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Old 09-04-2008, 10:46 AM   #61
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From your example, I take it the writer would like to emphasize how random it is who gets into this club. A perfectly valid bit of storytelling. This could be made clearer by putting a line of people in front of the player character. That way, before you reach the entrance you see that half the people are being let in, while the other half are being refused for no good reason and are complaining about it. When you get there, you've got a 50/50 chance of being let in with no problem. If you're not allowed, you have to go around and climb in from the back. So you're getting to the same place in the end, but which way you get there depends on your luck.

What has this accomplished? It creates a moment, while you're waiting on the line, in which you genuinely don't know whether you're going to be let in. The confidence that "He likes me, so he'll let me in." is a valid emotion as well, but not having that confidence, not having that sense of control changes the emotional thrust of the scene. Rather than going over your past actions in your head to reassure yourself, you're silently cursing the idiocy of the guard. Neither one of these is wrong, and a good writer should see both options in front of him.
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:10 AM   #62
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But depending on how easy the alternative way in is (and it shouldn't be too easy, otherwise the obstacle of the doorman loses all meaning) then you risk making the player feel punished for things outside their control. A player who gets unlucky in this situation is going to get quite upset if their "How do I get into the club?" help thread is met by replies of "I just got let in". I quite like the idea of some randomisation creating different paths but I'm not in favour of one being inherently more difficult than another. When I play an RPG I accept that luck will sometimes not be on my side. I try to push the odds in my favour by careful selection of skills and equipment but I know victory and defeat may well turn on a modicum of luck in the end. When I play an adventure I expect to triumph by my wits alone, not because I got lucky.

To take a tangential point on this which relates to another thread, how would this affect reviews? Reviewers don't necessarily have the time to replay large sections of games. An unlucky reviewer is going to write a hugely different review to a lucky one if unlucky choices make the game harder.
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:17 AM   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stepurhan View Post
But depending on how easy the alternative way in is (and it shouldn't be too easy, otherwise the obstacle of the doorman loses all meaning) then you risk making the player feel punished for things outside their control.
How is this a risk? You want the player to be angry at the doorman! You want him to grumble about the inconvenience, and whine "But they got let in, why not me?". Don't you see- it's exactly the reaction the story calls for!
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:33 AM   #64
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How is this a risk? You want the player to be angry at the doorman! You want him to grumble about the inconvenience, and whine "But they got let in, why not me?". Don't you see- it's exactly the reaction the story calls for!
The player's reaction depends on whether the player treats the game as a game he wants to beat while having fun with it or as a virtual reality where this kind of frustrating real life situations are simulated.
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:51 AM   #65
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My point exactly. By making it random I feel you're turning the doorman from a story-centred impediment that denies all players to a game-centred impediment that arbitrarily blocks SOME players. People discuss games and any player who finds themselves the only one in their peer group to not get straight in is going to be annoyed at the game, not the doorman.
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Old 09-04-2008, 12:58 PM   #66
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If I were making an adventure I would expect and demand that the players take the gameplay as a part of the story. Say there were a valid storytelling reason to put in a hard puzzle, which some people wouldn't be able to solve. If players said to me "How dare you put in a puzzle I couldn't pass?", I would reply "It was necessary for the story, because…". Any more complaining after that is just whining. To get back to the doorman, I said there would be a line of people there who are randomly being let in or not. You want to make it even more clear (though I don't think it needs to be hammered in quite so bluntly), say one of them talks to you and tells you the doorman is unpredictable. Fine. At this point, any criticism of not being able to get in is just whining. I would say to a whining player: "It's crystal clear that the story allows for you to be kicked out. If you don't have an objection to the story, then you can't have a reasonable objection to the gameplay."
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Old 09-04-2008, 01:51 PM   #67
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Yet complaining would be justified if the player doubted if such a story device was necessary. The player may feel he doesn't get anything in return (or not enough) for his frustration in that game situation.

From the current examples it all just seems like there was an element of dice rolling added to the traditional game mechanics. In real life we at least believe that the "random", unfortunate situations are parts of larger chains of causes and effects.

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Old 09-05-2008, 02:09 AM   #68
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Going back a few pages ('cos I've been away and have only just caught up)...
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Take two doors. Door One is just locked. You have to find the key, which is not a key as such but a means of opening the door. You saw it somewhere, but at the time, you didn't know you needed it. Now you have to remember where you saw this, and put the door and it together conceptually first, physically second. That's a puzzle.

Door Two is also locked. But this time you are being kept out by the antagonist who refuses to open up. The antagonist has reason and motive for doing so and only when you overcome his reasoning, will he have no choice but to release the door. That's a plot, part of the story.
Now, you see, I would call these both puzzles. One involves inventory and the other involves a dialogue, but in both cases you're trying to figure out what you have to do to get through the door. "Think of correct object to use" is essentially the same as "Think of correct thing to say". The only difference is in the atmosphere, mechanical vs interpersonal.

