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Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:01 pm
by JPrice
matt wrote:The main theme is going to be expressed through the narrative, so I think it would be a bit spoiler-y to talk about it. However, I can say that a lot of the secondary themes - guilt, failure, responsibility, loneliness, etc.
Hmmmmm I see, well I might have a few ideas for that.

It's All Your Fault...
Assuming that this new game has multiple characters within it and that you interact with them at some stage within the game, you could play with the idea of guilt tripping. Say in the most extreme case, you interact with a character throughout the game but then suddenly about half way through you both find yourselves in a life threatening situation. However due to an accident on the protagonists part, you end up accidentally killing that other character, you can make it really drawn out if you like to add some extra guilt in there hahaha. I think a bonus for that would be making the gameplay reflect this accidental death, like give the player the impression that they're helping in some way but then pull back the curtain and show that they end up causing the characters demise. Just an example off the top of my head, having you both run through a hallway that you're sinking into (Kinda like quicksand) until you get submerged. Then all you see is nothing but black and some muffled struggling, then you see some light and a vague straight black outline being defined by some light (Kinda like this but blurry: ... e-dark.jpg) so you have to move towards it and grab on in order to get out alive. However once you get out you realise that you were actually grabbing onto the other character and pulling them down in order for you to get out. So you see him slowly sink into the quicksand flooring with no way to help as his arms are already to deep to move them, forcing you to watch him just sink and die. Obviously from here on there's a large amount of guilt and failure. Near the end of the game as well you can reintroduce him as an enemy, just like all black tar coming from his eyes, nose and mouth whilst he just whispers eerily stuff like "Why..." and "It's all your fault". You could apply the same principles to something less drastic than a death though if you want, whatever works. It's just a suggestion after all hahaa :)

Other ideas
- You could have a general puzzle be something where the only way to progress is to lose something that's near and dear to you. Whether it be something material like a photo, locket, videotape etc. Also if you wanted to go this far, you could have it be something even more morbid. Like having to watch a video of a loved one being tortured/murdered in order to get a combination or solve a riddle.
- Having a simple walk through a hallway or room involve the protagonists phobia, making it much more difficult for them as a result
- Having rooms/windows where there's clearly a presence of a lot of people within it but once you enter that room it's lifeless, with nothing but old furniture and cobwebs. Could help solidify the loneliness aspect as the protagonist is longing for human interaction

That's all I got for now, but I'll try to think of more in the meantime! :D

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:23 pm
by matt
Those are good ideas! Thanks for the suggestions!

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 3:41 am
by Grabthehoopka
I've been trying to think of ways to invoke anxiety in the player, and I stumbled upon something really simple - just deny them access backwards. How many times have you played a game and have been given a fork in the road, and you know that one path is the "beaten" one that you need to go down to progress, and the other is a dead end with some valuable extra things to collect, but you don't know which is which? So, you hesitantly take a guess as to which one is off the "beaten" path, when all the sudden -
you accidentally went down the beaten path, and immediately the door literally or figuratively slams and locks behind you, and you're left pounding your fists screaming "No! Wait! I wasn't done yet! Let me go back! LET ME GO BACK!!". Even worse is when thematically, in universe, there isn't really anything stopping the character from just opening the door or climbing the waist-high wall, but the game arbitrarily doesn't let you. (this is the very reason why I love the locator beam in the dead space series so much)

It's just the worst feeling in the world. And, knowing that, you can try to harness it by having a fork in the road (that both lead to the same place) and then immediately bar the player's progress back when they choose to go one way. However, if you think this crosses the line and is a bit too evil, I perfectly understand.

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:07 pm
by matt
If you aren't a competitionist, then it no big deal. If you are, then it might be really irritating because you might try to replay the level only to find out that we cheated you. hahaha Still, it is an interesting idea and not allowing the player to go back might be good for producing anxiety - perhaps I can think of a situation where it would work. Thanks for sharing!

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:10 pm
by Grabthehoopka
You aren't? Hm. I read something in a review that I now can't unsee, where they inferred that you deliberately made so many empty rooms to invoke and bring out the OCD in the player. There's nothing else to interact with, and there's so many doors, but each time you check a room, or look through a window, there's nothing there. It's frustrating, but you can't help but feel that you might miss something if you don't keep checking each one, so you as a player are compelled to check each and every room and look in each and every cell. The fact that 95% of the time there's nothing there makes it frustrating, and yet, the player is still compelled to do it.

