[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Patrick Dughi dughi at austin.rr.com
Fri Nov 14 23:59:12 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: John Buehler

> This is an observation about some graphical games that I've played
> through the years, and a pet peeve that has been building all that
> while.  I don't know if text games have this manifested in any
> way, but the graphical games sure do: they remove my access to
> entertainment as part of the normal operation of the game.

I have to disagree with the majority of this post.

Entertainment in games is usually closely coupled with challenge.
In multiplayer games, it's often coupled with competition.  For
many, achievement without challenge removes any entertainment from
the game - for example, many players enjoy using cheat codes to play
a game, but often quickly grow tired of it, sometimes not even
completing the given stage/level/area/etc.

This is important because many of your points focus on making the
gaming experience easier, and subtly inferring that this will make
the game more entertaining.

Entertainment, is not just some simplified hedonistic urge that's
applicable to everyone.  It's complex with many more factors than
you're addressing.  Not only does each person have a different set
of requirements, with multiplayer games, it's often not only your
entertainment that's at stake, but balanced against the
entertainment factor of others.

Addressing your issues point by point;

>   Example 1: Nighttime and rainstorms.

>     In graphical games, the gee-whiz graphics are a major selling
>     point.  All the screenshots that we see show amazing detail,
>     wonderful graphics, magical effects and so on.  Yet half of
>     the game time is rendered for 'night'.  The screen goes dark.
>     I can't see the neato graphics.  In truth, I can't see much of
>     anything.  Rainstorms do the same thing.

I'm sure the developers want you to see the graphics here as well,
and though many games may have poor implementations of weather which
cause you to go snowblind or quite often, fogblind (*shakes a fist
at the Turok games*), many games rely on visibility factors to
adjust the challenge.  Shadows and darkness are annoying, I can't
see if something's over the next hill or waiting in the corner, and
you're liable to be eaten by a grue.  Walls get in your way just as
often as rainstorms, and they're usually more effective at blocking
the view.

In cases where these are intended to hamper your ability to perceive
so as to increase challenge, getting around them/removing them is
actually considered cheating; Wallhacks, removal of shadows,
positioning of other players/items.

That's because they're challenges put there for you to overcome.

>   Example 2: Mesmerization.

>     This is where one character is able to cause another character
>     to go unresponsive to controls because it is 'mesmerized'.
>     This effect can last 30 seconds or more.  But the esential
>     truth of the effect is that the player can not play the game
>     for those 30 seconds.

Again though, it's a grey area.  How long should one be paralyzed
before it's unfair?  Is 1 second too much?  What do you consider the
X second pause between attacks, or the Y second pause from using a
skill/spell?  Isn't that self-inflicted paralyzation?

>From a developer side, paralyzation has the combat equivalent (since
we are talking about combat) of allowing a set of free potential
attacks.  This is usually a huge deal in FPS games, where 2-3
seconds is the difference between winning and losing, but most
RPG-type games do not resolve combat so readily.  I agree that it's
frustrating to the 'held' player, and further that we should not try
to frustrate the players, but assuming all things are balanced, I
find no fault in it.

A mage paralyzes a fighter and gets 5 free attacks in.  Fighter
thaws, and hits the mage twice for the equivalent of 6 mage attacks,
killing him.  Of the two of them, the mage is probably more
frustrated.  He doesn't get to use the big weapons, and he can't
attack twice a round, and now he's dead.

Also, don't discount that you are providing entertainment to the
person doing the paralyzing.  In a balanced situation like our
example where the fighter wins, both players probably come out more
entertained than less, which should be true for balanced games.
They both had a shot, and though the means were different, the goals
were the same, and they can perceive how close they came to that
goal.

Works like gambling.  It's fun when it seems fair, even if it might
be more entertaining if you won more often.

Though, I suppose if you're the sort of person who abhors loss of
control, then I suppose this mechanism will grate poorly against
you.  I'm sure other players dislike it their pet-peeve-mechanism is
used against them (sniper/campers tend to rouse much hate, and so do
'trappers').  If you removed all those mechanisms, you'd be likely
not to have much of a game left.  It's not like you can have both
characters win each time.

