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Monday, December 29, 2003

Comments

PaG

About making opening crates a thrilling activity, I think Diablo did a nice job of that. Some barrels in the game either explode or reveal a skeleton when opened. The key here is that the explosion isn't (usually) strong enough to kill the player character and the skeleton is a pretty weak enemy. So you're kept on the edge, but don't die gratuitiously.

Or designers could remove crates-smashing entirely from games and replace that with something more meaningful...

Mike

I remember when I first played a LucasArts adventure and they made it a point that the main character could not die. Having played many Sierra adventures, I thought that that was a refreshing concept. I don't mind being killed in an action game, but the goal of a puzzle/adventure game shouldn't be to avoid death.

Dan MacDonald

Uh oh, a blog about design :) Expect a lot of comments.

I completely agree with this principle. It fits nicely with my view on what games are. Games are a form of entertainment, and thus they should be fun. A large part of making something fun, is just removing frustration. Games should not take control from the player by killing them with some random incident or some action that is entirely unavoidable. Players should always have a way out, they may not exercise it and die but at that point the player blames their own skill and ability, not the game. When the game leaves the player no other option but to die, the game is in essence killing the player; it leaves the player feeling powerless and helpless regardless of their ability. This is not a “fun” experience and arguably quite a frustrating one.

It’s a difficult situation to articulate, as are most things with game design. It becomes very evident when you sit a player down in front of a game you have created to watch them play it. The walk though a door and boom lightning strikes them and their dead (hypothetical situation), you see them get frustrated and quit. At that point you realize you’ve made a big mistake in your game design.

As a side note, I think designers may still use frustration and reward in a Pavlovian sense to make a game addictive (Everquest?), but that doesn't necessarily equate to being fun.

David Thomas

To me, it boils down to a question of rewards and consequences on one hand, and an issue of narrative coherency on the other.

Randomly dishing out consequences is no fun. In fact, I think that is how you drive people insane in real life--issuing arbitrary punishments for things. Random challenges are fine, as long as you have the means to overcome them.

It does seem that design can get lazy and let players figure out how to handle new challenges through trial and error--which often means dying while trying. But I completely agree that a player should not have to resort to mindless trial and error and rewind to figure stuff out (unless that is the point of the game, ala Blinx).

The narrative thing is a bit sticky. It sort of breaks the membrane of the story to have your character reincarnate instantly after doing something wrong. Poole did a great job in "Trigger Happy" of discussing the need for irreversibility in narrative, of how stories stick with us because the flow of events cannot be changed. Of course, many games would last about 15 minutes if the player didn't get these cosmic "do-overs."

So, while try-and-die is probably necessary in games, it shouldn't be used by the designer, but rather gifted to the player. Which is an around the block way of agreeing with the original post!

Factory

Interestingly enuff of the two major roguelike games that are around (Angband and Nethack), the one that gets more*1 mainstream attention is Nethack. Which is by far the more randomly dangerous of the two games.
But Nethack also generally has smaller and more varied dungeons, focusing on a shorter but more colourful games.
Also one could consider that compared to most games most roguelike games in their default behvior are played in an ironman fashion.*2

*1 note: I said 'more', not 'alot' :)
*2 .. but this ignored by most players.

Brad Renfro

"While I agree with the goal of this idea, I cannot agree that randomly killing the player is a fair solution. Ever."

"Ever" is such a strong word :) I think there will always be the type of hardcore gamer who enjoys such masochism. You could argue that deathmatch can often be very close to instant random death. An example would be popping your head into a window and getting sniped instantly without ever knowing your enemy was there. In an FPS, you don't always have a complete view of the current situation, making some of your deaths seem essentially random.

Another example is survival horror. The imminent prospect of random death is a tool you can use to evoke visceral fear. That randomness is an integral part of the unknownness that fear depends on.

I think this is all a symptom of the fact that these aren't truly games in the traditional sense. They're experiences. As long as the experience remains enjoyable for the targeted audience, I don't think they have to be perfectly tight in terms of pure design mechanics.

Jor

All in all some very good points, and I'd have to agree with most.

