2013 July | Wayward Terran Frontier

Archive for July, 2013

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Doing some patcher maintenance

Posted On 29 Jul, 2013

Don’t be surprised if the game fails to install and/or crashes when trying to update today. I’ve had a lot of coffee and I plan to stay awake until I have fixed the problems I am about to create

Protected: Patch Progress

Posted On 11 Jul, 2013

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Memorable stories rant

Posted On 1 Jul, 2013

I think story writers for games need to spend more time considering the mindset of their audience, and incorporate gameplay activities into their story writing. Writers these days often imagine how a fictional character would react to events in a fictional world, and then write the story to fit that character. Then they go to the game programmers and say “how can we force the player to view the actions of this character’s story” and it ends up feeling kinda forced. I felt this way when playing Deadspace, Deus Ex: H.R., Assassins Creed, and the Far Cry games, while I have found myself subconsciously avoiding other games such as Bioshock and Dishonored for fear of the same. Don’t get me wrong, those were all very fun games, but I personally didn’t finish the storyline of most of them. That’s because they are using a writing process that works well with books and movies, not one which works well for games. Also I’m bad about finishing game plots to begin with. Something has destroyed my attention span, not sure what. In my opinion, a better approach is to imagine how an actual gamer would react to events in an actual game world. You tell your programmer to make that game world (or program it yourself) and then you write game events to fit the gamer. Valve has been historically good at this, so I will use some of their games as examples of good ways to create an ingame narrative. Half Life: The player is motivated to fight enemies, survive threatening situations, and explore. Those are simply the things players do in first person shooters. Likewise, the game offers an environment where doing exactly those things advances the story and rewards the player. It need not be more complex than that. When the player shoots enemies, the scientists often thank him, making him feel like a hero. When he escapes a dangerous situation he feels like the environment is antagonistic as apposed to holding his hand and guiding him through the plot. Finally, when the player explores he finds clues to the greater plot of the game world (such as the man in the suit) which rewards exploration with a feeling of being immersed in an interesting world. Half life 1 is a completely linear game, practically on rails, and yet because of the way it’s presented the player feels every choice is their own. It’s because the writers anticipated player choices instead of trying to force them that Half Life 1 was such a compelling narrative. Portal: (Warning portal 1 spoilers) Portal is my favorite example. Portal is marketed as a puzzle game, it looks like a puzzle game and it plays like a puzzle game. On the surface it seems the only unique elements are a new mechanic (portals) and an antagonist that mocks you while you complete puzzles. You don’t really feel attached to your character because it’s just an avatar in a puzzle game, you see your character the way Glados sees your character. All of this is designed to control your preconception of the game so that the writers can toy with your emotions later on. Then, at what would be the logical end of a puzzle game, something magic happens: After you finish the last puzzle, when both Glados and the player are ready to discard their 1 Dimensional protagonist, the game allows the player to try what any typical gamer is going to try. The game expects the player to try breaking the game mechanics, it anticipates they will will try to leave the puzzle, and it allows it. I remember both me and Glados were equally shocked when it ended up working. At that moment, the game world becomes real, the characters become real, the stakes become real, and the player begins to become immersed. I don’t know about you, but I sat down every night and casually did 1 or two puzzles in portal as if it were my daily crossword puzzle. It was amusing and casual. However, once I escaped the fire pit the game changed for me. Suddenly I was reading the end credits and noticing that it was 4AM and I had stayed up all night to play to the end in 1 sitting. I had been tricked into becoming immersed. Now can you imagine if the game had been pitched and sold as a short story about a girl who escapes an evil robot? Imagine how that would have changed your preconceptions and ruined the “Wow” moment when you realized you could escape. What if, when you got to the flaming pit at the end, there had been a fast action sequence where a window popped up and said “Press X to escape the fire pit!”? Would that not have removed some authenticity from the feeling of breaking the game mechanics? What if Chell had voiced dialogue and…