Wednesday, January 20, 2010

S2E2 - What's Up With Dying: Summary

With some inspiration from Ngai Croal and Brandon Sheffield this week we examine death in video games.

Being Vulnerable (Edge Magazine - Ngai Croal)
  • The Superhero Conundrum: We must connect to our hero/avatar, but his very (Invincible) nature makes this nearly impossible to achieve via gameplay.

  • (Regenerating health) has become a convention of the medium rather than an expression of the (game) universe’s logic.

  • Where does this sensation of vulnerability truly come from?

  • How much time did you ‘lose’ or ‘waste’ when you got killed?

  • When gamers criticize (a game for being too easy) what they were really complaining about was their belief that these mechanics failed to provide enough of a time penalty for their mistakes.

  • Using downed-but-not-out states to keep players on the precipice between life (time well spent) and death (time wasted) for longer, thereby dragging out that feeling of vulnerability.

To Be Continued: Rethinking Player Death (Game Developer Magazine - Brandon Sheffield)
  • In a scenario in which death essentially means nothing, why have death at all?

  • The game is basically testing your ability to complete the same actions again and again, rather than your skill. Considering the fact that games are meant to be won, except in outlying cases, it’s testing your willingness to persevere, and not to adapt.

  • Death is still not so much a punishment as it is a setback—you simply lose a few minutes’ playing time, and probably learn some strategies in the meantime. So why represent this as “death,” why not try to create a game that contains similar challenges to standard games, but completely avoids death?

  • Almost any time not playing the game is time waiting to play the game—and that’s generally time wasted.

  • So many games employ outlandish sci-fi or fantasy scenarios that it seems death could be explained away in simple terms—or even better, with some entertaining gameplay. It seems high time that more developers start to confront their own (ingame) mortality.

Justin's Theory of Game Death & Vulnerability

Dimensions of Death
  • Justification
    • What caused the player to die? Is it clear? Is it the players fault or is it the games?

  • Feedback
    • Can the player easily tell why they died? Is there sufficient information for them to adjust for it?

  • Time Loss
    • How much is a player setback when they die? Is it enough that the player can re-approach the situation or is it too much to where it is tedious to get back to where one died (feedback).

  • Penalty
    • What is the cost of dying?
Dimensions of Vulnerability
  • The Weight of Death
    • Is the player scared of dying? Is the penalty and loss high?

  • Comfortableness
    • What is the players state of mind? Has the player been through this area before? Do they know when they are in danger and when they are not?

  • Risk
    • Are there fail safes? If the player takes a chance can they recover if things go wrong?

  • Threat
    • If the player faces adversity what are the chances of dying? Can the player gauge the danger?

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