Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Depressing Thought For The Day

Read a very nice article on a couple universal design principles at Mark Barrett's site. He's been quiet for a long time, and then wham!
He doesn't have a comments section, so I'll post my comment here:
My depressing thought: I was asked the other day what some of my favorite gameplay sequences of all time were. Although none of them were machinima, most of them were highly scripted sequences where the player only has the illusion of choice - those first ten minutes of Half-Life; the first five minutes of Unreal, and the section in Unreal later when you're locked in a corridor and the lights go out one-by-one before the monsters attack; a few moments from Out Of This World, such as when you're running down a corridor and doors are slamming shut behind you; the opening level of Prince of Persia 2 where you run, swashbuckle, and then jump and hang on a retreating galleon. I could go on. Although occasionally you come across a game where cinema is built into the systems (shooting out a light in Splinter Cell) - the most memorable moments for me are usually tightly scripted *unique* sequences. And I'm something of a game designer, so it's doubly sad that I'm suckered in by fake interactivity - if I'm fooled, Joe Sixpack will be doubly fooled.
It seems to me the main reason to encourage systemic game design that leads to emergence is not because it's going to sell you more copies but because the cost of scripted sequences is enormous: it takes weeks to tune a scripted level so that the bulk of players get the experience you intended for them (assuming you don't fall back on non-interactive machinima) but it takes nowhere near that time to populate a level that just reuses consistent elements. The amount of gameplay you get out of developer time is much larger when you take the systemic/emergence route. But it's not necessarily 'better' gameplay - in fact, as far as Joe Sixpack is concerned, it may be worse.

One thing we can all agree on: cut-scenes where interactivity is taken completely away from the player suck.

In other news, saw a Bjork concert last night. She's still got it. Damn. What a show.