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Thread: Online Games need to shed their story-driven predecesors

  1. #1
    Fenn
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    Online Games need to shed their story-driven predecesors

    In the age of online gaming, devs need to come to the point where they stop pretending that online combat is a part of a game's lore. With the exception of licensed games (Star Wars) or single-player focused games (Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood), trying to get the online to mesh with pre-made backstory is hindering to the final product.

    Too many developers feel pressure to include both single and online play into games. When online was starting out, this was understandable. However, with the online scene booming as it is now, games which wish to focus on multiplayer need to shed half-baked campaign missions that people will only play through for achievements or to get a handle on the game. This can be risky considering if game's online community dies then the game essentially becomes unplayable, but can be remedied with options such as bots, offline multiplayer, and the popular "horde mode" complete with leaderboards which often doubles as a co-op option.

    Further more, online game "atmospheres" need to stop sticking to cookie-cutter concepts that ultimately hinder the game itself. Halo is a good example. If the developers didn't need to worry about maintaining the idea that you are a Spartan in a war (rather than a player in a competition as you actually are), they could cater better to the online crowd. Other games also apply a modern, historic, or futuristic atmosphere and then must try to maintain a sense of plausibility when creating abilities and weapons. Forget it; if a feature will make the game better, add it.

    Don't get me wrong, there are tons of great online games from many genres. However, I would very much like to see a dev release a game with an online focus based on the theme of: "You are gamers competing in a virtual arena." Focus completely on providing a fair, balanced, fun, challenging online experience with as many effective features and interface options as possible. Get rid of "storylines" and inflexible lore; let the gamers create their own history.

    That's my rant.

  2. #2
    Lord of Death jubeh's Avatar
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    Didn't think anyone would actually talk about game design on this forum.

    In the age of online gaming, devs need to come to the point where they stop pretending that online combat is a part of a game's lore. With the exception of licensed games (Star Wars) or single-player focused games (Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood), trying to get the online to mesh with pre-made backstory is hindering to the final product.
    Consider resources. Did you know every single player map in the original Quake was also a multiplayer map? Call it cutting corners, but it allowed for some incredibly unique level design and a cohesive experience between single and multiplayer. Not to mention everything they were doing at the time was pushing technology to itsl imits.

    Too many developers feel pressure to include both single and online play into games. When online was starting out, this was understandable. However, with the online scene booming as it is now, games which wish to focus on multiplayer need to shed half-baked campaign missions that people will only play through for achievements or to get a handle on the game. This can be risky considering if game's online community dies then the game essentially becomes unplayable, but can be remedied with options such as bots, offline multiplayer, and the popular "horde mode" complete with leaderboards which often doubles as a co-op option.
    I think everybody already knows this. Gamers have nobody to blame but themselves. People criticized bioshock for not having multiplayer. I wish I could simply say those people were idiots, but apparently they were the majority.

    It's gotten to the point where they are having two completely different developers develop the single player and multiplayer modes for games. Bioshock 2 did this, I believe, as well as Dead Space 2. This is because our generation of game players equate time with value, when ironically, the communities (and servers in EA's case) die out quicker than most multiplayer centric games.

    Further more, online game "atmospheres" need to stop sticking to cookie-cutter concepts that ultimately hinder the game itself. Halo is a good example. If the developers didn't need to worry about maintaining the idea that you are a Spartan in a war (rather than a player in a competition as you actually are), they could cater better to the online crowd. Other games also apply a modern, historic, or futuristic atmosphere and then must try to maintain a sense of plausibility when creating abilities and weapons. Forget it; if a feature will make the game better, add it.
    I don't even know what is going on here. Are you saying developers should sacrifice theme for mechanics? I'm not outright disagreeing with you because I'm not sure you have thought this through all the way.

    Would bow and arrows make Halo better? I fucking love bow and arrows. Though I submit even if they were plausible mechanically, they would not fit into the theme of the game.

    Don't get me wrong, there are tons of great online games from many genres. However, I would very much like to see a dev release a game with an online focus based on the theme of: "You are gamers competing in a virtual arena." Focus completely on providing a fair, balanced, fun, challenging online experience with as many effective features and interface options as possible. Get rid of "storylines" and inflexible lore; let the gamers create their own history.
    I hate to be THAT GUY but these games exist. Did you ever play Shadowrun. The best competitive shooter nobody ever played. Didn't even have a single player. Was it without theme? No, it had fucking elves and shit in it. But the focus was on a game that was balanced out of the box.

    So I don't get what you're asking for here. Please elaborate.

    You want a themeless game? So what would the graphics be like, how would the world look. Would it just be blank boxes and stick men? YOu want a game without story. That's fine, we can focus on emergent gameplay. But in a first person shooter?

  3. #3
    Fenn
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    I wrote this quickly, so these thoughts kinda spilled out into the thread. Apologies for the lack of clarity.

    Your Quake example is good. I am totally unopposed to using maps for both modes.

    I did not know Bioshock was criticized for this. Can I ask: were the critics the fans of the series or outside gamers. Because it is my belief that a game needs to pick a target audience and stick to it. Didn't Bioshock win GOTY? If I'm right, who cares about those critics? They are trying to turn one game into a completely different game.

