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Old 5th Feb 2008, 08:50   #1
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Halo 3 and The Art of Repetition

http://www.bit-tech.net/columns/2008...f_repetition/1

James Silva talks about how repetition in game design is actually a very good thing and, looking closely at games like Halo 3, Marathon, BioShock and Ninja Gaiden, James asks whether repetitive gameplay is responsible for ruining some otherwise excellent titles?

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Old 5th Feb 2008, 09:05   #2
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I think this really highlights how some of the best games work - by forcing the emotions of players to mirror those of their characters. Looking back, I see that many of my favourite games make me feel as bewildered as the characters do - Half-Life 2, Portal, Planescape: Torment.

I think the major thing that makes a game great in my eyes is when I feel like I'm really experiencing the story from the chracters point of view - and making both the character and me into bewildered idiots until we get our bearings is a great way to do that.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 09:23   #3
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bioshock didnt really cut it with me

the whole premise of walking into different scenarios then using the same technique to kill the same bad guys over and over got very boring very quickly
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 09:47   #4
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I agree with the article as long as the game is trying to make you feel like the character you are playing. The other side of gaming is to present a grand storyline from someone elses perspective that doesn't neccessarily coincide with yours. For instance the storytelling in Max Payne (1&2) is exellent in my opinion. Its a revenge storyline but at no point do I feel like there is a clash between Max's persona and my playing ability. The game does not try to make you feel like Max instead its trying to show you the story of Max from his perspective. I play the game because I want Max to succeed in his quest for revenge, not because I want revenge!

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Old 5th Feb 2008, 10:05   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wolfman_UK
I agree with the article as long as the game is trying to make you feel like the character you are playing. The other side of gaming is to present a grand storyline from someone elses perspective that doesn't neccessarily coincide with yours. For instance the storytelling in Max Payne (1&2) is exellent in my opinion. Its a revenge storyline but at no point do I feel like there is a clash between Max's persona and my playing ability. The game does not try to make you feel like Max instead its trying to show you the story of Max from his perspective. I play the game because I want Max to succeed in his quest for revenge, not because I want revenge!

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QFT. Many games make the distinction between controlling a well-realised character, and playing as yourself in a character's shoes. The problem is where games get this distinction mixed up, which often happens in first person shooters, as you are as personal with your character as possible. In Res Evil, for example, you're attempting to save the lives of the characters in the game. When a character gets eaten by a zombie, it's because you failed to protect and guide them, not because the character themselves went from armed specialist cop to total n00b just because you took over the controls.

In the olden days, games would often entice you to play with descriptions like "Bob has gotten lost in the woods, he needs your help to guide him home!" Here, the game makes the absolute distinction between player and character, so it's not a problem if the character does something dumb because from the very start the game is treating you and it differently. This doesn't happen these days, as games are presumably trying to be more "immersive", but it does mean occasionally you have the problem described in the article. However, I would say that in the majority of games this actually isn't the case. In fact I'm struggling to think of many other mainstream games than the Halo series.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 10:20   #6
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Ugh, Max Payne. A great game but far, far too much gravelly voiced narration.

Interestingly on-topic though, the one part that was the best/worst part of the game for me was the repeated sections in Max's house. When he keeps flashing back to finding his dead family and the hallucinations keep changing the scene? Excellent. The first time you play through you are bewildered and scared of what may have happened in your/max's home. You go through the horror of the dead baby with him.

Then, as the scene is repeated throughout the game, you get more and more drawn into Max's motives. The way the scene keeps altering slightly means that your skills are being expanded too and the story is being drawn out - again, repetition working for both the story and the gameplay.

Unfortunately, all that repetition is ruined by the bloodtrail maze segment, which is pointless and badly designed. God, I hate that bit.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 10:56   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Unfortunately, all that repetition is ruined by the bloodtrail maze segment, which is pointless and badly designed. God, I hate that bit.
QFT. Despite it not actually being a maze, in reality taking only 2 minutes and not being difficult at all, it sticks in the mind of every gamer who plays it as a 'bad design decision'. Just goes to show the damage a single badly done part of a game can have on an otherwise overall quality package.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 11:13   #8
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All I know is that I *kept* getting lost, falling off the narrow path, doubting myself and turning round etc. I took me ages to get past.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 11:31   #9
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Similar to the peaks and troughs of the Tomb Raider series. Some are eminently more enjoyable to play than others.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 11:37   #10
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AHA - I just remembered the example I was looking for - Doom 3. Repetitive as hell and boring to boot. The whole game overused repetitive design and artwork for no real reason and t left me feeling like a kid in a carpet store; bored.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 12:21   #11
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But the pertinent questions is, would Doom 3 have been better if it had an actual storyline, one which drew you in as a player? Can an engaging story help you get over the repetition.

