Jake

Idle Thumbs 311: Tactical Gamer Chair

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Jake   

Idle Thumbs 311:

Idle Thumbs 311


Tactical Gamer Chair
You sit down, strap yourself in, and wait for the feels. You turn a knob until the bass integrated into the back of the seat starts to thrum and buzz. "Ah, I can feel that for sure," you say aloud to no one. Your mouth turns down at the side, half a frown, as you look through your options. The hosts said they recorded this a while ago, but you think they might have been too kind. On the screen: A collection of lost games for an 8-bit console. A new video game console called the "Xbox One X." A... new... 2D Sonic the Hedgehog. Suddenly the thrum is not just in your back, but everywhere. The hum unbearable, you swat at your gamer harness, but the five point lock holds you strong. The hum is everything, everywhere. "What year is this?!" you scream out into the night street, before it all goes black.

 

Discussed: UFO 50, Tacoma, Steve Gaynor's stupid websites, Xbox One X, Xbox One X box (1), Subsurface Circular, StarCraft Remastered, buying a house with the money you saved by not buying avocados and instead saving 20% on flowers you millennial idiot, sugar-free shit-inducing gummy bears, stuff moms hate, tactical gamer chair, Sonic Mania, Sonic depression, deformable terrain, Myth, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pyre, UI polish, game spectator views, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Salty Bet, MUGEN, Deceit (Steam game), Bungie, Battle.net, Japanese video games

Sponsored by: Squarespace one-stop website creator with the offer code THUMBS, ProFlowers flower delivery with the offer code THUMBS

 

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I enjoyed "Tacoma" (examining the exquisitely detailed items in the game by itself makes it great), but I do wish they had either stuck with having the AV logs work in a "Sleep No More"-esque way (timed to occur at certain moments independent of where the player is located), or provided an option to have the game play out that way. But I understand why they went with what they did considering the scope of the story itself and the fear of players missing highly relevant information, etc. 

 

Y'all seemed to indicate games do exist that have a more genuine "Sleep No More" storytelling structure where story events only occur at certain moments regardless of where the player is located/if they see them or not. Apologies for being a dimwit, but what games do this? I honestly am not aware/can't think of any and would love to play them!

 

Seems to me for a game with a "Sleep No More" storytelling structure to work it would have to be incredibly well-designed in order for a majority of players to feel satisfied/like they saw enough of the story by the end of their first playthrough, but also be aware there are aspects of the story they missed and/or supplemental story details that would make a second (and third, etc.) playthrough compelling (but not *necessary*). 

 

I think analyzing the movie "Russian Ark" would likely be helpful for trying to nail the timing of when story events are timed to occur (along with significant playtesting)--that's a 96 minute one-take (took them three tries to nail it) movie told from a first-person perspective of a character ambling through an art museum (the Hermitage). It's impeccably choreographed so that every new room/place that comes into view of the character already has events/narrative in-motion to be observed. It's so well-done that it gives the illusion that narrative events are transpiring in rooms/places the character never goes to. I think in order for a game with a "Sleep No More" storytelling technique to work, the story events that the majority of players *do* see on their first playthrough would need to feel as rich, well-choreographed, and paced as they do in "Russian Ark" (if not more so).

 

I guess an obvious way to cheat around the inherent issues of utilizing this technique would be to just have the main story be scripted to play out when the character passes certain thresholds/enters new areas, and only have supplemental side-story stuff occur at specific, missable times. That seems like a pretty big compromise, though, and would make the technique less impressive and more obvious to the average player. (It'd also seemingly diminish replay value to a certain degree.)

 

I think if you're gonna go for this technique, you gotta go the whole way--meaning all story events, whether main or supplemental, are set to occur at specific times, regardless of where the player is located or whether they see them. Of course the creators still can design it in such a way that most players will see the majority of significant story events on their first playthrough--it would just have to be incredibly well-designed. But yeah if this was pulled off well enough to where the majority of players both felt narratively satisfied by what they experienced on their first playthrough but also sufficiently compelled enough to do at least a second if not third playthrough shortly after, that'd be rad as hell. 

