Would you buy a randomised game with little/no gameplay?

Following on from all the XCOM discussions about empathy for squad members that have player-perceived personality through emergent gameplay, and many talking about how they've attributed personalities to bots and NPCs that haven't actually had any in the game, I'd like to get some insight into what The Escapist thinks of this little idea I had a while back.

What I'm thinking of, is a game that pretty much IS a movie, but the storyline is a randomly generated 'choose your own adventure' style affair, where periodic action sequences play out with no regard to which characters are 'good', 'nice' or 'a racial minority' etc. What this means is that no matter how the story unfolds between action scenes, anyone and everyone can die in action without warning.

To give you some context, here's some examples. It needs to be a story with death on the line, but not constantly. There needs to be breathing space between action scenes where characters can interact based on their personalities and past performances etc. It could be about a SWAT team and their day to day lives in the big bad city of crime, or an Earth defence force vs aliens like in Xcom, or career criminals going round robbing banks etc.

I'm going to use the example of a squadron of fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain. Substitute your own group of characters as you wish.

So the movie starts, we get a bit of background on the characters at the start, and are introduced to the raging battle. Anyone who's seen Dark Blue World knows where I'm going with this. Each character is randomly assigned personality traits and flaws, and traits in the others that would piss them off if they came up. Notice that unless specified in the options screen, these traits will be completely different every time the movie is watched.

You know, this sort of thing. No stats displayed onscreen in the film, of course.

Anyway, we learn enough about them in dynamic scenes where they find out about each other to form bonds/rivalries/feuds etc to know who we want to root for, and then they're thrust into combat.

And it is, for the first time ever in a movie, 100% completely random how well each of them will do in the fight (I understand giving them skill levels may undermine that, so maybe that should go).

The survivors come back and land, we see their reactions to combat based on their traits (boasting about the fight, having nightmares, throwing up, drinking heavily etc etc) and we get a bit of time for their interactions to develop a bit more, again, all based on their traits, but now also taking into account who failed to save who, who let the team down, who saved someone's bacon, and so on.


"I'm going to throttle that smug git if he steals another of my kills..."

This continues on for some time: interactions on the ground, air battle, more interactions on the ground, until the campaign is deemed finished, or two hours have elapsed so the game draws the story to a close.

and now for the big question:

Would you want a game that was basically a random generated movie, that plays out differently each time you watch it? Would you enjoy the ability to manipulate stats to your hearts content and then see how your characters would fare when put through a movie narrative? Or do you see the whole thing as basically a 2 hour cutscene you'd have no interest in?

And if it does interest you, what kind of story would you most like to see?

captcha: bees knees

EDIT: I should point out that, given how different this is to actual 'games'- maybe a transition would be needed- so during the air combat, if you really, REALLY didn't want a certain character to die, you could jump into their shoes and try to save them yourself.

its definitely an interesting concept but the ammount of work to pull it off is stagering. having to account for every difference, loss in battle, etc.

if it could be done you would have a whole different genre of media. it definitely fixes the rewatchability of film thats for sure.

sort of like the mass effect concept but without player input

But then we are just talking about a movie with branching story, and that was already a thing few years back.

It would be interesting to see how it works but at the end of the day you still only watch that one movie sequence so it would be judged just as a plain old movie, with the horrible downside of not being meticulously crafted by someone with a great idea.

Granted you would get the benefit of generating millions of movies for nothing, but then we get to the old problem of 100 roughly equal items make each item 1/100 as interesting.

Well first thing is that I don't really think you'd be able to call this... thing a game, its more of a dynamic movie. I think that the problem with this is that it would be near impossible to craft a well written story from so many different possibilities. Sure there would be specific paths that might be great but what are the chances of you experiencing that specific path? Also there are going to be specific paths which simply don't work well, its down to chance whether or not you are experiencing something great or something awful.

Good movies are very carefully made to the point where almost everything is important, everything serves a purpose. The trouble is that in making so many different possibilities and assuring they work together you will probably lose all the beauty that is in the details.

Its a decent idea but it would take a lot of work and I doubt you could produce anything very meaningful. You watch a movie because you want to experience this particular, hand crafted production, not some randomized sequence of events, where the quality of the work is down to sheer luck. There is a reason that there are no 'choose your own adventure' books that are regarded as classic literature.

