know - only guess. (This is also how I respond to the suggestion of GTA giving you clues about the bike driver being a bad choice.)