They both advance the plot, in that you've now got through the door and can proceed. The second one has more possibilities to advance the plot in other directions as well -- for instance, the doorkeeper might join you as an ally or assist you in other ways (or come to dislike you more if he realises you've fast-talked him). But none of these necessarily follow from the puzzle; you could just as easily go through the door and never see the doorkeeper again.
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Old 09-05-2008, 02:29 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by MoriartyL View Post
I would say to a whining player: "It's crystal clear that the story allows for you to be kicked out. If you don't have an objection to the story, then you can't have a reasonable objection to the gameplay."
And the player would quite reasonably say "Why does the story make the doorman kick me out and not my friend?" The player cries that the situation is unfair because it demonstrably IS unfair. Two people of equal ability will be treated differently because of an arbirtrary game mechanic. This is different from putting in a hard puzzle where the difference between success and failure depends on the ability of the player.

I also can't see how story could justify the difference. What possible reason could a doorman have for treating the same person (the lucky and unlucky player would still be the same PC) differently? I can see no logical explanation for this arbitrary behaviour (who would employ someone that unstable as a doorman?) so suspension of disbelief and trust in the story is lost. Yes, you could argue that each player approaching the doorman is an entirely separate situation (i.e. the actual character only ever approaches the doorman once) but unlucky players will still feel aggrieved because they are thwarted and their comrades are not. This is why I'd prefer you to come up with your own example. I made mine to illustrate a point but I'd prefer to examine one where random options don't give rise to separate results that I feel are logically incoherent.
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Old 09-05-2008, 03:16 PM   #70
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Given the comments above, I think the randomization mechanic will only work if the game is meant to be explored as opposed to won.
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Old 09-05-2008, 03:41 PM   #71
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Given the comments above, I think the randomization mechanic will only work if the game is meant to be explored as opposed to won.
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Old 09-05-2008, 05:22 PM   #72
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Al games, no matter how story- as opposed to puzzle-oriented they are, are nevertheless goal-oriented to one degree or another. As such, a set number of plot points have to have transpired for the narrative experience to carry the weight of catharsis. Where 'randomization' (not the best word for it) would be useful is in deciding where to emphasize your priorities. In a sophisticated enough adventure, you can have a number of separate-but-equal goals that you can work towards, achieving some and perhaps missing out on others. The final outcome would reflect the fact that some of your intended goals were not achieved, where the ending is a success, but not a 100% success.

This was something that we were discussing while developing a project that's currently on hiatus, called Metropolis Fallen. The 100% win would be the ideal combination of solutions, but the story would have enough variables in it that the likelihood of getting all of the various subplots to line up would be highly unlikely. The story still comes to a conclusion, but some of the results of the unattended endings would come out less than ideally for the player, while others would come out moreso. I see it as a means of validating interactive storytelling, while at the same time injecting some realism into the narrative without sacrificing dramatic devices like pathos and catharsis.

I guess when it comes to randomization, a certain degree of plotting is involved in even the most esoteric of narrative formulae. It's simply a matter of making sure you have enough ideas of what can really happen to your plot without reducing it to the 'best' version prematurely. The attitude to adopt is that there are many ways this could come out, so long as the final resolution is achieved. The degree to which is is a personal victory is decided by the audience, based on their own priorities.

Rather than the player trying to anticipate the writer's intent, it's up to the writer to anticipate what the player might choose to do under a set number of circumstances. It would then be the writer's job to work out a satisfying series of events branching out from certain assumptions about what different player mindsets might think of as being more important to them personally. Good writers can work out to a certain degree what their intended audience might be expecting, and from there present plausible options that lead to a resolution that more realistically follows the player's own thoughts.

I'm certain that there are some that think it anathema to authorial control to make such concessions and seemingly dilute their story in such a manner. However, I think there are different, more interesting and immersive stories we can tell using this medium if we let go of some of our preconceived notions of the importance and validity of The One True Ending. It's a conceit that has existed for hundreds of years, since the invention of the printing press, and it's a notion that came into being based on one technology, but that is no longer a necessary limitation of the medium.
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:31 AM   #73
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And the player would quite reasonably say "Why does the story make the doorman kick me out and not my friend?" The player cries that the situation is unfair because it demonstrably IS unfair. Two people of equal ability will be treated differently because of an arbirtrary game mechanic. This is different from putting in a hard puzzle where the difference between success and failure depends on the ability of the player.
How so? It's not like the character himself has a different degree of intelligence when a different person starts playing him. Different players will get slightly different stories, and I don't see any problem with that.

Quote:
I also can't see how story could justify the difference. What possible reason could a doorman have for treating the same person (the lucky and unlucky player would still be the same PC) differently? I can see no logical explanation for this arbitrary behaviour (who would employ someone that unstable as a doorman?) so suspension of disbelief and trust in the story is lost.
I thought the point of the section was that there was no logical explanation. The writer's indicating the randomness and unfairness of the world, representing it by a doorman who doesn't have any apparent reason for doing what he's doing. Suspension of disbelief is not necessary.


But you want me to come up with my own example. Fine. How about, you're a cop. Most of the game is methodical and predictable, but then you get chase scenes with generous helpings of unpredictable randomness. The criminal tries shooting at you, and there's a chance he'll mildly wound your sidekick character. If you go around a corner and there are two ways to go forward, he could be in either one. Etc. This would have a dramatic impact on how the overall game feels. Instead of the player going "Oh yippee, something exciting's happening!", he constantly dreads having to chase after bad guys. Which makes the story more realistic, emotionally! You think a real cop looks forward to situations like that? No, because he never knows exactly how it's going to play out. The unknown is scary, and a game could mine that for dramatic effect.
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