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discussion about modernizing/popularizing adventure games

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Still thinking about all of your responses, still a bit overwhelmed. One of the things I’ve been doing while thinking about this stuff is experiment with AI Dungeon, as suggested by TheLongestJourney.

It’s fascinating. Won’t go into the whole thing now. I decided to share a bit of my experience with it, though, mostly because it made me laugh. I guess it ties into the discussion about randomness? I don’t know, but here’s a mixture of AI, some minor direction by me as a player and 90% just rolling with it.

I still have no idea where these hippies came from. Or the chaos that ensued.

1,2,3,4,5

On AI: At times I’m surprised at what it’s able to produce and how clever it responds. The experience isn’t seamless. Sometimes you wind up in a narrative uncanny valley. If you play for a while, things start to make sense in the moment. The mindmeld takes over and the whole thing becomes this stream-of-consciousness experience.

For those who read the interaction above: not everything in the story is this weird. Some of it’s even stranger. But, there were honestly some moving and exciting parts as well. If you’d compare it to Shakespeare.. that’s going to be very rough.

The major problem is.. it’s like a solo by a prog band that just goes on forever, with no sense of direction. It is pretty creative and occasionally on point. I like this better than some human DMs. But it doesn’t distinguish enough between relevant and irrelevant data. It knows the right notes, it just plays them in a void.

I did manage to get some cute stories out of it. All those monkeys on typewriters apparently never got to finising Shakespeare, but they wrote some pretty original stuff.

     

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Luhr28 - 23 February 2021 05:28 AM

As for Late Shift, that’s also a very short game. It’s probably the most tolerable format for the multiple paths idea. I still only played it once and might have watched a few alternate endings on youtube. Also, a thriller story is just about the only genre it would work with, because of how mindless it is. It doesn’t mean anything. The adrenaline of the ride is what counts. That’s why any ending or path is just about as good as another.

I understand that developers incorporate the multiple paths into the design, but in the end, if there is one “better” pathway (and I haven’t played a game where there wasn’t) it still amounts to watering down the game with inferior material.

and

If that’s something that gets you excited, who am I to complain? I’m sure old Bill just rolled a dice to figure out who was gonna die in the play anyway. It’s not like it matters or anything.

Well said.  Thumbs Up

     
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The thing about choice and multiple paths is that so few of those paths get seen anyways.

Take wing commander 1, that game had a complete winning path and losing path, with several branches in between. But so few players ever saw the losing path bc they would replay the mission over and over again until passing the level. here is a picture of all the combos you can go.

So the devs though why waste so much time on assets that many players will never see. I do find it funny however that there were more choices and consequences in a game that came out in 1990 than most choice driven games of today.

     
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There are some good examples of modern games with multiple paths, which leave a lot of content unseen by players who take those paths. They are RPG’s though. Wasteland 3 allows you to decide with whom you side, so at some point, you’ll close out the possibility to do additional quests for some parties. Original Sin 2 is good in that as well, even going as far as having content you can see only if you play with a specific character.

But reading this discussion, it does seem to me, that some people think randomization and multiple paths automatically lead to some sort of a bad conclusion. That doesn’t have to be the case, Blade Runner proves that pretty well, as with all the endings it has been very well thought out. Again, it’s a question of how well the writers manage to pull it of.

I also found it somewhat funny to pull Shakespeare into this discussion, as you are now taking in a writer who obviously didn’t write his plays with multiple paths in mind. Obviously, if a game or a book or a movie is using multiple paths, it has to be designed with those goals in mind from the get-go. And frankly, I don’t really get why some people see that as some sort of a bogey man. It doesn’t mean every game in the world is going to do it, as it takes a lot of work.

     
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tomimt - 24 February 2021 02:37 PM

There are some good examples of modern games with multiple paths, which leave a lot of content unseen by players who take those paths. They are RPG’s though. Wasteland 3 allows you to decide with whom you side, so at some point, you’ll close out the possibility to do additional quests for some parties. Original Sin 2 is good in that as well, even going as far as having content you can see only if you play with a specific character.

But reading this discussion, it does seem to me, that some people think randomization and multiple paths automatically lead to some sort of a bad conclusion. That doesn’t have to be the case, Blade Runner proves that pretty well, as with all the endings it has been very well thought out. Again, it’s a question of how well the writers manage to pull it of.

I also found it somewhat funny to pull Shakespeare into this discussion, as you are now taking in a writer who obviously didn’t write his plays with multiple paths in mind. Obviously, if a game or a book or a movie is using multiple paths, it has to be designed with those goals in mind from the get-go. And frankly, I don’t really get why some people see that as some sort of a bogey man. It doesn’t mean every game in the world is going to do it, as it takes a lot of work.

