Comments on: Design Idea: Powering Down Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:53:13 +0000 hourly 1 By: Brian Shurtleff Sat, 15 Nov 2008 21:36:00 +0000 I like this idea a lot, if you could implement it well.

I forgot where I read it, but at some point I read someone’s interesting observation that games are filled with stories of boys becomming men, and almost no stories of men realizing they’ve grown old. Especially as the average age of a gamer continues to work it’s way up there, I think the latter theme certainly will have an increasing place in the world of games.

Also, as someone mentioned Memento’s story being one of unraveling your own forgotten story, I at one point was working on a game with a story that worked like that. In fact, it was very disturbingly similar to Memento’s story in retrospect. Very similar ending twist. Only in mine, you were playing a computer that had deleted it’s own memory, rather than a person, but eh. Basically, think a hybrid of the film Memento and the game Paranoia (only you’re the computer rather than the people it controls) and that’s what it was sort of like.

Of course, at the time I couldn’t program to save my life, so it didn’t get anywhere. But hey, maybe I’ll make it someday.

By: Dan Menard Tue, 11 Nov 2008 16:45:00 +0000 I think this is a great idea and I don’t think you have to use a 1/3 model or even train the player at all. Like you said, you start out with your most powerful weapon, lets say a war hammer with radius effect that causes instant death to the peons. Why would a player need anything else?
On top of that you don’t even need a tutorial or pregame missions because it would destroy the pace of the game. How do you replace this? Use the common button for these devastating attack, for instance on the PS3 X is the button someone is most likely to use. The other buttons would equally be loaded up with massive fireballs and damage eating shields.
While the player is still figuring out how to use things it doesn’t matter because the weapons are so strong and that covers up the competence curve. When he gives away his abilities, one by one, he is forced to rediscover his new abilities which could be a tutorial or could be more of an action puzzle, kind of like what Resistance does with its multiple weapons: Which weapon is best in the upcoming situation, that’s for you to decide and figure out(this resembles Shadow of the Colossus).
By the way, I meet you at Netgames, told you I loved this idea and I asked the question about what the industry likes to see more, a couple of 3-D scenes or a full 2-D game. I am actually going to build a full 2-D game for my project, thanks for the advice.

By: Ian Schreiber Mon, 13 Oct 2008 01:03:00 +0000 Everyone seems to be approaching this from a video-game perspective, but I think it would be far easier to pull off in a tabletop-RPG campaign. D&D, for example, already has rules for aging (there are STR/DEX/CON penalties and INT/WIS bonuses, among other things). Playing a retiring band of fighters and rogues in a campaign would certainly be interesting.

As for Memento and the idea of a game being played backwards, of course there are games that flirt with the concept like Braid and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, where the ending is actually the beginning. Or games like Majora's Mask or Planescape:Torment or Chrono Trigger that involve messing with the time stream to change the present (which I suppose could be closer to Groundhog Day than Memento, but they still have in common a non-linear story).

If you were to do this more explicitly in a game, you'd have to do it in a way that made the player really WANT to power down. Retiring is one way to do this. A downward spiral into madness would be another, darker path.

I don't see a problem with the player's skill being the inverse of the character's. This is essentially a metaphor for real life, isn't it? "It's a shame that youth is wasted on the young" and all that.

By: Johannes K Sun, 12 Oct 2008 22:53:00 +0000 I really like Patrick’s idea about the economics component. What I like about it is that it actually could include an educational aspect: The idea of saving (a very 2008 thought I guess), of doing more with less. We need to work on saving energy, so why not learn it subtly with shotgun shells… However, I think it is a difficult task to make the idea of “less” not become “less fun”. But then again, maybe computer games are ready to be not only defined by how much “fun” the player has but by their ability to trigger other emotions. The feeling of achievement of finishing a game with bare fists instead of the BFG 9000 sounds very interesting.

By: David Sahlin Sun, 12 Oct 2008 18:32:00 +0000 I agree with Corvus – this sounds like it would be a wonderful experience, if done right. The post-zenith experience is a part of the Monomyth that isn’t really explored. I would argue that this type of plot would require a game with a bit more engagement than typical ‘generic’ genretypes.

Personally, I believe the ’1/3 normal’ path would actually be detrimental to the experience. I would imagine it would not only further complicate the learning curve, by making it a learning spike. It would also require a clever narrative to prevent the player from feeling ‘cheated.’

They have to want to become weak. So seeing someone else become more powerful in your stead would work, but they have to be emotionally invested in that entity.

