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The Problem of the Quest


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#1 Sotha

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 03:14 PM

Tl;Dr:

 

How can we get to The Quest 2.0? Do Quests in computer games really need to be so dull?

 

Long text:

I've been playing computer games recently. The one in progress now is The Long Dark, which I bought years ago and now it got updated with a STORY mode.

 

The SURVIVAL mode is brilliant. Stay alive as long as possible with minimal gear. Resources run out and you must move on and take risks. You need to make good decisions with where to go and what to do. Your situation changes often and you are presented with a new obstacles (nope, you can't go to the place you wanted because there are wolves there. You are running low on food and drink and the weather is getting bad. Go back (and starve), circle around (risk losing your bearings), expend resources to scare wolves away (always low on resources), try to fight them (risk infection&torn clothes[gets even more cold])). Interesting stuff.

 

I really looked forward to the STORY mode because I somehow expected them to do something new to Quests in computer games. I am not sure why I expected that... As you guessed, it turned out there was nothing new. It is a typically quest game with survival mechanisms (food, drink, sleep, cold). The survival mechanisms are in the background, because the player gets plenty of food and drink so those are a-non-issue. Thus it becomes exactly the chore-fest many quest based games are.

 

You know the drill, right?

1) Quest giver says: "Get me STUFF."

-> You walk around for a while, collect STUFF and deliver it to the quest giver.

-> The quest giver gives a tiny reward.

2) Quest giver says: "Go THERE, investigate and get back."

-> You walk THERE, a cutscene plays. and then you return to the quest giver.

-> The quest giver gives a moderate reward.

3) Quest giver says :"Get me MORE STUFF!"

-> You walk around for a while, collect MORE STUFF and deliver it to the quest giver.

-> The quest giver gives THE KEY TO GET OUT OF THIS LOCATION

 

It is linear, and boring. The player does chores and is rewarded with a predefined plotline that progresses. Are computer games doomed to always be this way? Could something more interesting be possible?

 

I am not sure what... maybe the plot line moves onward without the players interaction ("survive as you see fit in the ghost town until spring when snow melts and the way is clear.")?

Perhaps the Quest giver actually exploits the player until they end up in jail on the Quest givers behalf (game over) or until the player realizes this on their own and gives the quest giver a punch in the face and takes the KEY to PROGRESS outright?

Maybe the quest giver gives a target ("get outta town") and the player is given free form how to do it ("steal car", "trick the dude to ferry you out", "stock up on gear and walk", "take the climbing route", "use dynamite!")

 

You know, how to make the Quest something else than a machine where you put a chore in and you get game progress out... Something new... Something more out-of-the-box... Something more surprising... Something more fun!


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#2 Goldwell

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 03:27 PM

That's a very interesting read and very true as well. I suppose like all mediums of entertainment it's all been done before.
 
Despite this a new album from a band can be exciting, a new episode of our favorite TV show still has us tuning in (or downloading) to watch it and a new video game still has people preordering/buying and excited to play it.
 
So then I wonder why? And my theory is that despite just about every kind of story being told and more specifically quest being given its the characters and world in-between that pulls in you and keeps you engaged. If I have to go and kill 20 overgrown rats in a tavern basement I don't really care... But if I've developed relationship with the owner of the tavern and/or wish to gain favor with them in order to progress in the story then I will care.
 
Perhaps new mechanics are introduced or alternate means of completing the quest are provided... Could I flood the basement? Poison some cheese and lay traps? Go and pay a couple of hoons to go and do my dirty work for me or head down there myself and pull out my bow and arrow and have some target practice. These options and this investment in characters is what can turn a very boring quest into something exciting.
 
Relating this back to the Thief world, how many times have we seen a mansion with a haunted basement, or broken into noble homes to steal from the rich or broken into banks and museums, fought off armies of undead in church crpyts. I think these concepts have well and truly been done many times over before. But then why do we keep going back to it? For me it's the world that excites me and the characters I read about and interact with along the way. Learning that some character is going through financial hardships only to turn around and read the journal of the guy placing him in that position provides this larger than thou feeling, a world that you're apart of and can have little bits of control in areas that other citizens there may have no idea is even happening. Sometimes it's just the thrill of reading about a place before breaking in and exploring it for yourself, being somewhere that you know you're not meant to and being aware of your surroundings enough to avoid getting caught can be a great thrill too. And that's something that personally has me to continually come back for more.
 
The concepts may not be fresh and exciting but if the world is unique and engaging and the characters have a story, I can find myself getting excited for quests and objectives I've done many times over. 


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#3 Bikerdude

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 03:52 PM

It is linear, and boring. The player does chores and is rewarded with a predefined plotline that progresses. Are computer games doomed to always be this way? Could something more interesting be possible?

Its funny you bring this up as I would thinking just the same thing of a lot of AA/AAA games of late, its one of the reasons I go for games with a story it at all possible. Atm I don't mind having to do chores and build up my character so much, but your right its becoming a cliche & tiresome.

The concepts may not be fresh and exciting but if the world is unique and engaging and the characters have a story, I can find myself getting excited for quests and objeftives I've done many times over. 

+1


Edited by Bikerdude, 07 August 2017 - 03:54 PM.


#4 Anderson

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 03:54 PM

On this line of thought, Tels had plans to build a roguelike algorithm of level generated mazes in TDM. Too bad he went AWOL before it went to the light.

 

 

On the gameplay and cliché note, I'm only expecting new things from the new Pathologic by Ice Pick Lodge and maybe, one day something more on LA Noire or something with that face scan technology.

