The Hard Problem: Dynamic Content

 Pages PREV 1 2
 

This has made me think about things I had already mentioned before on here somewhere...

He mentions that people say on a level for 20 minutes and then move on, forever. I cannot stand this kind of thinking and it seems to be common today. In fact, this is the reason Gamestop is allowed to thrive HURR DURR BEAT A GAME TRADE IT IN DURP!!!

I don't understand why people pay $60 for a game, play it ONCE, and then sell it. What is wrong with holding on to that investment? You might want to play it again 10 years down the road, or even right after you finish, if it is a good game.

A game you only play through once is a bad game (or you have a short attention span), end of story. Replay value, to me, is the most important aspect of a game.

SIDENOTE: I am also tired of half-assed multiplayer modes showing up just so the creators can brag about INFINITE REPLAYABILITY.

Also, he seems to hate stories in games, which is strange. I know most of the games out now have absolutely nothing in the story department, but that doesn't mean they CAN'T have a great story. The unique approach to storytelling is what makes D2, Killer 7, and Silent Hill 2 my three favorite games of all time.

By the way, did that Grand Theft Auto IV example sound really tedious and boring to anyone else :/?

Dooly95:

John Scott Tynes:
The Hard Problem: Dynamic Content

Developers need to stop treating games like they're virtual books and start crafting more dynamic experiences.

Read Full Article

The Sims: GTA Ver.

That's really all I got from that. Really. Admittedly, a really, really advanced take on the Sims.

I like my narrative in games. Imagine if all we did in GTA was to steal a car and get from point A to point B with each level making the amount of police chasing you increasing. Pac-Man, again.

Realistically, I wonder if we have A.I. that can manage that. Or assuming we do, if our PCs or gaming machines can run it. The chess machine looks like it fits in my closet. And that's basically what this is, isn't it? A response to a player's actions that will cause a change in the player's surroundings - I might be on a limb, but this sounds like... chess.

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Good god, people, why did you read this and get the idea that we should drop narrative content entirely from our games?!

You know how in games like, say... Prototype or Assassin's Creed, people say that the story is good but the side- or sub-missions are not? Let's make those dynamic; procedurally creating villains, allies, objectives, whatever. Chosen objectives from a list, maybe strung together or combined. Hell, let's use this technique to generate chains of side-missions. Side-chains, in fact. These run parallel to the main story, but don't necessarily advance on it. They give loot and treasure and new safehouses, or give extra strength to the faction they relate to, whatever. But they're not the 'main storyline' missions. And even elements of those can be dynamic, but not compromise the experience.

It's time for an example, using Assassin's Creed. You may or may not care, so I've hidden it inside a drop-down tag. If you don't care, you're done with my post here.

Click on, please, but be warned. It's long. Due to said length, I've broken it into parts.

I completely agree that it would be nice to have procedurally generated villians, storylines etc. but wouldn't that be even more trouble and effort than making a game with these horrific 'levels'? I would agree 100% with the author of the article, but he just made it seem as if it had to be his way or no way at all. Different people make different games. Could you imagine if Silent Hill 2 had procedurally generated content? It would completely suck you out of the story and mood.
Also I agree with you, Fredrick. Games are something of a collector's item to me, and it makes very little sense how shallow people can be and simply give a game away when they're done. Unless it's a crap game, of course.

Somebody should make this into a mod.

I think this article could have been classic but degenerated into him fantasy wishing about what he wants to see in a GTA game. Look unless you own or have access to a PS3 you get what you deserve horrid Wii graphics or a inferior PS3 clone with rip off online capabilities, Xbox 360.

I do agree that games are not virtual books. They are way more than that. If people wanted to read virtual books they would be flocking to Google Reader right now. But games are also not physical sports which is why the Wii sucks. You don't buy a game to swing a baseball bat, you buy a game to enjoy a game in the safety of your own home.