On OP's bottom point:Isnt this the way digital novels work and sell either with story choices or with graphic nudity?Your point being replacing static images with animation?
I wouldnt buy but somebody would because there are a ton of these and they still make them but mostly on japan

SlaveNumber23:
Well first thing is that I don't really think you'd be able to call this... thing a game, its more of a dynamic movie. I think that the problem with this is that it would be near impossible to craft a well written story from so many different possibilities. Sure there would be specific paths that might be great but what are the chances of you experiencing that specific path? Also there are going to be specific paths which simply don't work well, its down to chance whether or not you are experiencing something great or something awful.

Good movies are very carefully made to the point where almost everything is important, everything serves a purpose. The trouble is that in making so many different possibilities and assuring they work together you will probably lose all the beauty that is in the details.

Its a decent idea but it would take a lot of work and I doubt you could produce anything very meaningful. You watch a movie because you want to experience this particular, hand crafted production, not some randomized sequence of events, where the quality of the work is down to sheer luck. There is a reason that there are no 'choose your own adventure' books that are regarded as classic literature.

Pretty much this, and while it's an interesting idea there probably isn't much merit to a game without gameplay.

Something like this might be a good way of showcasing different gameplay possibilities though, but not as a solely narrative feature and definitely not as the core of the product. I'd love to have something like a mode where you can make a level, create a bunch of characters then assign them a combination of specific and random weapons, stat values, fighting styles etc and watch the carnage.
You would then be able to see how a certain unit, fighter, weapon or whatever does in differing situations.

xefaros:
On OP's bottom point:Isnt this the way digital novels work and sell either with story choices or with graphic nudity?Your point being replacing static images with animation?

Not quite- there's a major difference. Where previous 'choose your own adventure' type branching stories involve sorting pre written sections into a sequence, the combat in this is constructed just like a game- the fights play out in real time, with all characters dynamically controlled by AI. Think of it as a bot based multiplayer battle, with the outcome steering the course of the story. It's an element that can't really be done anywhere other than where you see games, because it uses dynamic events performed by AI.

IBlackKiteI:
I'd love to have something like a mode where you can make a level, create a bunch of characters then assign them a combination of specific and random weapons, stat values, fighting styles etc and watch the carnage.
You would then be able to see how a certain unit, fighter, weapon or whatever does in differing situations.

Ideally, this would be part of the package, yes. You could go entirely hands off, but additionally you could jump in the help someone out if you really wanted them to survive.

IBlackKiteI:
Something like this might be a good way of showcasing different gameplay possibilities though, but not as a solely narrative feature and definitely not as the core of the product. I'd love to have something like a mode where you can make a level, create a bunch of characters then assign them a combination of specific and random weapons, stat values, fighting styles etc and watch the carnage.
You would then be able to see how a certain unit, fighter, weapon or whatever does in differing situations.

Definitely, this sort of thing should only be used to bolster the gameplay rather than be the entire 'game'. Having tons of random events that can happen during gameplay would be great but definitely do not randomize your story telling.

I believe you could make a great strategy game out of what you mentioned, creating some characters and assigning them with different variables including weapons, stats etc and then having them fight it out. Would give a nice 'commander' sort of feel, where you have control over everything except the units actions. A morale and/or sanity system would be cool here, maybe one guy snaps and starts attacking his allies or one guy has his morale drop so low that he flees from the combat.

It's an emergent system. You can observe these things to an extent in Dwarf Fortress, or the sims. But the problem is that your example has little interaction. It's purely a simulation with only the seeds set. So it's going to be a little more fun than punching a seed into a PNG and watching the output (With a lot more animation, granted).

I like emergent gameplay, where setting the rules creates the gameplay, and you can do that without having to resort to systems where the player can't interact. See Dwarf Fortress, the Sims, Minecraft, Red Faction: Armageddon. There are lots of games that let me make a game out of exploiting game mechanics and the consequences of them, and exploring the interactions of them, to create a gaming experience, to varying depths. Emergent gameplay can be applied to almost any game. I think of it more as a feature, than a game in and of itself.