There's also TellTale Games and their wonderful Sam & Max, their The Wolf Among Us. Someone argues that adventure games, point & clicks aren't even games at all. My answer is just let's wait and see. Who knows what innovation lies around the corner? I definitely can't fault anyone among those mentioned for conveyer belting standard Bethesda RPG's with the same engine every year. Err once - shame on the ads, err twice - shame on the buyer.

 

What Sotha mentioned of The Long Dark is perfectly valid for Don't Starve and other roguelikes.

 

If you need inspiration there's also always Fallen London which didn't cease to amaze me how it always found a good audience with such a simple, comprehensible RPG text game that absolutely doesn't feel like it disrespects the player or his time. A refreshing return for me each time I come back with quality writing and narrative. The devs behind it also made Sunless Sea and will soon make Sunless Skies. All within the same universe. Just as every bit as gothic as Thief and The Dark Mod on that note.

In the end, for those guys, it was enough to surpass the beta of Echo Bazaar and pass onwards beyond the word count of War and Peace by Tolstoy.


Edited by Anderson, 07 August 2017 - 04:23 PM.

 "I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass."...

 

 

- 2 July 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell from Edgar Allan Poe.

 


#5 Sotha

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 01:55 AM

Good discussion as always with you guys!

One more thought. The very foundation of dull quests seems to be an immediate explicit trust between the player and the quest giver. They often do not know each other and the quest giver requests the player to risk life, limb and soul to do the chore. "Go kill ze dragon!" In which the player has only one answer option: "OK! Do you want it now or immediately?"

The unwritten agreement is that the player must blindly do what is asked without their own initiative. They have no choice because "this is primary quest," which must be completed to make progress, like it or not. The explicit trust between the player and the quest giver is due to the metagame agreement: the player must do this one thing to proceed and nothing else will make the plot move forward. Do the game always need to obey this agreement?

So maybe a simple way to make it more interesting would be to add options here and there. Mutually exclusive options. Does the player trust the quest giver? They could choose not to, and that could be entirely fine with the plot ("nope, I am not gonna kill ze dragon, I'm going to trick the quest giver to give me the key, or I am getting the key from the Royal Key Factory.") The choice would have a later game implications ("the player is indebted to the Key Factory who now takes 10% of player's income or the quest giver seeks revenge later.") If each quest had an option or two, and the options were mutually exclusive, interesting and plot defining, the quest would become more interesting.

I guess this was sort of done already like in Deus Ex and Dishonoured. But why is it used so rarely. If you spend time plotting a quest, just add at least one extra option to the quest. And make a later consequence for the choice (if player chose X in chapter 1, then A happens in chapter 2. If player chose Y in chapter 1, then B happens in chapter 2 or 3.)
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#6 stumpy

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 02:21 AM

there's also those quest markers that tell you exactly where to go, when you would in reality expect to discover a place via exploring, before knowing where to go, although the sad thing is a lot of quest markers got into games because they were originally a mod written by a player that were then later on adapted by the game maker due to the amount of downloads the mod got. too much of a bad thing adapted to make it look as if game makers are listening to their players or just the one who like to cheat to get somewhere they've not been before.



#7 Sotha

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 02:55 AM

Quest markers are a two edged sword.

On one hand, the player is treated like a retard with bright neon lights saying "go here!" "Push this button!" "Talk to this dude!"

On the other hand, if the game dev making the quest was sloppy, the player could get really stuck without quest markers. The quest giver says "you know the bridge over theres? I put the cache there." Without quest markers, the player could spend time ad frustratum trying to find the cache that actually is under a tree near the bridge and not ON the bridge. The description is too vague. Or the description is not saved in any place so the player has one chance to memorize what was said and the dialogue cannot be seen anymore.

Try playing Stalker OGSE so you know what I mean. That mod has no quest markers, but it has absolutely hair tearingly frustrating loot hunts.

So if no quest markers (TDM style) good instructions must be given. Or subtle quest markers (yes, that moon light beam just by chance happens to illuminate exactly the key you are looking for. What a coincidence!)
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#8 Destined

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 03:18 AM

I think,for a quest to be interesting it has to have consequences that matter later on and has to "touch" the player somehow. E.g. most quests in the Witcher games are basically "kill this monster" quests. But while doing them, you get to know the quest giver and get an interesting story out of it. And in some cases the consequences are that the guy you saved earlier helps you out later on.
The initial trust thing is also played out better here, but can be attributed to the setting. Gerralt is a Witcher, so you should trust him to kill monsters. Still, there are a couple of guys who try to trick him. Again, this makes for more interesting stories.
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#9 Sotha

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 06:20 AM

Good points!

Another idea that comes to mind: do objectives need to be absolutely specific: "go here," "kill this," etc.

What if there was some room for creativity left? Example:
Objective "Bernard the poacher is in pain. Resolve the situation."
Solution 1: kill Bernard (when dead, no pain.) (turns into very short combat mission which makes Bernard's friends very angry.)
Solution 2: get a doctor to Bernard (turns into "escort bitching NPC mission")
Solution 3: carry Bernard to doctor (turns into "drop heavy objects and carry incapacitated heavy NPC through hostile territory" mission)
Solution 4: research illness, buy meds and heal him yourself (turns into separate quest, maybe with time restriction: B dies if no healing in few days).

Sure, more work, but at least the player chooses the type of gameplay they are getting. Could be also interesting if the game has a system for right and wrong.
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#10 NeonsStyle

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 06:34 AM

I also have thought about this and it is very frustrating. The worst of this was World of Warcraft where you ran down 

to a quest giver, he sent you somewhere else to kill something. When you got there instead of fighting yourself,

you click, and the game does the fighting for you. You just stand around waiting for it to be over, then you run back

to the quest giver for a present and a pat on the hat for being a good boy. RInse repeat, and that's it. I lasted 30 minutes, then

it was uninstalled. lol

 

Mostly, I think it's a function of the way games are created in the thought processes of the team. 