Yes 'random death' is by far the most annoying thing which can happen in a game, as it punishes the gamer for nothing. It just isn't fair. But I don't think the God Concept should always be present: see for example 'Star Trek: Borg' by Simon&Schuster. In this game you can't actually win if you don't 'die' (make a wrong decision) at least once. This is entirely fitting in the game's storyline, and makes sense there. There is no real way you could know otherwise the right path in the game without guessing.
See also the Penultima Rerolled series of mods for Neverwinter Nights: a large part of the storyline depends on the player dying at least once.

Of course this is quite different from what your post is about: death in a game where it serves a purpose is not the same kind of death which is so frustrating in others. Rogue's unbeatable dungeons (and the modern counterparts) are just a way to prolong the game by forcing the player to take the same actions over and over, rather than adding to the game somehow.

Scott Miller

-- "An example would be popping your head into a window and getting sniped instantly without ever knowing your enemy was there. In an FPS, you don't always have a complete view of the current situation, making some of your deaths seem essentially random."

Players accept that in deathmatch contests they may die without knowing what hit them. But, in a game designed world players expect fairness, and the ability to outwit any danger regardless of how hard -- as long as they're given fair warning.

For example, being sniped from 150 yards away in Call of Duty is okay because one shot alone cannot kill you. It chips away health, but health is plentiful in that game and after you're hit you have time to run and duck for cover before being whacked again. At which point you can cautiously fight your way out of the situation.

However, I'd be greatly pissed if a single distant, unseen sniper shot killed me each time, as that crosses the line into blatant unfairness.

-- "I think this is all a symptom of the fact that these aren't truly games in the traditional sense. They're experiences. As long as the experience remains enjoyable for the targeted audience, I don't think they have to be perfectly tight in terms of pure design mechanics."

On this point I agree. But, I still never want to be killed without fair warning. Being killed unfairly doesn't make me think, "Gee, I need to try harder next time." Nope. Instead I'm boiling with the thought of slapping the designer upside the head as I scream, "You dumbass, learn to design or go back to frying burgers!" No kidding. I get mad. ;-)

Chris Oltyan

As you brought them up, I was thinking back to the great adventure games by sierra I played in the 80's and 90's. Many things you did would kill you randomly, but there were "rewards" for each of these deaths. First, was the simple reward of knowing not to do such a thing in the future (don't drink from that pool Roger!) the other reward was the often comical scene of your death. We would occasionally go out of our way to kill ourselves to see how we would reach the great beyond.

Given, a careful player wouldn't do many of the things we attempted, but in an effort to solve a puzzle, you might realistically try several of these options.

I guess the question in my mind is "How Godlike of a player do you design for?" and how can you figure out that scale?

Scott Miller

-- "I guess the question in my mind is "How Godlike of a player do you design for?" and how can you figure out that scale?"

Chris, the easy solution is to always have some sort of fair warning clue or indicator that doing something will hurt or kill your character. In the Infocom games, for example, venturing into a dark room was always proceeding with a warning about lurking grues. You should never be punished for doing something normal or innocent, unless given a warning of danger beforehand. Perhaps this principle should be renamed, The Fair Warning Concept. That's a better description of its purpose.

J.

I always assumed that the All Men Must Die (borrowing from George R.R. Martin) aspect of "some" games was born of the same mental disconnect that comes from game designers either being so self-impressed, self-important or just desperate not to go back to flipping burgers that they forget to think about their game in the most basic, simple terms. Which means approaching the game as an archetypical player would -- and then /play/ it. (Scott's notion of what players might accept is one way to do this.)

The genesis of this debate, from my perspective, is more linked to designers not knowing or just not caring about aspects of their games that make them fun, and instead focusing on "wouldn't it be cool" crap that players will never experience, because they'll be throwing their controllers or uninstalling the game.

Wyatt Jackson

I agree with the original post, the grues are an excellent example, although not as entertaining or imaginative as the Sierra death scenes. Sierra games didn't kill you randomly though so I'm not sure they apply at all anyway.

Besides all that, I believe 'God Concept' can be expanded to inlcude more that just the random death idea. For instance, games that create a system of rules and then allow the computer controlled AI to freely break those rules indicates poor design decisions as well. Games that come to mind like this are obviously the Street Fighter series (I've broken my fair share of controllers over this one) as well as the the idea of giving a speed boost to the lagging competitors in a racing game. In a shooter, why does the enemy have auto-aim, why do they not have to reload, why do they have unlimited ammo?

