Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Merus

  1. To start off with, the platform holder would have to allow you to silently award achievements - I don't think announcing to the player that an achievement is awarded necessarily has to be part of the design pattern. I'd guess then you'd tie achievements to parts where your players would ask each other if they saw a particular bit; if it's not something you want players to do the first time through, hide it. The rule of thumb I think works is to ask whether players would ask each other if they did x in a game. For something like Dear Esther I think perhaps silent achievements that trigger when you hear enough about circumstances on the island to piece together part of the story - if they're noisy then all that subtlety would be lost. I think it's okay if the achievements list prods people to believe that there's more to discover, but it's not okay to be telling people mid-game they can stop caring now because the game has decided they have enough. That said, I acknowledge silent achievements are really not common - I think Apple might allow it, but that's it - and that without it there's basically nothing you can do that wouldn't be awful. So I guess maybe I was wrong about the achievement system not really being the problem. Edit: wait, hang on. Encouraging people to think of their experience with Dear Esther as being 'done' because they've ticked off the achievements list undermines the game, because it notably doesn't have a point where it tells you you've seen all the content. In that case, I'm hard pressed to think of any achievements that wouldn't undermine the game.
  2. I feel like a lot of the frustration with achievements is less to do with the achievement system itself and more that it's done poorly by so many developers. The point of achievements is to serve as a publicly accessible distillation of an experience you've had with a game, as well as a way for developers to flesh out the scope of experiences they expect players to have. They're a reputation tool that handily doubles as a way for developers to influence players. Story achievements are worthless (and everyone here recognises that) because for most games your experience with the game has nothing to do with the plot of the game or how many dudes you kill. They should be awarded for specific experiences that would be notable without the achievement. Also pun names are a really dumb convention.
  3. Thirty Flights of Loving

    I observed some random people playing this as part of the Lunarcade exhibition in Sydney last night. It compared very favourably to Dear Esther and Tale of Tales' latest work (which is basically an incomprehensible French art film simulator) mostly, it seems, because making it possible to poke at the world and having it respond is a lot more compelling than the traditional approach at making an storytelling-focused experience, which is usually based around layering in things to see and making traversal somewhat complicated using mazes or jumping puzzles. And then we played Johann Sebastian Joust, which was great, particularly in an art gallery with a big column in the middle of the play field.
  4. The Less-Idle Thumbs: A Fitocracy Group