Usually it's a group of people around a table, there's usually one person whose the boss, or been made the lead for the team. 

 

He is the person most look to for ideas, and most of the ideas that are thrown up are the same old ones. Usually to create something

new, requires a lot more time to research if it's possible, or how to do it. So that ends up costing more. Plus the truth is most people

just go with their first thought, and don't stop to work out a better solution to a problem. 

 

You get an idea thrown out, that gets a positive response, that feed backs into an expansion of it, and before too long, too much

time has been spent on this basic idea they end up going with it. Or they are on a deadline, and have to get it out, so cut corners

on idea generation aside from the basic idea of the game. 

 

This is annoying as a player. However the thing that pisses me off more than anything is the floating Quest Markers and quick time events.

 

Grrrrrrrr I'd like to flog whoever it was that thought those moronic things up. Ever since the original Thief, games have been going downhill

in story and game play. Go back to the glory days of gaming, where they were deep, so deep it made you want to go out and read up on the 

subject so  you could get more out of it. I haven't done that in years. 

 

I'm a die hard gamer, and to be honest, it breaks my heart that games are so crap these days. Look at Battlefield 1. Great, new arena. Should spit

out a great single player experience, but no, it was another marker lead fetch/trigger trek where you got to shoot a gun a few times. 

 

One of the problems, in story making, we're told there are only twelve basic plots, so it's very difficult to come up with something really new, we

are so limited in our imagination that we can't get past this idea that there are only 12 basic plots. 


Edited by NeonsStyle, 08 August 2017 - 06:37 AM.

I have a small YouTube channel making videos on a variety of games. Come and have look here:
 
https://www.youtube.com/c/NeonsStyleHD

 

Briarwood Manor - available here or in game

http://forums.thedar...2017-update-16/

 

 

 


#11 Destined

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 06:59 AM

For TDM consequences require a lot of scripting, which is bad for newbies. The game itself is quite good for this type of missions and I myself would like to see (and make) these kind of missions. But the restricting factor is time :-(
Regarding game development, I think the problem is that more effort is put into nice new graphics than a good plot or choices etc. Thus, we get the 08/15 games we have in the AAA sector, while more interesting games are made in the Indie sector.
The limitations of 12 basic plots is, in my opinion, no problem, as long as you make the best out of it.
I also have nothing against QTEs. I actuqlly prefer them over simply watching a sequence, as I have something to do in the meantime. But I fear I am pretty alone in this regard...

#12 chakkman

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 07:06 AM

I rather think you just play the wrong games. With Far Cry 3, for example, i felt exactly the same as you have described. It felt like a MMORPG, quests as some kind of occupational therapy. Unfortunately, that seems kind of a trend these days. The kids only get WOW'd by graphics, and other shallow nonsense, like big BOOM BOOM sound, but, it's on the source that the games lack these days. More and more, and more to do, but all the same, and all very simple, and boring. Take Fallout, for example. As much as i liked the fourth part (great game world, great atmosphere, and i quite liked the gameplay too), there's simply a lot of stuff, which only seems to have been given to you, because the devs wanted to feed the inexhaustible need of the target audience for stuff to do. Like dozens of recipes (i mean, common... the vault dweller just left the vault, and knows dozens of recipes with ingredients which he can't know anything about, because he just left the vault?), dozens of weapon modifications (again, he can't know that either... unless he has a crystal ball), and dozens of chem recipes (yep, you guessed it, the dweller can't know those too). Not to talk about the dozens of always repeating faction quests. Fallout 3 and New Vegas weren't like that. It's a thing which has become popular in the last 5-10 years or so. Because you can easily "WOW" kids with surface stuff, because they're too lazy to use their heads, or delve deeper.

 

Unfortunately, i don't see a possibility that that will change anytime soon, i think i rather have to accept that i'm just not the target audience for such games anymore, with my 40 years. That's also the reason why i won't buy a new computer for games anytime soon, but rather get me an Xbox, to play a few future games, like the next Fallout part, the next GTA part, stuff like that. Not to keen on much else, apart from that, though. Just too old for this "Don't think, but get WOW'd by visuals and audio" stuff. Of course, there are the occasional exceptions from that, but, the AAA games are ALL like that.


Edited by chakkman, 08 August 2017 - 07:07 AM.


#13 Anderson

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 07:13 AM

I also have nothing against QTEs. I actuqlly prefer them over simply watching a sequence, as I have something to do in the meantime. But I fear I am pretty alone in this regard...

 

You're not alone. QTE's work well with all TellTale games. They were also cleverly implemented in Witcher 2 and 3 for dialogue on a time limit, all geared to add tension.


Edited by Anderson, 08 August 2017 - 07:14 AM.

 "I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass."...

 

 

- 2 July 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell from Edgar Allan Poe.

 


#14 Destined

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 01:52 PM

The Witcher 3 is the great exception of AAA games with great graphics as well as interesting quests. But even that had a couple of time grinding quests.
I will keep on playing on PC, because this has a lot more indie games. Just recently I played Jotun (it was free for a time), which had fine graphics (not the WOW type, but still nice) and had a lot of nordic mythology in its background. A couple of challenging boss battles. Not much else, but it was still fun to play and with the mythological background very interesting. And this is what I prefer over empty games with nice looks. I think that we as the "older" generation are more used to a minimalistic graphic style. We started gaming with faces made of 20 pixels. The younger generation does not know any graphics below the current standard, so they "need" this and do not like games with worse looks.

