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Author Topic: Throwing around ideas on short term fun in a browser game...  (Read 2373 times)
Callan S.
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« on: February 13, 2010, 12:26:31 AM »

I've been learning how to code a broswer based mmo game over at indie resources. Though what I'm talking about could equally apply to table top.

Since where I'm up to in the tutorial gives a basic back and forth take turns bashing each other player vs npc monster.

I'm thinking of either replacing or tacking on something that is fun (a particular type of fun, to be accurate) in the very short term, here and now.

One of the things in classic table top games and all the video games that followed is that you have to kill the monster to get XP. Sounds gamist, right? But it's generally watered down shit. The XP you get will...do nothing in the short term. But it's not just this - you'll have to wait (until the monsters dead) to get it. So it does nothing and you have to wait to get it.

No short term fun, and if you look at the long term in most supposedly gamist games, it's not gamist - it's an, on average, slow but steady accumlation of points. No twists, no turns, no guts, no brains, just accumulation. Even if you fail to kill the monster...what? Your average speed at accumlating points goes down slightly. Which isn't logged or compared to anyone else, so it's a big so what. Though logging and comparing against other players...that's an idea...

But back to the short term. I'm sort of throwing around ideas at the moment. One is that on attack rolls, on a certain range (on an unmodified die) you get some XP. So basically instead of waiting and waiting, you have this very short term "Do I win??". Sure the XP doesn't do anything by itself, but you didn't have to wait and bizarrely enough, losing is enabled, which gives it bite.

See in most classic games if you lose against monsters you go backwards, and that sounds so gamist. But it isn't - it's just a unpleasant limbo. You haven't lost the whole game - so you can't just stop now and do something else. So your basically neither winning nor have you lost - you in limbo. Being beaten by the monster isn't anything gamist, it's just limbo.

Ugh, I'm starting to meander, but I'll qualify that. You get killed in quake live, for example, the other guy scores a kill. There is no cure spell that'll make that go away - they keep that kill and if they hit a kill limit or a time limit ends and they have the most, they win. There's no way of making their kill score go away. So it's significant and it moves play toward a result. While being slapped by a monster and starting over...it's just starting over. The kill in quake live takes you closer to an ultimate conclusion. The classic monster defeating you - it's just limbo. You aren't closer to any result...you are actually further away from a result. Even in table top games where you die permanently - what, you'll just make another character. Again, further away from a result. Even in tunnels and trolls, you'll make another character and...what, your no closer to any sort of result, win or lose. Your actually further away from a result. It's pushing a boulder up a hill in hell, stuff.

Anyway, I didn't mean to ice pick all that, even though it needs ice picking. I was just going to say that XP on rolls, since if you roll low you get a bit of 'aww', and if you roll high it's 'nice'. And yeah, I think nat 20's give a bigger bonus, cause nat 20's iz always kewl! That's throwing around ideas for short term fun (a particular type of fun).

Though it was worth noting the 'big penalties for death/defeat' isn't some wonderfully gamist thing as it's always assumed (unless it makes you lose entirely or get permanently closer to losing entirely).
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Philosopher Gamer
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2010, 09:56:07 AM »

Perhaps instead your logic suggests monsters should earn xp?

Because a kill count doesn't do anything, until the time limit runs out, in which case it declares that you have won.

Levelling up could be the same thing; if you level up sufficiently, old threats are not a problem any more, you've beaten them.

Monsters earning xp would mean that them beating you furthers them towards their goal of being unbeatable to you.

So it seems like that embodies the idea of "I win or they win, there is no in-between" more than xp for a dice roll.

If you loose in any game where you can save, the same limbo rule applies; your loss is not permanent, you can go back and try again. With infinite saves, wining a game is just a matter of perseverance in the long term.

In fact in any sport, if the fact that you can retry devalues a loss, and so the game, then all sporting competitions are devalued: It doesn't matter who won the cup this year, because the same teams can try to win it off them next year.

But does it devalue the game? I don't think so, because I at least don't compete because of what I might lose, but because of what I might gain. People are more happy to play the lottery than russian roulette, if you're dealing with "games" that have no skill component, and as soon as skill becomes involved, retries are opportunities to learn, to change your strategy, and to learn the game.

