In response to “Play Within a Play” from The Escapist Forum: The “Emotioneering” slant of the article is interesting but let’s remember a key fact: The book was first published in 2003, and FF VII came out in 1997.
The Final Fantasy team did not use “Emotioneering techniques” per se, they just designed a great game. I point this out to emphasize that excellent games and good game writing exist independent of how-to texts, consultants, and buzzwords. While Freeman did useful work to identify, formalize, and codify techniques – and I too am a big fan of his “character diamond” – no game developer should expect to be able to find cookbook answers to the thorny and complex issues of plot and character.
In response to “Play Within a Play” from The Escapist Forum: Regardless of what you think of the book or the author, this article still raises some very valid points about what makes a good story compared to a forgettable or overly cliche story.
The so called “emotioneering techniques” described in the book are very valid methods of story writing, that have been around for a long time. Freeman has simply given them a name and attempted to claim some credit for pointing out what the best authors already knew. But isn’t that what most non-fiction books do anyway?
To say that the final fantasy team didn’t use emotioneering techniques would not be entirely accurate. That would be like saying that nobody ever used gravity before Newtonian physics gave it a name. I think you would have been better off pointing out that Freeman based his book (and his newly coined methodologies) on the techniques used by already successful storytellers like the final fantasy team.
In response to “Alone in the Dark” from The Escapist Forum: Just like comfort foods, there are definitely games that provide essential distractions/interactions in those stressful times that follow a breakup. I find that there’s a lot of stressful situations though, not just those that are love related, in which I’ll return to specific games. While I definitely see the pull of the RPG, I usually find myself returning to strategy games. Red Alert 2 used to serve that purpose, but lately it’s been Advance Wars on the DS. Madden has also filled those voids for me, with the structure and regimented flow providing a needed regularity in stressful times.
– Dr. Wiley
In response to “Dunbar’s Number” from The Escapist Forum: Neat article. I liked how it summed up this week’s issue of The Escapist by discussing some really interesting findings in the science of psychology. I got my BA in Psychology, and I have lost my intimacy with it since I graduated (even though it was less than a year ago). I was glad to revisit the subject within another subject that I enjoy.
In response to “Killjoy” from The Escapist Forum: The job of the developer isn’t an easy one here, Do they remove quick-saves entirely? Should they instead break up their game into 15 – 30 minute sections so that it can still be played by people without a lot of time? I’d personally be satisfied just to see more games implement Diablo II’s hardcore mode. It would force the developers to make sure the game could be played successfully through without failure through intelligent planning and execution. It caters to both crowds in this, because I’m sure that there are people who don’t want to deal with making a new character or starting over if they make a fatal mistake.
In response to “Killjoy” from The Escapist Forum: The core problem is that many video game engines simply don’t have the room for the kind of creativity needed to save your neck in a bad situation. There are encounters in any given RPG where it’s mathematically impossible to not take a lot of damage. Get rid of those. The player should always be able to think, fight, run, talk, or otherwise find their way out of an unexpected threat.
Precisely where to balance it is an issue, but I think you’ll find more success in having a variable (user-specifiable) difficulty level, so that the player always feels no more threatened as they want to feel. Eventually they’ll realize that quick-saving all the time is boring.
– Bongo Bill
In response to “Killjoy” from The Escapist Forum: I agree that designing games/levels that don’t kill you every 5 steps is the way to go, but in conjunction you need a limited save system that makes sense and isn’t exploitable. One of the most interesting save systems I’ve seen comes from Operation Flashpoint. The game has automatic checkpoint saves, but it also allows you one arbitrary savegame to use whenever you want during the course of a certain mission. It’s a nice compromise… it can be used either as a convenience save (e.g. saving after you’ve spent a lot of time setting up the perfect ambush) or a post-“omg I just did an epic maneuver that I surely won’t be able to pull off again” save, but either way it prevents quicksave/load exploitation enough to not remove the challenge of the game.
Of course such a system would probably only work for linear/mission-based games.