You could argue I suppose that these things increase the challenge and thereby the 'fun' of the game but then why do we still choose to play against human opponents rather than AI and why does playing against the AI not necessarily prepare you in any way for dealing with human competition. Maybe this is just my personal gripe concerning the state of industry AI but it sure does get under my skin.

Alan De Smet

Wyatt Jackson said, "Sierra games didn't kill you randomly though so I'm not sure they apply at all anyway."

I don't think Wyatt remembers the old school Sierra adventure games. Death was certainly unexpected and fickle. The early games were rife with them. Regrettably it's been a _long_ time since I played them, so I'm having problems remembering good examples. I do remember that none of the Sierra heroes understood that falling was dangerous, if you clicked a bit too far off a ledge, you died.

In one of the early Police Quest games, you were warned to practice shooting your pistol. You were never given a "you have practiced enough" indicator, so I practiced a little each game day and played on. However, apparently I didn't practice enough, because when I needed to shoot a hijacker I simply missed. Repeatedly. Death after death after death. I needed to go all the way back to the beginning of the game and practice even more.

In one of the later King's Quest games is appears you need to map out a desert. The Oasis are few and far between, you can only find them by trial and error. Error naturally means death. (It's possible that there was an easier solution, but I found the game so frustrating I gave up.)

Mark H.

I liked how Prince of Persia: Sands of Time handled the death situation. Just like Max had bullet time which served a purpose for gameplay, so did this. Everytime you made a mistake and died you could reverse and rewind back to a point and retry another option of getting from point A to point B. In this case, I never have the feeling of being haunted or frustrated by dying and it allows for trial and error(without the irritation).

 Barret de Nazaris

We have so much to learn from boardgames ("korsar", "la citta", "clans" for example)...

Ben

This reminds me of a game 'The adventures of willy beamish' where when you 'died' there was a specific animation that played. You got used to that animation meaning game over, so you would reload during that time fairly quickly.

However, when you reached a certain point in the game, you actually HAD to play though that animation, you wouldnt get 'game over' at the end. It was fairly sneaky/mean of them to do so. Took a little while to figure out that was the only course of action.

Adam Vandenberg

I was playing "Shadowgate" on the NES a few months ago, which I had never played. Jumping Jehosephat, that game is the epitome of instant unwarned death. Every other thing you click on kills you with no warning that I can tell. Was this ever considered fun?

steve

The whole "kill the player off a lot" mentality has to come from the arcades, right? Otherwise, what's the point? In the arcade, you need to kill the player off in order to get them to put in another quarter. At home, this isn't really an issue, so why follow the same paradigm?

I've always felt that the key to any game where death is a potential outcome is to make the player feel like they're on the edge of death, but never have them actually die. Death is frustrating and brings the game to a hault.

I'd like to see a self-balancing game where, let's say, you reach a certain health level, you turn the corner and there's a health pack, or the AI starts missing with greater frequency or acts a bit dumber.

Max Payne supposedly does some of this type of balancing, though I've never actually noticed it (and it didn't appear to be any harder or easier than most games; maybe that means it works perfectly).

Scott Miller

Steve, I've got a full blog coming very soon about game difficulty, which ties into this subject a bit. With Max, you're not suppose to notice it by design, but it is there the entire time trying to make sure the game is not too easy or too hard.

As for dying in games, I've given this substantial attention for over a year. I've yet to come up with a solution that avoids the fact that players must die in action games. This will probably make for a a good future topic -- there are literally a dozen angles to player death that are hard to avoid. So, whether from the arcades or not, player death carries on because there's been no better alternative.

I'd love for someone to show I'm wrong, but most times when I hear someone's solution it overlooks a key problem.

Dave Wood

Adam, I played ShadowGate when it was new and I found it to be a great game. I think when we look back at the old games we used to love our perspective is greatly skewed. Back then if you we're so much as touched by a single bullet, enemy or anything you we're dead. One hit, no death animation, just dead. Games have evolved much over the years and we still seem to be missing something they had in the beginning.

