213: Method and Madness

Method and Madness

You've heard of Method Acting, whereby an actor attempts to "get into" a role by living as the subject he wishes to portray. But did you know it can work for game development as well? James Portnow explains the little known art of Method Design and how a trip to the firing range can help you make a better shooter.

Read Full Article

Uhg mew brains are not in high gear I am seeing everything backwards here ><

"Unfortunately, when creating experiences for players, we designers frequently spring to ivory tower answers to these questions. We say things like "guns fulfill a power fantasy" or "the feeling of speed plays on ancient predator/prey instincts," but I'm not sure that's good enough. Yes, human psychology is a vital part of game design - I'd even go so far as to say that it's impossible to design a good game without considering the psychology of the player - but designing experiences without partaking in those experiences (where possible) seems like taking the easy way out."
---
Does not mean you have to A reinvent the wheel or B make a movie or worse yet C reinvent movie making through gaming. Interactive films is what I think about when I think of modern gaming I do not think of fun, deep and rich gameplay and how it connects me with the game, its world and characters. It's that subtle connection that makes gaming wonderful beyond all other mediums and it's that connection that's been spiraling down the tubes since gaming went corporate 10ish years ago.
============================
"Method Design is the practice of living the experiences you design to help you better convey that experience to players. But merely living an experience is not nearly enough to make it useful for designing a game; it requires careful introspection and a very specific way of observing your experiences. This is the heart of the Method."
---
And IMO completely misses the mark.... You can't just package a generic experience into generic gameplay and expect it to do well....
===========================
"1. Don't look for realism. Instead, discover where reality and expectations don't jibe."
The low points can be made fun if one would focus more on gameplay and how to make it fun again.
---
Using fancy words for gameplay is a bit disingenuous IMO you can't turn a film project into a game and make it feel like a good game because from the outlook you started to make it as not a game but a "experience" and through that short sighted rose colored view you've just made another generic interactive film.
=============================
"2. Discover where reality exceeds fantasy."
---
But "secrets"(hidden stuff) have been removed from games for the sake of reality or more over the realities of the game are far from fantastical. /incoherent rant
I see what you want to do and it's not bad on its face IE making a intercut design that's almost a part of daily life however I am constantly worried about "results" I could frankly care less if you have a weapon, ect with a dozen animations it's what that weapon dose and how the AI reacts to it that makes or breaks a game, look at Damnation it goes through the motions but because it's not really built as a game its built as an "experience" and you can see how well that did....
====================================
"Training Introspection"
---
AArrgghhh either mew brains are dead today or are you talking in bloated shallow words, surprise and dissatisfaction are by nature fickle terms one can try and play averages with or work to make the experience practical for what it is and fun for what it's trying to be.
I mean I see you are trying to describe a kind of screen play here... but I hate event music.
Seriously through seeing what film dose with scenes it's not that hard to play out certain events and make them an "enjoyable" experience but as I said above its the outcome the result after that I am stuck with, gaming is not a one off type of media like film is its cascading for every action/experience there is another I think devs need to be more focused on the "WHOLE" experience rather than paint by number clichés that can so easily lead one into painting themselves into a corner....
================================================
"For Experiences You Can't Experience"
---
It's simple....you don't need to experience it.... And you do at try and cover reasonable facsimiles ..but I still think you are trying to make it out to be more than what it is....
====================================
"A Final Word of Warning"
--
I am to jaded to follow anything remotely industry standard so you've filled my head with nothing...mmm...perhaps that why I suck so much.... :P
=================================================
"One of the dangers of the Method is that it's easy to fall into the trap of becoming a slave to realism rather than a creator of fantasy. Don't go adding Desert Bus to your game just because you lived it."
---
Doom 3, Unreal 03,gears,quake 4,cod, ,ect,ect adnasusum gaming has in part become a slave to realism, the look and feel of the experience combined with copying film making elements has turned gaming from Quake 1-2 imagination driven concept and design that creates a deep and enriched game to Doom 3 and Quake 4 where realism more than artistic expression takes center stage , where bland realism replaces inventive and genius level design(so much so I can claim that doom 1 has better level layout design than 90% of modern FPSs without being laughed out of the room) where insipid realism infects weapon design and balance so much a game is simply "pabulum-atic" or boring to play because the essence of gaming was ignored during the development cycle.

