Hope I’m not bothering, but I was wondering if you could read over this small excerpt on different game structures. It’s a bit rough, and I need someone whose experienced in game analysis to give some revisions.
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I define games in five manners
One would be the rpg, which involves the player who is in control of a character involved in a story. It is an rpg if both the player and the story are subject to change based on the decisions and action of the player. The interaction with NPCs are also expanded upon to include varying paths of which the player can lead their character through the story. The win state for these games is simply to see the story through the end, rather than trumping that of an opposing player.
Such can be seen with Fallout New Vegas, Final Fantasy, Dead Rising, etc.
The second would be the three act/linear game, which is similar to an rpg, however, the story and character are not subject to change, rather the player simply plays through the story of a character. The story may vary in its impact and use. The win state is almost always to either complete the story, or to complete the objective set by the game designer.
Examples include Super Metroid, Thief, Doom, galaga, Super Mario bros, Bayonetta, Grand Theft Auto, Legend of Zelda, etc.
The third would be the simulation/serious game, which involves the player simulating actions of a device that follows no story, yet still involves the use of objectives. At times there is no win state in simulator/serious games, but rather a continuation of the simulation. Such examples include that of train simulator, Eurotruck simulator, Microsoft flight simulator, fx pinball, tabletop simulator, The sims/Simcity, Civilization, Dwarf Fortress, etc.
The fourth example would be that of traditional/board games, in which the player is in competition to another player(s). A bit hard to define, but this style involves no story, as it is purely the player vs another, whether controlled by an ai or another living person. Any series of events that could be seen as a story is merely just a result of the actions that have been made by the two or more players. This style usually incorporates a standard set of rules and a board or setting in which to play on. The win state is always that of trumping the other player. Personally, I feel as though this is the best, and most pure form of gamemaking.
Examples include: Joust, Pacman, Most competitive multiplayer games, Sinistar, Street Fighter.
The fifth manner would be that of puzzle games, in which the player solves a problem presented by the game designer through direct means, often involving use of logical thought and critical thinking, rather than reactive process. Examples include Tetris, Dr. Layton, Ace Attorney, etc.
Of course, a majority of games often times use a combination of the manners.
Uh, I don’t think I really agree with any of these genre boundaries. Also I can think of exceptions outside these 5, and some of the things you group together as examples don’t fit your provided definitions.
Before I get into specific objections, I’m just gonna say, I don’t think you’re gonna have an easy time breaking down all games into only 5 categories, especially since these categories themselves overlap on each other and don’t pick particularly formative attributes of games. These choices seem practically random. Genres aren’t a thing that can be totally formalized as individual categories that are totally separate from each other. Bits of different genres can and are mixed all the time.
First, Role-playing games. I personally think Role-Playing Games are a misnomer. I don’t think any digital game named a role-playing game really has anything to do with roleplaying. The only thing constant across games referred to as roleplaying games is that they have stats that grow and are maintained persistently across sessions, which by itself has nothing to do with role-playing. Warren Spector recently remarked this in his GDC Deus Ex Post-mortem, that players would quicksave before a choice and try each option, sticking with the one that they liked the outcomes of best. Also I find it bizarre that you’d categorize Final Fantasy here, since it directly contradicts your definition. The other thing I’d remark is, the story of an RPG is not subject to change, it’s that the authors have written multiple stories and you pick and choose between them. Story is a fixed constant, and there can be more stories or less stories, but the number or contents of stories never changes. Plus, have you heard of Improv games before? http://improvencyclopedia.org/games/ They frequently involve actual roleplaying.
Second, you have a category literally for everything that would fit in the first category except without branching paths. However you include Grand Theft Auto in this category, which does have branching paths. What about Open World games in general? They’re not linear. 3-Act structure itself is made up and isn’t actually a good story structure, with many stories not following the structure. https://www.writersstore.com/whats-wrong-with-the-3-act-structure/ If you think it’s important enough to identify single player games with a beginning and end to them as a whole defining category for games, why is there a special split for role-playing games? What makes them so different structurally?