By: Patrick Fri, 10 Oct 2008 17:39:00 +0000 How about a logistics-economics management game where you start out at peak oil or maybe here and then proceed to have less and less energy, somehow managing to keep things on kilter, learning to accept chaos and decentralization. Literally, a powering down.

By: Eric Robinson Fri, 10 Oct 2008 16:01:00 +0000 I like the latter point there – a game with the first third being a quick ramp-up and the last two thirds being the slow loss of power. Done well, this could create an awesome, powerful play experience. Perhaps you could even create a truly tragic experience (rather than just tell the player that they’re character is undergoing [or has already undergone] ‘tragic events’). Hmmm……

By: Darius Kazemi Fri, 10 Oct 2008 15:30:00 +0000 Eric: excellent points all, and it did occur to me that training the player would be the hard part. I see a few ways around this. Two you already mentioned: make it a sequel to a well-known game (although you still want to pick up new players with a sequel), or make it a horribly generic game to begin with that everyone who’s ever played an FPS would know how to play.

You could also have the first third of the game be “normal” and then the last two thirds being about losing your power. You could even structure a bunch of freeform missions where you play around with all your awesome powers, and then you get the option to begin campaign mode, which is far more linear and wherein you lose everything over time.

I think the game would have to be somewhat generic in its starting state: the game is interesting in its deconstruction of a pretty generic hero type, both psychologically and also in ability.

By: Eric Robinson Fri, 10 Oct 2008 15:24:00 +0000 While this sounds like a fantastic idea, there’s a major implementation problem: the player would need to start out an expert of the game to begin with.

The problem is that your players become more adept at playing your game as they progress; they get more comfortable within the ergodic space you’ve created for them as they explore it. In doing this your player’s competence curve would be inverse of the accessible game space curve (how much freedom the player has to explore – keep in mind that more guns = more freedom in FPS games). Games have evolved player bootstrapping methods like tutorial levels to get players up-to-speed quickly. Eschewing this as a game designer would be equivalent to taking a BFG to your own foot.

Consider Portal. The level progression in Portal (some of the best ever devised) was the result of innumerable hours of play-testing. Imagine telling a player that they’re a Portal Device™ expert at the beginning of the game. They have just broken free of the laboratory and now need to break out of the complex in order to save themselves [and then the world?]. They start the game with GlaDOS telling them that there is no cake and that they should lie down and wait for the authorities to arrive. This wouldn’t work at all. You need to ride that learning curve.

In making a game like this, you’d be expecting your player to start the game as an expert with every tool [mechanic] in the game. Let’s take a look at the first-person genre. Each weapon is essentially a tool the player can use to help him/her explore the world you’ve created for them. HL2′s crowbar can be used to beat down enemies but it is more frequently used to break into crates and the like. The Gravity Gun and rocket launcher from the same game work similarly [isn't it amazing how those crates of rockets never run dry!?].

The Gravity Gun was new to the Half-Life universe in HL2. When it was introduced there was a short tutorial on its use. This ensured that the player continued on with at least some competence. The rest of the game was littered with Gravity Gun puzzles of increasing difficulty, culminating in its amazing use in the final level of Episode 2.

There is one way out of this: build this game as a part of a pre-established property. Valve could pull it off with Gordon Freeman in the game Half-Life 2, Episode 6: Denouement. At this point anyone playing the game should be familiar enough with the game’s mechanics and environments that they can start stripping Gordon Freeman of his tools. (Note that even Valve pulled the God of War strip-god-like-powers-from-the-player-early trick with the Super Gravity Gun in Episode 1.) However, this would have to happen with great care in order to ensure that the player would not become frustrated with the gameplay.

Outside of that you’d have to do a pretty generic genre game to get people into it. This because you’re presupposing expertise.

One last thing. You did mention the Batman-style, becoming less active and more tactical route. In creating a game like this you’d have to be extremely careful and deliberate with your gameplay changes; you could easily end up with a game that feels like four smaller, crappy games strung together with bubble gum. You could very easily end up with a reverse Spore and I don’t think that that would be very much fun for people.

By: Irish Fri, 10 Oct 2008 11:20:00 +0000 It could also be an up-and-coming hero, as in the movie “The Professional”. Essentially, training begins with the easiest weapon (sniper rifle, in this case) and finishes with the most difficult (a knife). The way it’s told, it takes quite a long time to get from one to the other, and that could certainly constitute a game.