Dieing and respawning is basically the same thing as reseting the scenario. Why do we have to die? It's a punishment. With first person shooters it seems necessary, although creativity could lead in other directions where dying would be an opportunity instead of a punishment. Dieing is a risk, makes you feel like you have something to lose, and keeps you on your toes. Maybey that's why it's necessary.

This is a very interesting topic. Perhaps by discussing the issue and arriving at alternatives, we could create a whole new kind of gameplay. I think that is the spark the industry needs right now, innovative ways to fundementally change gameplay without creating the same scenario and risk/reward system.

Brad Renfro

I think death in games is important because it's a realistic metaphor that any gamer can immediately understand and relate to. There are many other abstract ways to challenge the player in an action game. But as long as mainstream games choose to use realistic themes and intuitive metaphors, the health/damage/death concept will be the usual standard, just like the concept of gravity, control of a single avatar, and traditional three-dimensional movement. I don't think gamers actually want nearly as much innovation as they claim to want.

Jeffool

Yo, Renfro, (just had to say that).

Don't think Scott was saying the player should never die, just that they shouldn't be randomly killed over a factor they have no control over. The above mentioned crate/barrel-smashing randomly equalling either a bonus or instant death, for example, that I believe PaG mentioned. And that the "1337"-est of the "1337" players could concievably play the game without ever dying.

And Scott, I'd love to prove you wrong... I just keep agreeing with you. One day, I'm going to have to change my mind on something just so I can get into one of those 'flame wars' I hear so much about.

Jeffool.

Brad Renfro

"Don't think Scott was saying the player should never die, just that they shouldn't be randomly killed over a factor they have no control over."

Whoops, didn't mean to imply that the player should never die in any game ever. Just responding to the idea of trying to create a single game that avoids player death, namely a mainstream game.

"Players accept that in deathmatch contests they may die without knowing what hit them."

Yeah it's funny how people complain about Medal of Honor's snipertown level in singleplayer but would probably go on to enjoy the same type of sniping in multiplayer :).

"But, in a game designed world players expect fairness, and the ability to outwit any danger regardless of how hard -- as long as they're given fair warning."

I think it can become a matter of shifting gameplay. In the case of Diablo's random exploding barrels, instead of having the gameplay of "avoiding" the bad barrels, you have the gameplay of potion/health management. If gameplay is about making interesting choices, the choice the player must make is not "How do I figure out which barrels explode", but rather, "When do I use and buy potions to cope with these barrels that randomly hurt me".

It's kind of like poker. You cannot know or control the cards you are dealt, since they are random. The gameplay is not in trying to psychically know which random cards you will be dealt. It's about managing your betting risk by playing odds and reading opponents' reactions.

Scott Miller

-- " In the case of Diablo's random exploding barrels, instead of having the gameplay of 'avoiding' the bad barrels, you have the gameplay of potion/health management. If gameplay is about making interesting choices, the choice the player must make is not 'How do I figure out which barrels explode", but rather, "When do I use and buy potions to cope with these barrels that randomly hurt me'."

Brad, I agree with you. Like I said before, it's okay to randomly knock down the player's health because the player always has the choice of not opening a chest (that might explode) unless they have sufficient health to withstand a booby trap. This then becomes a gameplay decision.

But, it's entirely unfair for a chest to kill the player regardless of how healthy/strong the player is.

-- "And Scott, I'd love to prove you wrong... I just keep agreeing with you. One day, I'm going to have to change my mind on something just so I can get into one of those 'flame wars' I hear so much about."

Heh. Jeff, this blog is still young. And my most volatile topics have yet to be unleashed. ;-)

In fact, since I don't have time to wrap up my little essay about game difficulty in time for my usual Monday post, with the holidays, family time and stuff, I think I'll post a quickie topic that I'm sure will be like tossing bloody meat into the warm oceanic waters of Great Barrier Reef.

Noah Falstein

I should clarify about the reference to my BBD article in Game Developer. When I heard Mark Cerny make the case for occasional random death, my first thought was that he wasn't serious, just enjoying the role of being an inconoclast, but the more I thought about it, the more it felt like an application of "art" to the science of game design. Yes, it's in principle a bad thing to randomly kill someone - but having just a tiny bit of unexpected death struck me as a master including an imperfection precisely to get people to question all their other assumptions. I don't want to make too much of this, I wrote about it in part because I thought it a controversial topic and therefore more interesting than going for a generally accepted principle. But I agree that the "God Concept" is a good overall rule to follow, and in fact as Mike posts above, it was a consciously articulated rule when we were doing early LucasArts adventure games, and in direct response to our frustration with Sierra.