#15 Destined

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 01:53 PM

The Witcher 3 is the great exception of AAA games with great graphics as well as interesting quests. But even that had a couple of time grinding quests.
I will keep on playing on PC, because this has a lot more indie games. Just recently I played Jotun (it was free for a time), which had fine graphics (not the WOW type, but still nice) and had a lot of nordic mythology in its background. A couple of challenging boss battles. Not much else, but it was still fun to play and with the mythological background very interesting. And this is what I prefer over empty games with nice looks. I think that we as the "older" generation are more used to a minimalistic graphic style. We started gaming with faces made of 20 pixels. The younger generation does not know any graphics below the current standard, so they "need" this and do not like games with worse looks.
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#16 Anderson

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 02:00 PM

Maybe but I mean, again bringing the example of TellTale - their games don't really need that graphical pornography because their products have strong style which won't require any such thing. It simply works well as it is. Just like Team Fortress, which is why Thief aged very well or why Black & White 2 still is IMHO one of the better looking strategy games, even if it's actually older than 10 years. But it really looks almost on par with Ubisoft's From Dust at first glance unless you get really down to nitpick every pixel. But that's not how you spend most of your time playing a game like that anyway.


Edited by Anderson, 08 August 2017 - 02:01 PM.

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 "I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass."...

 

 

- 2 July 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell from Edgar Allan Poe.

 


#17 chakkman

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 03:47 PM

It's not that i'm anti-graphics or so. But, it's a little hard to comprehend that your 4 core 4 thread CPU sweats under the graphics load, when the actual gameplay is like Assassins Creed, and you just need to press forward to climb every 100 metres tower, press two keys to kill a bunch of enemies, and there's a treasure chest with 1.000 gold behind every corner. I fail to see what's fun about that. Simply too many games which are like that these days.


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#18 Sotha

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 04:21 PM

It's not that i'm anti-graphics or so. But, it's a little hard to comprehend that your 4 core 4 thread CPU sweats under the graphics load, when the actual gameplay is like Assassins Creed, and you just need to press forward to climb every 100 metres tower, press two keys to kill a bunch of enemies, and there's a treasure chest with 1.000 gold behind every corner. I fail to see what's fun about that. Simply too many games which are like that these days.

 

Aye! Saint's Row IV, anyone? I bought it so I could play it together with a friend who recommended it. It is like GTA4, but with superpowers where the player can run faster than any car. We play on highest difficulty and it is really difficult to get killed. You lose tiny bit of health when you are shot with a bazooka and when you kill a single enemy you get lots of health replenished.

 

These types of games are not played for the challenge, but to vent off steam or unwind, I guess. But fact is that without adequate challenge, I lose interest ultra-fast.


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#19 RPGista

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 08:07 PM

Maybe we also need to remind ourselves whats the purpose of games, you know? I get it that the more advanced games become, and the amount of man hours that go into them (unbelieveable), we are introduced to these very rich fantasy worlds that seem so full of potential, but fall slightly short of being completely engrossing and immersive. Its like, we can feel they are almost there, but soon enough we see the limits of it and stare at whats behing the curtain, and the illusion is gone. But as we all know, games are not designed to have levels of content that will last someone a life time. They have a life cicle. A certain feel they want to achieve. Some games are like fine wine and they hit a great balance between elements, such as you will want to come back to it several times, to experience it again. Like our very own Thief game. The story and the art and the AI and gameplay was built to last, it hits a harmony that makes people want to revisit it, like a good film you wanna watch again. But its not like you can talk to people in there and discover their wants and fears. You cant leave the mansion and wander the streets, you cant take a boat to unknown continents and start a life there. The game gives you a place and a story and you take part in it, and thats it.

 

We talk about kids today but in our time games were much simpler, they were restricted to gameplay alone most of the time (stuff like tetris, mario, etc), the fun was to simply play the game under their rules, there was hardly any world to get lost into, and we would be WOWed by some real simplistic graphical novelties. Games have come a long way from things like chess or boardgames which used to be about adictive or challenging gameplay and filling 90% of it with your imagination, to games like today that seem to be tending to provide never ending worlds with hundreds of hours of random things to do in them. Of course, you can then notice most of those things are procedural and the brain finds them boring rather quickly, because he can feel the patterns. They have been working to conceal that better and better. But there are limits. Like we agreed before, games are meant to be played inside the limits where the developers put their energy into. Mappers here know what Im talking about. Its difficult to ask for more. Though I too understand the sadness in seeing the limits of a creation you are fond of, you wish there was more to it. Thats why I still like good old live action RPGs the most of all games, though I havent played any since my teens. Because it was all happening between a group of people, in our imaginations, anything could be created as we went, there were no real limits to the world, it was all a matter of pushing, and trying, and things would be built for us, by us. Its a simple formula, but quite fun. 


Edited by RPGista, 08 August 2017 - 08:14 PM.


#20 Sotha

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 02:49 AM

I dunno, RPG... I don't think anyone is expecting games to be substitutes for Life.

But the thing is that large complexity in game development is technical: how to draw as realistic graphics as possible. The creative side seems to have been forgotten. Million man hours is poured into how to draw as detailed scene as possible... but often the plot and the quest seems like an afterthought. Even one layer of options in terms of plots would help a lot, because then the actions of the player would have an impact on the story.

Nowadays the player never has an impact on the story. The story stays the same, has no branch points and the player just plays in the space between the plot points. What I would love to see is the player playing the story as well.
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#21 demagogue

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 08:25 PM

I think it's good when objectives are linked with story progression. It was one of the punchlines of my wiki entry on level plotting. The gameplay flow should match the story-telling flow, and objectives are a mechanic that can link the two, so achieving an objective can cue the player that they've hit a story-progressing node in the plot. And advancing the plot forward is part of the engine driving the player forward. So the objective itself should be integrated in the story.