Third, why is pinball in the simulation category? Personally, I don’t think simulations are games. I think they’re a system that games can be played with and people make up games for themselves to play in these systems, but inherently, they’re not games. Conway’s Game of Life is a misnomer.
Not all simulations have objectives. Without an objective of some kind or another, even if it’s stay alive like tetris, it’s not a game (At least, it’s not a game as the creators defined it). It’s sort of like Google Maps or google street view. It just does things.
Fourth, why are all the multiplayer games under traditional/board games? What kind of correlation is that? I mean, at least you didn’t make the mistake of saying non-digital games and digital games should be entirely separate formal categories, because that would be ridiculous, but this is just puzzling. And why is Pac-man in here? Wouldn’t it fit under linear games? Saying it’s the best or most “pure” form of game making is pointless, it’s trying to formalize a preference of yours.
Fifth, WHY IS TETRIS IN THE PUZZLE CATEGORY? What on earth does tetris have in common with Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton from a structural perspective? What does it have in common with The Witness or Portal? Tetris is an active game where you need to react in real-time to randomized block patterns, making unclear decisions with varying levels of risk and reward rather than fixed outcomes. It’s not a puzzle, just we don’t have a more apt word for it, so puzzle stuck. Another example of a misnomer.
All-in-all, I don’t think you’re making very firm structural divisions between categories. I think you’re picking categories semi-randomly. I don’t think there’s a pressing need to divide all games into 5-ish categories, you can make category lines wherever you want, and it’s not really that important from a formal perspective where they are if you ask me.
I wouldn’t say these are the five primitives from which all games are derived, they’re 5 random lines in the sand that are drawn kind of faintly and sort of overlap here and there.
Try thinking more structurally and generically. You’re caught up in specifics that you’ve been conditioned by broader gamer culture to pay attention to, but which aren’t actually inherent to the structure of game systems themselves. In the RPG example, choosing a different dialogue option, structurally, isn’t much different from choosing between a couple levels in Mario, or picking up a different item to save for later in a toad house.
Thanks dude, sorry if what I wrote was poorly thought out. Do you have any more advice or anything I should look out for more in the future?
That’s okay. I’m here to help out, and it’s fun to get writing to analyze.
Try to keep pushing ideas and second guessing yourself until you feel like you have something solid. If you think you know something is true, what if it weren’t true? The idea is to form a model in your brain that matches the shape of the structures you’re dealing with, and there’s certain rigors required of such models, but I’m not very good at describing that yet.
You want to build models that are robust and can account for every possible circumstance, using the fewest possible rules. Try to find holes and exceptions in your models and rebuilt them to account for those.
Gaming culture has built up a lot of expectations and ideas about games that don’t make sense on a structural level. They’re mislead by aesthetic factors and don’t see the underlying form of games. Think twice about everything you hear and eventually you’ll figure things out that hold up to scrutiny.
I was asked to review this video by the creator
Fair intro, introduces the premise of the game rather nicely, 4 characters with unique abilities that change how they traverse the terrain.
And you do a fair introduction for each of the characters too, summing up their general characteristics succinctly, though you omitted how the young boy also has some sort of ice power, and that seems kind of important.
Minor note, when you introduce the mindbender, it sounded like you said minebender. You generally annunciate quite well, despite your accent, and speak at a good pace, just take care.
I think the biggest problem you suffer across the review is a lack of specificity. You introduce the vague form of a lot of things and say that they are good, or average, but because you’re trying to avoid spoilers, you can’t present a lot of evidence, and expect us to trust in your conclusions essentially, rather than making a strong argument for why you believe what you do.
Every essay is an argument. You believe a certain thing and need to present evidence and make arguments based upon that evidence as for why your conclusion is true.
We can visibly see the art style, hear the music, and see some of the mechanics of the characters, so we can make some inferences based on the video alone, the video serving as proof for some of your claims, like how good the music and atmosphere are, but that’s about it.
