Brian “Psychochild” Green posts a weekly design challenge on his blog, going forward I’m going to try to post my thoughts on his challenges here.
This week he asks about tragedy in games:
Unfortunately, the common cry when trying to discuss a topic like this is, “but, we want games that are entertaining!” It’s that dreaded “art” issue again, where people who talk about literature want to make games that aren’t fun for some stupid academic reason like “evaluating man’s inhumanity to man.” But, some people may want more.
What do you think? Is tragedy an appropriate topic for a game? If so, how would you implement it in to a game? What about into an MMO?
Back before the dawn of time… okay, so it was like 1980-something… when I got my first computer, one of the first games I played (and also one of the first games I actually looked at the code for) was a little thing called Hamurabi. If you are unfamiliar with the game, essentially you have land, grain, and people. You must feed the people and make them work the land. If you rule well, your people thrive. If you rule poorly, your people starve to death (among other things). It is a very simple game, and yet as a kid with an incredibly overactive imagination it was tragic for me to play. I would get so very upset when I couldn’t manage to keep my people alive. And not “smashing a fist on the table” upset, but like torn up with worry upset. My people, my poor starving people!
Later games, like Civilization or even SimCity would follow some of the same themes. Of course, in today’s gaming space, like any industry on the rise, the focus seems to be on profits, and while tragedy is good, and can even be fun, in the marketplace people are more willing to buy action and adventure over tragedy. However, I absolutely think that a “tragic” game can work, but as with anything you have to be willing to manage your expectations. And I mean that as a developer. If you make a game that isn’t your typical “fun” (blowing things up, crafting items, killing hookers, eating power pellets, etc) you’d best make sure to not spend too much money on it unless you really want to lose money.
As for how I would implement it… lets just skip right to the MMO. In order to get the “tragic” elements properly, the game would need to be huge in scope, and in fact would be more than one game working together. I’d build a game with a “ground level” which would be a first person shooter or traditional MMO style game. You could be a soldier and participate in conflict battlegrounds, or you can take a job in the city playing mini-games to craft items and fill orders or work at the bar or whatever. A step up would be people playing an RTS like game. In the city they’d be commissioning buildings and setting up businesses, the jobs that other people are working, or on the military side they’d be designating battle zones and rules of engagement. A step up from that would be a similar RTS but with more “empire building” elements, setting up trade agreements with other empires, giving direction to the city planners and the military, resource management at a higher level. From the top down, your empire builder would say he needs more people, the city planners would determine that certain businesses are needed, contractors would bid construction, once accepted players would play games to facilitate the construction, they would also play games to run the businesses and they would partake of the “goods” the businesses provide. In the other silo, building a larger city means you might need more land, so the city planners put in a directive that land is needed, the military higher-ups would select the desired land and ask for surveys, which bottom level players would do, once surveyed if determined hostile a battleground would be set up and players would play FPS/RTS style fights, and over a given period the side that wins the “map” the most is awarded the victory, opening the land for use by the city planners of their side. All players would be allowed to “defect” to another empire if they become unhappy with the current regime.
Essentially, the game would have to have many levels and be very complex, because in order for a player to be in and understand their place in the world there needs to be places in the world for them to be. In a way, these elements already exist in some games, though they are mostly web games like MafiaMatrix, and mostly very simplistic. The best part about it, in my opinion, is the amount of social interaction it encourages. A single player can do some elements of the game alone, but they can’t do everything themselves and in order to advance or move around in the social structure one must, in fact, be social.
Something I left off of Monday’s post about Burnout Paradise was its lack of local multiplayer. They aren’t alone. Tons of games don’t have local multiplayer. And even more rare are games that allow more than one player to play online.
One of the greatest features of Rock Band is that my wife and I can both play, and play online. Now, of course, the interface for Rock Band is pretty simple… but the fact remains, if I wanted to sing, my wife wanted to play bass, my brother wanted to play guitar and my brother’s wife wanted to play drums, despite living a thirty minute drive away from each other, the four of us can do that, my wife and I on our console and he and his wife on their console.