Michael L. Labbe

Why do game designers try to combine entropy with the worst possible outcome(death?) In gauntlet, you are punished by taking a chance on a random factor by facing more enemies. In that regard, you can still recover from your gamble.

Even then, I'm not saying it's a great idea.

On a side note, Contra (the original, without cheats) is a perfect example of a game that you can beat without dying, but only if you possess an incredible amount of skill. (I can perform a beating of this game without continuing or cheating on command.)

Gestalt

Personally I believe that it's best to avoid killing the player wherever possible, unless of course they do something stupid or careless. If you run into a room full of bad guys, guns blazing, without any kind of preparation you should expect to die. Ditto if you're playing an RPG and you try to take on a dragon right at the start, especially if you walk right past a big pile of skeletons outside its cave and a guy going on about the terrible monster with big pointy teeth and a vicious streak a mile wide that lives within. ;)

But dying is, generally speaking, not fun for most players. Random death without warning is REALLY not fun. And having to replay a big chunk of the game after such a death is "throw the controller across the room and return the game to the store" not fun.

Max Payne is actually a good example of this. The burning restaurant scene in particular *really* annoyed me, because there didn't seem to be enough visual cues to tell you which bits of the scenery were going to go up in flames until it was too late to get back to the One True Path to the exit. The only way I got through that level in the end was by quick saving every ten or twenty seconds and then reloading if the bit of floor I was standing on decided to catch fire. Eventually you learn which bits will blow up and can find a safe path through the level. But this kind of trial and error gameplay is (IMO, anyway) not fun.

Medal of Honor is another great example of this problem. The PS2 version (Frontline) I really enjoyed, but the PC version (Allied Assault) had far too much random death in it. The sniper alley level is the one that everyone picks out, but the Normandy landing level was just as bad IMO.

In the PS2 version you could make it up the beach in one go if you were really careful. In the PC version the mortar shells would kill you outright if you were anywhere near them when they exploded. There was no way to know where the mortar shells would land, so you ended up creeping up the beach, ducking behind some cover, quick saving, running a bit further, getting blown up by an invisible mortar shell, reloading, waiting a few seconds for the shell to go off, then running to the next bit of cover, quick saving, and so on until you reached the dunes.

The mortars always go off in the same order and in the same places, so you can work out a safe route up the beach after a few deaths. But this is NOT FUN. If I'd been designing that level I would have scripted it so that the mortars would NEVER explode near the player. If the player was running past one explosion point, a shell would go off at the next one along the beach so the player got showered with debris and maybe saw a couple of allied soldiers getting blown to pieces. But they would never get killed by artillery themselves. This would keep up the tension without causing random unexpected deaths.

Maybe if the player sat around for a long time I'd slowly zero in the shells on them to give them a hint to keep moving, but I certainly wouldn't have the shells explode in a set sequence that players could learn by trial and error. That's just sloppy game design.

Another thing you can do (particularly for adventure and role-playing games) is to give the player something more interesting than a "game over, reload or quit" screen when they die. Have the player get thrown into gaol, or get woken up a few hours later by a rescue party from the local fort, or have them run a quest through the afterlife to get back to the real world. There's plenty of more interesting approaches you can take to death.

Scott Miller

Gestalt, I agree about the burning level in Max Payne, and the shipped version of that level was a good improvement over the first few versions, but still it was the kind of level that would kill even the best players because there weren't enough clues along the way. The saving grace of that game was its ultra fast quicksaves and quickloads, but that was just a band-aid to the problem, not a true fix.

I think the burning levels in Max 2 are significantly improved on this point, btw.

The key to any death is how the gamer answers this question: Was it my fault?

If the answer is No, then the game's not giving proper warning. If Yes is the answer, then the player will gladly retry without too much frustration.

Andre Tremblay

I read a couple of comments. None of you mention the particular gameplay element in the Legacy of Kain- Raziel games. In those games, especially Raziel, you can't die when you die. You find yourself throw back into an alternate world (The etheral world) where you have to re-acquired your material life by fighting and finding an entry point (Usually not too far). I found that concept very refreshing, and there is an avenue there that could be exploited further in some games.