For instance: Dwarf Fortress is the famous example of this. I'm hoping to get into this. Basically, there's a ton of rules and conditions, and they interact in interesting ways to provide events and challenges, but you can interact with the game.
Red Faction's destructible physics allows the player to creatively use the environment to play the game. Many players exploit ammo cheats and just screw with the engine.
Heck, just the ragdolling in Source games gives some interest, and is exploited in some GMOD games.

So I wouldn't buy that game, but I have a great interest in procedurally generated content and emergent gameplay and behaviours.

This exact topic is the main reason why I was into tabletop gaming (most games' storylines just felt way too cliche' and boring).
Although I like the concept, anything on the scale of what you're talking about would have to have individual plotlines for every possible scenario, people controlling the plotlines for an infinite amount of time (EG: Tabletop gaming), or you run into problems with the programming and each story won't feel fresh after enough trials. It's impossible for computers to be able to create their own version of "Drama", which is why designers usually have a static storyline, while having a randomized map with enemies that might move around, or something to that extent.

But yes. If we could create randomly generated movies or TV shows watching people from birth to death, it would be an instant success. Infinitely possible outcomes were why I played tabletop games, and I'm sure other people would enjoy that 'genre' of entertainment as well.

Nooooope.
If it played something like Heavy Rain or The Walking Dead and actually had some interaction? Maybe, at a stretch. But just a movie? No chance.

Loonyyy:
It's an emergent system. You can observe these things to an extent in Dwarf Fortress, or the sims. But the problem is that your example has little interaction. It's purely a simulation with only the seeds set. So it's going to be a little more fun than punching a seed into a PNG and watching the output (With a lot more animation, granted).

The funny thing is, it's got less interaction than a game, like you say, but more interaction than a movie. I suppose it's closer to being a movie, only with variables you can set yourself, and if it is deemed necessary, an ability to enter the action sequences yourself to affect the outcome of the scene.

Looking at Dwarf Fortress, the game is very emergent, but it's also very distant- like SimCity and such. If this model was applied to Dwarf Fortress it would be a bit like The West Wing or something- following the Mayor/Town planner and a few close colleagues as they build their fortress, and the 'action' scenes would involve a crisis emerging like water, a creature from underground, a mutiny etc, and the group in charge's efforts to contain the problem. This would also be a bit different in that the main characters would often not be the ones with their lives at risk, rather it would be the miners and other dwarves digging around down below.

Essentially it would go:

Start of Film:

*Characters assigned attributes behind the scenes.
*Scenes shown of them meeting and beginning planning and work on the Fortress,
intercut with scenes of them interacting with each other, forming opinions of each other.

Action Scene:

Randomly generated problem. Lets say some diggers strike water and a tunnel begins to fill with water. We see as the Town Planner (Sorry if I'm getting these terms wrong, I've never actually played DF) and his cohorts, controlled by in-game AI, order the diggers around blocking up the tunnel. Many diggers die in the process, but disaster is averted. This time, at least...

Intermediate scenes:

*Work resumes on expanding the fortress.
*Character interaction scenes based on performances in action. Some characters play the blame game- accusing some of incompetence, some question whoever's decision it was to build in the direction that struck water, etc.
*Characters thus develop, changing their outlooks, changing how they see each other, strengthening or changing their perception of each other.

Action Scene:

Randomly generated problem. Miners stumble on giant monster in the deep. And so on.

It keeps going until either the Fortress is totally destroyed, until it outgrows its resources and the dwarves decide to move on, or if it somehow becomes self-sustaining and the dwarves decide to stop expanding the Fortress. Happy ending. The outcome, naturally, is entirely dependent on individuals' performance during the dynamic action scenes.

In this way, it becomes a movie which may never have the same ending. Always the same starting premise, but everything just branches off from that and becomes its own story each time.

This seems like a cool idea, but it would be damn difficult to effectively program considering all the interacting variables you'd be dealing with. And if you're dealing with voice acting, you're going to need entire novels of dialogue to pull from in order to deal with every possible situation. I feel like this would be an incredibly difficult thing to pull off, and even more difficult to make it believable and organic, without the characters being controlled by actual people. I could see this working as a multi-person role playing game, but just having AI act it all out? That would be quite a task. Think about it like this - there are plenty of games were CPUs can interact with eachother in a semi-random manner. Civilization, Dwarf Fortress, Fallout New Vegas, etc. And you can add stories to explain their actions, but the stories are always in hindsight, you don't have to plan every possible story and just use the one that ends up happening. This would be cool to see, but it might be a hell of a lot more effort than it's worth.