Burnout Revenge had a local multiplayer mode, so the wife and I could race… but if I wanted to go online, she couldn’t play again, because only one player can be online from the same console in that game. And that’s how most games are: Local or Online, but not a mix of both.
More games need to explore allowing multiple players from the same console play online. I don’t work at a game company, so I can’t say for sure, but I would love to know what the hang up is. Do they just not think about it? Do the games require so much bandwidth that they can’t possibly run two sessions from one machine? Is there not enough RAM or processing power? I realize that there would have to be limitations… perhaps in Burnout Paradise, the second (and third, and fourth…) player from a console could only join if the first is hosting the game, and they can only join the locally hosted game.
Since I did name Rock Band as an example where a couple can play online together, does anyone out there know of other games that allow multiple players to be online from the same console?
I have my Criterion Elite license, which means I have won every race, unlocked every car and ruled every road. I have 350 out of 350 on the Freeburn Challenges. I have all the achievements you can get without having a camera (and if I ever find a spare $40 laying around, I’ll get those too). And now I’m spending my time chillin’ helping out other folks on their challenges or looking for races, so I think its fair to say I’ve seen the entire game… so here are my thoughts.
Overall, this is a fantastic addition to the Burnout series of games. If you like the older Burnout games or like racing games, definitely think about picking this up. It is worth it. But instead of looking at the game as a whole, lets take a moment and look at a bunch of the design choices of the game, or missing features, and rate those either as a Pro (good idea) or a Con (bad idea). Continue reading Burnout Paradise
Yeah… you, the guy who just quit out of our Burnout Paradise Freeburn. Look, I know you want to get all 350 of the Freeburn Challenges completed, we all do, but some of us don’t quit just because the guy in charge picked a challenge we’ve done before. Hang around and chat and have some fun instead of being the assbag everyone is now calling you because you quit.
You do realize that we talk about you when you leave, right?
Yeah, and some of us even rate you poorly on Xbox Live. Ever wondered why your carefully crafted star rating is suddenly plummeting? Yeah, that’d be us.
If we confronted you, you might try some excuse like, “I had to take a break from gaming” but we know you’d be lying, because, Xbox Live lets you see all the people you’ve recently played with on your friends list, so we can see that you dropped our game, without a word I might add, and hopped in to another game, because the list shows that not only are you playing Burnout Paradise still, but you are Freeburning (and it even gives us an option to join the session you are in, not that we would, because you are probably just going to leave again).
So, next time, how about not being a cock and sticking around to play. You might even try asking the host to pick particular challenges. You never know, he might listen.
While my wife may lament the exclusion of female character models in the upcoming Battlefield Heroes, I can’t wait to give it a shot. This video trailer for the game just shows me that the guys at DICE really do get it. To have a great game you don’t need gritty realism with guts spraying the walls with every gunshot, you just need to have a game that is fun.
Damn that looks like fun.
My wife took one look at Team Fortress 2 when I got it and immediately wanted to play. She took a second look at it, and hasn’t played it… her one complaint, “There are no females.”
Looking out across the FPS landscape, its usually generally a safe bet that my wife won’t want to play them. First off, she doesn’t like PvP in most games. Secondly, the grim and gritty realism that many games try to attain just doesn’t interest her. But when she saw the outlandish graphics of TF2, she was willing to put aside the dislike for PvP (“I think I want to play a Medic.”) and give it a shot. But without being able to play a woman, she lost interest again.
Just this week I was reading Games for Windows magazine’s March issue and perusing the article on the new Battlefield game: Battlefield Heroes. Once again, she saw the stylized graphics and immediately wanted to know more. So I showed her the article and dug around the Internet for more info. Not one single scrap mentions female characters, likely because there aren’t any… no more interest in the game.
I’d really like to play some FPS games with my wife, so, please, could someone put a game with really cool stylized graphics AND have female models in it? Please?