Ubisoft Learns A Lesson About Death

Ubisoft Learns A Lesson About Death

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Prince of Persia producer Ben Mattes has admitted that there was a "mistake" in the development of that game's "no death, no game over" mechanic. He now knows that gamers want to die.

Aside from the ending, the most controversial thing about last year's Prince of Persia re-reboot was that you couldn't die, more or less. Every time you screwed up a jump, the Prince's partner Elika would magically swoop you up and save you from certain death. It was like the time rewind mechanic in the earlier Prince games, only more transparent and mostly unlimited.

Not everyone was crazy about it, but Ubisoft didn't see that coming at all. "I guess I made the mistake of projecting my own attitudes...I believed that, as a consumer base, the gaming industry had evolved to the point where they were punishing themselves for their failures," Mattes said.

The idea behind Elika, Mattes said, was that people would be such perfectionists when they played that whenever they had to use Elika, they'd get all mad at themselves for not being good enough and not having a perfect run. That might be true on some deep psychological level, but, well, gamers don't have the will or imagination to actively punish themselves - they need to be told that they did something bad, and they need consequences to tell them to do better.

The lesson learned, then, is that, when it comes to death and punishment, there needs to be a balance. "We can't continue to punish players for not being super leet haxxors but we have to do enough of that so that the guys on NeoGAF won't sell the game back," Mattes said. Trying to please the guys on GAF? Mattes might want to set the bar a little lower.

[Via MTV Multiplayer]

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"No, no, no, no, no...that's not how it happened."

I don't get what the big furor is anyway, perhaps if Elika started making snide comments after the tenth time?

Perhaps if Elika put more clothes on everytime you died? That would make most Nerds try for a perfect run though.

I will say that seeing a game over screen is probably the best way to get through most people's heads that they need to do better and improve. When certain players don't see that game over(like in Braid) they don't get that feeling they need to improve and play better at a consistent level.

I see this happen at work all the time. There never really is a sense of having to improve one's performance and stay at that level consistently. Most employees I work with now mess up, improve for about a day then slide right back down into that horrible work ethic. To get results some people really need that boot to the head and the same applies with video games.

You let people get away without being punished and they think it is okay to act that way. Wait did I just enter child psychology?

EDIT: Also, Elika was a good character and had a good voice actor despite the script.

EDIT 2: As for the game. To me the problem was the chain of jumping and stunts. Sure they LOOKED great, but that was it. When it came to controller commands you weren't holding a controller, you were just pressing one of the four buttons when the moment came up. Half of the time I didn't feel like I was playing. It was a nice story, fun characters, but I never felt that rush or danger that because of my movements that caused me to require Elika to save me.

The_root_of_all_evil:
"No, no, no, no, no...that's not how it happened."

"Wait, that's not right. I didn't die, may I start again?"

I fail to see what the big deal is, myself. For people who aren't any good at the game, that just means that they get to deal with less reloading after every failure...

Well replace that bitch Elika with the time controlling mechanics that we all loved and problem solved! I really hope they do bring back the rewind powers and not just make us mash the quick load button like we're channeling the spirit of a drummer that died having a seizure and playing drums at the same time (by that I mean very fast. SHUT UP! I'm tired and can't think of good analogies, ok?).

The problem with Prince of Persia wasn't the "never die" thing, it was just too F'king EASY! That combat was an unbelievable joke, so easy it wasn't fun.

johnman:
Perhaps if Elika put more clothes on everytime you died? That would make most Nerds try for a perfect run though.

*makes note*

Now to make a million dollars.

I liked the non-death mechanic.

Just imagine the QTE's... sending you back an hour.
THAT IS WHERE YOU WOULD LONG FOR THE NON-DEATH MECHANIC.

mrpenguinismyhomeboy:

johnman:
Perhaps if Elika put more clothes on everytime you died? That would make most Nerds try for a perfect run though.

*makes note*

Now to make a million dollars.

I agree with these fine gentlemen.

As far as penalty-less death is concerned, I was goofing off in Bioshock even before I started to die more often to Big Daddies. Even with minor penalties, sometimes self-zerg-rushing an enemy can be very rewarding, if stupid.