So what you're saying is a procedurally generated movie something like Facade? With the need of having varied settings, situations, character traits, etc. then DLC and patches to the main program is a viable option.

Squilookle:

The funny thing is, it's got less interaction than a game, like you say, but more interaction than a movie. I suppose it's closer to being a movie, only with variables you can set yourself, and if it is deemed necessary, an ability to enter the action sequences yourself to affect the outcome of the scene.

Looking at Dwarf Fortress, the game is very emergent, but it's also very distant- like SimCity and such. If this model was applied to Dwarf Fortress it would be a bit like The West Wing or something- following the Mayor/Town planner and a few close colleagues as they build their fortress, and the 'action' scenes would involve a crisis emerging like water, a creature from underground, a mutiny etc, and the group in charge's efforts to contain the problem. This would also be a bit different in that the main characters would often not be the ones with their lives at risk, rather it would be the miners and other dwarves digging around down below.

Essentially it would go:

Start of Film:

*Characters assigned attributes behind the scenes.
*Scenes shown of them meeting and beginning planning and work on the Fortress,
intercut with scenes of them interacting with each other, forming opinions of each other.

Action Scene:

Randomly generated problem. Lets say some diggers strike water and a tunnel begins to fill with water. We see as the Town Planner (Sorry if I'm getting these terms wrong, I've never actually played DF) and his cohorts, controlled by in-game AI, order the diggers around blocking up the tunnel. Many diggers die in the process, but disaster is averted. This time, at least...

Intermediate scenes:

*Work resumes on expanding the fortress.
*Character interaction scenes based on performances in action. Some characters play the blame game- accusing some of incompetence, some question whoever's decision it was to build in the direction that struck water, etc.
*Characters thus develop, changing their outlooks, changing how they see each other, strengthening or changing their perception of each other.

Action Scene:

Randomly generated problem. Miners stumble on giant monster in the deep. And so on.

It keeps going until either the Fortress is totally destroyed, until it outgrows its resources and the dwarves decide to move on, or if it somehow becomes self-sustaining and the dwarves decide to stop expanding the Fortress. Happy ending. The outcome, naturally, is entirely dependent on individuals' performance during the dynamic action scenes.

In this way, it becomes a movie which may never have the same ending. Always the same starting premise, but everything just branches off from that and becomes its own story each time.

That's fine, I'm working off a reading of some of the dev's blog entries and my friends experiences. I've got it installed, but I haven't read up on the tutorial yet. To busy with studies.

It's an idea, but I think one of the more fun things about an emergent system is interacting with it, and observing the effect of the interaction. When you don't have that, it might as well be a scripted process, since the player (Or viewer) can't see the way that the rules caused the outcome.

It's an interesting idea, but I think the problem is going to be engagement. Provided you can simulate the experience and that's all smooth, so just ignoring the way you'd output it, you're going to have a similar, slightly generic story, and the specifics are going to be harder to focus on. That's a trade off that most don't mind when they get the fun of interacting-we're willing to overlook the simplified graphics of DF or Minecraft because we're gaining engagement from the interaction, but if you're only an observer, you're restricted to only what's provided. For a movie, I'm probably only going to watch it once or twice, and I'm not necessarily going to be interested in the differences, and you're restricted to the same setting and vague story, and they're not necessarily going to interest me all that much to be worth the effort of creating the system for the creator.

It does make me think though, that this would be a great way to write a story about something entirely beyond the human experience. If you set the rules on your simulation to be completely alien, you could procedurally generate interaction between elements which are strange to us, and then from the result, take the most interesting output. You still only get one or two stories from the program, but it surpasses most author's ability to break the conditioning of their experience.

Loonyyy:
but if you're only an observer, you're restricted to only what's provided. For a movie, I'm probably only going to watch it once or twice, and I'm not necessarily going to be interested in the differences, and you're restricted to the same setting and vague story, and they're not necessarily going to interest me all that much to be worth the effort of creating the system for the creator.

See under normal circumstances I'd agree with you- but then how do we explain the massive popularity of Let's Plays? People are essentially watching someone else playing a game with no input into the game decisions themselves. Ordinarily that would seem boring too, yet people are quite happy to sit back and 'watch' a game unfold under someone else's guidance. The only difference here is that it branches differently each time you watch it.