I mean look at bioshock it's a mess pacing/item wise gun play is so so damages even worse than so so, if not for all the choices you are given it would be an interactive film much like DOOM 3 before it. But it sold well so it must be doing something right.....man can sell his soul for riches but is the price worth it?

What I am getting at we can do better, create a fully/richer experience for everyone not just the noobs who don't know better, and yes I use the term we loosely since my coding style is slash and burn(cut and paste) it's almost worse than my style of grammar >>
Research of it IE reasonable facsimile will bring you close to your goal you may can polish the visuals, ect with method design but it is only part of designing a audio/visual presentation and thinking of games like that, where interaction(be it with AI, how the weapon works in the world, ect) is 2nd or 3rd just makes for lulzy design IMO.....

Zippy speak brought to you today by Dyslexia, Dysphasia and ADD......

I really well thought out article and an inspiring piece for fellow designers. I carry a similar philosophy in the things I work on and am always eager to taste as much of the worlds I help create as I can. This has led to everything from being thrown down a hill, a broadsword swung at my head, to unexpectedly being plunged into darkness. They all help to add some personal insight into what might otherwise be an ambiguous matter, and often serve up little details we'd never consider looking at the situation from afar.

I'd love to hear about your three days as a vagrant, if it's not too off topic to discuss here. It sounds like it must make for an interesting little story all it's own. I admire your dedication in that immensely.

Rykka~

Great article. I'm most impressed by your dedication to your craft.

Thanks for that peek behind the curtain of game design. I think that the advice generally holds, and it reinforces the notion that there's really no substitute for experience. Of course, this belies the big caveat of the article: reading and even adhering to a set of design rules is not the same as actually doing it.

@ZippyDSMlee: I suspect you're focusing too much on what the article doesn't say instead of what it does say.

- Alan

Yes, yes! You weren't there, you don't know what it's like.

So much is learned from experience. It is a talent to break down these experiences, identify what is core about them, and draw from that to create entertainment/immersion. If nothing else it can give you a target to shoot for.

I play video-games to escape "Realism" so yea, i say it is.

I tend to avoid realistic games because that's the point where I just think, if I wanted to do this so much, I'd do it in real life.

Hmm... I can't seem to put down into words how I feel about "realism" in games. Never had to think about it before, due in part of me being a super-man taking on alien demons with a pocket knife/rocket launcher while saving the princess.

Werewolf zombie space shooter sounds kinda like Wolfenstein.

AkJay:
I play video-games to escape "Realism" so yea, i say it is.

Agreed. I'll actually avoid games if they go overboard on the realism. Gears of War? Blood, grit, and everything grey and brown; I'll pass. Borderlands, cell-shaded, purposely forth-wall breaking, and bullets made of freezing napalm; I'll take two.

ZippyDSMlee:
*snip*

Okay I get what you are saying (sort of) but to summarize for those that didn't:
Stop giving us that same damn gun metal gray M16, and give us back the technicolor BFG 9000 which was a hell of a lot more fun!

Realism in games is fine, it's just that people designing games are going for the wrong type of realism. Many games, especially Military tactical shooters like the Call of Duty franchise, Gears of War, and MGS4 are hell-bent on giving realism of environment. The obsession over physics, the hi-res textures and models, the million-dollar particle effects engine; all this is done to put the player in a "real" environment, but it is at the expense of designing realistic characters that the player is interacting with.

Do you feel bad when your squad-mates get mowed down fifteen feet into enemy territory? No, you don't because they're not real, they've not been developed enough for you to give a damn if they live or die. Sure, your in-game character can get all broken up over them, but you as a player don't have that emotional attachment.

In my opinion, the most realistic game I've ever played was Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom. Sure, it's Wing Commander, set in space, in the future, and the human race is rebuilding itself after a long space-war with a race of humanoid cat-beings. BUT the characters are fleshed-out; your interactions with them have meaning and affect the way they behave toward you later on in the game. I still haven't played through enough times to hit all of the options in the Choice Tree that Colonel Blair has throughout the game.

