Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Things to Do Better

Idle Thumbs has a provocative piece on attracting the female demographic to games. I can't say I like the overall tone, but one thing I noticed is that every item the author mentioned is something I would like to see in games myself (not being female). Here's the list:
  • Fashionable hardware
  • Shorter games
  • More transparency
  • Multiplayer, but not cutthroat
  • Originality
  • More diverse settings
  • Better characters
  • Art, not graphics

One particular point got my attention. Under "Shorter games," the author notes that "most games now reward you for completion." The whole game experience is geared toward finishing something (a fight, a quest, a level, the whole game). "The reward should be in the gameplay itself, every moment enjoyable." This got me thinking about what games put less focus on completion and more focus on the experience of play. So far, I've got The Sims, and maybe some MMOGs (when played a certain way). Any others?

And is a game that focuses on play rather than completion still a game?


At 7:27 PM, Blogger Seg said...

Katamari Damacy for one.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Foopy said...

I think a game that focuses on play rather than completion is definitely still a game; if it wasn't, then games like the aforementioned Sims and virtually everything else Maxis has produced wouldn't be games. Although to Maxis' credit, I think they always called their products "software toys" or something.

I think I'd say that Battlefield 2 is one game where I'm more interested in the play rather than the completion. I'm interested in helping out my team, but I'm not particularly concerned with whether we win or lose--just how fun the fight is. Though it is true that what motivates the fight is some kind of win condition, whether it's winning the round or capturing a particular flag. But I would say that the "every moment enjoyable" goal is something that should apply to all good games, regardless of whether they have rewards for completion.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Clubberjack said...

Good call, Seg. Though I play KD with an eye toward the size of my katamari at the end of the level... Still, rolling around is enjoyable in its own right.

Foopy, I think Maxis is right to call the Sims (and other sim games) software toys. Will Wright designs brilliant things, but I wouldn't call them games per se.

[Aside: I still think Clint Hocking was robbed in this year's Game Design Challenge at the GDC; Wright was brilliant, but he didn't design a game.]

I also started thinking about some of the mini-games that are so often included within larger games. While they are often competitive, they offer a respite from the larger tasks of the game in a much more immediate format. Perhaps they offer some instant enjoyment, in contrast to the often delayed enjoyment of completion oriented play.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Foopy said...

Hmm, that's interesting. I guess I generally go the other way when it comes to what the definition of a "game" is... For me it's a socially constructed term that changes with time, so anything that's culturally accepted as a "game", whether it's a "software toy" or "interactive fiction", gets subsumed into the definition. I guess I could see how that could lead to a definition that's way too broad, but at the same time I wonder if the definition may be too narrow for its own good, especially given the relatively young age of the medium.

Maybe someone needs to write the equivalent of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics for gaming... :)

At 12:30 AM, Blogger Clubberjack said...

Yeah, in general, I'm fine calling the Sims a game. However, whenever I try to come up with a good definition of "game," it usually involves some kind of goal directed interaction, which leave the Sims up in the air since any goals are in the player's head rather than in the code. Plus, I still think Wright didn't design a game for the challenge at GDC.

Re: Understanding Comics for games... I believe such a thing is on its way. See here for a taste.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Foopy said...

That's a good point, and thanks for the link.

By the way, does this blog have an RSS feed? It would be useful to keep track of the latest posts, methinks.

At 1:17 AM, Blogger Clubberjack said...

The Atom feed for this blog is http://laundrysessions.blogspot.com/atom.xml.

I'm fairly certain it works, and I'd been planning to add a link to the site. Perhaps, I'll do that.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger AndyRaino said...

If you're not deriving any enjoyment from the process of playing a game other than finishing it I don't really see the point.

Certainly almost all of the games I've spent any substantial lengths of time with have been the ones played purely for the fun of play or competition rather than "finishing" it. I've spent probably weeks of my life playing Mario Kart and I finished it within the first couple of days.

Having said that though, I reckon the future of casual gaming (or at least story or 'mission' based gaming), as it becomes further aligned with a more mainstream audience, is one of shorter games but with far richer, more varied and ultimately more intense experiences packed into the perhaps smaller package.

The more casual gamer is less interested in building up points/levels through trudging endless corridors of repeated monsters, but is after for a more satisfying experience which can be enjoyed within a shorter timescale.

You only have to look at the recent trailer for Killzone 2 on PS3 to get an idea for the level detail and set pieces that developers are going to be filling these games with.

After watching that for the first time I got a real idea of how these games could look and really move up to the next level in terms of their storytelling ability and character interaction. I think this development really lends itself to a more film like experience, which again is better suited to a shorter, more easily digested, overall game.


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