In Defense of Hepler Mode

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In Defense of Hepler Mode

Shamus offers support for a "Hepler Mode" in games.

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Maybe instead of adding Hepler Mode, developers should make games where the story and gameplay are in harmony instead of competition. But if Hepler Mode is possible - if combat is nothing more than an obstacle between cutscenes and nothing you do in a fight will have consequences later on - then I don't see any reason not to give players the option.

I completely agree. I personally saw no problem with Helper's comments, and agree that the reaction was... well, to call it overblown would be an understatement. While I would probably never use "Helper Mode" if it was available, it would be useful to have.

I think that Mass Effect 3's "Narrative Mode" is close enough for most purposes though.

Shamus Young:
In Defense of Hepler Mode

Shamus offers support for a "Hepler Mode" in games.

Read Full Article

I'll go you one further and say that, while the hybrid "storyplay" method is more streamlined and organic, even that's not an either/or deal.

Take movies. I love a good horror-comedy, but that doesn't mean I want all of my horrors to also be comedies, or vice versa. Sometimes I want pure distilled horror. Sometimes I want straight-ahead comedy. And yeah, sometimes the combination is just what I want.

Artsy-fartsy comparison follows:

Opera has fallen out of favor over the centuries, basically replaced by the modern musical. In opera, the idea was for the singing and the story to seamlessly combine... and instead, you got the arias (the musical numbers people really wanted) separated by spans of recitative (the more 'talky' parts, far less melodic or catchy). Recitative moved the story forward through dialogue and exposition, while arias were the payoff. And that formula stayed and stayed.

Why? Because audiences liked that better than the operas that tried to do both throughout. But even then, when it finally occurred to folks to just make the recitative sections spoken dialogue, audiences liked it even better. Why? Because they want their story to be story, and their songs to be songs.

If someone enjoys their entertainment in a different way to me they are doing it wrong, they are a lesser form of life and I hate them.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... gamers! See below for working examples.

...

Oh, and agreed on the desire for intertwined story and gameplay.

Zhukov:
If someone enjoys their entertainment in a different way to me they are doing it wrong, they are a lesser form of life and I hate them.

People, ladies and gentlemen.

I fixed that for ya. ;p

Dastardly:

Wonderful history-slash-psychology lesson. I greatly appreciate it.

I definitively could've used some of this in the first Witcher, that game is boring as hell, up until you get to the decision makings and exploring the world.

Some people lambast me for this, but I don't like Baldur's Gate, yet I love the first two Fallout games. The story of BG seemed interesting and it was actually pretty fun to explore... until you had to fight something. I hated that the game was way too random in battles and I didn't know many things, even if I read the instruction manual several times.

Exactly the same for Dragon Age and, sometimes, for Mass Effect.

Admitedly, this mode wouldn't make any sense for a game like Contra or Metal Slug, that's the whole point of the entire game, but for an RPG, it could make lots of wonder.

In fact, maybe something like Asura's Wrath, making it an entire "interactive anime" or an "interactive movie" of sorts, skipping the battle sequences entirely and only leaving you up to making decisions and talking to other characters.

I like the idea.

Pretty much all Bioware games would be improved if you could skip the combat. Since combat in most Bioware games is pretty bad.

Hell, it seems when given the option, plenty of people will gladly jump on the chance to skip shitty parts of a game..

However, for, say, Bioware games (or RPG's in general), they could just give us a way to skip combat through dialog. Like, say, you get ambushed, leader starts gloating, you use your super-awesome speech skills to persuade him/her to back off.

Bam, combat section skipped.

Really wish Bioware, and more developers for that matter, let you do that. Let you really exercise that speechcraft and charisma score. Of course some people you may have to fight no matter what, but you could still talk to them first, and whittle down their confidence and moral to make them easier to fight. Maybe have a button that let you throw combat taunts of your own. Or something.

KOTOR 2 played with this idea. Only with Sion, but still. HK-47 tells you the best way to kill a jedi (or sith) is to mess with his/her mind. Erode their confidence. You could do this with Sion, and his skills would decrease, and you'd eventually talk him into dying (or "letting go").