I dislike random death, for me it's cheating on the part of game designers. However i am for death when it is part of the gameplay and that it follow a logical path...

Brad Renfro

"but having just a tiny bit of unexpected death struck me as a master including an imperfection precisely to get people to question all their other assumptions."

Ok, here's a kind of crazy idea. :) What if you sometimes thought of death as a reward instead of a punishment? Games which depend on immersive atmosphere (Half-Life, Call of Duty, Resident Evil) are exciting to play because they're dangerous. Those games would be far less fun if you never died, making death something you periodically "reward" the player. And random reward schedules can sometimes be the most effective.

Obviously it's a fringe idea (a rare trump of the usually correct Fair Warning concept). But what about Half-Life, the supposed paragon of FPS design. I had plenty of unexpected deaths which took much trial and error and quicksaving/loading. Think about the sudden random spawning of ravens and dogs in Resident Evil, a game which effectively kickstarted its genre.

Charybdis

That's the catch though, isn't it. In an example like that, the fun comes from avoiding death rather than being struck with it and knowing that you're on the knife-edge. The only major instant-death I can think of is (possibly) the first time you see a Barnacle. There are other bits that will kill you damn fast, but they're hinted at - the dying scientist in Blast Pit, the shark cage that drops you into the fight against the Whateveritwascalled or the warehouse stuffed to the gills with tripwires. That's not quite the same thing as stepping onto a random piece of ground and having the ceiling squish you into goo.

As regarding horror, the trick is really to keep you on the seat of your pants. Dying may give you a start (such as the headcrabs in AvP) but the real rush comes from surviving that initial attack and feeling as though you could have died. Half-Life did it pretty well with the headcrabs, thanks to them doing very little damage unless they really wailed on you, while Blood 2 made its spiders and other monsters so weak that you could pretty much have wandered around using them as a hat. Apart from anything else, if you know where the dog is going to leap out of, it's not going to scare you the second time - it's a total one-kill wonder at best.

"The sniper alley level is the one that everyone picks out, but the Normandy landing level was just as bad IMO."

I hated the Normandy landing level, but not for the same reason. My problem was that I spotted its pattern after the first movement (the dirt kicking up acts like a timer and you get hit) and after that it was no problem at all to casually mosey up the beach taking barely a hit. Bah.

Oh, as for the comment on Sierra's deaths - it was always good fun to find out just how many ways there were to snuff it, especially in one from Al Lowe or the Guy(s) From Andromeda - there's a whole site dedicated to the Space Quest snuff scenes at https://tmd.alienharmony.com/rw/.

Jeffool

I dig Andre's point about Raziel Legacy of Kain games. There was also a really old Sega Genesis game in which you were a ghost haunting a house in which the same thing happened. Great idea. I'm thinking when Scott says 'death' he means a gameplay ending event. A time like this is when games suffer from not having their own language. But hey, who needs a special geek language? We'll figure it out.

And Brad, I've not played Half-Life (I know, I know), but Resident Evil? It's not scary because you die, it's scary because you think you're *going* to die. If something jumps through the window, it scares me, but if I die, I'm definitely not scared of it anymore. I'm kinda annoyed by it if I see it again. "Oh, it's THIS bastard again." (Unless of course I've got my shotty this time. Then it's "Bring it on, bitch!" ;) )

But if I barely beat it, I'm thinking, "Oh crap. I'm gonna die this time. And... Did I save? Crap." Hence the 'scare' of dying *this* time begins. But even then RE didn't have any 'instant kills' that I remember. And players like me probably need a few well deserved deaths. To keep my ego in check.

Not saying that the player should never die, just saying that it makes good sense that someone who's great at games could pick up a new game and not die. Entirely possible in Resident Evil.

Brad Renfro

I agree with you guys about the fun of narrowly avoiding death. But I don't think that always precludes the "fun" of dying. You can't deny that a burst of adrenalin or motivation can sometimes occur when you get killed.