I really would like to be able to see why it’s a good thing. So far all I’ve heard is that it’s not a bad thing, because of how much work is put into it. That doesn’t mean much - you could liken it to, as Vegetable Party said, a 20 minute solo by a prog rock guitarist. Very impressive, no doubt talented, but totally self-indulgent and meaningless, adding very little to the song.

I’m equally baffled by the praise for those RPGs which give choices that mean you’re unable to play other parts of the game. Yes, that must have taken a lot of work, and thought out in advance, but why does that matter to me as a player? Unless I’m the type of gamer who rates games based on how impressed I am with the amount of effort that went into them, the only important outcome is that I don’t get to see a part of the game.

     
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Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM
tomimt - 24 February 2021 02:37 PM

There are some good examples of modern games with multiple paths, which leave a lot of content unseen by players who take those paths. They are RPG’s though. Wasteland 3 allows you to decide with whom you side, so at some point, you’ll close out the possibility to do additional quests for some parties. Original Sin 2 is good in that as well, even going as far as having content you can see only if you play with a specific character.

But reading this discussion, it does seem to me, that some people think randomization and multiple paths automatically lead to some sort of a bad conclusion. That doesn’t have to be the case, Blade Runner proves that pretty well, as with all the endings it has been very well thought out. Again, it’s a question of how well the writers manage to pull it of.

I also found it somewhat funny to pull Shakespeare into this discussion, as you are now taking in a writer who obviously didn’t write his plays with multiple paths in mind. Obviously, if a game or a book or a movie is using multiple paths, it has to be designed with those goals in mind from the get-go. And frankly, I don’t really get why some people see that as some sort of a bogey man. It doesn’t mean every game in the world is going to do it, as it takes a lot of work.

I really would like to be able to see why it’s a good thing. So far all I’ve heard is that it’s not a bad thing, because of how much work is put into it. That doesn’t mean much - you could liken it to, as Vegetable Party said, a 20 minute solo by a prog rock guitarist. Very impressive, no doubt talented, but totally self-indulgent and meaningless, adding very little to the song.

I’m equally baffled by the praise for those RPGs which give choices that mean you’re unable to play other parts of the game. Yes, that must have taken a lot of work, and thought out in advance, but why does that matter to me as a player? Unless I’m the type of gamer who rates games based on how impressed I am with the amount of effort that went into them, the only important outcome is that I don’t get to see a part of the game.

They should get praise bc that means a choice you made actually mattered. A game where choice is a key marketing tool; like a telltale game, should mean something other than slightly different dialogue otherwise that is just false advertising. I cant tell you how sad it made me in mass effect 2 when i realized just how little my choices mattered from mass effect 1. On the opposite end of the spectrum witcher 2, had a great choice option. At the end of act 1 you had to make a choice and depending on your choice, act 2 was completely different. After beating the game i went back and did the path i didnt choose the first time.

     
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Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I’m equally baffled by the praise for those RPGs which give choices that mean you’re unable to play other parts of the game. Yes, that must have taken a lot of work, and thought out in advance, but why does that matter to me as a player?

It might be a reason for some players to replay a game. It’s not just more time you get out of a game: it can be used to tell a story from different perspectives, for example.

It gives players are a more personal experience. It might make a game more fun for a broader range of players, by not dictating play style, or a certain personality. Some players feel choices should matter to increase investment and immersion. I think the idea of creating one path and locking off another is: freedom of choice comes with consequence, or nothing matters.

It demands a lot of time from everyone involved. It’s a feature that always gets underused. A player might think: this game will demand my investment several times over. Or: If I get this game, I’m only going to enjoy a portion of it. Those thoughts alone can be a reason to entirely avoid a game.

There are other paradoxical effects.

Knowing a game works like this occupies a place in the mind of the player. With every choice, they are aware one path comes at the expense of another. Rather than immersion, it makes them think of the structure of the game, of what they want out of it, rather than acting in the moment.

Knowing there are a multitude of paths might overwhelm a player.

It might also give players stress and gratification, rather than excitement and resolution. Players might long to be taken on a journey, instead it’s constantly decision making time.

It has been done in a lot of cool ways. A lot of classics have been named, I’d like to add “Whispers of a Machine” in this context as well - choices affect gameplay in a clever way. It really adds something to the game. Must’ve been a lot of work, though.

     
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Unlike most adventures, RPGs are meant to be replayable, with people choosing different characters, paths, exploring all parts of huge worlds, discovering new endings and secrets. And people do replay them as long as they are well-written and well-designed. I can name Arcanum and Bloodlines by Troika Games as two RPGs I had a lot of fun replaying - each new race brings something new to the experience, it is even worth replaying as a character with a very low IQ, because the game becomes hilarious (and still playable). Which leads to new story branches. There’s a reason why RPGs are so much more popular than adventures - the amount of work devs put into them is jaw-dropping, and people happily spend hundreds of hours playing and replaying RPGs. “The game is too long and I don’t want to replay it” - only adventure gamers could’ve come up with this sort of complaint Smile

     

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Jdawg445 - 24 February 2021 01:22 PM

Take wing commander 1, that game had a complete winning path and losing path, with several branches in between. But so few players ever saw the losing path bc they would replay the mission over and over again until passing the level. here is a picture of all the combos you can go.