And when playing with quake with friends, they never completely beat you; there's always the opportunity to try again, until your eyes start to get tired! That doesn't devalue the fun of the moment of competition, at least not for me. Well, in fact the time that a game does get devalued is when they do get so much better, so much faster, that there is no real competition in it any more, and you both have to play other people for it to be fun, leading to tiers, or levels, of skill.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2010, 04:54:33 PM »

If you won the cup in 2009, no one can make you un-win the 2009 cup. It's done now - resolved forever. And with the same games, if something killed you by chance or by your own fumble, then it's giving short term winning and losing, even if in the long term it's just accumulation.

Also if your just looking to play again rather than verbally acknowledging someone elses win, I think it's either undercutting your own gamist inclination (what happens when you win? Nobody acknowledges it and just wants to play again...), or you don't have a gamist inclination.

And in terms of what you might gain - the operative word is 'might'. If losing isn't enabled, it isn't 'might' and becomes 'will'. As a designer you can't just think about gains/what gains you'd like.

Overall I think I'm dealing with a traditional structure that is a bit of a trannie - it might seem gamist on the outside, but the whole traditional set up...really undercuts gamism at alot of levels. I mean, why was dyed in the wool simulationist Gygax using levels and rolls to hit and all that if it's as gamist as it appears?

I'm thinking perhaps even some ritual element needs to be forfilled, that supports the acknowledgement of winning and losing - and the whole 'Okay, that battles done, now onto the next one of of the eight million you'll do before the end/top level! Chop chop!' is actually killing off the forfilment of that ritual while seeming to be supportive of it by doing 'more battling'.

On monsters getting points - if the system is largely statistical, then monsters getting points will just average out - either their stats will pretty much always beat you, or they'll always lose, or it'll be uncertain, but it'll take a long time to arrive at the conclusion of that uncertainty as you chip down their HP. I was about to say this works, then realised this is again a faux gamist pit hole the traditional gygaxian stat driven model has.

With something like quake live bots it works out, because player skill breaks up that statistical average so play is about each moment. So it'll depend on how much I leave it at a statistical workout - if I do, then rolling each time to see if you win some XP or miss out is what will facilitate my goal.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2010, 01:42:17 PM »

I'll freely admit that I like competitive games for the challenge of a good opponent, rather than the satisfaction of beating a specific person. I'm happy to win against anyone, because it means I solved their specific strategy and did some awesome bit of manoeuvring. I can play the same person for hours, winning loosing etc, as long as I'm still learning, but it generally has to be real competition to provide that kind of challenge. Now is that gamist? How about a different variant to you?

If you won the cup in 2009, no one can make you un-win the 2009 cup. It's done now - resolved forever.

So perhaps you need to make monsters distinct? You lose to that goblin, and on retry you face a different one? Yes it's another goblin, but the fight is not exactly the same as the "may 2010 level 4" goblin you fought. The opportunity is unique (within the many permutations of the system), and so potentially lose-able. In fact, you might be able to take randomisation information from the system clock, making it the 6:00 goblin!

With something like quake live bots it works out, because player skill breaks up that statistical average so play is about each moment. So it'll depend on how much I leave it at a statistical workout - if I do, then rolling each time to see if you win some XP or miss out is what will facilitate my goal.

I'm glad you're happy with it, but what prompted me to find alternatives was how much rolling for xp reminded me of my own attempts to create a design for a game that _removed_ the battle component of play entirely! In other words, I considered that if you assume perfect play of a relatively straightforward hack+slash game, then random factors weighted by preparation remain as the only determinant of progress, or rather of the rate of progress (this lead to a "dungeonship manager" type game concept).

Now obviously two games focusing on opposite ends of the spectrum can use the same mechanic for different purposes, but it seems a bit like xp for rolling is in the opposite direction from what you want:

You try to kill a dude and fail you either get nothing or get a negative of some kind. Equal distance or further from a victory. Try again to get further.

You roll a dice and fail, ditto.

You know? Random event; [succeed/fail] leads to incremental improvement or stasis. Repeat to increase your chance of improvement.

Here's another way to look at it; do blah and the game chucks out a little coin, as a reward for doing what it wants you to do. It's like the game shares your enthusiasm after some victory. The less you are involved in the process that chucks out that coin, the less it means to you, the less you feel you earned it.