 

So, e.g., for "go get this widget" tasks, I think rather than just hand it over to someone, it's more like you have a recipe list of stuff you need, so you go out in the world to find those things, and then you put them together to make whatever the thing is, either cook it up, or make the machine yourself, etc.

 

The case study I think that was really good about connecting gameplay with story was the interactive fiction Anchorhead. It's easier just to tell people to play that game and pay attention to how it connects story and gameplay than try to explain it. The only thing I'd add is have less puzzles and have more problems you can solve dynamically, immersive sim style. I guess the modern exemplar for that is Firewatch. Really great about integrating story and gameplay, and still leaving the gameplay really open.


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#22 Outlooker

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 01:08 AM

>Do Quests in computer games really need to be so dull?

 

Yes.

At least in most games. The underlying principle is the same as with TV series and Movies:

  • It is an industry. Millions of people work there and need to be employed continuously. They have to continuously produce new entertainment material or the people become unemployed and the companies are broke. It is impossible to produce innovative, high-quality, novel material all the time; it is, however, easily possible to mass-produce basically the same material with minor variations - that being  a core reason why most Movies, TV series and video games seem to be so similar.
  • Roughly, there are two kinds of consumers. Let's call them the Dumbs and the Smarts. D's are content with consuming forever the same basic product with minor variations on the same theme. They watch TV for 8h a day for decades and are happy with it. S's soon notice that all this are but tiny endless variations of the same basic themes and start to look for more interesting things.
  • D's are many millions of consumers, maybe a majority of the population, and they absorb those dull products without ever being satiated or bored, so it keeps being produced endlessly.
  • Straying from that reliable consumer base and trying to do smarter, novel, more interesting things is financially risky, as the consumer base is much smaller and reliable, so it's done rarely, and the vast majority of the produced content is of the dull type.

If you want non-dumb content you must wait a long time until here and there something is produced, or stray away from electronic entertainment to read books instead, there is practically endless material that is non-dumb and interesting.

Wait for some outstanding products - or make them yourself.

 

>It is linear, and boring. The player does chores and is rewarded with a predefined plotline that progresses.

 

It's boring for YOU,  but thrilling for millions of (paying) others and therefore it keeps being made. It's just highly profitable.

In porn guys cannot help it: They seek out pictures of novel women all the time because of the Coolidge Effect. Men need variation to keep being aroused, and therefore a porn industry exists. In this, men are endlessly driven to do the same category of action with minor variations eternally.

Video games are achievement porn - that's why they are desired by men, not women. In real life achievement is as difficult to get as sex, so guys use porn and video games - because women/sex and achievement triggers their reward center in the brain. All men are equally driven to porn, because it is a primitive instinct, but not all men are equally driven to dull video games, because the desire for achievement/success/power/social status is more complex. The dumb men are easily satisfied with endless variations of the same category of action, leading to "grinding", exemplary being World of Warcraft or Diablo - long ours are spent doing the same boring thing over and over to get artificial achievement in the form of leveling up, getting better gear etc. Supported by psychological scientists producers make this extra addictive by throwing in random, low-probability rewards (special loot etc.) - in human as well as animal behavioral psychology it is established that addiction behavior is maximally reinforced by delivering rewards only sometimes, at random - the basis for gambling or video game addiction is identical.

This principle has grown into a multi-billion industry, mostly not AAA-games, but "primitive" Freemium games who are just barely sophisticated enough to keep the dumb interested, but maximally exploit the addiction-inducing components to make big financial profits - usually running not on (expensive and comparatively rare) gaming PCs, but smartphones and tablets. The many millions of victims will just not stop playing, just not stop paying with "micro-transactions" - just like the crowd that watched TV 8h+ per day for decades in the past (average US TV consumption per day is close to 9h) - they are eternally content and satisfied with endless meaningless variations on the same theme.

 

Smarter guys, just as with Movies and TV series, soon recognize the dull principle and abandon those games, at least searching for more interesting alternatives.

 

(Women are immune to video game addiction, because their reward center is not activated by achievement through direct competition, but by presenting themselves to and learning about and manipulating _real_ people socially - nothing in video games involves physical self-presentation or real social manipulation, so women find games stupid and boring and therefore women were immune to the lures of computer entertainment - this changed with the advent of social media, as it allows women to present their bodies (selfies...) and eavesdrop on real social interactions of other real people and manipulate them, which is for women as addictive as video games are for guys.)

 

 

>Are computer games doomed to always be this way?

99% or so of it is, because of the broad, reliable consumer base that are content with it being that way; as long as they pay for it things stay that way.

The other 1% is where the magic happens.

Interesting Movies and Games exist, but they are rare; mostly they are made by niche producers for a niche audience. Thief is already quite specialized, fanmissions/TDM even more.

Generally, because it reflects the state of human nature, most of everything is crap, but the tiny rest is very much worth looking into.

 

 

Quests/Story:

While the variation of possibilities are endless, the variation in underlying CATEGORIES is very limited.

New ideas that are not just  variations of an old idea are very hard to invent.

 

Fundamental scheme:

problem/goal   ---->    obstacle(s)/complication(s) ---->   solution/reward

 

That seems to be pretty much all of it.

 

Note that real life is not different from this. As Karl Popper said: "All life is finding problem solutions."

The main difference I see between games and real life is options diversity - in games options are highly limited, usually dull/boring after one has figured out the game mechanics and so we abandon  the game;

in real life, the issue is the precise opposite, we have literally endless amounts of options and complexity and are overwhelmed by it, therefore flee reality into video games.