Wow!
Never knew that. And I have played through all first three Wing Commanders, whether I ever did the fourth one I can’t remember.
The problem there is obviously that failing the mission will get you killed. To be honest, I’m not even sure how you can fail a mission there and keep on playing? I must have missed something when playing. Then again, I always try to meet all objectives in space simulators, whenever I play them.

Anyways, I think Wings did something right. The game had missions building a story for the character, but if the character died in combat, the game could be resumed as a new character. I don’t think there was much branching in the narrative though.

Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I’m equally baffled by the praise for those RPGs which give choices that mean you’re unable to play other parts of the game. Yes, that must have taken a lot of work, and thought out in advance, but why does that matter to me as a player? Unless I’m the type of gamer who rates games based on how impressed I am with the amount of effort that went into them, the only important outcome is that I don’t get to see a part of the game.

Because choices would actually matter. If they don’t, why have them at all?
There is a reason why everyone was massively disappointed in Cyberpunk 2077, which promised a world where actions would have consequences, but really didn’t even attempt to deliver anything.
There are some multiple endings and such there, but for instance the lifepath in that game is just a 20 minute long intro after which the game is the same for everyone.

If choices don’t matter, then they are just some clutter that could be taken out of the game to streamline it.

Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I really would like to be able to see why it’s a good thing. So far all I’ve heard is that it’s not a bad thing, because of how much work is put into it. That doesn’t mean much - you could liken it to, as Vegetable Party said, a 20 minute solo by a prog rock guitarist. Very impressive, no doubt talented, but totally self-indulgent and meaningless, adding very little to the song.

Dude, you really need to listen some Tangerine Dream!!

     
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being locked out form certain things is only a problem if you think you should be able to see everything a game has to offer during a single playthrough. But if you design a game with that goal in mind, you end up having a few silly experiences, like in Skyrim, where you can become the leader of the mages guild by only knowing one, low-level spell. There are moments when a developer has to have enough guts to say a player can’t access something if they have played in a specific fashion. If a game allows you to make bad choices, you can’t really expect the game to end with a good ending.

I really like what Christy Marx managed to do with her Conquest games. She allows you to make poor choices and those choices do matter in what happens to the characters you meet and how the game ends.

     
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GateKeeper - 25 February 2021 08:39 AM
Jdawg445 - 24 February 2021 01:22 PM

Take wing commander 1, that game had a complete winning path and losing path, with several branches in between. But so few players ever saw the losing path bc they would replay the mission over and over again until passing the level. here is a picture of all the combos you can go.

Wow!
Never knew that. And I have played through all first three Wing Commanders, whether I ever did the fourth one I can’t remember.
The problem there is obviously that failing the mission will get you killed. To be honest, I’m not even sure how you can fail a mission there and keep on playing? I must have missed something when playing. Then again, I always try to meet all objectives in space simulators, whenever I play them.

Anyways, I think Wings did something right. The game had missions building a story for the character, but if the character died in combat, the game could be resumed as a new character. I don’t think there was much branching in the narrative though.

Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I’m equally baffled by the praise for those RPGs which give choices that mean you’re unable to play other parts of the game. Yes, that must have taken a lot of work, and thought out in advance, but why does that matter to me as a player? Unless I’m the type of gamer who rates games based on how impressed I am with the amount of effort that went into them, the only important outcome is that I don’t get to see a part of the game.

Because choices would actually matter. If they don’t, why have them at all?
There is a reason why everyone was massively disappointed in Cyberpunk 2077, which promised a world where actions would have consequences, but really didn’t even attempt to deliver anything.
There are some multiple endings and such there, but for instance the lifepath in that game is just a 20 minute long intro after which the game is the same for everyone.

If choices don’t matter, then they are just some clutter that could be taken out of the game to streamline it.

Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I really would like to be able to see why it’s a good thing. So far all I’ve heard is that it’s not a bad thing, because of how much work is put into it. That doesn’t mean much - you could liken it to, as Vegetable Party said, a 20 minute solo by a prog rock guitarist. Very impressive, no doubt talented, but totally self-indulgent and meaningless, adding very little to the song.

Dude, you really need to listen some Tangerine Dream!!

You can fail some objectives in wing commander one and still keep playing, you just go down another path, same thing if you eject from your starfighter. The wing commander series was so ahead of its time. Too bad chris roberts went off his rocker.