Every game needs a death penalty sort of thing.

actually, the next PoP should include actual capital punishemnt, not only for the character, but for the player if they fail over and over, that'll tecah people to up their game

I just don't get it. Functionally, Elika saving you was identical to a death, you just didn't have to sit through a loading screen. I thought Elika herself was a good character too.

Risk and Reward, without the risk the reward isn't satisfying, and in prince of persia, there is NO risk, and ALL Reward. That is fucking platformer 101 right there.

Elika's saving you was UNLIMITED, I'm not saying throw a lives system in here but if she just puts you back on the last solid ground you were on then it doesn't fucking matter if you fall off or not.

EDIT: Actually, why couldn't just Elika pick you up and fly you over to wherever you needed to go? She made everything you did seem pointless.

ElArabDeMagnifico:
Risk and Reward, without the risk the reward isn't satisfying, and in prince of persia, there is NO risk, and ALL Reward. That is fucking platformer 101 right there.

Elika's saving you was UNLIMITED, I'm not saying throw a lives system in here but if she just puts you back on the last solid ground you were on then it doesn't fucking matter if you fall off or not.

But there was risk. The risk that you might mess up and have to redo a sequence. That's enough for me.

orannis62:

ElArabDeMagnifico:
Risk and Reward, without the risk the reward isn't satisfying, and in prince of persia, there is NO risk, and ALL Reward. That is fucking platformer 101 right there.

Elika's saving you was UNLIMITED, I'm not saying throw a lives system in here but if she just puts you back on the last solid ground you were on then it doesn't fucking matter if you fall off or not.

But there was risk. The risk that you might mess up and have to redo a sequence. That's enough for me.

How risky is that in PoP when you hit solid ground every 5 or so seconds?

ElArabDeMagnifico:

orannis62:

ElArabDeMagnifico:
Risk and Reward, without the risk the reward isn't satisfying, and in prince of persia, there is NO risk, and ALL Reward. That is fucking platformer 101 right there.

Elika's saving you was UNLIMITED, I'm not saying throw a lives system in here but if she just puts you back on the last solid ground you were on then it doesn't fucking matter if you fall off or not.

But there was risk. The risk that you might mess up and have to redo a sequence. That's enough for me.

How risky is that in PoP when you hit solid ground every 5 or so seconds?

Some sequences near the end of the game require absolute concentration and focus while you make it all the way through the level, desperately trying to get to solid ground before you make a mistake or fall off. Especially that last 'Phantom World' sequence after you get your last Ormazd spell- failing over and over again in that is just brutal.

The_Oracle:

ElArabDeMagnifico:

orannis62:

ElArabDeMagnifico:
Risk and Reward, without the risk the reward isn't satisfying, and in prince of persia, there is NO risk, and ALL Reward. That is fucking platformer 101 right there.

Elika's saving you was UNLIMITED, I'm not saying throw a lives system in here but if she just puts you back on the last solid ground you were on then it doesn't fucking matter if you fall off or not.

But there was risk. The risk that you might mess up and have to redo a sequence. That's enough for me.

How risky is that in PoP when you hit solid ground every 5 or so seconds?

Some sequences near the end of the game require absolute concentration and focus while you make it all the way through the level, desperately trying to get to solid ground before you make a mistake or fall off. Especially that last 'Phantom World' sequence after you get your last Ormazd spell- failing over and over again in that is just brutal.

Actually, I only remember 2 places. Circling the walls of the tower in the concubine level, and the last phantom world you mentioned. That's it. It's like the entire game was a tutorial for that last world.

This reminds me of the vita chambers in Bioshock but instead of being optional you HAVE to use it. In prince of persia you get an orb, and you fall doing it. You do not have to get that orb again, you got it. You aren't "redoing" anything. If you got Ammo and killed a big daddy and then a splicer ambushed you when your guard was down, you didn't have to "redo" anything - go kill the splicer and keep all the stuff you got earlier. No risk in jumping into a situation unprepared. In bioshock, you could load a quicksave, in prince of persia, nothing bad ever happens to you. Ever. At the end, when you don't have Elika, invisible walls stop you from jumping to your death. You can climb something high, jump off, and when elika saved you last time, you just landed safely this time.