Anyway, I'm sure some people like shopping in carpet stores. Probably. Somewhere.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 14:07   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul View Post
QFT. Despite it not actually being a maze, in reality taking only 2 minutes and not being difficult at all, it sticks in the mind of every gamer who plays it as a 'bad design decision'. Just goes to show the damage a single badly done part of a game can have on an otherwise overall quality package.
Ya know, I almost felt that way about Ravenholm in HL2. Not to that same extent, but a lot of that level felt awkwardly placed to me. Actually, Joe's quip is also surprisingly relevant to my first play through -
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
All I know is that I *kept* getting lost, falling off the narrow path, doubting myself and turning round etc. I took me ages to get past.
Maybe I was being idiotic, but that level just never sat quite right with me - and doesn't to this day. Partly because I've never been too big on the 'zombie attack!' levels in any game, partly because that level - and that level only - made me really change up my gameplay strategy, and partly because... I have no idea, but it just didn't sit right with me.


Quote:
Originally Posted by article
eventually we are left with a hero equivalent of an emo kid: driven by anguish, but too socially awkward to do anything about it
Line of the year, tbh.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 14:52   #13
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I can understand that sentiment about Ravenholme - personally, I loved it. But the radically different setting, design and enemies - plus the introduction of the gravity gun - is too quick for some people I think. You spend ages fighting on foot and on the airboat using guns, constantly on the run then BAM! One short interlude later and you're the uber zombie hunter with a gravity gun. Quite the shift.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 14:56   #14
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I loved ravenholme once i worked out to use the gravity gun... i also loved carpet shopping as a kid, all that open space and stuff to climb on....
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 15:04   #15
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Ya know, I almost felt that way about Ravenholm in HL2.
Which is strange, because as the demo level (Ravenholm) it rocked -- as a demo. All the traps and kooky narration, not to mention the new grav gun.

But I felt it could have been tied in better to the game proper. "Oh, we're under attack! Here, go to Ravenholm!"
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 15:20   #16
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Well, originally Ravenholme was much, much bigger. The lead-up was more involving and the town was called Traptown instead in development. Looking back at the early E3 footage you can see that it was intended to have troops in there as well as Zombies and Father Grigroi was a much more intense and scary character who had the entire town rigged to the hips with traps. Pity that it, like a lot of the game, got trimmed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content...om_Half-Life_2
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 19:30   #17
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I can understand the Authors arguement for repetition in games, but I think the industry is suffering because of it. Take Bioshock for instance, it had everything going for it, a great story, superb setting, but the character you play doesn't fit in at all well with the gameplay. The character you play never gets tired, never needs to eat, never suffers from the wounds inflicted up it. Your not so much playing through the eyes of a human character with complexities and human failings, but a mindless robot that is taken hand in hand through the journey, never able to question the world they are inhabiting. People cry for more realistic graphics ingame, lets get some realistic characters to play in them.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 20:19   #18
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repetition kills apetite for gaming
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 21:48   #19
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about the character being dropped into the game, Oblivion did that quite well, the character starts in jail, and is suddenly sprung free and thrust into a world where they have very little idea what is going on.

while repetition in game play when used correctly is indeed sometimes very good, repetition of artwork and character voices will kill a game faster then putting an ax through the machine you're using to play it. Oblivion also proves this point.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 22:25   #20
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I think HL2 was the epitome of this. THink about it, there were just the standard weapons (plus the gavity gun), only a handful of types of enemies (crabs, zombies, soldiers, and barnacles, antlions), yet it used those elements in different ways to create totally different situations. In one level you're running for your life from antlions and in the next they're your primary weapon.

As much as I hated Ravenholm (that was one disturbing level on many counts), I feel it was excellent design work. Like all HL games it was a fundamentally linear level, but that path was so incredibly twisted back on itself as to be amazing. It was linear without looking or feeling linear.

Like the author said, it's a matter of balancing repetitiveness with originality so the player is constantly challenged without feeling totally overwhelmed.
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