    Okay, this last part I need to explain further. It's not that online games need to be without a theme; it's that they need to focus more on the theme of "virtual competition" than trying to create artificial stories. When you start to remove or alter elements of an online experience because they won't "fit" in the virtual atmosphere than the game suffers as a consequence. For example, (hypothetical here) in a medieval game a radar on the screen wouldn't make much sense. But, if the radar improves the flow of the game, is it really best to remove it?

    Essentially, I feel like the best online game would be the one where the theme is "virtual competition." That way, the developers could both create a unique and immersive theme (think perhaps TRON or a gladiator game), without having to create explanations for different features. I thought an awesome example of this was Monday Night Combat (arcade title FYI). It played on te idea of a futuristic sport, so everything was built around competition. In short: They made the theme of the game fit the mechanics, rather than vise versa. Upgrades were "endorsements," the players were "clones," the reason for fighting was "entertainment!" Using that theme, they were free to do whatever they wanted without having to worry about players criticizing its believability.

    Am I more clear now or still spitting nonesense?

    P.S. never played shadowrun but I had a similar experience with Red Faction Guerrilla. That should, IMO, be the most played shooter right now; it was super balanced, creative, and every kill was satisfying.

  4. #4
    Lord of Death jubeh's Avatar
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    You are really just arguing theme versus mechanics. I would say it's not objective. Sometimes theme is the very reason a game is interesting. Last Blade 2 is a marginally good fighting game with balance issues. If not for the amazing aesthetic and theme it would most likely have been looked over by most players because it frankly wasn't very innovative or amazing.

    I probably wouldn't play Mount and Blade if it weren't a game about medieval combat. That's the whole reason it's cool. It's the lack of features that makes it interested. Yeah you could add radar, and it may arguably make the game play better (which in this case it would not), but you have completely alienated anybody playing for theme. You have effectively shattered their immersion because your viking warrior now has a gps strapped to the back of his shield. You could give the horses wings because it would let players fly over siege walls and make games go by faster. You could give dudes laser swords. You could do a lot of shit. Where do you draw the line?

    That is from the point of view of somebody that had their eye on a theme and built a game around it. This is, in my opinion, equally as valid an option has developing mechanics and painting a theme around it. Theme gives you something to aim for. It lets you revel in a lack of feature. For instance, there was a half-life mod that let you play as a colonial soldier. It was awesome because you could never hit what you were aiming at. Sounds like an awful game, but that's exactly what made it so fun.

    Are mechanics more important than theme? Yeah they are. This is games we are talking about. If you were building a house you'd probably be more interested in it's legitimacy as a shelter than which color paint you were going to cover it with.

    If you were going for a purely competitive game this is probably the direction you would have to take. At this point, when I'm playing a fighting game I just see green and red boxes. The theme is window dressing. But no its not the right answer all the time. People don't buy games for design. Sad, I know. But that is just how it is.

    Edit: Sort of lost the point in all that writing. The real answer is that it depends on the game and why your audience is playing it.

    Edit2: Also what the f is an artificial story.
    Last edited by jubeh; 02-03-2011 at 08:03 PM.

  5. #5
    Palindrome Member ClockHand's Avatar
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    Radar in medieval game@

    There are a lot of medieval games with maps or radars. Also if you don't want to put a radar, do what Fallout 3 did (or oblivion also did).

    Virtual competition@

    I could agree only if you are talking about a online ranking.

    Virtual competition II@

    I think all online games are virtual competitions, I don't know why you need it to be more. I think the idea sucks if you want to make a game that's only competition in the way of a gladiator in a arena. With this you are basically raping every games concept.

  6. #6
    Fenn
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    Woah woah! Big note: I DID NOT mean all games. Should have made that more clear, sorry. I was referring to games which center around online modes, specifically those played in tournaments or with leaderboards. Games that focus over all else on PvP competiton.

    I suppose what I want is more of these types of games. Games centered around the players and the mechanics over the theme. This gives the community a chance to really shape the theme, and the atmosphere, of the game themselves. I'd like to see a dev release a game with tons of very generic and open-ended features and customization, build in some rough guidelines, and say "Here: this is the ultimate game for competiton and versus mode challenge in the _____ genre."

  7. #7
    Lord of Death jubeh's Avatar
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    Why

  8. #8
    Fenn
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    Quote Originally Posted by jubeh View Post
    Why
    ...Because I enjoy them? I've always had this obession over games that are about games/imaginary sports (actual sports sims don't count). Ratchet: Deadlocked and Monday Night Combat being examples. Maybe its the "big time" atmosphere, maybe it's that they are easier to play casually when you want since it doesn't feel like you just killed off a U.S. marine whenever you die (I know its fake but the visual is still there). Or maybe it's that I like having an announcer when I play online.

  9. #9
    Palindrome Member ClockHand's Avatar
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    So all this thread is just because your own taste?

  10. #10
    Lord of Death jubeh's Avatar
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    Why dont you start learning how to program fenn.

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