Personally, I refuse to call it "Hepler-mode" and will call it a visual novel instead. I love visual novels (mostly those from Japan with English translation)!

rtisan:
Personally, I refuse to call it "Hepler-mode" and will call it a visual novel instead. I love visual novels (mostly those from Japan with English translation)!

That's pretty much it, right there. The visual novel-type game is more fun than a lot of self-professed "hardcores" think it is. I'm rather fond of them, especially at this point in my gaming life.

The main reason I haven't done a lot of Mass Effect playing has been because I'm not much of an FPS fan, and I want to hurry through that and get to the parts that are more fun for me. If there can't be a skip-the-combat setting, maybe at least a make-the-combat-super-easy-that-even-someone-like-me-can-do-it would be a decent compromise.

Anyone remember the new game plus feature in Crono Cross? They added fastforward to the combat animation and world movement. Made the game so much easier to replay for the story. Wouldn't work well with real time combat though, then it'd be a difficulty spike feature...

I'm playing through Xenosaga again and I could really use that feature. Granted with its' 80% cutscene to 20% gameplay ratio, I wouldn't be skipping/fast-forwarding much.

EDIT:

'Hepler Mode' seems like it would be best utilized as a new game plus feature. For people who are struggling with the combat, easy mode should be there for them.

This scenario just feels... off to me(unless previously played):

Main Character: All right team, this fight will be tough but I beweeve in you!

skip battle

Main Character: Whew, it was tough but we did it. Way to Go! (got SPEAR'S Orb!)

Player:...

The impact of victory is lessened or removed if the player never played it before. Repetition is tedious so I can understand not wanting to replay the combat in certain games.

Wasn't this pretty much in LA Noire, where it was praised/generally ignored depending on who you talked to?

Hepler Mode is fine by me but is it still a game then. If you are skipping the combat then it simply becomes an interactive movie or the stories that appear on here sometimes.

I don't mind Hepler mode, maybe I had finished ME1 instead of skipping that one and going to 2 and 3, but all the 'Game' elements are gone then.

Also I want to raise the point that if you don't play the game how do you become invested in the story ? In books its fairly simple because you're using your own imagination.

Shamus Young:
My own take is that this was less about the gaming community being full of sexist monsters, and more about the condition of the community at Reddit, where the initial thread took place.

You would be wrong about that, it has a lot more to do with the rage over Dragon Age 2 (including being called "The best RPG of this decade" with "The best RPG combat ever." as well as "A pinnacle of role-playing games with well-designed mechanics and excellent story-telling, Dragon Age II is what videogames are meant to be." by this very site while one year later Retailers are refusing to carry it and its Add-On was cancelled due to lack of interest), Mass Effect 3 and the general business practices and industry-destroying ways employed by EA that no game journalist seems to care to talk about, nay... consumers being even outright mocked by them as being "entitled", a "whiner" or any number of things...
If that left a lot of people in the industry feeling "dismayed", just imagine what the constant barrage of PR, lies, shilling, whitewashing and "10/10 GOTY!" awards for every single "AAA" hype release makes people outside of the industry feel like.
And it's not done yet, it'll happen again and again till it is properly dealt with by press or the industry.

It's just a classic example of pent up rage and frustration built up over years and years of being both mistreated and ignored directed at a convenient target (however wrong that may be). It's also why EA just won the "Worst Company of America 2012" Award...

Now that the storm is passed, I want to backtrack and actually talk about her proposal, because it doesn't seem that outrageous to me. All she's asking for is a way to skip combat sequences. Call this gameplay option "Hepler Mode". I mean, people who don't like the story can skip cutscenes. If you're watching a movie at home you can skip right to the car chase, the kung-fu fights, the sex scenes, or whatever it is you want. This is entertainment, after all. Would you walk into your friend's house and forbid them from fast-forwarding through a movie because they're "watching it wrong"?

As for what she said, no it's stupid. If someone wants to skip parts of your games (which extends to movies too really) or if parts of your game can be skipped you did it wrong and fail abhorrently as a game designer, go back to the drawing board and try again instead of introducing "skipping modes" or try not structuring your game around "combat sections", "cinematics sections" and "story/talky sections" or just make a movie instead.

This idea would make the achievement system essentially worthless, wouldn't it? Like, I could skip the combat and cinematic sections, couldn't I just achievement whore every game?

