Category Archives: Game Mechanics

The Epistemology of Multiplayer

There is a lot of faith in the gaming internet community, faith in persons, companies, and technologies. A lot of faith in the technology, such that any explanation as to why an outcome was arrived at is handled with a zealous response.

If you lost a gunfight, to explain what happened is to be a whiner. A response of qq would be had, no matter how reasoned, or accurate your explanation was. If you won it, to explain it beyond a claim of supremacy is to get muddled and take the game too seriously. In both cases, you are supposed to simply accept what has happened. The game has spoken, and that is the way things are, and any suppositions that the networking could have been structured differently, or the gameplay balanced in a way to overcome the flaws of a particular structure, are heretical. Continue reading

Games Can Do Better, and Should Aim for That

When are games going to improve? I mean no offense, and I don’t want to pick on any particular title or franchise, but that sentiment was inspired while watching TotalBiscuit’s video on Watch_Dogs. You can see it below, I only watched the first half.

It is a generally pretty game, though a bit hazy. But frankly, I look at it and see GTA with a cheat mod. You walk around in third person, you take cars on a whim, drive them, abandon them, get in third person gun fights – and as a twist you can command random items to explode, raise, lower, or change the traffic lights. GTA with a cheat mod. I know I am over simplifying, and I trust/hope the story has more to bring than that, but the game world acts as undeveloped as they did well over a decade ago.

Steal someone’s car? Other drivers keep on about their business. Drift into someone’s lane? Once again, not their problem. Drive through a city park? People within 10 yards will react, the rest casually wander. Driving down a side walk? People react only when you get near them. Obviously following someone? They only change behavior if it is part of a mission. Crash a boat into a river bank next to people? No big deal. Abandon said boat climbing up over railings? Still not a concern. Then break into someone’s car and drive off in it? No one cares.

Imagine an action or adventure movie. Spiderman 2 comes to mind, the train scene with Doctor Octopus. Now imagine if the inhabitants of that train remained idle in their seats, so long as Spiderman and Doctor Octopus weren’t within 10 yards of them. It would be bizarre. Aren’t those people actors? Act scared! The train is in danger! Your life is at risk! Yet in games, people are just roaming props until you get near them.

I appreciate that this is a hurdle, it is a challenge and a difficulty. But it is also the setting you have chosen. Watch_Dogs takes place in a city, a place renowned for the high population and of that population interacting. It is not simply skyscrapers.

I can pretend for a while, I can ignore the fourth wall and try to just play, but when so little progress has been made, when you still fail to simulate the basics of your setting, well, that is a principal failure. If you can’t manage it, make something different. See my post Indie Devs Seeking Asylum¬†about choosing themes and settings matching that which you can pull off. Make games for their strong suits, and stop treating human characters like mobile fire hydrants.

Collectible Card Games and Me

For the longest time I’ve not been a fan of Collectible Card Games (CCGs) but I’ve not been able to articulate it. I’ve had numerous friends into¬†Magic: The Gathering and similar things, but I didn’t care for them, and in a way, I didn’t trust them. The dynamic turned me off, pushed me away. Part of my attitude could be hit upon a sense of imbalance in the play mechanics, or the distant abstraction of the actual gameplay to the world it depicted. I had no sense of the imagination from placing cards down that I could get from a table top RPG, nor was it as visual as a board game, and definitely nothing on par with any video game. Until I started thinking of it in modern gaming, and less interactive terms.

When you buy a pack, you don’t know what is in it. It is a lottery, a gamble. Sure your employment of a card takes skill, but purchases are either dumb luck with a pack, or plain investment at a store. The other player has that tool in their possession and you don’t because they got lucky in buying a pack, they spent a lot of money on a lot of packs, they spent a lot of money on just that card, they won it (an honorable method in some ways), or a generous player gave it to them. You are facing that card combination because of finances or luck in most scenarios, and your choices are limited by your finances and luck.

I think this is what ultimately has kept me away, CCGs are to me, pay-to-win DLC wrapped in a casino, for an abstraction that brings no immersion or imagination. This wasn’t a planned out post, just a mild revelation as to my own opinions from earlier today. Now I know why I reject that genre, and frown when I encounter its being played.

Am Gun, Will Travel

It can be argued that the experience of a first person shooter is actually the act of being a sentient roaming gun. Though some 2nd Amendment debates would hold this is the case in reality, it could be more reasonably articulated that it is in many ways the case in games. On a technical level, often the player is just a bounding box with a weapon visible, perhaps some hands, and in multiplayer they are displayed as a character to other bounding boxes with a weapon visible. Metaphysically speaking, now that sounds fancy, the primary input with the game world in an FPS is simply shooting (particularly in the Quake franchise which centers its logic systems around damage or proximity) so obviously the gun at hand is a primary source of expression.

This however is greatly impacted by the inventory and spawning system of the game. In the Quake and Unreal franchises you spawn with a certain supply of weapons, and you find others in the environment. The weapons are expressions of discovery, what you have found, they represent exploration and knowledge. These weapons are also usually fairly distinct, sure they can be broken down by simply hitscan or projectiles, but no one is going to argue that Quake Live’s (and thus Quake 3’s) Plasma Gun and Rocket Launcher are particularly similar weapons. The weapons are intentionally as distinct as their location in a level and are designed to occupy a large range of design space within the scope of the mechanics. Continue reading