Now I don't subscribe to the illusion of the innate value of xp, but I know people who do! But like achievements in computer games I do find it nice to know that the game designer shares my opinion of my conduct in the level; "flawless victory means x3 XP" or something. Yes some game designers are almost patronising in how easily they hand those things out, but you can usually pick up when the system is designed with some creativity and care.

But maybe you just want to get the xp system out the way on a roughly predictable trajectory while fitting in a nice random yay thing. Fair enough, but to me that's just putting xp to the back rather than trying to use it to help solve your main design problems, you know?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2010, 08:34:32 PM »

Not really. I've never flipped a coin to win real life money, but I can see the thrill and have certainly played such things often enough with computer game play money. Have you ever flipped a coin for the thrill of it? Or only done so out of a perfunctory necessity to get on with a game? I mean surely you've gone 'Yeah!' on getting a nat twenty, even in a non epic combat?

Anyway, I've been mulling over what some mmo's have which is a quest you can do once a day - if you had a goblin like you mention, with some aggrivating name, and you get one shot at him that day, that'd be interesting. Either you've lost against him for the whole day, or you've got him under you belt for the rest of the day.
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contracycle
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2010, 07:12:29 AM »

I don't get it.  Accumulating XP for rolling, in essence, will be much the same sort of steady accumulation with no real difference based on actual success or failure.

Seems to me this is a context problem.  Just cutting up goblins is not in itself very interesting or competitive.  Cutting up goblins in order to complete an MMO style quest has some virtue, but it's because of the quest.  Some games therefore put much more emphasis on quest XP than combat XP (although I'm thinking of SP games here more than MMO's).

The thing with winning the cup in 2009 is a similar thing, I think.  The individual game actions that bring you to victory are only important inasmuch as they lead to that victory.  It's the context in which the game occurs that makes actions valid or not, not the actions themselves.

You could borrow a limited lives approach to make defeats meaningful.  Mostly seen in platformers etc, it doesn't usually occur in MMO's, not least becuase you don't want to irk your players in a  for-pay game.  But you could easily set up a system in which a given character can only be defeated, and respawn, so many times before it's locked out and you have to build a new character and start again from scratch.  A long lived character therefore shows off the fact that it was both a good build and played well.  That could lead to a whole new kind of resource economy.
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Falc
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2010, 07:26:20 AM »

One thing you don't seem to mention is other rewards. I mean, XP is one thing you get from a fight, but standard MMOs also get you gold and perhaps components for spells or whatnot. You could reward those per attack instead of at the end of the fight.

You speak of Quake. The big difference there is of course the real-time bit, which does require the player to have adequate physical skills to be rewarded. As long as you stick to rigid turn-based play it'd be hard to incorporate those items, but you could add a time limit. Making the best tactical decision in a limited time requires skill.

But I still don't quite see what you're trying to achieve here. Are you making those videos or are you just following along? And what exactly is your goal? It's not quite clear to me whether you want a gamist game or not...
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HeTeleports
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The name's Youssef.


« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2010, 01:38:46 PM »

Callan,
It looks like Falc has a basic (but interesting) question for you that could actually reveal a gem of a game.
What are you wanting to do?
Having dipped both into the Web games design (Python and I are friends) and into table-top RPG design, I recognize you're seeing some areas of overlap. The tutorials are walking you through the way to make a certain type of game -- but your own creativity is stop-gapping you, saying you want to do something different.
"What kind of game are you really wanting to create?" is going to answer more than a few good questions for you.
First, it's totally realistic to realize you won't make the game you want to make in the first run-through. You said you're halfway through the tutorials. Don't stop now, and go off the track. Once you finish a single product (albeit molded from the tutorials), you'll be able to go waaaay off the reservation.
Which is what you (and me, and other innovators in game design) will need to do.

From what you're describing, it sounds like you're noticing how the "videogame RPG" industry dovetailed after Gygax's D&D. For computer programmers, his work was absolutely golden to work with: a quantified scale for sample formulas triggered by situations characters will inevitably run across. (That's the reservation I was referring to.)
Right now, you want to tweak something.
For the moment, don't worry about gamist or not. Focus instead on completing it. At the end of that journey, you'll be able to dissect the different computer rules governing play to make something a lot more impressive than "manage resource pool for maximum effectiveness in-game" -- which is a road you'll drive down when you think about "XP gained for attempts."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2010, 03:02:12 PM »

Geez guys, I'm feeling a complete non responsiveness to gamble from ya'll? I'll ask the same thing I did of Josh - haven't you ever thrilled at rolling a nat 20?

