Guest Columnist: Behind the Curtain

Guest Columnist: Behind the Curtain

Games tend to come apart at the seams if you don't play them the way you're supposed to, but some of the most enjoyable games are the ones that break in entertaining ways.

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You're wrong about Mirrors Edge: Killing the cops was rather easy to do, just knock one down, right click to grab his gun and shoot the rest, while replacing your gun from time to time.

Back when I still played Oblivion, I would try and test the limits of the AI by using the consolw. It was ever so fun, and a good example of a game that broke gracefully.

Stealing from fatigued and encumbered bystanders never gets old. They yell at you, but they cant do anything because they are lying on the ground.

Good times...

good article

I usually create overly elaborate solutions to games and work mostly like a ninja in games like Rainbow Six. Popping out from the shadows to put a cap in some poor unsuspecting terrorist's bum.

Breaking the game is always much more fun than playing the game. Well, usually.

On the other side of the equation, it's also important to try to view a game from the developer's point of view. If you can recognize the thought processes and reasoning behind why a game is the way it is, sometimes what looks to you like a graceless crash is actually a carefully-thought-out movement.

If developers and players can meet halfway when looking at the experience of a game, everyone benefits. I like to hold up Valve's use of "interactive commentary" in its various Orange Box titles and Left 4 Dead.

Interesting that the author used the term user experience design - it's usually used for user interface or interaction model design.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience

An excellent critique of design. Spot-on with regards to the narrowness of the experience of games like Mirror's Edge. I personally avoid games that involve death and repetition; I die a lot, and the repetition gets old. Give me a game like Total War, where failure (say, in a battle) has long-term consequences, but not consequences of repetition.

Good article! These days, games are like movies in which you have to repeatedly press the PLAY button on your remote or the movie pauses itself. Not exactly what I'd call "interactive" but that seems to be what people want. Personally I blame HL2. Everything you described in your article was everything I hated about HL2, but it sold well and got great scores from critics and now every damn game out there is scripted to death. But I'm sure it won't last. Sooner or later the game industry will have to evolve or die, like everything else. Here's hoping it's sooner!

This is the first time I've heard the new Prince of Persia described as "linear". Access to the entire game world from the word go & the choice to heal the areas in any order is "linear" eh? I can only assume the writer of this article hasn't played the game and googled a misleading link.

The point about Mirror's Edge is also woefully inaccurate for two reasons. 1 If a punch doesn't work it's because you're not timing it properly, not because the game isn't supposed to be played that way (there's even a trophy for completing the game without using a gun). 2 Since the point of the game is to be as fast as possible and there are multiple routes through each level, it can hardly be described as "linear". Just watch an expert's ghost in time trial mode and you'll see what I mean. What?! You can go that way?! Part of the fun is discovering the quickest path through each mini-area. The game only becomes "linear" when you've spent several hours/days discovering the best way to go. In fact, you might never discover the best way to go. How would you ever know, anyway? That's the beauty of it.

harhol:
This is the first time I've heard the new Prince of Persia described as "linear". Access to the entire game world from the word go & the choice to heal the areas in any order is "linear" eh? I can only assume the writer of this article hasn't played the game and googled a misleading link.

That makes Prince of Persia about as nonlinear as Super Mario Bros. 3. You could choose which area you go to next, but in the end you're still running from left to right. The meat of the game is a linear experience.

Good article, but I think there's definitely something to be said for enjoying a game as the creator intended it to be enjoyed. I never really understood the mindset for 'rebelling' against the original intent of a game.

AgentNein:
That makes Prince of Persia about as nonlinear as Super Mario Bros. 3. You could choose which area you go to next, but in the end you're still running from left to right. The meat of the game is a linear experience.

I don't really understand your point. Have you played the new Prince of Persia? You can go anywhere. It's one big, open space. Natural geography is the extent of the linearity, as with any other open-world game. There are buildings & bridges in GTA4; there are cliffs & chasms in Prince of Persia. Same thing. You can run left, right, up & down.

harhol:
SNIP
I don't really understand your point. Have you played the new Prince of Persia? You can go anywhere. It's one big, open space. Natural geography is the extent of the linearity, as with any other open-world game. There are buildings & bridges in GTA4; there are cliffs & chasms in Prince of Persia. Same thing. You can run left, right, up & down.