 

Of course all this said, this is just a technique/gimmick. The story itself has to be good (ideally incredibly good) by itself for any of this to be meaningful. But I do think these unique, underused techniques can be fascinating when coupled with a great story, especially when the two feel like a natural fit. And there's plenty of other techniques games and movies (especially animation) should also be looking at for inspiration--such as in Frank King's "Gasoline Alley," Richard McGuire's "Here," Jacques Tati's "Playtime," Clouzot's "Wages of Fear" and "Diabolique," Kurosawa's "Rashomon," Ophuls's "The Earrings of Madame de…," Altman's "3 Women," etc.

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Jake   
16 minutes ago, Siromatic said:

Y'all seemed to indicate games do exist that have a more genuine "Sleep No More" storytelling structure where story events only occur at certain moments regardless of where the player is located/if they see them or not.

I don't know of many besides The Last Express, but it's a very strong example, even if its a singular one.

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27 minutes ago, Jake said:

I don't know of many besides The Last Express, but it's a very strong example, even if its a singular one.

Thanks for the reply, Jake! I remember listening to the "Three Moves Ahead" episode with Chris where they talked about "The Last Express." (Episode 271 from 2014.) Enjoyed the episode and was interested in playing the game at the time, but never got around to it (and I readily admit forgetting about it until now). A 6-page interview/retrospective about it by Chris on Gamasutra also came up when I did a search for it; will read that before playing.

 

Somehow didn't recall/was not aware the story events in it occur at specific times regardless of where the player is/whether they see them or not. Will definitely play through it soon. Still wish there were more modern fully 3D first-person exploration games with more impressively choreographed scenes that utilized this technique, though! (Coupled with great stories, of course.)

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Jake   
2 hours ago, Siromatic said:

Thanks for the reply, Jake! I remember listening to the "Three Moves Ahead" episode with Chris where they talked about "The Last Express." (Episode 271 from 2014.) Enjoyed the episode and was interested in playing the game at the time, but never got around to it (and I readily admit forgetting about it until now). A 6-page interview/retrospective about it by Chris on Gamasutra also came up when I did a search for it; will read that before playing.

 

Somehow didn't recall/was not aware the story events in it occur at specific times regardless of where the player is/whether they see them or not. Will definitely play through it soon. Still wish there were more modern fully 3D first-person exploration games with more impressively choreographed scenes that utilized this technique, though! (Coupled with great stories, of course.)

They're very hard in realtime if you also expect the player to be able to interrupt/interject at any time. If they are merely there to be observed that's one thing but if a player is also expected to have arbitrary agency over them, then brace yourself for authoring a hilarious amount of content and edge case protections. 

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2 hours ago, Jake said:

They're very hard in realtime if you also expect the player to be able to interrupt/interject at any time. If they are merely there to be observed that's one thing but if a player is also expected to have arbitrary agency over them, then brace yourself for authoring a hilarious amount of content and edge case protections. 

 

Oh yeah, it would be mostly to just observe, with some light interactivity for certain scenes where it makes sense/is even possible. The interactivity in these areas would mostly just be examining items that are able to be picked up that would narratively supplement the scene that occurs in the space (whether the player saw it or not) or light interactivity (such as the pool table/darts in "Tacoma," but themed appropriately to the game, of course).

 

Even without a large amount of interactivity in the theoretical game we're discussing, it'd still require an insane amount of authored material. Because in order to have it truly adhere to the "Sleep No More" style of narrative events that occur regardless of where the player is or if they see them, there'd have to be a huge amount of narrative events/scenes to make-up for whatever percent of scenes the player misses on their first playthrough. (No matter how well-designed such a theoretical game is at subtly directing the player towards key areas/scenes, obviously some percentage of them will be missed--I'd guess ideally you'd want to make it so on average players only miss 10-20% of major narrative scenes and 20-35% of supplemental side-story ones on their first playthrough.) 

 

You also have the absolute worst-case scenarios where the player is deliberately trying to miss most/all of the scenes. So having examinable items with supplementary narrative and other light systemic interactivity is necessary for there to be *something* for the player to do even in the absolute worst-case scenarios. Of course including these in all areas is also great for the game when it's played in best-case scenarios because as noted in such a game no player would be able to experience 100% of the scenes on their first playthrough, and you'd want them to feel like they can at least get something out of walking into an area where the narrative event has already occurred. 