I think the demand for Whiz-bang Graphics for the past 15 years has taken priority over creating characters we care about. Unfortunately, the advances in technology have done well to feed the cutting-edge graphics addiction, rather than helping designers write better characters.

If the game calls for a sense of Realism, then going overboard is a bad thing. Some people want to experience an altered universe because they seek the sense of escapism many games and books offer us.

The issue is definitely a tight-rope walk for graphics designers. There's usually two scenarios where realism isn't appropriate for a game: when it doesn't fit the game world, or when it makes things uncomfortable.
For the former, I cite Psychonauts: that game needed a unique, cartoonish aesthetic to be taken seriously... how weird would it have been if those kids looked like real people?
For the latter, I cite Fallout 3: the original Fallouts had over-the-top graphic violence, and with the low resolution graphics it came off as pulp, almost cartoonish, "Kill Bill"-esque if you will. For Fallout 3 they worked hard to make the game world and characters realistic, but wanted to keep the graphic "head-explodey" violence, which sometimes came off as a bit sickening (to me, anyway). Worst part was the "Bloody Mess" which made things even more disgusting: a headshot would make limbs fall off the body, or just make it explode into chunky salsa. X-(

Games like Halo 3 and the Gears of War series shouldn't have realism in them. They're adding realism to an un-realistic setting. Without realism, games can be a lot more creative and a lot more balanced. For instance, with Halo 3, there was a definite choice of weapons that were good and weapons that were pure tripe. With Halo 2, these weapons weren't all as bad. Someone with a battle-rifle could still be killed as easily with a pistol. If you take any of the Unreal Tournament games, weapons are all as capable (well...except for the lightning gun and redeemer. Former is shite, latter is awesome), they're all easy to use and can kill or be killed by anyone with any weapon. Also, no annoying reloading. You know that moment when you're in a fire-fight, your enemy has a millimetre of health left, and you have to reload. In that time, your enemy's blown your sad reloading arse into oblivion.

Another example is weapon capacity. Halo, only 2 weapons (not counting dual-wield). Unreal, Quake, DOOM, Ratchet and Clank etc. weapon capacity is limited only by the number of weapons that are in the game. When you run out of ammo, you have a huge choice of weapons to switch to. Other games you only have one other weapon, which can then run out, or it's just shite.

There, my 1.325 pence....

It's important to know that games are not supposed to be realistic, just to be realistic. They have to be realistic, because part of the real world rox0idz.

"Unfortunately, when creating experiences for players, we designers frequently spring to ivory tower answers to these questions."

While I do search for ivory tower intellectualism sometimes, most of the time gaming is about the visceral experience. Most of the time you'll be appealing to emotions and base desires.

As for realism, I generally appreciate it when a game is as realistic as possible. The settings I prefer are mostly "realistic" (probable in reality) to a certain degree. But of course I recognize that some realistic components may not be fun. The point about taking elements of reality exceeding fantasy is a good point, since it is exhilarating when a game goes beyond your expectations and is really part of what is considered to be the pinnacle of game design.

KingPiccolOwned:

ZippyDSMlee:
*snip*

Okay I get what you are saying (sort of) but to summarize for those that didn't:
Stop giving us that same damn gun metal gray M16, and give us back the technicolor BFG 9000 which was a hell of a lot more fun!

Congratulations you win a cookie,sorry for my grammar hell ><
To put it simply stop reproducing every nuance of the living world. Out with the bland,tried un realistic realism.

I know the answers to the questions you've placed before us:

James Portnow:
Why is driving a car at high speeds around a track exciting?

Firstly, there's the omnipresent danger of driving, accentuated at high speeds. With only a small patch of rubber keeping the car in contact with the road, it's all too easy for an inexperienced driver to push the car past its limits, and leave themselves at risk of injury - or death.

Then, there are other elements of pushing a car to the limits. There's the gravitational forces, pushing you as you take a corner; the roar of a race-tuned engine, with thousands of components moving synchroniously thousands of times a minute, all going ahead and transmitting that ferocious power to the road through the aforementioned small patches of rubber.

With all of these factors in play, is it any wonder that car racing is exciting?

