Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Problem of Repetition

After having played some adventure and RPG games lately one thing struck me: repetition in games have practically the identical problems as trial-and-error do. This is not truly a shocking conclusion, because repeating things in a game is basically what you do when stuck in a sequence of trial and error. But considering that the repetition is not a direct consequence of getting unable to progress, and that not all repetition is poor per se, I figured it was worth seeking into a bit.

The Problem
Most of the time the issue arise when performing an action many instances causes the identical response. Largely, this does not apply when undertaking issues to dead objects, like shooting a bullet on a wall. We count on that if we shoot the identical bullet at the exact same location twice, the same response happens each occasions. Even so this is not usually accurate. For instance, numerous games use randomized particle effects for sparks from the hitting bullet. In far more complex method, like water splashes, this is even far more frequent, and even though it might not be directly noticeable if they repeat, it can unconsciously lead to the virtual world getting observed as less "actual" (what I truly imply is sense of verisimilitude, but far more on that later) . So even although it does not constitute a massive dilemma, we do run into difficulty even when repeating consequences for extremely basic interactions.

The dilemma becomes a lot more jarring when the object of interaction is a supposed to be an intelligent agent. This is really widespread in RPGs and adventure games for the duration of dialog, where the identical query generates the very same answer regardless of how numerous times you ask it. Adventure games are usually a little bit greater than RPGs and often have NPCs providing a summary rather of the exact very same response and a lot more frequently terminate threads of conversation. Even so, a large part of dialog in both sorts of games have actions being met by the exact exact same response no matter how many instances they are repeated.

There are of course a cause why it is like this. The player may well have forgotten some data and want to hear it once more, forcing dialog to be repeated. Or there may be some compulsory puzzle that requires the player to trick or persuade a character, which forces the player to redo the same conversation if unsuccessful at the very first attempt. I consider these reasons expose two troubles that narrative focused video games have: reliance of "information dumps" and puzzles as core activities. Information dumping is a kind of exposition that one particular tries challenging to keep away from in other media, yet is really frequent in video games (frequently forming the core storytelling device). It is one thing that I consider needs to be deemed more (and I am well aware we have been making use of it as well a lot in our own games). Puzzles is some thing I have talked about getting damaging effects just before and this is but yet another argument to why we should try and reduce down our reliance on them.

Another extremely typical form of repetition is that of obtaining the identical sort of gameplay situation repeated many times throughout the game. Occasionally this can be a core component of the knowledge, but most of the time it is just a form of padding and an try to prolong the time it requires to finish the game. There are tons of examples of this and two that spring to thoughts are the vent sections of Dead Space 2 and the spirit capturing in Sword and Sworcery. I felt that each of these activities would have been a lot more intriguing if not repeating so a lot. You speedily become very familiar with them and they ultimately loose significantly of their first

There is a deeper purpose why repetition is so typical in videogames. Several games base their interactions on classic games and computer software systems exactly where reproducibility is a corner stone. You do not want to use a paint-tool and not know what anticipate when pressing a button, and the only way for you to get this information is to is for consequences to repeat themselves. In traditional games, you need to have systems that a human player can hold track of, and as a result the consequences of actions must be simple to comprehend. Videogames carry baggage from each of these directions, and thus it is not strange that video games include a big share of repetition.

As you may have guess I feel this sort of repetition can be very bad for videogames that concentrate on story and narrative.

The Causes
As I mentioned earlier, the repetition has pretty considerably the same issues as trial-and-error. Given that they are each about carrying out the same thing over and over, this can really feel fairly a lot self-evident and not worthy of much discussion. Nonetheless, even though trial-and-error components are far more simply pointed out and can be straight addressed, repetition is far more subtle and not constantly as clear. Many of problems with repetition are also generally observed as limits of the medium (or at least our present technology) and therefore not really addressed. I do think these difficulties can be overcome although, and a 1st step is to figure out what give rise to them.

- Mechanics gets apparent
By getting some thing repeated over and more than to players, they will speedily commence to notice patterns and brief soon after figure out the program under. What this leads to is that the player will no longer concentrate on what the method is trying to represent (eg. dialog with a person) but will rather see the mechanics that it is built from (eg. the abstract dialog tree). Repetition does not force this onto the player as trial-and-error do (exactly where the player often is needed to discover the method in order to continue). But because numerous of the issues that are repeated constitute a large portion of the expertise, the issue piles up. Like I mentioned above the repetition can incorporate whole scenes and the player may possibly go via a section in a go (ie no trial-and-error). But then when a quite comparable sections is repeated throughout the game, the underlying mechanics turn into far more and much more visible. As an example I consider the enemies in our personal game Amnesia have this really issue. This dilemma is extremely subtle though as it only applies on longer play sessions and can therefore a lot more easily slip by.