 

Don't get me wrong, even as a dummy I recognize what I'm proposing would be insanely difficult to pull off well. Honestly think maybe only a big-budget production from a major studio with a great track record and highly skilled folks would be able to do so. The first studio that comes to mind would be Naughty Dog. Personally I'd rather them try their hand at something like the theoretical game we're talking about rather than relying on tired but tried-and-true systemic interactions like combat, light puzzles, etc. to comprise the 75% of their games that happen in-between the narrative parts. But I totally get why they haven't yet or would be very hesitant to try to do so. Also strongly suspect I'm sadly part of a minority that would even want a studio like them to make the kind of game I'm talking about.

 

So yeah, such a game would definitely be incredibly difficult to make and it's unlikely any studio will do so any time soon. One can dream, though!

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eRonin   

Actually at the Gamescom PUBG Invitational tournament, players had access to the internet and were allowed to stream the event to their personal channels (on a delay) and some were also seen with the stream open in front of them prior to the start of the games (hence they were watching the back of their head). They did have staff on hand monitoring the players, however.

 

Also:


Nick 1v1 me StarCraft remaster

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clyde   

@Siromatic If the appeal of these synchronous scenes is mostly observational, then there are a couple of performances you may be interested in knowing about. The Order dvd of Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3 is a novel thing. Users can basically switch between cameras as dude climbs the the inside of the Guggenheim. It's been a long time since I've played with it, but I'm pretty sure that the performances on various floors keep time with each other while you flip around. 

Another comparison would be the Cirque du Soleil performances in VR. They don't switch between cameras, but there is a modularity to the performances that surround you and your gaze is limited so you can never see it all. 

I know these are not really what you are talking about, but I think they can provide us with some observations relevant to your hypothetical game. One thing you seem to be focused on is the idea of making sure the player can see enough in a playthrough to feel satisfied by the narrative. You also seem to want there to be a strongly authored main through-line. The novelty of The Order and the Cirque du Soleil performances for me is a certain humility I feel as the audience; I feel decentered by a persistence that occurs without my gaze. I think this is the main strength of this type of performance. In order to move towards audience satisfaction, I would recommend filling each "floor" with something sublime in itself that also can be unified with the eventual juxtapositions which are likely to occur in order to give the piece a more general sensibility. The resulting rhetoric can still be affecting even if the juxtaposed pieces can't be fully attributed to a strongly authored narrative (though a strongly authored narrative is still relatively possible).

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clyde   

I was thinking about this again this morning @Siromatic. I made a game last year that was supposed to be historical magical-realism set in the Byzantine Empire circa 1330. The narrative didn't really work well and I realized that it was because players hadn't spent a few weeks watching YouTube videos and reading Wikipedia articles about the monks on Mount Athos and the hesychast controversy. So my narrative defaulted to a very base travel story with no significant development and stilted dialogue. I basically made a history fan-game that was completely dependent in the player already having enjoyed the source material.

So I was thinking about the synchronous floor model and wondering if it would be able to fix that disconnect and I think it would. Just by having a series of narratives in that world taking place synchronically, my narrative of intrigue could be discovered in a similar way to how I enjoyed coming up with the speculative conspiracy theory I developed while researching for it. Now I want to re-visit that project and see what might be able to do with this format.

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Ben X   

I might be the only one whose heckles get raised by this (though surely not?), but Jake please please please stop yawning into the microphone! The normal once or twice per episode is aggravating enough, but you went into overdrive on this one!

 

Anyway, great show as always. The monthly IT/weekly IIT schedule is working out really well.

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On 9/16/2017 at 11:59 AM, Ben X said:

I might be the only one whose heckles get raised by this (though surely not?), but Jake please please please stop yawning into the microphone! The normal once or twice per episode is aggravating enough, but you went into overdrive on this one!

 

Anyway, great show as always. The monthly IT/weekly IIT schedule is working out really well.

*hackles

 

I didn't mind but I was also very tired so it kind of fit my mood.

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Ben X   

Oops, autocorrect! I will never directly get that wrong due to the argument 19 mins into this Red Dwarf ep:

 

 

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