You make a fair point saying that because each of the characters has different traversal options, that repeating the same content is not so bad, because you can experience it 4 different ways, and substantiated it well enough using the video footage. It might have been smart to provide examples of where there is a simple walk instead of a more complicated route.
I like that you provided an example of a puzzle and noted that they tended to be observational rather than involving complex logic.
I don’t think you have a very good case for the attacks not hitting immediately after the button is pressed, and taking a while to recover. Many games have a longer startup time on attacks in order to force you to time your attacks relative to the enemy instead of just mashing the button. Dark souls is very notable for its use of this. Your case regarding the bomb is more sensible, since you can still move while taking out the bomb, and it’s counter-intuitive that bombs don’t get put down where you push the button.
I think it’s kind of critiquing the fairness of the combat system to say that “quickly reacting to changes is impossible” due to the level of the commitment on attacks. A lot of these complaints just sound like what I’ve heard levied against the dark souls series before, especially cases with multiple enemies. The answer is that it’s usually your fault, not the game’s, and “satisfaction” is a made-up criteria.
In the example where you complain about bosses, we see you blow yourself up with bombs, twice. Also the phrasing that the boss’s abilities, “come very quickly at you” is awkward. Are you saying that because bosses can attack you quickly, but you are committed and cannot act quickly, that it is disatisfying? And could you have chosen a better example than standing too close to one of your own bombs, twice?
“Other bosses require you to think strategically and place a single attack at the right moment”  I think you could use a real example here. The video footage you use seems to indicate that the boss swoops back and forth, and you need to walk out of the way, then smack him when he misses, which isn’t exactly strategic. It’s kind of simple: pattern > response.
Saying the combat doesn’t feel satisfying sounds kind of subjective. Like, you’re not criticizing something that is clearly unfair or not very dynamic about the combat, you’re just saying it’s hard and somewhat slower paced.
The nitpicks are sensible, though I wouldn’t exactly expect them in an overview type of review like this. I’d expect them in a more thorough review.
I don’t know why you compared it to the previous game you reviewed. I especially don’t understand why you’re valuing it at a specific amount of money. Is this a suggested purchase price? Is this the price you bought it at? Does this relate to the score at all? I’m kind of lost. Would a AAA game that you buy for $60 with a score of 80 also get a value of $20?
Overall, I feel like I know enough about the game that I’m interested in it (I get to traverse levels multiple times with different types of traversal and there’s some high commitment combat), but I don’t feel like you made a good evidence-based argument for why the game is good. I would have liked to see evidence and arguments as to how its various forms of gameplay are actually good, rather than just your testimony that they are. I like traversal, but I worry from the video footage alone that each character’s traversal might be kind of one-note, where I do the one and only right thing and that’s it, and the enemy designs may not be good, and there might not be any equivalent to platforming challenges across the characters.
Friends were discussing this video on my discord and I realized the argument you were referring to is one between you and me.
I think you’re making an error saying that the purpose of art is to stimulate emotions. Consider Architecture, Cooking, conceptual art, or modern paintings such as modrian or jackson pollack. There’s value in art besides strictly emotions. Art in general is about communicating aesthetically pleasing ideas, which may have no emotional basis at all, but aesthetic pleasure may lead to emotion. On this basis, games are still art, but not say a generic plunger (which may generate positive emotions by virtue of unclogging your toilet, but I don’t think you’ll disagree with me that a plunger isn’t art).
If you want more examples of emotions that games can generate, how about jealousy? As you see people who were previously worse than you get better than you? Disgust, from seeing a mechanic work a way that violates how you think it should. Sadness, as you realize that despite all the work you’ve put in, someone might still be better than you, and you haven’t moved very far at all. Surprise, this one should be obvious. Trust, in knowing a teammate has your back. Anticipation, when you get close to leveling up or victory over a tough challenge. Indignation, when you feel like you should be beating something, but you’re still not. Shame, when you realize you’re not as good as you should be. Pity, when you’re far above someone else’s level. List of emotions taken from: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions Beyond those, hope, futility, awe.
