Tag Archives: FPS

Opinion – World building is tough

A little bit of sugar helps the ridiculously complex narrative go down.

World building is tough.  Adding something on to the tasks video games must complete (controls, gameplay, graphics, sound, art design, etc) seems cruel when many games can’t even get the basics right.  Even so, if a game wants to draw the player into the world of the game, that world needs support.  The player must appreciate its intricacies and be intrigued by its mysteries which requires considerable support throughout the entire game.  The variety of gameplay types compounds the difficulty of world building.  One size does not fit all.  Depending on the type of game, the developer must approach world building in a different way.

RPGs and open world games

In many ways, RPGs and open world games have it easiest.  These styles of game, regardless of genre, tend to have a slower pace, more time to explore locations, and a greater emphasis on story telling.  This allows developers to give the player time to actually walk around the world and interact with its inhabitants.  Through conversations, exploration, ambient noise, and questing, developers can overtly and subtly interweave information about their world into every facet of the game.  Even with all of the available opportunities, some prefer to shove exposition dumps down the player’s throats.  This should be resisted.  With the many ways to draw the player into the world, developers should limit lectures on history, culture, or any other aspect of the game world to sideshows for interested players or only when the situation absolutely necessitates it.  Exposition dumps only appeal to the devoted while even casually interested players tire of reading when they should be playing.  Where possible, the developer should work world building in a way that works with gameplay rather than conflicts with it.

FPS

The pace of a first person shooter often dictates the way it builds its world.  For the fast paced shooters, the developer can’t let the player stop and investigate their surroundings.  The narrative of the environment must be told primarily through the visual elements because the player won’t have the time to stop and absorb text or conversation.  Even the visual cues lose subtlety for every second of gameplay devoted to speed.  FPS players may only appreciate the world in the corners of their vision or through stand out moments that temporarily pause the action.  Players can’t appreciate small details if the game moves too quickly for them to absorb putting a premium on blunt delivery mechanisms such as cutscenes or large visual elements.  Alternatively, some FPS’ take a slower pace allowing for more nuanced world building.  Audio logs detailing story can provide rich context for visual and aural cues, provided the player has time to listen to them.  Even a slow FPS tends to focus on visual cues due to the first person view, but it can augment those cues with the RPGs rich armory of tools.

RTS

The real time strategy game suffers from a decidedly different problem than the FPS.  Yes, RTS games are fast paced making nuanced approaches to world building difficult, but their real problem is that they, by necessity, must take place on a battlefield.  Whereas other games have gameplay justified reasons to explore peaceful areas, RTS games are defined by their combat.  If a player isn’t directing armies, then they aren’t playing the game.  World building in an RTS must rely on the same visual cues of the FPS, but also with a heavy dose of cutscenes.  Since the peacetime version of the game world is always off screen, the RTS must use the story breaks to fill in the non-fighting bits that it can’t communicate otherwise.

Action platformer

Action platformers are also severely limited by their style of gameplay.  In games about movement and action, there really isn’t much time to focus on the areas where those things are not.  Unlike RTS’, an action platformer developer can turn more peaceful aspects of the game into a world for the player to explore.  Hub worlds allow the player to absorb lore and engage with characters taking the load off of the environment.  A player can explore a ruined castle and then hear about the terrible battles that occurred there from a small town where they restock on items.  Developers never get the same level of depth that an RPG or open world game might, but they still have time to add in elements that engage the player with the world.

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Opinion – So you want to make an e-sports game – part 2

We’re back!  Now to conclude my evaluation of esports games.

Visual beauty is nice.  Visual clarity is mandatory.

One of the major components of esports is watching the action.  Having a pretty game can make the experience more enjoyable over a blander counterpart, but pretty visuals are unnecessary.  Fans who stick around for any length of time will become used to the appearance of a game to the point where it won’t matter much.  Instead, the most important visual aspect of an esports game is visual clarity.  At a glance, viewers should have a good idea about what is happening onscreen and how the broader game is playing out.  This allows them to follow the action and understand just how their favorite players are performing.  A perfect example of this principle is Starcraft 2. The game isn’t pretty, but all of the necessary information is clearly displayed on screen.  When two armies fight, the viewer can see their composition, the moves they’re making, and their success or failure.  The display also shows player army size, resource pools, and ongoing upgrades.  Compare that to an unmoded FPS where the viewer can only see the game from the viewpoint of a single player.  They can only ever understand the game from a single, limited perspective and so will miss out on the broader progress of the game and interesting events not viewed by that player.  It would be like watching a football game from the helmet of a single player.

Limit downtime

Speaking of Starcraft 2, it showed the importance of getting into the action quickly.  Before the most recent expansion, most games started with major dead time until the players could develop their economies and armies and start engaging.  That period was, to be blunt, boring.  Time that isn’t showing something entertaining is time the viewer might disengage.  Some downtime is require in games, but long stretches of it should be avoided at all costs.  Esports games are fundamentally an entertainment product.  They should strive to be as entertaining as possible across the most time as possible.

Balance Intelligently

One of the things every developer learns about every game they make is that their audience will inevitably do something unexpected with their game.  Players will run into bugs, sneak into areas they shouldn’t, and apply unforeseen tactics.  For an esports game, the developer must accept that they will a) never anticipate all the strategic permutations of their game, and b) regularly balance those tactics throughout the life of the game.   The first point necessitates the second.  Invariably, competitive players will pick apart your game and discover an abusive strategy that will dominate the field.  Without balancing, that’s all fans will see and they’ll get bored.  Even beyond preventing single method victories, intelligent balancing helps keep the game fresh.  By subtlety tweaking different aspects of gameplay, the developer can encourage pros to innovate new strategies giving fans something new to see.  With all this being said, I included “intelligent” for a reason.  Balancing can fundamentally alter how the game is played.  Without applying intelligence, care, and precision, the developer can create new dominant strategies or prioritize less entertaining ones.  Balancing is incredibly difficult to do right.

 

Production values for viewing

With increasing production values across the many developing esports games, it’s no longer enough to have a scruffy fan shout out what’s happening in a game.  From the casters, to the environment, to the game overlay, esports need strong production values to appeal to new audiences.  Appearing jumbled or confused will only push potential fans to better organized options.  Furthermore, the back end needs to strongly support the whole operation.  Lag, computer crashes, and event disorganization only add dull downtime that will turn off fans.  They want to see the game, not watch casters try to fill time while techies figure out the latest failure.

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