The PS3 has USB ports. That right there eliminates the virtual book aspect of the game because it is more like a computer. You don't need a memory card if you can hook up your PS3 to the internet and download stuff onto the hard drive. The Xbox 360 is a crappy version of this. The Wii? Parker Bros must of helped make it. I don't play Monopoly or Life anymore. This isn't about social interaction. If you still gotta spend time with 10 family members and friends, then you are lame.

Ultimately, if you have a PS3, a PC, or better yet both, then you can still enjoy the arcade era in your own home. Maybe you can buy a Wii for those rare Parker Bros occasions when you and your wife or girl want to get it in but make no mistake about the reason why you are buying it. Don't be ignorant.

R.O.:
I think this article could have been classic but degenerated into him fantasy wishing about what he wants to see in a GTA game. Look unless you own or have access to a PS3 you get what you deserve horrid Wii graphics or a inferior PS3 clone with rip off online capabilities, Xbox 360.

I do agree that games are not virtual books. They are way more than that. If people wanted to read virtual books they would be flocking to Google Reader right now. But games are also not physical sports which is why the Wii sucks. You don't buy a game to swing a baseball bat, you buy a game to enjoy a game in the safety of your own home.

The PS3 has USB ports. That right there eliminates the virtual book aspect of the game because it is more like a computer. You don't need a memory card if you can hook up your PS3 to the internet and download stuff onto the hard drive. The Xbox 360 is a crappy version of this. The Wii? Parker Bros must of helped make it. I don't play Monopoly or Life anymore. This isn't about social interaction. If you still gotta spend time with 10 family members and friends, then you are lame.

Ultimately, if you have a PS3, a PC, or better yet both, then you can still enjoy the arcade era in your own home. Maybe you can buy a Wii for those rare Parker Bros occasions when you and your wife or girl want to get it in but make no mistake about the reason why you are buying it. Don't be ignorant.

Hello R.O, for this insightful post I am going to give you the nickname: PS3 fanboy. Wear it with pride because only a fanboy could turn an article on dynamic gameplay into, lets bash the other consoles.

On topic this article is terrible. Making a game more dynamic means more variables that need to be accounted for, means more glitches, means more development time, means higher costs, means that if the game fails the company goes with it. Dynamic content also makes games shallow, part of the dynamic content of Mass Effect is the ability to make your own name. The result, everyone calls you shepard no matter the situation which is just unrealistic. Games that tout their dynamic nature also either fall into good or evil because it just takes to long to develop a game where character X acts Y because Z happened but also does W because V occured. In a more dynamic world that formula would have to be applied to every character which would take years to make.

Then there is the story. If there is a story then it must be safeguarded so the player doesn't find their vital informant missing because they made a bunch of potholes with rockets in the road a kilometre back. How would the player know why the informant is missing? Either this event along with a million others are predicted or the player sends the game back. If there is no story what so ever then the game has to be bloody fun or you will get the players that don't throw the game out - looking up guides for the best results. Looking at guides may be cheating but in a more dynamic world the player may ruin the game for themselves by their actions. Believe me, when a player gets trapped in a room because they broke the elevators they won't be praising the dynamic nature of the game, they will be pissed.

Oh and if you want a bunch of progress bars in GTA just play Oblivion or something.

Open with this

bkd69:
John, you ignorant slut.

Move on to this

Another solution I had in mind was a three tired game. I read an sf story back in the 80s that had humans contracting with aliens that had a lifespan of 10,000 years to some work on some project or another. Thing is, the humans had to subcontract to an insect sized race of aliens with a lifespan of only 24 hours to finish some of the components they needed. How does this translate into a game? In this case, the long lived aliens are represented by the publisher, who have some bigger metaplot ongoing. The short term is represented by casual gamers, who jump on to play quick casual games for free. In the middle we have the paying gamers, who are collecting resources from a block of games being played by the casual gamers to contribute to their part of their project.