James Portnow:
What's exhilarating about the charge of horses or the roar of cannon fire?

Again, this is deeply rooted in that sense of danger about charging horses or cannon fire. Whichever side you happen to be on, it's a fairly safe bet to presume that you're marching into some sort of danger. Being on the edge of instant death does tend to be quite exciting, as long as you're in control of the situation.

Another factor which weighs into this is the fact that in both scenarios, things are going to get loud. The audible factor means a lot in these circumstances, with the ceaseless churning of mud under the horse's hooves, and the short, sharp blast from the muzzle of a cannon.
- - -
The reason I've taken the liberty of answering these questions is because I find that this is one of the most contentious articles that I've ever read on the Escapist. You see, I'm one of those simulation gamers that you may have heard of, but possibly never met, and I'm a militant supporter of more realism in many genres, particularly the first-person shooter and the racing game.

My reasoning? As opposed to you, I believe that there are many scenarios in reality that are exciting and fun enough to translate into a game - or a movie, or a piece of literature. Where I agree with you is on your stance towards "genuinely un-fun" portions of real life, but your definition of "unsatisfying" is a lot different to my own; in fact, certain parts of reality are far more satisfying to me than unrealism and fantasy.

As you suggest, it is often the minutiae which enhance the experience of a simulation game. Details which would be lost to the general public, such as racing decals, proper engine notes, details on the side of a firearm or realistic ballistics, are the very details which are sought out by the simulation enthusiast. When a games developer streamlines those for the sake of the general market, we don't tend to applaud their decisions.

The type of game that I'm most militant about introducing realism into is the driving game, and there's a very good reason for that. I happen to think, and I think any professional racing driver would agree with me, that cars which conform to the laws of physics are far, far more exciting than the sloppy-handling disasters that one finds in the likes of Need for Speed. It takes a lot of skill to control a ferociously powerful sports car, a lot more than it takes to drift a Need for Speed car around a corner, and being able to control the real car ends up far more satisfying in the end.

A streamlined approach to realism doesn't just happen in computer gaming; it happens all too often in cinema as well. There's a reason why racing enthusiasts hunt down movies like Le Mans and Grand Prix; these are films that don't push the racing to the side. Instead, their creators realised just what made automotive racing so exciting, focusing on the car as much as the man driving it. Unfortunately, nobody seems willing to try another racing film with that sort of exciting realistic action any more; they seem more focused on shovelling out dog-turds like Driven and Days of Thunder.

At this point, I may have given the impression that I'm completely averse to unrealistic scenarios, but that's not quite true either. If the game is sufficiently unrealistic and sufficiently fun, I tend to accept it by virtue of that fun factor. However, the games in the middle of the spectrum, which make any sort of concessions to real life, have to really work on the story and the gameplay to interest me. For this reason, there is only one series which features prominent mecha that interests me, and I tend to avoid games like Saint's Row 2 or the like.

To conclude, I may be one of a rare breed of gamer, one that really opposes the backlash to realism that seems to be dominating in the gaming world currently. It's for a good reason, though; I honestly believe that realistic games, if done properly, can be more exciting than many of the games which promote pure escapist fantasy.

P.S. I don't tend to like the over-the-top explosions of Hollywood action movies, and I certainly don't like the "love at first sight" approach of romantic comedies.

Hey, guys. Did you read the same article as I did? Because I read an article about trying to place real experience into a game. You seem to have read some other article about realism in games.

It's interesting the two things would be confused. Many developers, I think, confuse them as well. Now, I think that the methodical, realistic game has its charm, but the gaming companies have come to rely on them too much. A Call of Duty style game will play on a completely different set of emotions than a Serious Sam game. And I agree with guy over there ^^ who says that sometimes being able to conquer the small bad things about an experience enriches that experience; for a dumb personal example, I always played racing games with automatic gear changing because I thought it was boring, but when I first tried playing it with manual gears being able to change that felt very satisfying.