So I broke out the old Half-Life CD. Here's just a few of the random death encounters that turned up:
- In the hallways outside the beginning test chamber, there's a big machine block thingie that falls over and kills you instantly. There is no prior warning that this will happen.
- During "Unforeseen Consequences", there's a catwalk that collapses without warning and kills instantly.
- When you first reach the surface in "We Got Hostiles", the random bombs falling from above can kill you instantly without warning.

Jim Vessella

I remember a specific moment in the "Secret of Monkey Island" when you were walking on a cliff and you just randomly fell off and died. It popped up the classic "Restore" "Restart" and "Quit" buttons similar to when you died in rival Sierra adventures. It was meant as a direct parody to the pointless and random deaths in the Sierra adventures, which I still think is one of the greatest easter eggs I've come upon.

Although I loved the adventures from both Sierra and LucasArts, I did enjoy the LucasArts model which defends this God concept. For that particular genre, I think the player should concentrate more on the puzzles and story than where the next random death trap was going to be. Not to mention the annoyance that followed when you realized you hadn't saved your game.

And if I also remember correctly, the message on that parody read something like "Whoops, you died for absolutely no reason, we hoped you saved your game..." Simply classic.

Scot Le May

I think Jim hit the nail on the head. Many, many times the unexpected death syndrome has lead to me turning off the game I am playing. Although I must say the best unexpected death in a sierra game, was in liesure suit larry part 1, when you get VD and die.

As for Half-Life Brad, I think that was one of the big sellers of that game. Was the unexpected and uncontrollable sudden enviornment changes that if you were not careful resulted in instantaneous death. Though I have to admit Valve did a good job in designing it so certain sequences one could avoid death by just being very aware of his/her surroundings.

But as a whole uncontrollable instantaneous death can be both a good thing and bad thing. To me the line resides in the designs of the sequences in which it happens. In the end its design, a good design can make that moment an adrenalin rush, or an Alt-Cntrl-Dlt moment.

Hexx

"a careful player, well skilled within the genre, should be able to finish a game on the first time without dying"

this statement reminded me a lot of prince of persia and how one person left the comment about the dealing with death. however, it made me think more in terms of the flashbacks (or should i saw flash forwards) which basically showed you bits and pieces of the puzzle coming up. this gave you a challenge but helped spur your brain in the right direction for the puzzle. this also made me think of a lot of games that use cutscenes to hint to you what you are to do next.

anyways, i just wanted to say i really liked this statement and it made me think in a way i had never thought before as a game player.

Lach

Just as an addendum to the Soul Reaver notes, Shadowman also had a system like this. If you died in Liveside as Mike, you got sent to Deadside as the Shadowman, and if Shadowman died, he'd respawn at the beginning of the area, which ended up being a pretty good way to run it, IMO. The only exception is that during the last battle you could lose (though not die), and the game could have handled it better, since it came with no warning. An auto-save before entry, probably.

I just wish Shadowman 2 hadn't been such a let down. Ah, well.

Rich Carlson

An old topic for PnP rpg players... Generally, unfair character death is not cool, at least if you want your players to stick around, but it depends on the game you are playing or the type of game you are trying to make.

One thing not mentioned here (I think) is that in a game like NetHack or Crawl, you can't save the game (only when you quit a session, or if you save-scum, which is frowned upon). This is an integral part of the design of most roguelikes and an important part of their appeal.

NetHack with saves is Diablo.

You have to think about who you are designing or running the game for. Casual rpg players are not going to enjoy death period, much less an unexplainable demise. In their case you have to give lots of clues and warnings or implement some sort of hero point system.

If you are designing or running a game for hardcore rpg'ers, you can toss in a few deathtraps and things that will cause "stupid deaths" (situations which tempt players to do stupid things) because they know every trick in the book.

Tim

ill just give u a small little question, and then a comment.

First, i even think that just the question is enough...

What is more fun in lets say a shooter, - to play a fair game, of whether the engine will like u or hate u, or just tipe in "God" or "avatar God" or whatever are the most popular cheats for invulnerability, and then just pointlessly shoot enemies, with no danger, no adrenaline rushing to your game, no most important feeling in a view limiting FP shooter, the most important thing, i think i all shoots, as soon as u cross the corner of the wall, all of a sudden a frickin' armie of enemies just and shoots at u.

So which one is more fun?


Tim a.k.a. Amigo
11:41 am, eastern time, friday, 5 february.

Good luck...

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