     
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GateKeeper - 25 February 2021 08:39 AM
Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I’m equally baffled by the praise for those RPGs which give choices that mean you’re unable to play other parts of the game. Yes, that must have taken a lot of work, and thought out in advance, but why does that matter to me as a player? Unless I’m the type of gamer who rates games based on how impressed I am with the amount of effort that went into them, the only important outcome is that I don’t get to see a part of the game.

Because choices would actually matter. If they don’t, why have them at all?
There is a reason why everyone was massively disappointed in Cyberpunk 2077, which promised a world where actions would have consequences, but really didn’t even attempt to deliver anything.
There are some multiple endings and such there, but for instance the lifepath in that game is just a 20 minute long intro after which the game is the same for everyone.

If choices don’t matter, then they are just some clutter that could be taken out of the game to streamline it.

Can you name a game where choices don’t matter? I can’t.

KQV: If I choose to eat the pie and not save it for the mountains and the yeti, I will die.
Monkey Island: If I choose the wrong insult in swordfighting, I lose the fight.
Zork: If I choose to go on without light, I get eaten by a grue.

All games have choices. All of them “matter”, in the sense you are using the word.

Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 05:15 AM

I really would like to be able to see why it’s a good thing. So far all I’ve heard is that it’s not a bad thing, because of how much work is put into it. That doesn’t mean much - you could liken it to, as Vegetable Party said, a 20 minute solo by a prog rock guitarist. Very impressive, no doubt talented, but totally self-indulgent and meaningless, adding very little to the song.

Dude, you really need to listen some Tangerine Dream!!

Oh, I have. And wasn’t the moment when then they started to decline when they started adding those aimless 20 minute solos in the 80s?

     
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Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 07:30 PM


Can you name a game where choices don’t matter? I can’t.

KQV: If I choose to eat the pie and not save it for the mountains and the yeti, I will die.
Monkey Island: If I choose the wrong insult in swordfighting, I lose the fight.
Zork: If I choose to go on without light, I get eaten by a grue.

All games have choices. All of them “matter”, in the sense you are using the word.

 

Those all are puzzle fail states. They don’t affect how the story continues and there’s only one solution on how to proceed from any of those. To actually have an effect on how the story continues, there should be something else besides the pie Graham could use to proceed. Different item, a different path. All those really state that you’ve failed to solve a puzzle, they don’t provide a path to another possible conclusion.

     
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Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 07:30 PM
GateKeeper - 25 February 2021 08:39 AM

If choices don’t matter, then they are just some clutter that could be taken out of the game to streamline it.

Can you name a game where choices don’t matter? I can’t.

Plenty of those. Many adventure games even make fun of that, no matter what dialogue option you choose, the character will say what he wants (and that doesn’t match any of the dialogue options).

Of course if counting a different response in a conversation “matters”, then I suppose 99% of adventure games have choices that make a difference.

But to give a title? Sure. Gabriel Knight.
In the remake they even made that completely obvious by highlighting conversation options that must be gone through to advance the story, other options don’t matter at all.

Luhr28 - 25 February 2021 07:30 PM
GateKeeper - 25 February 2021 08:39 AM

Dude, you really need to listen some Tangerine Dream!!

Oh, I have. And wasn’t the moment when then they started to decline when they started adding those aimless 20 minute solos in the 80s?

They did solos through the 70s, check Tangerine Tree and Tangerine Leaves bootleg collections to hear some unedited live recordings.
They started to decline when they started using digital synthesizers, and their live gigs had less improvisation (and yes, that means soloing!).

     
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Vegetable Party - 24 February 2021 11:09 AM

Still thinking about all of your responses, still a bit overwhelmed. One of the things I’ve been doing while thinking about this stuff is experiment with AI Dungeon, as suggested by TheLongestJourney.

It’s fascinating. Won’t go into the whole thing now. I decided to share a bit of my experience with it, though, mostly because it made me laugh. I guess it ties into the discussion about randomness? I don’t know, but here’s a mixture of AI, some minor direction by me as a player and 90% just rolling with it.

I still have no idea where these hippies came from. Or the chaos that ensued.

1,2,3,4,5

On AI: At times I’m surprised at what it’s able to produce and how clever it responds. The experience isn’t seamless. Sometimes you wind up in a narrative uncanny valley. If you play for a while, things start to make sense in the moment. The mindmeld takes over and the whole thing becomes this stream-of-consciousness experience.

For those who read the interaction above: not everything in the story is this weird. Some of it’s even stranger. But, there were honestly some moving and exciting parts as well. If you’d compare it to Shakespeare.. that’s going to be very rough.

I finally got a chance to get back to this topic and I’m glad you had a chance to check it out. I was reading your exchange and dying Grin Grin Grin . Sounds like you had a much more entertaining experience than I did. I saw that they have a multiplayer mode. If you had a certain type of friend group I can see how it would be a blast to play together acting out the characters voices and laughing together.

     

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