The only time I think this Elika system was good was the battle system where it gives the enemy it's health back when you "die" so you don't have to watch his "intro cutscene" every time, and it was probably the only time you tried to rush in the game and get it perfectly so that you could stop an enemy from spawning - it's essentially the same as dieing but without "dieing" and that's ok. During the platforming though, it wasn't, or at least not enough - you can't checkpoint so much in the "open world" kind of system that PoP had, so they just checkpointed ALL THE TIME. The old PoP's balanced this out with the dagger of time, so there was still far more risk to doing something.

The whole game was filled with bad design decisions, the no-death part certainly didn't help it though. It was a step back in almost every aspect from the previous games, they should certainly get back to the original concept and style from the PoP trilogy.

Some say that not dying is not punishing the player, and that you have to punish the player every time you do something wrong. Well I don't believe you need to punish the player at all, well not too much anyway...

Death is a game mechanic that is over used in todays games, I'm glad some one had the guts to challenge this idea in an AAA game title. Yes it might not have worked for this game, where earlier titles in the series are much more violent and unforgiving.

But say we are looking at a children's game, the best kids games i've played had no way to fail, But when you played the game right, it was fun and enjoyable. I'm not quite sure what context you could put this in, maybe if you are not playing right, you just don't progress, maybe at worse stun the player? (player loses control, and gets picked up and thrown back?)

'Beyound Good and Evil' made the choice that you will never miss a platform and that you can never fall to your death. Even though this game had alot platforming elements, it was still fun and never felt frustrating because you felt like a pro never missing a jump.

You don't need death in all games, sometimes its just fun to explore, hit combos, and collect fruit.

Thank you Mattes, for doing something other people would say was 'too risky'...

hebdomad:
Some say that not dying is not punishing the player, and that you have to punish the player every time you do somthing wrong. Well I don't belive you need to punish the player at all.

Death is a game mechanic that is over used in todays games, I'm glad some one had the guts to chalenge this idear in an AAA game title. Yes it might not have worked for this game, where earlyer titles in the seires are much more voilent and unforgiving.

Say we are looking at a childrens game, the best kids games i've played had no way to fail, But when you played the game right, it was fun and enjoyable. I'm not quite sure what context you could put this in, maybe if you are not playing right, you just don't progress, maybe at worse stun the player? (player loses control, and gets picked up and thrown back?)

Beyound good and evil made the choice that you will never miss a platform and that you can never fall to your death. Even though this had platforming eliments, it was still fun and never felt fustrating because you felt like a pro never missing a jump.

You don't need death in all games, somtimes its just fun to explore, hit combos, and collect fruit.

you are still on the right track with this part:

maybe if you are not playing right, you just don't progress

You don't need to explode into a million pieces when you "die" - you just don't need to progress so that something actually challenges the player, make them worry about failing but you don't have to be a sadist, and maybe get them to do something risky because they know they can retry still. Without challenge, without "risk" - things feel like chores, not challenges. You can even do the "grade" system that games like Sonic and a few others that don't come to mind have. There's a middle ground, you don't just have to either "never hold hands" or "always hold hands".

ElArabDeMagnifico:

you are still on the right track with this part:

maybe if you are not playing right, you just don't progress

You don't need to explode into a million pieces when you "die" - you just don't need to progress so that something actually challenges the player, make them worry about failing but you don't have to be a sadist, and maybe get them to do something risky because they know they can retry still. Without challenge, without "risk" - things feel like chores, not challenges.

Well death can still be used in games, Multiplayer games where there are guns and explosions, you expect death, it is in the context of what is happening.

And sometimes cheating death is fun.

Risk vs. Reward is also a good counter point to the whole 'no death' thing, there is not much risk diving into a bunch of bad guys If you know your just going to be thrown back. However, If you know that your going to start the level over if you die, and you succeed and avoid punishment, it feels awesome because you cheated death (and avoided been punished).

well for me the only part of the game i din't like was the part were they ask you to pay extra in order for you to see the ending, like the game itself wasn't expensive enough

I don't mind dying in a game. I find a certain humor in it. What would really strike an obscenely humorous chord in me would be seeing an MMO in which, if you die, that's it. You have to start a new character.

Let's make a deal; you, Ubisoft, can integrate some subsidiary of the obsolete lives system in Prince of Persia that draws me away from most games and really allowed me to enjoy the game if you can make it so I haven't already broken the 100-death achievement break off by the time I kill my first villain. I mean, seriously. Maybe it's just me, but I die A LOT.