Wait, *that's* what people were angry at Helper for?

Based on the vitriol, I assumed she must have been responsible for ME3's ending or something.

Wow, also, yes "Helper mode" seems like a decent idea for some games.

It wouldn't have been such a bad statement to make if she was a good writer. But she's one of those idiots who thinks that Twilight is cool. And she's awful with Bioware fanbase. My new mission in life is to earn enough money to buy a controlling share of EA, fire that stupid bitch and set Bioware on the right track of making great RPG's again.

-Torchedini-:
Hepler Mode is fine by me but is it still a game then. If you are skipping the combat then it simply becomes an interactive movie or the stories that appear on here sometimes.

I don't mind Hepler mode, maybe I had finished ME1 instead of skipping that one and going to 2 and 3, but all the 'Game' elements are gone then.

Also I want to raise the point that if you don't play the game how do you become invested in the story ? In books its fairly simple because you're using your own imagination.

The same way people get invested in television, or movies - and also books, because frankly, I'm not invested in books because I'm so personally attached to my ideas of the characters/environment/whatever, I'm invested in them because I'm finding the various elements of the story to be Interesting - same with games. Yeah, this would allow the removal of gameplay elements, but for the people who pick this option, those same elements can actually detract from their investment in the story.

I love the idea of a Helper Mode. In a story-driven game I'm there for the story, and unless the gameplay is really, really good it's really just something I put up with. I'm not saying I'd never play the gameplay. I'm guessing I'd play with it a lot. But whenever I stop playing games because I didn't finish it it's always, always because I got sick of the gameplay. Even if I've been really into the story up to that point.

Darkmantle:
This idea would make the achievement system essentially worthless, wouldn't it? Like, I could skip the combat and cinematic sections, couldn't I just achievement whore every game?

Uh, I'm not really sure what the achievement system has to do with this? If you mean "You unlocked this chapter!" achivements, this could be solved very, very easily. Just tie the achievement to the last boss or door or something. Problem solved.

I find it hard to agree with Shamus Young sometimes (and those are the good days), but for once this column makes complete and unequivocal sense. I completely agree that the gameplay and story should be blended (I freaking love Fallout and Half-Life) and although I would probably never use it, I don't see any harm in the option for skipping combat to exist. Hell, I love Mass Effect for its story, but I can't say that the gameplay is particularly inspired. If there are people out there who might want to skip through the combat sections then who am I to judge? Also, it's a pretty odd state of affairs that gaming is the most technically advanced medium out there and still it's the only one where the consumer is (usually) forced to experience all of it if they want to move on to the next section.

I agree with you for the most part.

One minor correction thou. A game is gameplay. Gameplay is challenge for entertainment. if you do not have challenge for entertainment, you do not have a game. this is not opinion or subjective. this is the definition of a game. you can be artsy and interpretitive all you want, but you will be wrong.

that is not to say i do not like stuff that takes away gameplay, or that i am against this behaviour of the skip button. im all for it. if you played my game n dont wanna bother with combat again, ill add a skip button.

personally, if someone is trying to skip parts of your game, thats a flaw of your game.
like you said, skyrim n such games cnanot be gameplay skipped because they fuse with everything else. to like skyrims story, you have to like its gameplay.

Haven't you heard? If it's not what the majority of the online gaming community wants, it's the work of the antichrist (See: every fucking thing since ever).

draythefingerless:
le snip

Have a look at this.

And even then, that's not the point. If a cutscene is part of a game, it's part of the game, whether you had to shoot people to get to it or not.

Veterinari:
I love the idea of a Helper Mode. In a story-driven game I'm there for the story, and unless the gameplay is really, really good it's really just something I put up with

Darkmantle:
This idea would make the achievement system essentially worthless, wouldn't it? Like, I could skip the combat and cinematic sections, couldn't I just achievement whore every game?

Uh, I'm not really sure what the achievement system has to do with this? If you mean "You unlocked this chapter!" achivements, this could be solved very, very easily. Just tie the achievement to the last boss or door or something. Problem solved.

simply verifying that the skip option wasnt used is enough.