There is another aspect to this, that makes the difficulty even much more severe. Once you figure out the mechanics of a method it can damage events that you knowledgeable when you did not have this understanding. For instance, if you really feel like a conversation is genuinely meaningful, and then later on uncover this very same character reduced to mechanics, it will change the way you view your prior knowledge. It will be very challenging to still really feel the exact same sense of meaningfulness when seeking back at the conversation. Your mental construct of an aspect of the game's globe has now been decreased to a mechanic and when you later summarize the encounter you have had, this can severely minimize any emotional attachment you may well have had to earlier happenings. As this piles up, it will gradually degrade the expertise and tends to make you less emotionally connected to the game's globe.

- Reduce in Verisimilitude
What verisimilitude indicates is essentially how actual and truthful the fictional world feels. This does not mean how nicely it replicates the genuine world we reside in, but how much a it feels like it represents an actual spot. In most narrative media, giving a robust sense of verisimilitude is truly crucial. As I said, this does not mean that every thing ought to be "just like in genuine life", but instead follow the fictional world's internal logic somehow. What this signifies in games is that when encountering a virtual element, such as a character, we do not need for it to behave specifically like in true life, but just to behave in such a way that it evokes feelings of verisimilitude.

This means that we can tolerate dialog selection and equivalent, whilst other factors are immediate deal breakers. I feel a single of these deal breakers is the repetition of a responses. If a character repeats the same sentence over and over, it is extremely tough to see them as nothing at all but a simplistic automaton. We can very simply disregard our understanding that there is not a sentient mind
shaping the responses, just like know something is not actually taking place in a film. But when the data that the knowledge is feeding us (in this case the repeated voice response), the extremely thing that is supposed to assistance the view of an intelligent being goes straight against its purpose.

Not only dialog is impacted by this but a lot of other elements. For instance, whenever you have to go about clicking on the identical hot-spots over and over in an adventure game, it also considerably lessen the feeling of verisimilitude.

- Lower in effectiveness
This point is almost identical with what takes place in trial-and-error. Specific scenes and events simply does not do well when repeated. For some events it is just that they are quite emotional, and it will be challenging to feel the same way after again. You will grow desensitized and less prone to reacting to it. Just examine a film filled with gory sequences to one with a single visceral scene. The latter will pack a a lot harder punch. Other instances it may possibly be that the occasion or scene is set up like a magic trick - it only performs when you are not expecting what will occur. Ultimately, it may possibly merely be that the passage is too boring, sensory intense or comparable that you cannot bare to take further viewings. Other media rely on things like these difficult-to-repeat moments a lot, but because games are so prone to repetition, they are considerably harder to place in and/or to have the identical emotional worth.

The Cure
So how do we overcome these troubles? I feel there are a few items to preserve in mind when designing that makes them a lot easier to stay away from:

  • Not a method the encounter as a competition. The significantly less ambitions we set up for the player the much less most likely we are to need to have to repeat items for the player or to make them repeat their own actions.
  • Make sure that the story is understandable without the need to have of information dumps. If the player is necessary to have story associated data repeated to them, then I would consider that undesirable narrative design. The story ought to emerge basically out of playing.
  • Skip the notion that players need to learn a system. I believe this is mainly historical baggage from how software functions for much more practical application, exactly where mastery of the technique is important. Creation of narrative art does not have this requirement although, and I feel we ought to instead make the player focus on the representations (graphics, sounds, etc) that the program give.
  • We have to demand a lot more of the player and give them far more accountable. We need to teach them them live in our virtual worlds as an alternative of attempting to beat our game systems. As most games reward players for combing the virtual globe for goodies this is not the easiest of tasks even though. Our aim should therefore be to undo this and reward roleplaying alternatively.
These modest rules does of course not resolve everything and there is a lot of difficult issue connected with this. For instance, conversational responses is an extremely difficult issue and the identical is true for narrative devices in games.

Nevertheless, I think just a small adjust in our thinking can take us a extended way and just recognizing the issue is a large step forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment