In response to “Indie or Die” from The Escapist Forum: The issue here seems to be handling failure in games in a way that doesn’t upset the “natural order” of things. But that is ultimately a question of realism, or what we might call “believable realism”.
It should not be a point of debate that we do *not* want perfectly realistic games. We do however want games with internal consistency, that is – games which do not upset *their own* natural order. As long as the games stick with their own conventions, we are within the realm of belivable realism (it’s believable for instance that half-orcs can cast magic fireballs in an adventure game… except if this particular game takes place in a universe where half-orcs cannot cast spells – then it’s a mystery).
If we can all agree on this, why should death be an exception? Even if we have an explanation of why death doesn’t work the way it does in the real world, it’s still death. Unrealistic, but consistent.
If death has to go, what about other unnatural stuff? Where do we draw the line? No more talking bunnies? What about points, unless they are cleverly disguised as “money”? Inventories where a player can carry a rocket launcher in the back pocket? And what about the save function? I mean, how believable is it that you can die, and then just skip back in time?
I take the opposite stance. I don’t see why we have to camouflage and disguise game mechanics. Sure, if I was doing a game focusing on the horrible-ness of war and death, the typical respawn system would not be a good idea. But then I would change the mechanics, for instance in a way where you are permanently punished by death, or simply have the game end. Certainly horrible, like war… but then again, how enjoyable would that be?
It was stated in this thread that games have not reached the same literary greatness as other, older mediums… this is probably not because there are no great “writers” for games, but rather that games are expected to be enjoyable… and so the real question is, “how do make failure enjoyable?”
I think there are plenty of games where failure results in “death” only in the video game sense. For a huge number of rhythm, strategy, and sim titles, not to mention adventure games (You know its a huge number because I’m listing genres, not titles) equating losing with “dying” is purely a matter of vernacular and is more the result of player interpretation than anything expressed in the game.
If this is blindspot among game designers at all I think it’s limited to those who are making action and RPG titles, which tend to focus on combat and death-defying stunts. Admittedly this is a lot of games, but problem is biggest for the RPGs, which are generally more story-focused and could gain a lot of narrative depth from treating death in a more mature way.
On a higher level there is the notion of completely removing “failure” from a game’s vocabulary, but there are ways that could be really bad for a game’s design. Certainly there’s no reason something more creative and sandboxy has to have a way to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, but I think if games just kept going without ever setting the player back, we’d find players wanting to set themselves back anyway. Part of the appeal of a game is being able to try things without necessarily having to deal with the consequences if you don’t like them, so even if you stopped killing the player, I think you’d sometimes find him committing suicide.
In response to “Going Rogue” from The Escapist Forum: Gaming industry needs something like the digital camera. You need to make it so that “anyone” can make a game, easy and effectively. Only then can a truly great game be made by an “indie”.
We don’t need burned out vets making SNES ports with some twists, we need new blood. Oldies had their chance and look what they did, they turned the gaming industry into Gamingwood, something interesting every few years and then back to tried and true, many times even less than that.
In response to “Sidhe’s the One” from The Escapist Forum: I enjoyed the article but the doom & gloom gets to be a bit much in these write-ups about the game industry. As Miles Davis once said, if you aren’t afraid of mistakes then you won’t make them. You’ll just be learning. If a person is willing to challenge themselves to constantly make games that don’t yet exist, that are doing something new, then they don’t have to worry about their contribution to video games. They will be exploring and pushing the medium forward, which is the best thing you can hope for artisitically.
That does not, alas, pay the bills. I just think it’s unhealthy for any artist to gauge their success by how much money they make. Van Gogh only sold one painting, Cormac McCarthy was brutally poor until just a few years ago, and William Blake lived off charity his entire life. Whereas Miles Davis, great musician that he was, also made a great living off his music. None of those artists are any less important in the annals of history.
That same drive that makes people abandon corporate companies and go indie seems like it’s in a similar spirit. If they can’t be ensured that they’ll be rich, then at least they know they’re making something good. That’s a reward that nothing can stop you from receiving.
– L.B. Jeffries