It's called a visual novel. I hear them VNs are pretty popular over there in the Japan.

...or I guess on our side of the pond some text adventures work that way, too.

The only thing I have to disagree with in the article is the comparison of somebody fast-forwarding through a movie. Fine if they have seen it before, but if they haven't and they are fast-forwarding through it, then yes, they very much are watching it wrong. The fast-forward isn't put in there so that people with no attention span can skip through the movie.
Also, this is kind of relevant and funny.

Two things on the "recent Hepler controversy":

One, the image that sparked it is actually pretty old, like at least a few years old.

Two, skipping the gameplay in a game is basically saying "I want to read a book/watch a movie." If the experience is designed so you can skip the parts of a game that are actually a game, then there's no point in doing the combat/puzzles/whatever anyways. They're not adding to the experience at that point. You can't build up a character as being a complete and total badass and oh my god how are we going to defeat this guy he's so tough, then have a little button that says "Push X to kill boss!"

Everything in a game should, in the end, contribute to the experience. That's one of the reasons why stupid stories or lots of pointless cutscenes bother most people. They don't /add/ to the game, they take away from it.

The idea is ludicrous because games are a package. The combat should be setup so as to add to the pacing of the whole experience. Say the characters go into a dungeon, you hit this stupid skip button, then it shows them at the bottom looking ragged and exhausted. You have just cut a big chunk of game and destroyed the pacing. If your problem is that the combat is shitty, the solution isn't to skip it, it's to NOT HAVE SHITTY COMBAT. The very idea is giving developers an excuse to be lazy and also reeks of again marketing games to people who don't like games (such as, demonstrably, Hepler). That, as Yahtzee said, is like marketing books to the illiterate.

As for Hepler herself, while the community at the time certainly didn't handle things correctly, she IS nothing less than a living tumor, one of many Bioware developed and rotted down to nothing because of.

A properly constructed dialog wheel should let you make decisions about how things play out in the world, let you use your dialog-based skills to get your way, and uncover new lore.

That sentence should read "A properly constructed dialog system". It does not have to be a wheel, and in fact the wheel is stupidly limiting and restrictive. I hate that it has spread beyond Mass Effect.

The limited edition of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence included an entire "Hepler disc"... you could just sit there and watch the story and skip all the gameplay... and it was longer than most modern films.

I agree, but I think a lot of emphasis should be put on that this idea can only work in certain types of games. What I mean is that to skip combat in most games just to enjoy the story seems to completely ignore the whole point of playing a game. A game is enjoyable because it has a framework in which you can interact with the world of the game towards some sort of goal. If you're just watching a cut scene then what's the point? Go watch a movie instead. Obviously in a game like Mass Effect the dialogue and to some extent the cut scenes are a part of this interaction with the game world, like the article states, so it seems reasonable to allow skipping of other content. But if we allow people to skip interactive content in a game in favour for something non-interactive then it sells the whole medium short. Interactivity and gameplay are what makes this medium uniquely appealing. It would be like games were being made to try to appeal to everyone, whether they actually enjoy them or not. That's something that should never happen.

I do wish the solution wasn't to let people skip combat, but instead to make combat fun so people wanted to do it. However, I'm not an idiot, I recognise that's not possible, so a skip system will have to work.

I feel that in the whole Hepler rage, people just assumed her suggestions were terrible. The debate seemed to be over whether we should condemn her for it as we have, or just frown disapprovingly.

I mean, I thought it was an alright suggestion, many a times have I got sick of shitty combat, or even decent combat. I think of GTA IV, where I just couldn't beat some of the helicopter sections, but I wanted to advance the story.

Edit: Actually, I think that if we did include the skip option, it would send a message out to designers that games don't *have* to be about combat. You want to make a game focused on story? Sure, we'll go for that. But if we have it that combat must NOT be skipped and portray it as the central element of a game, then developers will be pressured into making combat the central focus on the game.

Dexter111:

As for what she said, no it's stupid. If someone wants to skip parts of your games (which extends to movies too really) or if parts of your game can be skipped you did it wrong and fail abhorrently as a game designer, go back to the drawing board and try again

I am sorry, but this statement is just absurd. So, if one includes an optional multiplayer mode, one is a bad game designer? If someone includes sidequests in an RPG, they failed as a game designer? What, should all modern games be entirely linear, so as to ensure we cannot skip anything? Can you see the problem with that statement?

