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Links 1 through 10 of 43 by Shaun Green tagged gamedesign

While this story is a bit silly, the obvious lesson is that contrary to what you’d expect, presenting someone with a huge number of options does not give them more ‘freedom’ – in fact all it does is overwhelm them. This has long been a tenet of good interface design. There’s a bit of a ‘rule’ which states that a user’s attention should be split between no more than seven items. The human brain is equipped to weigh only a handful of possibilities simultaneously. I’m sure at some point all of you have opened up some random website that had waaaay too much going on. And you probably weren’t thinking, “oh boy, I can’t wait to dig into all of this, where should I start!” Once someone passes that invisible threshold the end result is nearly always frustration.

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In light of my recent thoughts on developing a new approach to dialogue systems (or, more accurately, thanks to a recommendation from the designer I'm working with on a nursing simulation side project) I was approached recently to produce a short interactive dialogue demo for a middleware firm based on some of those ideas.

Their core system, though, is a traditional dialogue tree, and it got me to thinking - if we're limited to the usual tools and can't factor in any procedural elements then what practical guidelines can we follow to avoid the usual problems around motivation, depth of simulation and reward?

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Simple games are satisfying because they tell simple stories. Complex games, on the other hand, can often be profoundly unsatisfying, as they also attempt to tell simple stories. An excellent example of the failure to develop complex narrative techniques to fit complex games is the narrative wasteland that is Bethesda Studiosě°˝€™ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). Far more than a poorly written game, Skyrim is a damning indictment of video game story telling, in so far as it completely fails to imbue the events of the world with any kind of emotional significance. Skyrim is a deep and complex game, yet the experience of playing it is very much akin to spending a week on lithium.

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This is like arguing War and Peace is worth reading because it is long and boring, but once completed gives one a sense of both accomplishment and nostalgia. It's true, but it's not a reason to celebrate the book. We celebrate the form and function of art because it prompts us to discover new ideas and feelings in ourselves. In seeking to realize as many new uses for a form as pliable and diverse as videogames, it is sometimes possible to be swept away with a torrent of neat new mechanics without any thematic substance beneath them. A neoclassical era of game design would require that any element of design, difficulty or otherwise, be valued only so far as its function captures its meaning. We have had the proliferation of a thousand forms in videogames these last few years, and we will now pass into a period of perfecting a few, new and old at the same time, like any other act of human imagination.

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I hate the ending of Red Dead Redemption. I hate it because John Marston dies, but I also hate it because of how he dies. The former reflects on how good Red Dead Redemption is, while the latter is a testament to how bad it can be. It's a game that excels in aspects of traditional narrative where most fail, but then fails to take advantage of the narrative strengths of its medium when it really counts. I feel strangely resentful toward its creators, Rockstar Games, but I can't say the ride wasn't worth it.

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I read Ben Abraham's weekly summary of game criticism over at Critical Distance. Unlike a decade ago, there is now an absolute deluge of essays being written about games. I see reactions, counter reactions, and copious commentary. What is difficult to find is good writing that dreams of improving the art and craft of games.

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“What we’re saying,” the smaller man says, “is that the other guys are making things that people will fathom playing for three months if they play it for a week, and that we’re going to make a thing that people will consider playing for six months, if they play it for three days. We’ll generate a mathematically proofable engagement wheel. The players will come for the cute characters, and–”

I’m not listening anymore. For all I care, he is probably going to say “The players will come for the cute characters, and stay for the cruel mathematics.”

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In fact story telling in games is taking on more intricacy all the time. It now assumes – under the banner of “narrative design” – that there’s more to spinning a good yarn than lobbing some dialogue on top of an existing premise for conflict. This undertaking, the work of the narrative designer, is a pursuit that meshes writing and game design together in a more tightly woven form that we might previously have been used to. This is not simply slotting exposition between the action, but something more integral.

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Although Chaud hadn't intended to go public so early, he ran with it and threw open the doors of the Polymorphous Perversity blog. He invited the people of internet to send him private sexual material: nude images and personal fantasies. The images would be cropped and de-personified for in-game avatars; the fantasies would be used to add reality and depth to the game's sexual tapestry. In May, Chaud's mood was ebullient: "I had a very weird insight today: I treat my game like a girlfriend... Yeah, I know, weird. But the good thing is: it loves me back." But his posts were infrequent and in June he made a quick remark that this special relationship was fast becoming dysfunctional

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Surely, when engaging with a piece of art, the only thing that really matters is the effect that it has upon you as a thinking individual? Far from sounding the death knell for video games, Rogers’ piece is describing the beginnings of a gaming golden age. An age in which difficulty curves and XP progression are shaped by the contours of our brains, an age in which games achieve the capacity to reward and punish with absolute precision and absolute conviction, an age in which entertainment becomes a branch of neuroscience. If evil game designers means better games then I shall be the first to fall to my knees and praise the Dark Ones for they are truly the source of our deliverance from a world both boringly cruel and cruelly boring. Evil is not the death of games design… it is its logical end point.

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