And no matter how unrealistic a setting is, it will only be successful if it manages to evoke familiar emotions on players/watchers. A zombie apocalypse has never happened (yet!) but if the piece done in this setting is done well it will show feelings of dispair, isolation, constant danger, that are certain to resonate with people. If it's really well done, you're essentially stuck in a place, surrounded by things that look like people but care nothing about you, always surrounded yet always alone, clinging to the ones that aren't like the others with the fear they'll be taken away from you - it's everyone's life.

Unfortunately, I am not, and do not intend to be, a game designer, so this read was wasted on me. Good one, though. Cheerio!

The Random One:
Hey, guys. Did you read the same article as I did? Because I read an article about trying to place real experience into a game. You seem to have read some other article about realism in games.

It's interesting the two things would be confused. Many developers, I think, confuse them as well. Now, I think that the methodical, realistic game has its charm, but the gaming companies have come to rely on them too much. A Call of Duty style game will play on a completely different set of emotions than a Serious Sam game. And I agree with guy over there ^^ who says that sometimes being able to conquer the small bad things about an experience enriches that experience; for a dumb personal example, I always played racing games with automatic gear changing because I thought it was boring, but when I first tried playing it with manual gears being able to change that felt very satisfying.

And no matter how unrealistic a setting is, it will only be successful if it manages to evoke familiar emotions on players/watchers. A zombie apocalypse has never happened (yet!) but if the piece done in this setting is done well it will show feelings of dispair, isolation, constant danger, that are certain to resonate with people. If it's really well done, you're essentially stuck in a place, surrounded by things that look like people but care nothing about you, always surrounded yet always alone, clinging to the ones that aren't like the others with the fear they'll be taken away from you - it's everyone's life.

Unfortunately, I am not, and do not intend to be, a game designer, so this read was wasted on me. Good one, though. Cheerio!

IMO realism is the understandable,mundane and expected even predictable things in a game like real life fire rates for weapons, head shots or fatal or do more damage,heavy fall damage, armor dose not protect you so well, weak weapons becuse they won;t work well on fictional enemies, can't jump for sht,bland/cramped level layouts that have you running from A to B with little else to do,ect,ect,ect basically where a fun and intuitive game is dragged down by un intuitive balancing and design goals.

if all games were super realistic then niko bellic wouldn't be able to fit and rpg, a grenade launcher, an assault rifle , an uzi and a pistol in his trouser pocket all at the same time!

"Realism" has become something i stay away from. Ironically, many attempts to make a game more realistic makes it less realistic, but more importantly, hurls you out of the atmosphere and thusly makes it less immersive.

I recently bought "Arma 2" because Friends told me that "DayZ" was nice and i discovered that it actually was not. Standing next to a doorframe, i heard a Zombie moaning, which is cause for instant panic because they can make you bleed with one punch for which they don't even close their fists. So you better turn around and shoot them. Attempting to that while being next to a wall or a doorway can be hazardous because your character can turn around so fast that you can run your arms into the wall and possibly break them. If you try to turn around more slowly you can't because your extended arms holding your gun are in the way.

This attempt at realism makes it less realistic then ye olde doom style shooter because "realistically" i'd just shift my arms up instead of trying to push them through the wall. I'd do that without even thinking about it; if one would want to be super realistic about it, add a possibility of shooting myself in the foot if i push the fire button in the exact moment i have my gun pointed to the ground while i turn around.
The Possibility that my Character can break his bones when falling from the second Floor seems kinda odd to me because i have never broken any of my Bones. I did come close once when i stumbled while running and smashed my knee onto a concrete slab. Slab was broken, my Knee hurt for a week. So maybe one could add the possibility of your Character just stumbling and falling down because of stupidity.

Some realism is also lost in DayZ when you break something and heal it instantly with morphine and painkillers.

In "Dishonored" one can peak out from behind something to see Enemies patrolling with no risk of them seeing your Head because it is apparently invisible when in "leaning" mode.
In this particular game i also found the morals very odd. Just have one good ending where everyone is happy and farts rainbows all the time and it would actually make more sense then everything turning evil because you did things that the game considers "bad", instead of taking enough time for every mission that the bad guys should be dead from natural causes.
But instead, they've put in probably months of work in an attempt to make things realistic which then only serve to make things less realistic then any "normal" happy ending where the bad guys go away forever and everyone else gets to eat Cake.

 

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