I'm talking about short term, right now fun - not fun latter. Even if in the bigger picture it becomes accumulatory, if in the short term it delivers that fun, it's fine. But that gamble fun doesn't seem to be clicking with any of you?


Falc,
I'm just following the videos but cutting out at about video 6 where he starts putting in a potion shop, which leads to needing a gold amount, which leads to needing a limit on gold, which lead to needing...which all leads to a bunch of, let me stress, causal needs. It's following the same old patterns and it strikes me as very simulationist.

And in a single player draft I made, I had money on each roll as well. It really could be anything. But in terms of whether I'm making something gamist? Check the nat 20 question above?


Youssef,

Quote
make something a lot more impressive than...
See, here's a thing...I'll rant for a moment...that's saying it needs to be 'impressive'. Some sort of curious gamer zeitgeist that must be appeased or the games dismissed (socially ostracised even). Like I have to go through all the videos and learn not just programming, but a method of designing...no, wait, a method of thinking, because this undefined, non explicit notion of 'impressiveness' must be forfilled.

I'm talking about having a particular fun right now in the short term and have described one method to get it. It's rather like talking about a method of providing food for myself each day...and yet I'm asked what I want to make, as if that's not having made something? As if if it's not this nebulous 'impressive' then that's having achieved nothing? Certainly until a few years ago, if a table top RPG didn't have 200+ pages it was dismissed as nothing much. Some really weird qualifications have, and still do, float around.

Rather I'd ask can you code something from scratch that amuses you (even mildly) in five to ten minutes? If not, me going through the whole tutorial might just end up having me being unable to make something fun for myself unless I go code for dozens or even hundreds of hours. Real 'fun latter' territory.





Anyway, I've been mulling over, as well as the chance of XP (or yes indeed, cash, etc) on each attack, having a small chance of a once per RL day large bonus (perhaps a few hundred points) that you have a chance of. That works probably as a final big bang for someone to by thier own choice finish their goblin hacking session on and go ahhhh....

I could leave it like that, which leads to people playing until they get that daily win. Could put in a chance of missing out on that daily win as well, which makes winning even more of a thrill rather than a 'play enough and it's an  inevitability'. That's reaching out from the shorter term fun out into the longer term, though.
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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2010, 09:54:45 PM »

It doesnt matter much how you get your XP/treasure/items  -- its all empire building.  The fun comes from the process of empire building and the strategy you employ in the type of empire you build.  If you apply a good strategy, your empire will triumph over adversity, which is about the maximum amount of fun that can be had from this type of game.

In the case of the type of RPG you are talking about, the empire is the character and its capabilities, and the adversity is combat.

By way of example, here is the summary of a little game I wrote called Dungeon Bash

the game world consisted of about 60 types of creatures each with varying abilities
Every time a new game was started, the game randomly selected 3 creatures as the team for the player.  The empire in this case is the squad and the adversity consisted of squad-based combat - three against the world.  Because the capabilities fo each type of creature is different, the starting capabilities of the team was alwasy different, necesitating different combat strategies.

as the team progressed through dungeons, they would encounter various enemy creatures, alone or in groups and even swarms (big groups of one type of creatures like killer bees or goblins etc...) 

In reference to the empire building / XP question, for each successful attack the character gained a little XP and for each monster killed, the game awarded XP to the entire team.  The game recalculated the stats of each character on the fly, rather than in discrete jumps or levels.  But that amounted to just 'more of the same' in terms of what the character started with - if it was good at magic to start with, it got better at magic, but didnt really gain any new capabilities.

New capabilities could be added to the team in the form of items looted from defeated enemies - wands, weapons or items with this power or that.  thats where the stratgey of empire building came in - each character could only hold 10 items, so they had to pick and choose where they wanted their character to be strong or weak and whether to make their characters have similar or complimentary abilities etc...  Because enemies they faced would have all types of abilities, just like themselves, only more so....