 

>Something new... Something more out-of-the-box... Something more surprising... Something more fun!

I would guess that you are well-above average IQ, and I would also say that this is true for the average person keeping up an interest in TFM/TDM.

What you are looking for, for this very reason, is to experience new categories of experience, new "clever" variations that are not  just dull variations of the same old category.

Such true innovation are among the rarest of things, so you will have to wait longer times to be rewarded.

 

But new ideas and creativity can be helped along by exposure to more already existing ideas, the products of other minds - the longer our brains are exposed to a problem and the more raw material for associations we have (our brains are association machines through pattern recognition and memory), the higher the probability for a truly novel solution being found: Often, almost usually, the critical new association for a novel problem solution comes from information from a completely different area of expertise - the more different stuff a brain knows, the more associations it can form, the more patterns it can recognize, the more productive it can be in terms of creativity or novel problem solutions - practically, if you want have a high probability for a clever new quest/story/game mechanism idea, think about it hard for some time, then do and learn or experience something else, like going fishing/shopping/wandering/built a house/whatever - the more raw material you have for associations, the better for your unconscious to work out an idea and present to you consciously - just come back and think about your original problem again from time to time, so your unconscious keeps working on the task).

 

 

 

A few (mediocre) ideas from me:

  • Quest giver: "Steal for me the family heirloom toilet seat from my evil brother and I will reward you with 1000 gold." One may do it. Proceed. Or - NOPE. Turn the thing 180°. I'm not that interested in old toilet seats which have sentimental value for this guy, I am interested in 1000 gold. Steal from the quest giver those 1000 shinies, don't get involved with yucky toilet seats. The _really_ relevant information for a thief is that those 1000 gold pieces are in possession the quest giver, after all.
  • Keep the problem solution as unspecific as possible. Say, the task is to steal a golden vase from a manor. Provide no additional information, everything else has to be figured out by the player on his own, his techniques, scouting and analysis of the target compound, where to get needed equipment and what exactly for which task etc. Multiple possible, parallel routes: classical sneaking in (very hard); multiple entry routes, most of them requiring another sets of achieved tasks to open up, for example making a driver move his carriage under a window to climb up on it in the window above, or for a business to deliver boxes that block a guards view or to climb up on or to smuggle oneself into the manor by hiding in those boxes that are delivered into the manor as supplies; or finding a way to put sedatives into the guards food or even the whole manor's inhabitant's food, but the sedatives need to be stolen from an apothecary which in itself is another set of task with its own complexities; or having to find out on how to manufacture gas arrows (for a difficult heist) from a (secret?) library, then not just collecting, but actively finding the needed materials and ingredients (= not just finding gear, but kind of researching, planning and constructing it oneself).
  • "White collar crimes" - do not sneak in to sneak out valuables, instead sneak in to manipulate the bookkeeping, or change the delivery addresses of valuable boxes that are to be shipped (like in T2). The suspension comes not from stealing here, but from having to keep up ghosting, or one's manipulations could arouse suspicions.
  • Use of the same map with small variations for a day/preparation mission and a later-on nightly heist-execution-mission. Scout out at day, maybe inspect some locks or copy some keys, or draw some maps, or move/deliver some boxes or deliver alcohol to the guards barracks etc. and act as a non-thief, then revisit basically the same map at night and do the heist with help of the intelligence you gathered/the manipulations you made the day before.
  • The most general quest possible, almost a non-quest: Just explore the city and steal things to pay the bills. No more specific details, find story elements, figure out everything else completely on your own.
  • Surprising and dramatic change in expected events - from a cozy heist to escaping a major trap, being hunted and having to escape.
  • Infiltrate/exfiltrate not only oneself, but having to find/make up ways to exfiltrate a valuable, yet bulky piece of loot to a safe location.
  • Surreptitiously enter the city's locksmith and obtain most keys (impressions/copies) of most  locks in the city - prerequisite for a main mission or just as a additional possibility.
  • Distraction heist; lay fire to some building, make the guards deal with other threats, deliver hookers, ...
  • Everything can be made more interesting by a sophisticated background story, social/relationship/emotional elements that activate our instincts (sex, eavesdropping, revenge, betrayal, bullying, cheating, sabotage, rape, murder, torture, ...) - a powerful, detailed, emotional background usually adds a lot of fascination and immersion. Just stealing gets bland quickly, setting up emotional reasons in a skilled way makes us want to steal or play the mission for just another reason more. Maybe built up a strong emotional motive to not hurt anybody in a mission or to stay undetected.

  • Convey real-life knowledge/education in a mission somehow. Maybe like having a book with real-life workings/history of locks in a library or in a thief's den, or "real", at least plausible recipes for sleep potions based on real-world Atropa or something like that, or a real black powder recipe with some alchemist building cannons etc. - such things can add a nice degree of depth to a mission.

  • Humor. Depict certain human weaknesses passively by just placing items; maybe a hemorrhoid pillow on a chair, a secret "porn" stack, add laxative to food and activate a running routine to the next loo which then is being barred from the inside,...  I'm sure you can come up with better ideas than the lame ones I can here right now. Remember that humor is, psychologically, about someone losing social status as the general rule.

  • Meta theme on the thief theme - observe/help out/clear the way/steal from/manipulate other thieves, or a thieve's guilt. Maybe observe other thieves to rob a mansion, then set them up for capture with the guards, while securing and exfiltrating their loot for oneself.

  • T1's beginning seems underutilized to me. Have some old master thief get the player as an apprentice. The master introduces the player to more and more advanced thief skills and tools and sends him out to more and more difficult missions to learn and prove himself. Could be further sophisticated, maybe into an old debt or revenge with another master thief and the player had to free or revenge his master etc.