Further, you argue that because the range of emotions games can generate is limited that therefore they should be paired with other media to generate a wider range of emotions, since that’s the point of art in your opinion. Does this mean that because the range of any given art medium is limited, they should be paired with other media to fill in the gaps? Should all paintings be inserted into films, or have accompanying music?
I think the entire notion that games started out as infantile, lacking stories, and since have “evolved” into including story elements, is a mistaken one. We haven’t “grown out of our infantile stage”. We’re just exploring the wider range of media that can be combined in software. Games are a larger medium than software. Games have existed for thousands of years, and they didn’t suddenly grow up. There are amazing games from literally 2500 years ago that are still played today, like Go. Games have included context before they started being made in software, however I’d argue that the strength of those thematic elements shouldn’t be the defining factor in judging a game, ever.
The thing to recognize here is that software is a bigger medium than just games, and games are a bigger medium than just software. Video games are the overlap of the two.
It doesn’t matter if gameplay alone is emotionally limited. Emotions aren’t the driving factor in art in the first place. It’s simple aesthetic pleasure, which can be represented in the form of sadness or other negative emotions as well. Gameplay alone does fine. Many MANY games are gameplay alone. Would you tell soccer players that their game needs context in order to be fulfilling as a work of art? (yes, I am calling the rules of Soccer a work of art)
Not all media needs to be hybrid media, your sandwich analogy is not applicable.
Yo, I’d play doom if it was about being chex cereal. Wait, they did that, and it was awesome, and people remember it to this day.
The gameplay of Nier totally holds up. You should have picked Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, though I would have disagreed that it’s a good game, because it’s not.
Quake is artwork. So is CS. They’re games, therefore they’re works of art. Games are art. Sports are art. Making people feel things can be described of practically anything, it’s not a good definition for art.
“If the game didn’t have these blocks of text and characters and settings then the game would just pretty much fucking suck.” Fallout does fucking suck, because it’s just about choosing menu options over and over again plus sub-par shooting.
The concept of “context and gameplay working together” is immature. The view that games used to be infantile and have now grown up is immature. Get some new ideas, stop repeating what everyone else tells you. I’m telling you this as an artist and programmer who does know the math.
Being interactive doesn’t magically open up more attachment to things. Context is its own thing and does its own thing. Gameplay is its own thing and does its own thing. You already evaluate them independently of each other. Games should be judged by how good their gameplay is, because they are games. A game with crappy gameplay and a good story should be watched on youtube.
Horror movies can be scary and so can horror games lacking context. There were mods for Amnesia that made the monster into nyan cat and other stupid things and people still got really scared of it.
I’ve played tons of games that I own and what I really like about them is the gameplay, I don’t need the context.
Okay, my big problem with this video is you’re so pre-occupied with the overarching structure of the mario games that you’re not looking at the actual gameplay structures of any of the levels.
Like every part of this is so focused on pre-conceptions of what fits or doesn’t fit that it doesn’t care whether the concept is good or not.
Who cares what options they had in 1996? Just evaluate what’s there. What’s there is there. The historical context doesn’t matter. It’s trivia. You’re not making a trivia video, you’re making an analysis video. They chose to go with the structure they felt like. They probably could have done something totally different if they cared to.
You compare the mario games back and forth so much, you speculate so much about the technology or design ethos that lead to the particular design decisions and you care so much about whether Nintendo is properly executing on some paradigm like fulfilling a mission structure that ultimately doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. And earlier you complain about how optional shines in Sunshine are optional, unlike Mario 64 where stars are used to open doors, however you’re also upset with how mario 64 lets you do stars out of order, when that means you can pick and choose the stars you like to progress instead of Mario Sunshine’s pattern where you always need the 7th star. You have no idea what you actually want from these games, you’re complaining about practically everything with whatever the first reason that comes to mind is. You don’t need more than 70 stars in Mario 64, does that mean every star past 70 is meaningless? Are you seriously saying it’s bad to have optional challenge levels? Then you say the game is “truly empty” without optional collectables? What the fuck kind of crazy standard is this? It has half the level count when you remove all the optional stuff. Does this mean that if you remove 50 stars from Mario 64 that it’s an empty game too? And then you whine that Mario 64 and Sunshine reuse parts of levels and complain that Galaxy doesn’t reuse things? What the fuck? Who cares if it’s “mission based” or not? Who cares if it’s appropriately using mission based structure or not? ARE THE LEVELS FUN?