EDIT: And furthermore, if that is the case, every single game designer since the dawn of games has failed abhorrently as a game designer, since every single game I can think of has had at least 1 part someone, someone wanted to skip or could skip.

Shamus Young:
Maybe instead of adding Hepler Mode, developers should make games where the story and gameplay are in harmony instead of competition. But if Hepler Mode is possible - if combat is nothing more than an obstacle between cutscenes and nothing you do in a fight will have consequences later on - then I don't see any reason not to give players the option.

Something that im curious about, if you find the combat as nothing more than an obstacle, I would have to ask why play the game? If you just want to see the story, watch a playthough on Youtube, there are pleanty there. Its a lot easier than suffering through the gameplay you do not enjoy. Hell, thats what I did with L.A. Noir, rented it, did not like it, but wanted to know how it continued. Thankfully Im subbed to someone on youtube that just happened to have did a completely playthrough of the game. Granted, its not the same, but if you dont like a particular element to a game, why tortur yourself with having to play through it?

Shamus this is why I love what you have to say.
However this was just as much a 4chan /v/ thing as it was a Reddit thing.

Nohra:

skipping the gameplay in a game is basically saying "I want to read a book/watch a movie." If the experience is designed so you can skip the parts of a game that are actually a game, then there's no point in doing the combat/puzzles/whatever anyways. They're not adding to the experience at that point. You can't build up a character as being a complete and total badass and oh my god how are we going to defeat this guy he's so tough, then have a little button that says "Push X to kill boss!"

So you would choose not to utilise Hepler Mode. Other people have different opinions, as demonstrated by the modest support the idea has here, and they could choose to use it. The emphasis is on *choice* - we all enjoy different things: something you love in a game might be something I'd find incredibly dull and want to skip, or vice versa. Nobody loses either way.

Personally, as someone who's into writing and loves a good story, the idea that some people skip dialogue and cutscenes irritates me. Doesn't mean I don't think they should have the option to do so.

What I'm trying to say is once someone has bought the game they can play it however they want. It doesn't make a difference to how anyone else plays, so why's it a problem?

FredTheUndead:

As for Hepler herself, while the community at the time certainly didn't handle things correctly, she IS nothing less than a living tumor, one of many Bioware developed and rotted down to nothing because of.

Classy. I take it you know the woman personally then? Seriously, why would you even say that about another human being, especially one with whom you are only tangentially familiar?

Eamar:

Nohra:

skipping the gameplay in a game is basically saying "I want to read a book/watch a movie." If the experience is designed so you can skip the parts of a game that are actually a game, then there's no point in doing the combat/puzzles/whatever anyways. They're not adding to the experience at that point. You can't build up a character as being a complete and total badass and oh my god how are we going to defeat this guy he's so tough, then have a little button that says "Push X to kill boss!"

So you would choose not to utilise Hepler Mode. Other people have different opinions, as demonstrated by the modest support the idea has here, and they could choose to use it. The emphasis is on *choice* - we all enjoy different things: something you love in a game might be something I'd find incredibly dull and want to skip, or vice versa. Nobody loses either way.

Personally, as someone who's into writing and loves a good story, the idea that some people skip dialogue and cutscenes irritates me. Doesn't mean I don't think they should have the option to do so.

What I'm trying to say is once someone has bought the game they can play it however they want. It doesn't make a different to how anyone else plays, so why's it a problem?

FredTheUndead:

As for Hepler herself, while the community at the time certainly didn't handle things correctly, she IS nothing less than a living tumor, one of many Bioware developed and rotted down to nothing because of.

Classy. I take it you know the woman personally then? Seriously, why would you even say that about another human being, especially one with whom you are only tangentially familiar?

Because she is a writer and absolutely abominable at her job? I'd say the same about David Gaider, her awful, terrible, partner in crime, but he makes himself a slightly less obvious target while she shows disdain for both the products and people that provide her livelihood.

And again, doing that is marketing games to people that do not like games. There's no point to it, and every example of it has only weakened the industry in terms of putting out quality products.

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