  • Catastrophe exploit for financial gain. City evacuated for flooding, fire, epidemic, war, earthquake, undead uprising. May be combined with finding a mighty weapon, like machine-gun like "staff of explode undead" - after you have snuck past 100 zombies, ghosts and haunts you find the stuff at the end and have not to sneak back to your base, but blast your way home in the last 2% of time of the mission, as a violent release of all the suspense and fear before. May be a nice variation for once and should be already be well supported by the D3 engine of TDM.

  • Set up some moral dilemmas that can be solved in different ways.

     

    EDIT:

    • I feel traps/alarms are underutilized so far as well. A simple trip wire, that is, a piece of string that pulls a metal pot from a shelf and making an alarming noise would suffice and to be expected in even poorer dwellings.
    • In more expensive abodes there could be pressure plates on the ground, possibly obscured by a rag.
    • In places like thief's hideouts  could be traps in form of pit traps.
    • As humorous example may suffice a bucket with water balanced on a partially opened door, functioning as alarm (or perhaps gift of sudden free hat).
    • In the real world, the "secret inside a secret" was often used (for example by the clergy) to secure valuables - in a hidden/locked place there were some (minor) valuables as distraction; but inside the hiding place was another hiding place for the really valuable stuff - secret room in secret room, secret safe (2nd backwall) in (secret) safe etc.
    • Counter-/Blackmail can be a nice mission theme; removing or planting evidence. After all, it can be more profitable and reliable than just stealing, while employing the same stealthiness.
    • Love/jealousy. Maybe a little tacky, it could possibly mixed into a quest - love and sex can be stolen, too.
    • Dealing with the complexities of inheritance. It's hard stealing a huge piece of land (lots of shovels and trucking would be involved) - but an inheritance can be ... accelerated as well as stolen.
    • Sabotaging a business competitor could be done in lots of ways and connected to stories and quests. Monopolies are money.
    • Employ of a thief to smuggle a bomb into a major political event, maybe a crowning or church meeting.
    • Outright dark themes - torture, gory magical sacrifices and blood magic, ruthless actors or protection from that. The more emotionally stirring and threat-inducing, even terrorizing, the better.
    • Missions in dense fog or smoke, at least partially. This yields a sense of being unseen and being immediately safe from being spotted but at the same time a sense of threat from not being able to see far oneself, which can be very captivating and immersive in itself, also increasing importance on noise clues for navigating successfully. This can also be used for great effect against the "cheating" of players by increasing screen brightness too much for simpler (yet less pleasurable, those players cheat themselves) difficulty level. Very dense snow or rain may serve the same purpose and prove to be very atmospheric.
    • A quest where leaving roofs/rafters means immediate failure. Maybe an assassination mission - get to a royal party on the thieve's highway, once there navigate the rafters over the ballroom to rope-arrow down in spots to steal, or maybe drip poison from the rafters down into a mug/goblet of a target noble.
    • Safe cracking through observation of the safe combination - sneak into room, hide, wait for owner to operate safe, use looking glass to spy combination. Could be combined with an alarm that triggers when a wrong combination is tried to make more sense.
    • A bit silly, but the player could camouflage himself as potted plant or bush, and move around when a guard (lighted area) is not looking in his direction; makes sense, as long as there are many other potted plants or bushes.
    • Steal not gold and gems, but alcohol. Alcohol was once very valuable. Steal it by rerouting factory piping or hoses secretly into your lair or into "tanker carriages" to transport away. A few tons of fine liquor are uncommon, yet very profitable loot.
    • Be a thief in employ of an army/general doing a siege. Sneak into a fortress to plant a bomb, open the gates, poison their well etc. - or the other way around, have a thief sneak out to send information to or call for assistance from other nobles.
    • Detective work. Clear some innocent from being found guilty. Collect evidence in a stealthy way, eavesdrop. Maybe the looking glass could even find use as magnifier to compare finger prints (though those would be comparatively high-tech).
    • Rise the undead yourself. Why not, let the guards have their fun with them, we'll be busy taking away the loot in the meantime.
    • Set up the rescue of some person from the gallows or guillotine - remove key guards, open gates, sabotage bows/arrows of placed archers, place mines, set up an escape carriage, replace/camouflage as the hangman, apply smoke and flash bombs at the scene in the right moment and execute not the guy/female, but escape with them tp safety.
    • Ennoble yourself - sneak into the castle, render the princess unconscious and implant your inseminate. May be impolite, but being royal and having royal offspring may prove highly advantageous.

Edited by Outlooker, 10 August 2017 - 04:53 AM.

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"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly while bad people will find a way around the laws." - Plato
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#23 Atomica

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 07:14 AM

Gaming these days for me just isn't the same as it was when I was younger. I'm 34 and try as I might to keep the habit going and keep up with what gamers like these days, I just can't feel part of the gaming crowd anymore. Everyone goes gaga for DOTA 2 - I have zero interest in it and any other MOBAs. People seem to obsess over watching streamers on Twitch (to the point where people casually talk about famous Twitchers by their handle as if they don't need an introduction), but I just can't give a shit. People fawn over games like DOOM 2016, but for someone who grew up on the old Doom and Quake games and have already had my fill, I'd rather play Brutal Doom with the crappy old graphics style than this new imitator.

 

Ignoring the sterile nature of the gaming industry these days, part of the issue is probably due to two things: (1) I've seen it all before, so everyone is just a respin of something I've already played, and (2) I have a full time job and more importantly, two kids - this puts a dent in my time. (2) is probably the most serious of all, because I want to play something like the Witcher 3, but to do that, to experience the entire game, would mean playing at least a couple of hours each day, every day, for quite a few months, and not play anything else. That to me is a crazy amount of free time to spend on one game, and I'd lose interest very quickly. I'd rather play an FM from The Dark Mod or play a user-made Quake map, because they're a couple of hours at most normally and are feasible to finish.