4 words.
Pot
Kettle
Crack
Pipe

At least one thing evidenced by the comments left here is that one of the things that make dynamic content hard is fanboyism and a misunderstanding of what dynamic content is - some seem to be confusing it with random content. Random content is minimally or doesn't take into account at all the actions of the player.

Left 4 Dead is a good example, even when one is aware of the under lying mechanics, that shows that deciding factor in what happens is in regards to what actions the player characters take.

I came to a similar conclusion as this article's author with regards to the percentage markers in the past, dreaming up a system of game event nodes that could have either NPC rivals plugged into or the PC, so that the stories of games could be driven by player choice and decide the outcome of the setting.

And that is ultimately what I think game designers are there to provide: Game Mechanics that the player and NPC follow, Setting that the PC and NPC live in accordance with the Game Mechanics, Friendly/Neutral/Aggressive NPC that have Goals within the Setting, and Tools that the PC and NPC use the Game Mechanics to manipulate the Setting so accomplish their Goals.

In some ways I think this is what helped make games like Half-Life and Unreal Tournament so popular, yes they were linear in some if not most respects, but the reactions of the NPC allowed for some dynamic content, for example the different reactions to a grenade being thrown.

It is my strong opinion, I don't even want to bother being humble with it, that games stories irregardless of the intent of the developers have been decided by the player and the more freedom a game allows for that to be impacted by the player's character actions, the larger consequences for those actions improve the scope of the player's character story resulting in more "Wow!" moments that a player would be willing to tell as a story to other players who can relate their own stories. Possibly one of the best examples of this that I have seen has been Dwarf Fortress, if one can suffer the steep learning curve of the interface (it is possible to get graphical tiles, also check out this site if you are interested and new to it: http://afteractionreporter.com/2009/02/09/the-complete-and-utter-newby-tutorial-for-dwarf-fortress-part-1-wtf/ ) it reveals that a player's so called mistakes can be as rewarding as his successes because the setting of the game responds to the actions of the player. But other examples of this include things as simple as gameplay videos (sometimes even going so far as to create Machinema) on Youtube of player's discovering their own unique unscripted events that their character pulls off - since the game isn't reacting to their improvised story as satisfactorily as they might like, they turn to their fellow gamers to acknowledge their accomplishment, a reward of cheers or jeers that won't be forth coming from the game. Still yet other examples are of online journals of characters, telling their character's story within a game, many which are very fun reads.

Without a doubt in my mind, the world needs more games with dynamic content, it has been one of the driving forces of great games through out the decades since our hobby first began. Without it, we would still be facing Wolfenstien 3D level AI running straight at us and NPCs would still be waiting for us to speak to them to repeat the same old tired thing if it weren't for dynamic content. When there is limited or no dynamic content in a game, we notice.

Of the game development I am aware of at the moment, one of the more interesting player driven games is one called Love being developed by Eskil Steenberg. Also notable is how Pen & Paper games can also have very dynamic content with an engaging Game Master.

Well, best of luck to my fellow players in discovering your character's unique stories! I hope you get to share them with me one day. :-D

R.O.:
The PS3 has USB ports. That right there eliminates the virtual book aspect of the game because it is more like a computer.

A fine bit of analysis right here.

Back on topic, I like the notion of rivals in a sandbox game: opponents who are out there getting shit done, as opposed to sitting around all day waiting for you to show up and play their prefabricated mission. Seems that developer response to complaints of 'this world feels dead' is usually to ram-pack tons and tons of strolling idiots onto the sidewalks, and maybe a few armed street gangs as well. A handful of unique bad guys with a bit of agency and a list of objectives to complete would help alleviate the feeling that the world is constantly waiting for you to get on with the show.

Of course, some players feel overwhelmed by the huge amounts of 'passive' activities, quests, and challenges already, so having them under the gun of racing against enemies at all times might not be the most enjoyable addition.