Lastly on your point about gambling - the XP wasnt that important, it was just like - blah, as we fight and win we get this much or that much better at what we are already good at.  However, the random jackpot element was the variety of enemies encountered at any given time with respect to recovering items.  Some types of creatures are tough and dont carry items - wolves or something.  some types of creatures are relatively weak (if your team is not susceptible to their area of expertise) but do carry items - goblin mages say....  Some creatures swarm like bees or dogs, and some dont.  the Jackpot was encountering a swarm of (relatively) weak creatures who dropped items!  A swarm of neophyte priests?  joy!  Wade in and reap tons of team-enhancing booty, (as long as you arent susceptible to whatever attacks they possess in the process)

Just be sure that whatever scheme you put in place gives your players lots of options to strategize their empire building.  If they have no choices to make during the process then the thrill of overcoming adversity is greatly diminished. 
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Falc
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2010, 01:12:50 AM »

Hold on, hold on.

Do you want FUN now or REWARDS now? Because they're not 100% the same, are they? Anticipation of rewards can be fun too. "Ooh ooh, two more fights and I level and then I get access to X and Y and I can do Z." If all you're after is fun, then you could achieve that by making sure that every combat round is described or shown in a funny manner. Different kind of fun, but fun too.
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HeTeleports
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The name's Youssef.


« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2010, 09:49:34 PM »

Hey Callan,

Given your response, I think I'm misread what you'd posted. I'll toss this idea into the juggling and see where it lands.

Another link on the "Fun Now" chain we've built here is adding definition to combat (since that's where we started.)
At the start of the post, you brought up this:
"I'm thinking of either replacing or tacking on something that is fun (a particular type of fun, to be accurate) in the very short term, here and now."
Later: "Could put in a chance of missing out on that daily win as well, which makes winning even more of a thrill rather than a 'play enough and it's an  inevitability'."
And with some disappointment, you add: "That's reaching out from the shorter term fun out into the longer term, though."

I hoped to communicate in my post that Tabletop Game design has a more recent history of providing "out of the box" ideas for how to present play. So, borrowing from another thread I was reading...
Let's do something super-duper short term.

Look up Hybrid Heaven for N64 for a run-through on how the play feels for the following design.
Create an an action tree that opens up new attack options with each successful attack, and opens new defenses as the fight continues. In fights, players create a chain of attacks built on a rate of success -- as long as they succeed in hits, they continue to pile on hits. Then, on an unlucky roll/appropriate defense, the chain ends, and the other player gets to make a chain.
You could program it like this.
Set two basic attacks at level 1,two basic defenses at level 1, and all players exist at level 1.
Create three attacks and two defenses for each level achieved, up to level 4.
Players of a level can only access attacks at that level.
It takes only one XP point to gain a level.
A successful attack awards one XP point (and therefore a level) as well as awarding a second attack with a high rate of success (or low rate of failure).
Each received attack awards an XP point (and therefore a level), opening different defense moves.
(Maybe through elemental Paper-Rock-Scissors you can implement this step) Different offenses' rates of success are reduced by a matched defense move.
The offense player, on his turn, selects from his available moves and submits it; the defense player, on his "off-turn", selects from his available moves and submits it.
When an attack fails or a defense succeeds (or the fight ends), fighting characters return to level 1.

Ta-Daa! "Fun Now" exists in the total absence of Fun Later (since no character ever exists above level 1.)

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Monkeys
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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2010, 09:54:56 PM »

I don't have a combat system at all in my game.
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HeTeleports
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Posts: 66

The name's Youssef.


« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2010, 09:57:20 PM »

(Sorry for the double post. Too speedy a proofreading.)

PS: I forgot to define why the fight would end.
Characters have a set number of hit points.
Attack damage is defined by the level of the attack (level 1 attack causes -1 hit point; level 4 causes -4 hit point).
(Consequently, no character should have less than 20 HP.)
The fight ends when one fighter is reduced to 0 HP.
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He's supposed to be finishing the art and text for his new game "Secret Identities." If you see him posting with this message, tell him to "stop playing on the Internet and get to work."

"Oh... be careful. He teleports."
HeTeleports
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The name's Youssef.


« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2010, 10:17:01 PM »

I don't have a combat system at all in my game.
Sure you do.
Any form of 'combat' that is resolved by a system of rules constitutes a form of "combat system."
Age of Fable sets a difficulty (or difficulties) per obstacle that are compared to a character's static/dynamic value in a corresponding skill/quality.
The computer handles the calculations; the players click through the adventures.
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He's supposed to be finishing the art and text for his new game "Secret Identities." If you see him posting with this message, tell him to "stop playing on the Internet and get to work."

"Oh... be careful. He teleports."
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