    This thread is now about gamification of fitness regimes. I want to try Zombies, Run! at some point but I'm bad at running, so what I've been doing instead is using a couch to 5k app and pretending it's a game, which is really the same thing as gamification when you get right down to it.
  5. I think Kos Lutfar brought Guild Wars 2 up apropros of nothing and it takes basically nothing to get me talking about MMOs. They're so interesting an idea that are frequently so flawed in execution, and the things they used to provide are basically everywhere nowadays. Call of Duty has a persistent level progression and basically every game ever has some kind of online connectivity and frequent updates, so what exactly are MMOs offering? But yeah, different thread for this. I liked the discussion on what games do well; as someone who really likes storytelling in games, I'm kind fo forced to agree that games will probably never be particularly good at it, although I think we'd get closer if we had a way to mechnically represent conversations that required some participation from the player. Still, I think setting up systems that generate stories about systems are going to end up being more successful than writing a specific story and expecting it to resonate. Thankfully, we know enough about how stories are structured that we can actually approximate systems that can generate stories. There's a web game called Fallen London that has an interesting approach to interactive storytelling - basically they recognised that with interactivity you can't really have more than one sequential story going at once. So they write the thing as have indeterminate amounts of time between each stage of the story, very in media res, and let players fill in the connecting bits with their own imagination. They do a couple of other things like have everything, like story progress, personality, accomplishments, etc. expressed through a specific 'quality' stat, and they can combine them to open or lock specific storylines. They do ethics stuff through the same system, so you get points towards your Hedonism or Austere or Magnanimous quality when you do those things, and while some stories require particular levels in the ethical qualities to unlock, most of the time it's just so you have a record of how often you've made those kinds of decisions.
  6. This would have been the first personal quest in the tutorial area, I'm guessing. After you're through the tutorial your quests start getting less frequent, one every few levels. Most of the gameplay is centred around renown areas and events. Generally the idea is that you head off to a renown area where it gives you a list of things you can help with, and any one of those gives credit. They... vary in how interesting they are. Thankfully, events tend to start up in those areas as well, and they almost always count as well for the renown area. They're more focused: there is a clear objective that everyone works towards, like protecting supplies or attacking a boss, and once it is done it stays that way for the time being. (NPCs will rebuild, usually if supplies are stolen or something another event starts to get them back). Monster kills give only a couple of XP, more if the monster has been alive for a while, so most of your XP comes from those events, as well as the map features. Each zone has a little checklist of features to uncover - waypoints so you can teleport around the map, points of interest around major landmarks, skill point challenges that earn points to unlock new abilities, and vistas that require you to clamber up somewhere high for a chunk of XP and a little cutscene swooping around the environment. If you check off all of them in an area, you get a massive chunk of XP and some very nice equipment for your level. Simple stuff, yes, but MMORPGs are not known for their progressive game design. There are also hidden areas where you're essentially clambering over the environment trying to work out how to get from A to B, and they also have prizes for getting to the end of them. The only thing putting PvP and PvE together ever did was inspire gankers, who are frankly not very interesting. The WvW area is basically all the good parts about world PvP, but with no quests and everyone boosted up to the same HP totals or thereabouts. There's still exploration stuff in there, including a little mini-dungeon where opposing teams can activate traps, but it's in the background. I did see WildStar but I'm not sold on the way they're rewarding exploration. It seems like they're rewarding exploration in the same way that collectathons did, where designers think they need to give them a reward for the secrets they find, and that kills the motivation to actually explore because there's no chance of finding anything unexpected. Guild Wars 2 has a checklist of things to see, but you can make events happen in the world by poking around in the right places, and they can lead to weird little offshoots of the world. I don't have much of a problem with class systems so long as the classes aren't fitting into specific roles. I've always resented RPGs that ask me to decide, as the first decision I make, what my playstyle is going to be. I haven't even started playing your game yet, I don't know what I'm going to find most fun. I haven't gotten very far in Mass Effect for that reason, and also because of a discussion on an earlier episode of Idle Thumbs that suggests that Mass Effect 1 with the Soldier is so much easier than any other path.
  7. I have, and rather enjoyed my time with it. It takes the public event system a couple of MMORPGs have dabbled with and runs with it, so that the only "traditional" quests left are storyline quests. They've also decided that other players turning up shouldn't ever be unwelcome, so you get your own gathering nodes, loot, XP, all that. As a combination of all the decisions they've made, you get this really interesting gameplay loop where you basically strike out in a direction to see what's going on, and if you find a bunch of people you can follow them around as the event you're all doing triggers another event and another and so on. There's a lot of thought put into the game, and it lets them do some really interesting things. One area gave me quest credit for solving math problems. I'm going to be really interested to see what happens to the community; there's a long-standing observation in MMO design theory called the Bartle player types, and I think this is the first AAA MMORPG that's really gone all-in on trying to cater to Explorers. (I can't think of any indie MMOs that have; A Tale In The Desert possibly, but its world is so boring.) The theory goes that trying to cater to Explorers specifically, without neglecting the other playstyles, should result in a stable proportion of player types, and it'll be interesting to see if that happens, and if so, what it looks like. I'm curious to see what people who haven't built up a tolerance for MMO gameplay think of it, though.
  8. I am excited for more of Sean's Irish stories. I could possibly do less of Chris' concerning obsession with San Francisco stories, though. I suspect that in a few years people will react with surprise that I've never played a lords management game and don't intend to, and my explanation that I'm really not fond of having to lose for hours before I start having fun won't really wash.
  9. I think, for the experiences I have enjoyed that have been prompted by achievements, that this is basically impossible to do in a way that isn't hideously transparent. For instance, Blizzard games these days have a set of achievements based around revisiting a boss and beating it with a specific condition, like a time limit or by triggering a specific mechanic. Would the game be better served by having an old man standing at the entrance to the boss fight, saying, "I'll be very impressed if you manage to convince the Skeleton King to kill his own army! You should try it out."? Or would that be even worse? Having a checklist somewhere else that can be ignored or noticed as the player decides feels to me a better way of handling it than trying to justify an in-world reason why you'd go back and kill that boss again and this time make it harder on yourself. Having it in an out-of-game checklist serves another purpose, as well: as a suggestion list. I spent about a year on WoW using its extensive achievement system as prompters for things to try instead of running on the treadmill of 'current' content. Often designers will take that tendency into account: both Geometry wars and Pac-Mac CE had an achievement that encouraged players to play in a way that they wouldn't naturally, but would improve players' skills by giving it a go. This isn't to say that achievements can be done poorly - honestly it's rare that I see a game that I feel has well-thought out achievement design. "Earn large number x kills/dollars/what have you" is almost never worth anything, and the only reason to have progress achievements like level or plot event achievements is for the social comparison aspect, which is an important part of achievement design and what give the whole exercise any kind of meaning. Fewer still put any thought into when achievements are actually triggered so that they don't interrupt - for all its sins, FFXIII had the decency to wait until the cutscenes were over to award achievements for finishing the previous chapter.
  10. I did a bit of a double-take with Sean's comments about gaming as a service, particularly as I enjoy the idea of having the game expand while I'm playing it rather than going through the cycle of buy-play-realise I'm done-{hope for sequel|move on with my life}. But it sounded like the problem is less with the concept of gaming as a service but the execution: namely, that these bits of game are just kind of plopped in there, with big markers where characters talk directly to the player's wallet, Dragon Age-style, and they don't really feel like a complete experience that you feel good about having just played. I'm planning to poke Chris into elaborating more on his 'oh god, fuck achievements' stance because maybe that's a thing that's been run into the ground while I wasn't looking. I've had so many nice achievement-prompted experiences that I'm a little surprised.
  11. The Secret World

    Bitter experience has taught MMO developers not to put their new player experience entirely in the hands of the community, and the single-player focus is a big part of that. The strong single-player focus has two goals: it allows for a guided intro into the world, and it gives players something to do when none of their friends are around. They're also taking the right lessons from WoW - most MMO developers looked at the DIKU gameplay and the colourful artstyle and decided that was what made WoW successful, when in reality it was that the strong questing path gave players direction and things to do that weren't purely grinding. Frankly for most people just the idea that there are other people out there doing things is enough; they don't really intend to socialise much and they like the idea of being masters of their own destiny.