Thanks for all the great discussion, folks. Except for the completely inexplicable detour into PS3 vs. Xbox 360, which I nonetheless enjoyed for its surreal quality.

Should I become the fascist lord of all gaming, I assure you that I won't eliminate narrative games. The twist in Bioshock was truly inspired, for example, because of how it played on and undercut the traditional goal-based level-progression narrative. But that's a story you can only experience once with the same impact. If you think about something really impressive you've done in, say, a multiplayer session or an RTS or a sandbox game, something that wasn't scripted but that came about because of your own skills and ingenuity and luck, those are the kinds of "stories" that I'd like our industry to better enable because those are the stories players truly own.

However, I'll cheerfully stand behind my dismissal of game developers who write badly. Good writing in games is incredibly rare. We'll get real-time raytracing before we get a broad swath of games with the writing quality of, say, Portal, where the actual line-by-line writing really enriches the experience.

The best time I ever had in a GTA game was in Vice City. There was a shopping mall and I spent an entire evening with a friend of mine just in that one shopping mall. We kept pulling robberies, figuring out how to squeeze cars through the doors, and testing the reactions of the police to learn where we could hide out between heists. It was a blast, and it wasn't a scripted mission at all. It was just us exploring the rules of the game and bending them in ways that were great fun.

I want more of THAT.

One of the great things Bioshock did was take the boss fight and cut it loose from the usual end-of-level sequencing. Instead the boss fight was a wandering encounter and you could choose where and when to trigger it. That one change turned what is otherwise a straightforward, heavily scripted, level-based game into an experience that could be just a little different at every attempt.

I want more of that, too.

KONAMI's new Silent Hill game has a similar adaptive experience that they are implementing into the game. It adapts to the way you play to find the best way to freak you out.

well, to each their own. i personally find there is enough room for both types of games. super dynamic games that change completely every time you play them, and the classics that has set patterns. some days, i enjoy playing a game where i know every enemies' attack patterns and what is next beyond the next door. some days, i want to be surprised by something new.

i don't think developers have to make all games dynamic just because we have the horse power to pull it off, some games work better with set patterns, single path gameplay, and save points every 5 minutes.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
Interesting--never realized it before reading this article, but I wonder if it's that the Platforming game is so deep in the video game DNA that it wound up determining the course of everything from the FPS to the RPG. Sort of like you're calling for an alternate path that never happened: what if instead gaming grew out of the 4X genre instead of the Platformer?

That's a really interesting question actually. I'm not sure that it's possible for video games to have evolved along a different line, because they've always been held back more by what is possible at a given framerate, than what is imaginable or code-able for the developers. 4X games have expanded and influenced other games, and pick up and play games still exist. I'm not sure resource management (game resources, not system) is a desired attribute in every game, the multiple bars of wealth / infamy etc. would still lead to pretty linear play in my mind.

I myself was reminded of games like Sins of a Solar Empire and Sim City instead of games like Zelda and Metroid when reading through this. Though ultimately, I think levels exist as an essential component of most types of games. It originally existed in FPS's to reduce the amount of data in use at a given time, which is why even when quake 2 came out and had sprawling 'levels' they were made up of smaller connected levels, A process which has continued into the half-life series.

I think the desire to tell a story combined with the desire to have pretty graphics and still be executed on current gen hardware was the prevailing influence on game design as opposed to an unseen need to write a book rule. Every game without a "level" is able to be loaded into memory as a whole, some kick out parts of the graphics as you view different areas to reduce total load, but actions occurring outside the player's view still occur Simultaneously, think of Turn based strategy games, real time strategy games, puzzle games, etc. however, in a FPS you don't have this, the only actions occurring in the world are the ones next to you, and it's because of the amount of stress that puts on the system.