It's a barely understood market, to be sure- but it definitely seems to me that a market for it could be there nonetheless. That's more or less why I started this thread- to find out.

dessertmonkeyjk:
So what you're saying is a procedurally generated movie something like Facade? With the need of having varied settings, situations, character traits, etc. then DLC and patches to the main program is a viable option.

I haven't heard of Facade, but that seems to be what I'm getting at, yeah, except the program isn't reliant on player input to progress the story. Patches would certainly be an option down the road to balance too-common story paths, tweak character's reactions, improve combat AI and stuff like that.

Facade looks really interesting, by the way. have you played it?

Squilookle:

Loonyyy:
but if you're only an observer, you're restricted to only what's provided. For a movie, I'm probably only going to watch it once or twice, and I'm not necessarily going to be interested in the differences, and you're restricted to the same setting and vague story, and they're not necessarily going to interest me all that much to be worth the effort of creating the system for the creator.

See under normal circumstances I'd agree with you- but then how do we explain the massive popularity of Let's Plays? People are essentially watching someone else playing a game with no input into the game decisions themselves. Ordinarily that would seem boring too, yet people are quite happy to sit back and 'watch' a game unfold under someone else's guidance. The only difference here is that it branches differently each time you watch it.

It's a barely understood market, to be sure- but it definitely seems to me that a market for it could be there nonetheless. That's more or less why I started this thread- to find out.

I'm sure there are those who watch Let's Plays just to watch a mediocre movie. I personally don't, and don't know many that do. Most people watch Let's Plays for the commentary, or for a unique way of playing. I often watch Spoiler Warning, and it's not because I'm fascinated by the games their playing, it's because I'm interested in the way they'll play it, and what they'll talk about. So it's the characters of the people doing it I'm interested in for a Let's Play. When you see kids watching their siblings play games, it's not because "Wow, this is entertaining", it's because they're envisaging their go, and they're seeing how much fun it is.

The game is mostly incidental to that. Most Let's Plays don't involve just the game playing out, so that's where the analysis fails. While I'm sure there are some people who do want that, they seem very much in the minority, as Let's Plays have spun off into numerous things, including the now ubiquitous commentary video, where the video is little more than a distraction for your eyes whilst listening to somone ramble on, often on an unrelated topic.

I think that without interaction with the system, all of the advantages of emergent gameplay are wasted for creating engagement, and that the disadvantages of procedural generation are not made up for when the advantages aren't used. There's nothing a procedurally generated film can do better than a scripted one, and the procedurally generated one would take more effort to make the same quality. Again, to belabour my examples, Minecraft can procedurally generate a world because the world is simple, and it's background. Procedurally generating scenery etc is something that's time consuming and without any benefit to doing manually. But crafting a story is something that there's a benefit to doing personally, and the advantage of P-G, bulk generation by simple rules, is useless here-you're only making a movie. You'd have to convince the viewer that watching a similar film over and over is what they want, or you could use it yourself to generate a bunch of films, but they're all going to be very similar.

So I think that the script of a movie is a waste of procedurally generated content, and emergent gameplay or storytelling is best used in a scenario where there's input so that the user knows that the game just acted on a consequence.

No gameplay is a big turn-off here.
Basicly what you suggest hese is alot of animated movies with no direction whatsoever.
Just sitting down and turning on the TV would be a better waste of time, if only slightly.

So a game where luck matters the most, and gameplay sits on 2nd place...

That sounds like freaking Mario party and Mario Kart. Dont get me wrong, I love them both, but they were the firsts ones to get in my head when I read the thread title for a good reason.

Squilookle:

dessertmonkeyjk:
So what you're saying is a procedurally generated movie something like Facade? With the need of having varied settings, situations, character traits, etc. then DLC and patches to the main program is a viable option.

I haven't heard of Facade, but that seems to be what I'm getting at, yeah, except the program isn't reliant on player input to progress the story. Patches would certainly be an option down the road to balance too-common story paths, tweak character's reactions, improve combat AI and stuff like that.

Facade looks really interesting, by the way. have you played it?

Yep and it does what it says. It's free too so knock yourself out.

 

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