 

I think I'm just burnt out on gaming, but worse, it's clear that for most cases, I'm just not the target audience. The industry knows this, which is why we are pushed aside for the kids who aren't yet fully saturated with years and years of playing the same games over and over again. On the plus side, the indie gaming scene is full of interesting stuff - I'm currently playing Prison Architect more than anything else because it's just so damn DIFFERENT, which is what I want. Also, I don't spend as much money as I could because very few things are truly interesting anymore, so that's nice.

 

Oh yeah, and another thing. When I was younger, I liked being a completionist with my games. This was fine because new games for me were few and far between, plus I had more time to play and replay them. Nowadays there are not only too many games, but a lot of the really good games are LOOONNNGG. I just cannot will myself to play The Witcher 3 knowing it takes at least 100+ hours to get through the main storyline and many of the side missions, given I only have so many hours in the evening to myself. It would be longer actually, because if I buy a game, I want my money's worth which means playing everything it has to offer, or as much as feasible (all missions at least), which would push the hour count even higher. To devote so much time to a single game in lieu of any other games or hobbies just stops me dead in my tracks, whereas if I was a kid again, sure thing.


Edited by Atomica, 10 August 2017 - 07:30 AM.

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Oh my God! JC! A bomb!


#24 Anderson

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 07:38 AM

Gaming these days for me just isn't the same as it was when I was younger. I'm 34 and try as I might to keep the habit going and keep up with what gamers like these days, I just can't feel part of the gaming crowd anymore. Everyone goes gaga for DOTA 2 - I have zero interest in it and any other MOBAs. People seem to obsess over watching streamers on Twitch (to the point where people casually talk about famous Twitchers by their handle as if they don't need an introduction), but I just can't give a shit. People fawn over games like DOOM 2016, but for someone who grew up on the old Doom and Quake games and have already had my fill, I'd rather play Brutal Doom with the crappy old graphics style than this new imitator.

 

Ignoring the sterile nature of the gaming industry these days, part of the issue is probably due to two things: (1) I've seen it all before, so everyone is just a respin of something I've already played, and (2) I have a full time job and more importantly, two kids - this puts a dent in my time. (2) is probably the most serious of all, because I want to play something like the Witcher 3, but to do that, to experience the entire game, would mean playing at least a couple of hours each day, every day, for quite a few months, and not play anything else. That to me is a crazy amount of free time to spend on one game, and I'd lose interest very quickly. I'd rather play an FM from The Dark Mod or play a user-made Quake map, because they're a couple of hours at most normally and are feasible to finish.

 

I think I'm just burnt out on gaming, but worse, it's clear that for most cases, I'm just not the target audience. The industry knows this, which is why we are pushed aside for the kids who aren't yet fully saturated with years and years of playing the same games over and over again. On the plus side, the indie gaming scene is full of interesting stuff - I'm currently playing Prison Architect more than anything else because it's just so damn DIFFERENT, which is what I want. Also, I don't spend as much money as I could because very few things are truly interesting anymore, so that's nice.

 

Oh yeah, and another thing. When I was younger, I liked being a completionist with my games. This was fine because new games for me were few and far between, plus I had more time to play and replay them. Nowadays there are not only too many games, but a lot of the really good games are LOOONNNGG. I just cannot will myself to play The Witcher 3 knowing it takes at least 100+ hours to get through the main storyline and many of the side missions, given I only have so many hours in the evening to myself. It would be longer actually, because if I buy a game, I want my money's worth which means playing everything it has to offer, or as much as feasible (all missions at least), which would push the hour count even higher. To devote so much time to a single game in lieu of any other games or hobbies just stops me dead in my tracks, whereas if I was a kid again, sure thing.

 

 

 

 

Yep, that last thing nails it. The time factor allows for better time planning with The Dark Mod as one such example.

 

But small correction, Witcher 3 can be completed in under 50 hours if you only do main story stuff and don't divert your attention to sidewalks and whatnot.

 

In that situation it's good to have a game that children or lesser peers would be interested in too. Something that can be played together or maybe even coop in a non-competitive manner.

I heard Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons was good at this. 

That way playing games won't be an alienating experience from friends & family but rather a shared memory which you can cherish later on together. Strategy games are good at this too. Age of Empires 2 and 3.


Edited by Anderson, 10 August 2017 - 07:38 AM.

 "I really perceive that vanity about which most men merely prate — the vanity of the human or temporal life. I live continually in a reverie of the future. I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. The result will never vary — and to suppose that it will, is to suppose that the foregone man has lived in vain — that the foregone time is but the rudiment of the future — that the myriads who have perished have not been upon equal footing with ourselves — nor are we with our posterity. I cannot agree to lose sight of man the individual, in man the mass."...

 

 

- 2 July 1844 letter to James Russell Lowell from Edgar Allan Poe.

 


#25 Judith

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 08:08 AM

That's why I really hope AA games are on the rise. I don't need 200+ hours of meaningless AAA busywork. I like smaller games more and more. Brothers is a good example. In Life is Strange you can play one episode per evening, so it's also good in terms of pacing and your time management. I also loved games like Stanley Parable, Ethan Carter, or Judith Finch, and I'm really looking forward to playing Hellblade. All these games have smaller scope, high production values, and they're not afraid to try something new, because devs don't have a bunch of dumb excecs looking over their shoulders. And they cost half of what you need to pay for AAA title.


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