The real trick for procedurally generated content will be to get closer and closer to being able to imitate the Dungeon Master of a Dungeons and Dragons game. That's where your own choices and decisions can REALLY change the course of a game, and no two can ever be the same. To do that, the game developer has to ultimately make the choice to NOT tell the story. This is actually a much bigger hurdle, and thoughts on how to accomplish that, are welcome :)

TomBeraha:

Cheeze_Pavilion:
Interesting--never realized it before reading this article, but I wonder if it's that the Platforming game is so deep in the video game DNA that it wound up determining the course of everything from the FPS to the RPG. Sort of like you're calling for an alternate path that never happened: what if instead gaming grew out of the 4X genre instead of the Platformer?

That's a really interesting question actually. I'm not sure that it's possible for video games to have evolved along a different line, because they've always been held back more by what is possible at a given framerate, than what is imaginable or code-able for the developers.

And that's a really interesting answer! Maybe the decision back then was a purely practical one like you say, and no one's realized that that 'solution' might have been practical back in the days of DOOM, but because the same advances in technology that make the old way of doing things cost-prohibitive have made other solutions feasible today that weren't before.

bkd69:
John, you ignorant slut.

You know as well as anybody that while level design is a significant cost, the biggest development cost comes in the form of assets.

Um, that's what the author is talking about: "Those giant AAA level-based sacks of linear, use-once content" The author didn't say anything about level design--the author's point, I think, is that a game being level based means you don't get to reuse art assets. Like the author said:

"Level-based games are a huge problem. They're why AAA next-gen games cost $20 million and up to make. Every level's worth of content represents a massive investment of time, talent, and manpower, all for an experience that a typical player might see for twenty minutes or so before moving on to the next level. Forever."

It's not so much making the assets, it's how *many* have to be made per minute of play in level-based games. If multiple 'stages' of the game could happen in the same place, the number of minutes-per-asset would go way up.

geizr:

Dynamic content, in my mind, would be having the game actually invent a whole new region, level, item, monster, npc, or other assets on the fly or as the game progresses(or at the very least be able to research such assets and chose the appropriate ones for the current progression of the game) and insert those assets into the game at appropriate moments. However, this requires the game to do something that, as far as I know, is impossible for any computer to do, have an imagination. The game would also have to remember what it has done on prior gaming sessions such to not repeat the same content over and over, at least not until the gamer has completed the content at least once. Achieving this sort of dynamic content creation would require far more resources and effort than any current linear game, thus worsening the costs of game creation.

Would it? What if you crossed Grand Theft Auto with...SimCity? Not so much an author as much as a kind of a video game sociologist: when enough people are in an area, a shop opens up. When enough shops open up, some criminals start shaking them down for protection money. When those criminals get powerful enough, one of the main NPCs authored by the human design team takes notice of them and deals with them the way the AI players in a 4X game deal with each other?

John Scott Tynes:

One of the great things Bioshock did was take the boss fight and cut it loose from the usual end-of-level sequencing. Instead the boss fight was a wandering encounter and you could choose where and when to trigger it. That one change turned what is otherwise a straightforward, heavily scripted, level-based game into an experience that could be just a little different at every attempt.

And you know what? It allowed the reuse of assets. The same place I find an audio diary could be the place that later I fight a bunch of splicers, which could then be where I fight a Big Daddy, which could then be the location I go back to in order to buy stuff from the machine I hacked an hour ago.

Like you said, it's the 'haunted house' approach to games that makes AAA titles so expensive, where the story pushes you to keep you moving along while having to surprise you every couple of feet with something new. BioShock was able to build so many gorgeous levels for a realistic amount of money because you reused so much of the level over and over again. I guess because they threw a couple of areas at you that you only visit once, but linked them by way of areas you use over and over.

Hmm--never thought about it until now, but really, BioShock got around the issue of 'levels' by turning the level from a straight corridor into a series of hubs with spokes. You only used most of the spokes/rooms once, but you used the corridors over and over again.

And you didn't mind because it made it feel worth your while to have hacked the cameras and turrets in those hubs ;-D

 Pages PREV 1 2

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here