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Re: Loki...

Mads Bondo Dydensborg wrote:
> On Thu, 24 Jan 2002, Steve Baker wrote:
> [great things]
> Steve, from my memory, you once wrote something about (I am rambling
> freely here) about the process of designing TAQFH. You described how
> Oliver wanted to "script" the game, and you had a hard time explaining him
> that people wanted to perform actions more freely than that.

Yes - he had a tendancy to design a level and say "the player walks along
here, jumps there, falls down here..." and so on.  I had to explain to him
that the player has free will and may choose to do something completely
different.  So if you *want* that to happen, you have to design a level
to *make* the player walk down there by putting large walls on either side
or something.  I also had to explain that if the game made the player do
everything the way the designer wanted it to be (without giving the player
room to experiment and explore), then it wouldn't be any fun.

It's the distinction between writing the script for a movie and writing
a game.

He'd been playing lots of games before that - so it suprised me that this
would be a difficult concept. But even now, to some extent, he still does
that.  He tries to build levels that entail the player doing pretty much
one exact thing - rather than building an open ended playground to have
fun in.  Good game levels fall somewhere between those two extremes.  You'd
like to be able to write a drama in which the player takes a part - because
then you can make it as exciting as you want - but if you don't provide
the player ways to make mistakes, ways to explore, the possibility of him
inventing a new solution - then it's a movie and not a game at all.

He still wants to have things like a racetrack in TuxKart where a large ball
is rolling down a ramp and bounces across the road right in front of your
GoKart.  I point out that if we start the ball rolling before the kart gets
there then the player may speed up and get squished by the ball (or more likely,
it'll cross the track a few seconds *after* he gets there and you won't see
it happen at all) - or the player may slow down and see the ball roll across
the track *way* off in the distance.  There is no way to directly *script*
that exact outcome that he sees in his mind as being exciting.  You have to think
of another way to make it happen.  Perhaps the ball could be resting on a platform
that's held up by a support that gets knocked out of the way when your kart drives
into it...then you have to think about *why* the player would drive into that
support on purpose or how to make it likely that he will do it by accident.

This degree of sophistication seems hard to explain.

Of course your child may have completely different problems with the concept
of game design - but I've certainly observed it in some of Oliver's friends
when they come over to our house and see the latest "work in progress".

Games made from movies suffer from this problem (well, duh!) because otherwise
if you took one action in the game that was different from what happened
in the movie, it would all turn out differently and the carefully crafted
climax in the game that mirrors exactly what happened in the movie would
never be executed.

I find games like the Crash Bandicoot series to be the 'most scripted'.
In those games, you can *see* all sorts of interesting possibilities -
but the game only wants you to run down the path jumping the obstacles
at the exact right moment.  BORING!

At the other extreme are games like Tony Hawk Pro-Skater where you are
pretty much dumped into this large skate-park with no job to do other
than score points by doing tricks.  There is no overall objective.
(Incidentally: It looks like the latest incarnation has fixed that).

I like games like Mario'64 where you can go pretty much anywhere and
solve the problems in several ways - but which do require you to do
certain dramatic things in order to reach the end.

> I have a son that is 14 months - I have some time to prepare, but still
> want to hear about it. :-)

We had a "game" where balloons (big, multicoloured circles actually)
gradually expanded, then slowly drift up the screen and disappear off
the top...but once the balloons reached a certain size, if you hit any
key on the keyboard, then the balloons would pop - loudly!

That was Olivers' first computer game and he was playing it at about that
age.  Unfortunately, I don't recall where the game came from or what platform
it ran on...but you can write it yourself in an evening.

It teaches a couple of non-obvious things.  One is that this isn't like
television.  Things *you* do change what happens in the game.  The other
is that you have to bash the keyboard at just the *right* moment - between
the time that the balloon gets big enough and the time it drifts off the

Be prepared to invest in a new keyboard. :-)

----------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------------
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