Thursday, November 28, 2013

Practice 2013: Choices Have Consequences: Creating the Immersive Simulation

Sim Rules = Sims Rule (by Warren Spector)
·         A word about terminology (two types of interchangeable terms)
o   Emergent gameplay, rules-based design, systemic design, player-driven, simulation
o   Special-case design, emulation-driven, pre-scripted design, hard-coding
·         Some recent games (GTA, Spelunky, Dishonored, Saints Row, Fallout, Tetris, FTL, Minecraft, Mass Effect, Deus Ex, Versu, Papers Please) all exploit the power of emergent gameplay.
·         Different from tightly script adventures (Uncharted, Heavy Rain, Walking Dead)
·         Highly-polished linear games aren’t bad. Offering limited pre-planned choices can be a good thing.
·         Warren is more interested in emergence than in scripted adventures.
·         “The Quark & The” and “Emergence” by John Holland
·         Emergence definition – much from little, more than you put in, building blocks, program is fully reducible to the rules that define it, nothing remains hidden, behaviors generated are not easily anticipated, its rules can surprise the programmer, ever-changing flux of patterns leads to perpetual novelty
·         Harvey Smith – games of the future will rely on high fidelity world representations
·         Emergent game designers = Harvey Smith, Randy Smith Doug Church, Richard Garriott, Bioware, Rockstar, Lionhead, Maxis, Arkane, Bethesda
·         Simple rules = rules-based interaction
·         Flexible objects = objects allow dynamic interactions, interactions are determined by players.
·         Player choices = result in novel situations
·         Future of game design is tied to our awareness & exploitation of emergence, we can generate player-driven experiences
·         “A good metric for analog interactivity vs. discrete interactivity is to what extent the designer is able to predict the players’ experiences.” Total predictability is a bad thing.
·         Fail-Learn-Retry isn’t good game design. Share the spotlight.
·         X-Wing vs. Star FoxDeus Ex vs. Half LifeSkyrim vs. Bioshock Infinite = very emergent gameplay vs. very scripted story-based games
·         Emergent games give players the tools to discover or create, provide context in which players act, bound the player experience but don’t determine the player experience
·         Deus Ex = multiple solutions to problems, didn’t care how people solve problems, let players make their own plans and try different behaviors
·         The most interesting games let players devise personally meaningful goals, formulate and execute plans, and use the information. Plans must be devised by the player.
·         Old-fashion game design – team discusses missions in general terms, specific plans for specific interactions left to designers, properties of game elements exist per instance, “what will I make players do here?”
·         Single-solution puzzles – “manually setting up solutions to game problems requires a lot of work on the part of the team, can result in inconsistencies and generally only equates to a small number of possibilities for the player.” – Harvey Smith.
·         When people play these types of games, you aren’t playing the game. You are playing the designer.
·         Sources of frustration – arbitrary force foils the player, behaviors change instance-to-instance, environment inconsistent or incomplete, plans often fail for inexplicable reasons.
·         Pros of emulation – always get exactly the behavior you want, player comfort
·         Cons of emulation – time to develop, player frustration, changes must be made individually and may create bugs
·         New emergent game design – teams still discusses mission fiction and general gameplay, plan types of interactions but not specifics, define game elements with globally defined characteristics, craft game systems that define behaviors and interactions globally, “where will players express themselves?”
·         Global systems design – create global universal rules, interlocking systems, classes of propertized objects
·         Simulation – types of interactions, object-oriented design
·         Theory to practice – consistency of cause and effect, unpredictable but logical outcomes, interlocking rules/systems
·         Old Memory, which game has crates earliest?
·         Pros of sims – game elements behave consistently, players can intuit behaviors, players can make plans.
·         Cons of sims – need for definitions for all objects, need art and sound, testing, metrics, players will break your game, feedback is everything, requires players to think, making a plan is hard, decisions are scary
·         Emergence and business – financial success (GTA, Skyrim), easier content generation, easier game-tuning and bug-fixing, replayability, more play time per development money spent, easier learning curve, supports a broader range of players
·         Emergence and art - games become more game-like, more complex AI requirements, larger possibility space, richer-looking environment matched by better interactivity
·         The highest form of respect is thoughtful criticism.
·         Queer games movement, it’s important for designers to express their point of view and empower the voice of the designers.  Simulation games are much more like dialogues.
·         Is there room for an author’s presence in a game? It’s disingenuous to say that simulations are devoid of authorship and the designer’s voice.
·         Simulation and emulation exist in lots of areas of games
·         Warren’s dream is to start a small indie program to explore more simulation games
·         Emergent communicative behavior like Journey?
·         Emergent behaviors that happen in the players’ mind? Speed runs, Olympic badminton players who were disqualified, kingmakers in board games. It’s okay, let players make their own play and exploit the system. Encourage exploitation and consider your bugs as features.

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