Monday, May 14, 2007

Sword of Mana: Do, don't show

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Blogger Yu-Chung Chen said...

nice analogy to Lucas :)

14 May, 2007 22:29  
Blogger Yu-Chung Chen said...

I don't know if it's a matter of course, but for me, the same goes for gameplay.

Even for tutorial tasks, I find it far better not to spell out every step.

Example: show the treasure chest up the hill, show the jump button, but don't talk about the ledges and the gaps which have to be overcome.

Show the goal ("high level") and show the basic controls ("low level"), but let the player fill in the "blank", even if it's completely obvious.

16 May, 2007 15:52  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

Tutorials - Nice analogy. In the same way players disconnect from the story when they realize the decisions were made before by somebody else, players tend to expect the kind of help they get in tutorials, stop thinking and as a result get stuck more often. Less is more.

Clint Hocking recently gave an Interview for Gamasutra with similar observations:

"For me, learning what it means to not be an author, learning what it means to give up control, learning to say, “Okay, it's not my job to make decisions about meaning for the player, it's just to give the player the space around that decision,” it's a hard thing to let go of. It's so attractive and sexy. It's what all of our great authors throughout history have always done. But people in our medium, designers, it's not what we're supposed to do, I don't think. [...] We just need to lead the reader to make his own decisions. Very few readers will read Macbeth will say Lady Macbeth was a good person. It's clear that you're supposed to think that she's a bad person."

21 May, 2007 15:53  
Blogger darri said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking article, but I have to disagree with the general gist of what you're saying. You're talking about the difference between a surprise approach and a suspense approach. To take your example of Hitchcock, he happened to favour suspense, but there must be plenty of examples of both approaches that work perfectly well in both games and film. I suspect the example you point to of the spooky-lookin' mansion fails simply because it's ham-fisted, not because it's within an interactive medium.

If you can imagine Hitchcock's famous example of suspense working in a game then you have to say that suspense still counts in games. It goes something like this...
--There's a couple talking in a cafe. In a bag under their table there ticks a bomb. Now is it better to show the bomb at the beginning of the scene, ticking away, tension building, or only at the end when it explodes?--

Now I always found Hitchcockian suspense a bit manipulative and crude - but he's got a point, no?

08 January, 2008 19:06  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

@darri: good comment. Let me try to answer it.

I think the example you've mentioned with the couple clearly doesn't work well in an interactive medium. What you described is a setting and a story as it would appear in a movie. That works fine but when you are talking about an interactive medium you also have to define what role the player takes in this scenario and how can he interact with it. So is the player the couple? Or is he a terrorist who put the bomb there? Or is he the manager of the restaurant or what? I think for a proper example you should define those points too.

In any case, showing the player the bomb "at the beginning" would prompt him to use his abilities to try to affect the foreshadowed event (diffuse, escape ect.) in some way.

This is exactly what doesn't happen in a Movie. In a Hitchcock story the audience is in a passive situation and has no possibility to follow the urge to do something about the bomb. To strengthen the effect the characters would be oblivious to the bomb and do something completly against that urge by sitting and talking about waffles. By "supressing" that urge and teasing the audience, suspense is created.

As you can see, in an interactive environment the same setup leads to a very different experience. We are comparing apples to oranges.

The problem is that in most cases, "The Story" of a game is an embedded element and one of the things the player can't change in any profound way. So in the case of the Bomb, the player's abilities would be set up in such a way that he wouldn't be able to stop the bomb or change its effect on the course of the story. The bomb is a part "outside" of the game. A cutscene, something the player is not responsible for. Then, the time between the first picture of the bomb and the explosion is wasted time for the player, just another something he has to sit trough until he can act again.

08 January, 2008 22:40  
Blogger GRAV said...

to me, there is nothing in a game quite as satisfying as not knowing what's about to happen next.

really, it might just be the nostalgia talking, but what was more beautiful that getting dropped into the Legend of Zelda without any instruction or backstory, and being unleashed into the mysterious world.

i think storylines in general destroy games, because as you stated, THEY ARE NOT MOVIES.

im in school for game design right now and we spent a few lectures going over character development, which was very frustrating.

I do not care about my character's past, and I don't care about any extra plot other than what I can deduce (or even better, imagine) from the gameplay.

Unless of course it is absurdly original (ex. Earthbound)
But i think it is quite a rare artform in itself to actually have story enhance the game.

16 February, 2008 04:52  
Blogger Ricky Freshhh said...

i dig your blog, very interesting things ,video game analysis is the concrete of modern enthropology.perhaps?

02 April, 2008 13:48  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

Thanks, I would rather consider design in general as a form of applied Anthropology.

20 May, 2008 09:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So Mystic Quest is the sequel to Seiken Densetsu 2 which appeared for the SNES and was released as Secret of Mana in Europe and the US."

Surely you mean "PREquel", right...?

14 July, 2009 19:05  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

You are right! Thank you! See, I'm getting confused myself. ^_^'

14 July, 2009 19:11  

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