During the mario sunshine part where you complained about FLUDD and how many missions were about using FLUDD instead of platforming, I was like, “and now he’s gonna complain that the cool platforming missions where you don’t have FLUDD are bad because you don’t have FLUDD” and sure enough, there it was. You complain that nintendo taking away your crutch is distinctly un-nintendo, a point that is never brought up again for the rest of the video. You’ll make up reasons to complain about practically anything, even if it directly contradicts what you JUST complained about.
You’re only considering “openness” as multiple pathways. In your 2d Mario analysis, you only considered a level multi-layered when it had a warp pipe to an alternate path, which itself you considered a fault because it could allow you to skip content. You didn’t examine all the different ways to jump around the saw blades in the level you used as an example. You’re not considering how the arrangement of level elements in the main pathway creates a large variety of ways to approach any given part of the level. You praise super meat boy for having more linear levels that are capable of focusing more tightly on platforming, but you fail to notice how super meatboy not only has 1 path through the level, but that path has no variation within it. When you return to how Mario Galaxy had levels that were linear similar to 2d mario levels, you say that though there’s a few different ways to go across the platforms in the galaxy level, they don’t feel as different as taking a pipe to a completely different room. This statement indicates to me that you’re missing the entire point. The whole point is to make a level that is replayable in a massive number of ways, that can have a large number of possible situations and outcomes within that same level. Super Meat Boy could have multiple pathways and still not accomplish this because of how limited that game’s level design is.
Building multiple pathways isn’t the answer, it’s about layering paths together and mixing them, and creating dynamic elements within those pathways that change based on your approach, change with your timing, spacing, and what moves you do. Check out the mirror’s edge videos in the article I just linked. See how many different ways it’s possible to approach any given segment of the level?
You condemn the chain chomp existing in the first mario 64 level because it doesn’t fit your vision of how a mission structure should work, ignoring that A. you can ignore it, and B. it gives people more ways to approach the level and more paths they can take across the level. You ignore how elements of the levels in Mario 64 are juxtaposed and connected to one another to give people different routes through the level besides the standard and obvious one. Then you turn on your face and complain when galaxy makes entirely new levels for you in the same mission structure because it’s not fitting whatever your vision of a mission structure is.
What? Why’d you use footage of Doom to illustrate FPS games from the N64 Era? That game came out in 1993. You do know that Quake came out in 1996, right? The same year as Mario 64, literally the day before Mario 64 came out?
“To say Mario 64’s Camera is bad would be misinformed, because it is not only the first camera of its kind, but it’s one of the best cameras in a game for the Nintendo 64.” It’s amazing how you say it’s wrong to say the camera is bad, then don’t say anything to the contrary. Like, what does it being the first camera of its kind have to do with not being bad? What does being the best camera on the N64 have to do with not being bad? You’re not thinking very hard and you’re allowing historical precedent to paralyze your thoughts. It’s a bad camera, and you just gave a ton of reasons why it was bad.
Though you ignored the biggest reason why it was bad. Dual Analog hadn’t been invented yet. Mouselook on PC was good because there was a simultaneous analog input with control over the camera.
For fuck’s sake, watch this video.