This talk of punishment is bullshit. They still don't get it.

When you die and reload over and over, you're slowly building up a storyline where the character got everything right. Dying gives you a feel for how difficult all this stuff the protagonist goes through is but reloading erases your mistake from the chain of events that define the main narrative of play.

When you mess up and the game puts you back over and over, you're instead building up a storyline where your character keeps on failing but wins anyway.

-- Alex

I don't really care if she saves me every two seconds. There's no point in adding ten seconds of load screen to that for the sake of saying "You Died." I get it. I'm aware.

I know a way, make it so whenever they are about to die, the chick still saves them...BUT to be successfully saved you need to complete a series of quick time vents... MWHAHAHAHAH i am so evilly devious

You still go game-over in PoP, only difference is they cut out the "You died, load checkpoint?" No game-over would mean that, even if a jump would fail, you would just get teleported across the chasm or whatever you need to cross. But in PoP, if you still fail a jump, and keep failing, you won't get any further in the game. The only real difference here is that there are simply a LOT more checkpoints, every time you jump. And that's what's making the game easy, a lot of checkpoints, and not the fact that you don't réally die.

I see most of you have never read Shamus Young's view on Prince of Persia's death mechanic and being great for pulling newcomers into gaming without it being a cutesy wutesy party game.

What I don't get is why no one else enjoys a relaxing, laid back game like this once in a while. The game didn't make me tense and on the edge of my seat, but that didn't mean it wasn't fun. Do you know how rare it is to have a game that's actually relaxing? Leisurely even? Prince of Persia was a great game for the end of a long day where I just wanted to ease my mind.

You chumps always bitch about how games suck anymore, but bitch harder when someone does something different. Maybe you just played a handful of games that you thought did things right and are pissed not all games are the same?

The_root_of_all_evil:
"No, no, no, no, no...that's not how it happened."

I don't get what the big furor is anyway, perhaps if Elika started making snide comments after the tenth time?

Awesome, "How did you miss that you fuckin' n00b? You have a wooden leg or something? Go play viva pinata with skills like that..."

"No wait, come back, Im sorry! Put the pinata case down..."

bjj hero:

The_root_of_all_evil:
"No, no, no, no, no...that's not how it happened."

I don't get what the big furor is anyway, perhaps if Elika started making snide comments after the tenth time?

Awesome, "How did you miss that you fuckin' n00b? You have a wooden leg or something? Go play viva pinata with skills like that..."

"No wait, come back, Im sorry! Put the pinata case down..."

I think she makes comments when you die over and over.

"- Watch your steps!
- I was watching..."

Or...

"- Next time I won't be around to catch you."

Oh, and she wasn't a bad idea. It just replaced the "No, no, that's not how it happened..." crap and the F5/F9 manouver known to FPS players.

Just combat was too easy and was generally a one big QTE.

ccesarano:
I see most of you have never read Shamus Young's view on Prince of Persia's death mechanic and being great for pulling newcomers into gaming without it being a cutesy wutesy party game.

What I don't get is why no one else enjoys a relaxing, laid back game like this once in a while. The game didn't make me tense and on the edge of my seat, but that didn't mean it wasn't fun. Do you know how rare it is to have a game that's actually relaxing? Leisurely even? Prince of Persia was a great game for the end of a long day where I just wanted to ease my mind.

You chumps always bitch about how games suck anymore, but bitch harder when someone does something different. Maybe you just played a handful of games that you thought did things right and are pissed not all games are the same?

You've summed up all of my sentiments.

The game is fun, not intense, but still presented in a serious way. It's a semi-core semi-casual game, something that fits perfectly in my life. I can play an hour and put it down, pick it up again in a few days and do the same. This is my "sudoku" or "tower defense".

As someone said also, you do "die" in the same sense that you go back to where you were when you failed, but you don't have to sit through a loading screen. Loading saves should not be a game play mechanic.

Keane Ng:

Prince of Persia producer Ben Mattes has admitted that there was a "mistake" in the development of that game's "no death, no game over" mechanic. He now knows that gamers want to die.

Yeah, but I didn't until I played his bloody game. That was pretty much the turning point.

Here's a spoiler on the ending: it spoils everything.

 

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