Not really as in Prince of Persia you have no choice how to accomplish anything. If anything the new Prince of Persia is a rhythm game disguised as an RPG [all you are really doing is pushing the correct sequence of buttons in a single pattern determined by the designers]. In GTA you have actual choice in missions and can in fact play the game, without ever playing the game [doing the missions].

Volker the Mad Fiddler:
In Prince of Persia you have no choice how to accomplish anything. If anything the new Prince of Persia is a rhythm game disguised as an RPG [all you are really doing is pushing the correct sequence of buttons in a single pattern determined by the designers]. In GTA you have actual choice in missions and can in fact play the game, without ever playing the game [doing the missions].

Of course you have choice how to accomplish things. It's a huge, open, continuous world, there are 20 places to heal and you can tackle them in any order you want. Then you fight the final boss and the game ends. That is not linearity, by any stretch of the imagination.

Calling it a rhythm game disguised as an RPG is a gross exaggeration given that the quick time events only occur when you fail to block an opponent's strike. I'm not saying the combat is good, far from it, but it's a lot more than "pushing the correct sequence of buttons in a single pattern". There are... what... 50 different combos in the game? Six different types of attack? It's quite extensive.

You can also choose to play the game without doing the main objectives if you want. You can run around, explore, kill things and collect stuff, just like GTA. Granted, the world isn't as deep & varied as GTA's, but it never claimed to be.

This was an interesting article. Games started to look more and more like TV-series chopped into small, easily digestible pieces for players convenience. I find it quite frustrating in some games, when after careful planning I proceed to execute some over-elaborate maneuver only to find out I wasn´t supposed to do that, and all the work goes to waste. On the other hand, it´s really fun in other, gracefully breaking, games to achieve some goal the way it wasn´t supposed to be achieved. It gives me the feeling (however false it may be), I can do thing my way and not just let myself be lead in designer´s leash.

I´m not familiar with game designing so I have no idea, how hard creating an open-world game is, but I believe game´s progression should be framed according to it´s audience, meaning giving curious player enough space to move freely while still keeping the overall progression coherent (too open world tends to break the gameplay and narrative). There´s nothing wrong with linearity, but the frames should be flexible enough not to disintegrate when player decides to try something unexpected (they always do.) It seems to me like heavily scripted and tightly narrowed games are underestimating it´s audience by offering the game in ready-chewed bites. Of course, this is a problem only when mechanics behind the gameplay are exposed to the player. It shatters the illusion, and accepting the experience´s illusionary nature is vital for the experience to be effective.

harhol:

Volker the Mad Fiddler:
In Prince of Persia you have no choice how to accomplish anything. If anything the new Prince of Persia is a rhythm game disguised as an RPG [all you are really doing is pushing the correct sequence of buttons in a single pattern determined by the designers]. In GTA you have actual choice in missions and can in fact play the game, without ever playing the game [doing the missions].

Of course you have choice how to accomplish things. It's a huge, open, continuous world, there are 20 places to heal and you can tackle them in any order you want. Then you fight the final boss and the game ends. That is not linearity, by any stretch of the imagination.

Calling it a rhythm game disguised as an RPG is a gross exaggeration given that the quick time events only occur when you fail to block an opponent's strike. I'm not saying the combat is good, far from it, but it's a lot more than "pushing the correct sequence of buttons in a single pattern". There are... what... 50 different combos in the game? Six different types of attack? It's quite extensive.

You can also choose to play the game without doing the main objectives if you want. You can run around, explore, kill things and collect stuff, just like GTA. Granted, the world isn't as deep & varied as GTA's, but it never claimed to be.

You are missing my point. Forget combat, your movement in the game [which is the thing you spend the most time doing] is a rhythm game bereft of choice. It is as linear as most 2d side scrolling platformers [and more linear than some] because of the lack of choice in how to navigate through any section. It provides a nice illusion of choice in allowing to go to numerous places, but once you get there, all that changes is the rhythm. Don't judge the game based on the gloss, but on what you are actually doing for most of the game and in the new PoP, that is movement which is incredibly restricted and preplanned by the designer [ie. linear]. The choices you get to make effectively have no consequences, so there is really no choice.

 

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