You could describe Galaxy’s camera SO MUCH FUCKING BETTER THAN, “It just works”
Galaxy has a panning automatic camera that pans across the level as mario moves, and this works because levels themselves are designed to only be viewed from one angle. The player only needs to go one direction, and where that isn’t true, they’re on a planetoid where mario is in the center of the screen rather than with the camera overlooking his shoulders. Galaxy works because they deliberately scripted the way the camera will act for every single area, and avoided flat levels with multiple possible directions to go in. Super Mario 3D World copies this pattern. It’s not totally that the camera works because the levels were designed with the camera in mind, it’s that the camera’s behavior was redesigned many many times to fit each individual level. Mario Sunshine and 64 usually don’t have scripted camera interactions, they have one static behavior for the camera that they hoped would cover all possible instances during gameplay. The consequence of camera design like this is a compromise in level design. You cannot have as multi-threaded 3d platforming levels as mario 64 or mario sunshine because the camera design is more limited. Instead platforming in these games is more like top-down 2d platforming instead of full 3d platforming.
It doesn’t matter what your vision of what a great “mario” game is. That concept is what hamstrings your entire video. You’re so obsessed with your idea of what a mario game should be. You’re so obsessed with your vision of what a mission structure should or shouldn’t be. You can’t look at anything neutrally. You fault Mario 64 for having mission structure when you can skip sequence, or it reuses segments of levels, or claim it “impedes level design”. Then you fault Galaxy for having more unique levels but still being “mission based”.
In 3d Mario World, having overt “this path or this path” doesn’t increase the replayability of missions. It makes them boring after you’ve done both paths. The point is to have the paths all be connected to one another, so you have constant choices, much bigger and smaller all over the place, rather than A or B.
Here’s a speedrun of all the stars in Tick Tock Clock, look how different all the different paths this guy takes through the stage are. Look at how all the different platforms are connected between the paths. Notice how different these are from the normal paths people would take to a star.
It seems like you do actually get some element of having interconnectedness and path choices as you go further in your 3d mario world example, but you completely failed to realize how prior Mario games already employed this style of design.
Here’s another example of Bob-omb Battlefield, since you seem fixed on that stage:
And Whomp’s Fortress for good measure:
I don’t like 3d world because it’s so damn constrained. It’s so limited in the way it focuses on platforming like it’s top-down instead of delivering more deep platforming challenges like Sunshine’s secret levels or Mario 64 in general. Your means of traversal are much more limited, and you’re offered fewer tools for traversal. From what we’ve seen of Mario Odyssey however, it looks more like 3d world or Galaxy than 64 or Sunshine. Also fuck you for saying you hope it goes in Sunshine’s direction because sunshine was “more committed to its ideals”. That’s some hot nonsense if I ever heard it. Then saying it’s the only game that benefitted from a mission-based structure. Quit being so damn hung up on how you think things should be based on superficial characteristics and look at what they are instead. Please cut out all these vague platitudes and ideals that don’t matter to evaluating the final quality of the game.
This video didn’t make a coherent argument against the design styles of 64 or Sunshine. You wasted WAY too much time talking about stuff that didn’t matter, and failing to address the important aspects of the things that did matter.
I don’t care whether it’s a mission structure or individual levels. I care about having interesting multilayered platforming levels which have a variety of platforming mechanics that can all be stressed by the level design. I care about having a large number of low-affordance connections between different parts of the level. I care about having interesting environmental geometry, which 3d world was a TOTAL bust for, and Galaxy largely was as well.
There’s almost nothing in those games as interesting as the spinning wooden blocks in the later part of this level.
You missed the whole point. This video was a waste of my time. Again, you’re complaining about everything you can with whatever the first reason that comes to mind is. You’ll complain that something doesn’t fit your rigid conception of how a certain structure should work, then you’ll complain when the next game does the opposite because it’s inconsistent or some other bullshit.
Your critique amounts to nothing of any significance. You have no idea what you even value and you’re evaluating all the games on different cherry-picked criteria, and not even using good criteria for any of them. You’ll jump between replayability, adherance to structure, challenge, accessibility, choice, and linearity at the drop of a hat, and criticize every game that isn’t your favorite, 3d mario world, for doing it wrong based on reasons that ignore evidence, use completely irregular criteria, and make no sense.