I'm going to hedge my bets on this one and say that this was completely intentional on your end, so I would have thought that you're the same way when you play games. I know that I, and every let's play that I've seen, played like an algorithm:

move forward -> something interesting? [false] -> move forward -> something interesting? [true] -> investigate -> investigate -> move forward -> something interesting? [false] -> move forward ->

And so on and so forth.

I already said that it's the worst feeling in the world in my last post, so I know that it would have bugged the shit out of me if it happened in the last game. However, I know that a lot of deliberately frustrating design decisions you made ended up coming back to bite you in the butt in some reviews, so ultimately I'll leave it up to your judgment. I'll just say, in all my years of gaming, it's never been enough to make me hate a game unless it does it too much. And, if they find out that it's a trick and there's no right or wrong path to take, they can't say it's bad game design, right?

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 12:18 am
by matt
Whether I am a completionist depends on the game. Some games I am just trying to get through as fast as possible. Usually I don't have the skills, time, or patience to get 100% on them.

I do like to explore every nook and cranny in many games, and I was hoping people would want to do the same in Neverending Nightmares.

I didn't deliberately plan on creating frustration by having empty rooms. We wanted to create something that felt like a real space. It is supposed to seem like a house or asylum or whatever. Those have plenty of rooms off the critical path. We did adjust the layout from what might be more realistic in order to make the critical path more obvious. Personally, I've never been bothered by "empty" rooms in games. If I explore a room, and it doesn't have any items to pick up, that doesn't bother me. I feel like it adds to the world.

Would the game be better or worse with no empty rooms? As it stands, I think the game would be a straight line, which would be bad. Other games have loot - is that necessary for good game design? Were there too many rooms in Gone Home? Something to think about I guess.

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 2:28 am
by Grabthehoopka
No, I didn't have any problems with the empty rooms either. Like I said, I read it in a review. It never crossed my mind while I was playing it, but it was a really interesting theory that made me look at the game in a new light.

Please don't make the next game a straight line. :)

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 8:55 am
by evilkinggumby
matt wrote:Would the game be better or worse with no empty rooms? As it stands, I think the game would be a straight line, which would be bad. Other games have loot - is that necessary for good game design? Were there too many rooms in Gone Home? Something to think about I guess.
So you are saying in an attempt to not make the game bad and feel like a straight line.. you added empty rooms, which generally have no purpose but to exist there as part of the space(and have no lore, story, or value aside from "it should exist")? This sounds a lot like padding to me, which is disheartening as I thought you were very much against that when you talked about 'elegant game design'.

And by padding i mean "adding a bunch of window decoration rooms to make the game feel less linear" sounds an awful lot like "adding a bunch of side quests and collectibles and challenges to extend the game's playtime so it doesn't seem too short and so justify a higher pricepoint". Both situations are adding "busy work" stuff that, if possibly skipped, would pose very little detriment to the game's story, characters, atmosphere or experience.

Gone Home had just enough rooms for the point of the story. Every room, and many hallways, had details and objects and setups that were unique and helped to fill in the gaps about the family, the characters, and the events of the last few nights (and in some cases, several years). Now if they had added an extra guest house, the neighbors house, or an entire empty neighborhood to explore where it was all copy-paste material and nothing was to be learned or begotten from them aside from "square footage to walk through" I'd say the same thing and call it "padding" and doing little to add to the story, atmosphere, characters or experience. it just makes it "longer".

Loot conceptually depends on the game. In some games, it is all about the loot (and by Loot I mean item drops, like DIablo or Borderlands, where it is a loot-fest). In other games, say the newer "Bard's Tale" where all dropped/found loot just turns to gold to eliminate the middle man, is little more than a way to reward the player for accomplishments so they can purchase better gear to continue feeling a sense of progression. Just "stuff" that can be found, like the bajillion objects in Morrowind or Oblivion or Skyrim, which have little value, but COULD be stolen and sold later, is going to be subjective. Does the game lose a lot if you can't interact with the forks and knives on that table? They started with trying to make every object in the game interactable, lootable and it gave the game a stronger sense of realism for gamers, so they continued it. I can say, a lot of folk gripe when someone makes a custom mod for Skyrim where all the objects are "set" in a building and nothing is rendered in havok as actual objects. But really "loot" is going to be akin to the game. Some games, yes it ends up being just like old arcade "points" systems, where high score is only as meaningful as the player wants it to be.