>   Example 3: Blindness.

>     This is a combination of the first two examples.  A character
>     causes another character to go blind, meaning that the player
>     can't see anything in the game world.  Their controls may be
>     accessible, but the world itself is not visible.

In RPGs, blindness is rarely represented as a blank screen without
access to the world.  I'm not sure which games you've been playing
but in RPG's, this is most often represented as a penalty to the
character's attack stats, and doesn't affect the actual player in
any direct way.

Obviously, we don't have a sensation of movement or tactile senses
with a video game when the screen is blank.  So it would be a poor
developer that implements any sort of blindness of this type in an
RPG.

On the other hand, I've seen many recent FPS games come out that
include weapons such as flash or smoke grendades.  I remember
playing SOCOM with the headset, and being actually disoriented when
a grenade goes off nearby and the game simulates loss of hearing and
vision, complete with fade-in/out effects like the ringing noise you
hear before the game sound effects become discernable again.

In this event, it was clearly a challenge.  You could still move
your character, but for a short while at least, you had no clue what
you were doing or where you were going, and this was in an FPS game
where you could be killed 12 times over in that 'short while'.

It was a wonderful thing though, and you had to defend against it
proactively, instead of passively.  Because of the delay in
switching weapons or weapon types, often it was only useful to use
flash grenades in squad/group actions, involving a decent bit of
actual player skill on many player's parts, and quite a big of game
involvement.

All in all, it was entertaining.

>   Example 4: Slow travel in large worlds.

>     This is less removal of entertainment and more a barrier to
>     getting to entertainment.  Let's say that the world is
>     geographically large and the task to be tackled requires
>     multiple players to come together.  Or multiple players simply
>     want to gather because it's fun to do so.  The time it takes
>     to assemble those multiple players from around the game world
>     can be prohibitive.

Travel, for travel's sake is quite abhorrent.  Few players want to
see a simulated 10 minute FMV about journeying to another town, and
even less will want to actually do the walking.  That's just mean.
There's nothing entertaining at all.

I think the last RPG I played that was anything even close to that
was "The Mines of Titan" [1], way back in the Apple II days, and I
haven't seen any before or after it.  Which RPGs exhibit this trait?

Travel from point A to point B is often an adventure by itself.  In
some games, exploration can be a key aspect (for example,
Morrowind).  In others, it might just be the challenge to get to the
next village alive (any NES-era RPG, basically).  Sure, organizing
multiple players to gather and ~do whatever~ is difficult, but
that's true even if you're in a geographically small area.
Organization itself is a pain, and distance is an issue once you're
beyond 'combat range' no matter the system, even if it's one room
away.

Further, most systems have a recall, or horse, or summon, or gate
like device which will quickly and easily relocate them, and often
is readily available at lower-middle levels and above.  The levels
that it's not available to are often not meant to travel far anyway.

At the tail end of this point though, you have to realize that
geographically large games are trying to represent a geographically
large area.  Look at HALO, for example, with its comparatively large
areas for an FPS game.  Without those long stretches, would the
vehicles have had the same impact?  Would the long distance weapons
be as advantageous?  What about assaults on enemy bases - when yours
is attacked, does it make sense that you and your raiding party
should instantly -SNAP- back to it? In the end, I have to ask how
one would represent a large area without including the traits that
make it a large area?  Instant transportation seems to be - in most
cases - a thing that would kill many entertaining aspects of the
game.  Travel is often a constant and challenging part of the game.

What this looks like to me - on casual inspection - is not a list so
much of what developers do that irks players in general, but rather,
one person's experience on perhaps a single (theoretical) system.
Which games specifically represent the negative aspects of these
points?  I'm coming up with zilch.

PjD

  [1] Mines of Titan did have a quasi-legit reason for this; they
  hid the surface mine entrances in such a way that it was very very
  difficult to stumble upon them by accident, without directions of
  a "10 paces north, 40 paces west" style.  I had to restore after
  getting lost on more than one occasion.
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