Really what the question is about is "What is Meaningful (and thus valuable) Content". If you add a collection quest that is just a bunch of odd objects easter egged through a game, is it meaningful to the game, the developer, or the player? If you add 2 square miles of explorable land to a game, is it meaningful? what would make it meaningful?

Adding content to a game, be it loot, rooms, quests, location scouting, or other "busy work" tasks, has become pretty commonplace as a way to fill up a game's world with gameplay, however pointless it might be. Ubisoft has gotten pretty good at filling their sandboxy games with TONS of side content so the game feels robust and there is plenty to do. How much mileage a gamer with get out of it is going to vary. I understand the fundamental desire to add this kind of stuff, it's a fairly quick way to fill in gaps and make a game feel less sparse and empty. I'm still not of the mind that it is actually "good" or even "elegant" game design.

But I also appreciate some of what these choices do for games. There are thousands of text/calls and conversations you can spy on in Watch Dogs, and whereas they add little to the gameplay itself or even the story, it does help create more of a "this feels like a real bustling city full of individual people" and that's kool. So I am not voting against removing ALL egregarious material from a game, as having SOME helps create a richer more filled in experience. I am all about the middle road, the "balance" , or grey area, between too much and nothing. With NeN I'd say the empty rooms across the entire game was far from "too much" but because of the design of the game, the lack of rich gameplay, the endless trudging and aimless walking you wanted it to have, almost no items, no inventory, little dialogue, rare interac-able objects, and so mostly just walking and progressing through a nightmare and avoiding death, those rooms stand out moreso than they likely would normally. I think many folk were looking for ways to get better engaged with the game, and so every room felt like a chance for something "more" and when you see they're just rooms with a lot of the same objects you've already seen, maybe a 'kickstarter backer' portrait, and little else, it is just one more brief disappointment. So wherein there isn't a TON of empty rooms, the fact each feels like a sad dead end makes their 'weight' much greater.

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:00 pm
by Grabthehoopka
Good point.

I'm going off a lot of what I think I remember hearing, so correct me if I'm wrong, Matt, but I believe he's really seriously breaking down The Coming Storm and comparing it to the rest of the game. People tended to respond really well to The Coming Storm, and the design of that level was very tightly designed. He said that it was originally longer and there were more rooms, but it got stripped down and everything that didn't serve a purpose or feel necessary got cut out.

Now, I feel like this was justified in the last levels, since they're the most hectic in terms of the player being hounded by enemies, and I think he wanted them to feel maze-like and disorienting. So, rather than having so many empty rooms, he had hallways that led into hallways that led into hallways while still effectively herding the player along the right path, and I think it totally worked.

As for the rest of the game, I think the problem isn't that there isn't enough in the empty rooms, it's that the focus shifted from the goal-oriented design of The Coming Storm to the purely exploration-based design of everything else. So, coming across the empty rooms is only really a problem when the player feels like they're not accomplishing anything, something that he's addressing with the next game.

Re: Suggestions?

Posted: Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:19 pm
by matt
evilkinggumby wrote:So you are saying in an attempt to not make the game bad and feel like a straight line.. you added empty rooms, which generally have no purpose but to exist there as part of the space(and have no lore, story, or value aside from "it should exist")? This sounds a lot like padding to me, which is disheartening as I thought you were very much against that when you talked about 'elegant game design'.
No that's not what I mean...
evilkinggumby wrote: it does help create more of a "this feels like a real bustling city full of individual people" and that's kool.
I wanted to create something that felt like a real space. I'm not sure how many people have linear houses, but I am guessing very few. The other problem with a straight linear game is that there are no real choices. I think for tension, not knowing where to go (even if it is just hitting dead ends) makes the game better.

Plus there are some creepy things in some of the extra rooms! :) Maybe we should have had more variety for the checkpoint bedrooms, but I did kind of like the fact that you don't know WHICH bedroom you are in.

The Coming Storm had plenty of empty rooms, and I think we only cut a few because of time. We were out of time and money! :-/ The main reason I've been talking a lot about "The Coming Storm" is because I think the puzzle elements created objectives, which I think helps with buy in and not feeling like you are just wandering aimlessly. Granted - I like the aimless feeling of exploring, but perhaps we leaned too heavily on that. We could probably have used more variety in what you "do" in the game...