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<  Design concepts  ~  Proposing a new game genre

tobr
Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:40 am Reply with quote
Joined: 08 Apr 2008 Posts: 8
This "genre" idea that I'm about to present has some connections to Grow, which I am totally in love with, but probably not in a way that most players would think of. Let me describe what a typical play session might be like.

As the game starts, the player finds herself viewing some kind of a simple landscape, viewing it first person. By using the mouse, it is possible to look around in different directions. In fact, that's the only control used - move the mouse to look around. No button, not even the mouse button, is used. This is because I believe that the fluid analog movement of the mouse will allow the player to be immersed much more into the world than the binary choice of pressing or not pressing a button.

As the player looks around, things will happen in the surrounding environment. Exactly what will of course depend on the actual game, I'm just trying to demonstrate a "form" here, but some things we can imagine is plants starting to grow, changes in weather, climate and geology, different types of animals moving about, eating, hunting, relaxing, doing different things. There may be some kind of more human like creatures there. They too do things - collect food, play, laugh, talk, invent things, build cities and machines. Or maybe they're sick, or they shout, fight, cry, flee.

The whole game lasts about 10-15-20ish minutes, and during that time the surroundings change radically. And each time you play, things will turn out very differently. The whole world will look different, and the people, animals and nature will behave very differently.

What in fact is happening, is that the player is "promoting" different phenomenon and components of the world simply by looking at them. So, if for instance the player is constantly looking at the humans, they will develop very much. They will probably go from being "primitive" towards hunting more effeciently, being more civilized, building a city, maybe inventing vehicles and factories. At that point, their high development will
make the rest of the nature suffer, so maybe plants are dying, animals are sick, water and sky is polluted. On the other hand, if the player would spend a session constantly looking at plants, they would grow, the whole environment would soon be very green with lush forests etc. Forest animals would prosper, while other animals whom might enjoy wide open space would fare less well. And after a long time, maybe the forest has grown so dense and impenetrable that nothing can live there anymore. I could of course continue to explain what would happen if the player let some animals or something else develop all the way, but I'm sure you can imagine.

What's interesting is of course to blend these different paths, which will probably automatically happen unless the player deliberately decides to "help" only one element. Things in the world will affect each other in complex ways and always produce a new experience.

Note that the game could easily be about something completely different than humans and plants and animals, it's just a simple example. To put it all in a more general way, players "up" different parameters by looking at things that represent them in the world. The relationship between these parameters decide what should happen and how the game world should develop. This is where the complex "eco system" of the game is described.

There is no expressed goal here. But after a number playthroughs, the player will probably start to understand the world and its eco system (for lack of a better word) more deeply. Why things turn out the way they do, what effect different elements in the world have on each other, will become more and more obvious. A "goal" that probably most players will embrace at some point (if they enjoy the game of course), is to understand more of these relationships, and learn to control them. No highscores, the only thing you can get from playing the game is that satisfaction.

One great thing about this game, from a technical-aesthatic standpoint, is that the camera is fixed in place. This means it will easily be possible to mix real time 3d and effects with 2d animation, prerendered material, with drawings, heck even live footage if you want to. This can provide some beautifully dreamlike and original aesthatics. It also means that even if this is a very "content heavy" game, a lot of that content can actually be procedurally generated.

Another thing I'm really into is that each playing session would only last a short time, meaning those of us who don't want to or cannot play many hours a week will still get our kicks. The game is designed for it from the start.

I'm not sure I got everything in there, but all in all, what do you think?
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MoriartyL
Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:23 am Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Nov 2005 Posts: 69 Location: Israel
I like it.
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Wildbluesun
Posted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:07 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 12 Dec 2006 Posts: 4266 Location: London, Land of Tea and Top Hats
I like it, it's quite nice. What would be interesting as well would be a story played out in front of you, with perhaps the different character's fates dictated by how much time you spent looking at them. Though that would be quite complex to implement.

However (if this genre ever became commercial), it would probably need some form of scoring system to be mainstream enough to be sustainable. Obviously there would be an indie arthouse following, but that market isn't really large enough to sustain a creative team. Perhaps not even a scoring system, but an - I don't know - maybe images from the growth of your planet would be saved automatically every few seconds/minutes, and then formed into a slide show which players could share with each other.
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tobr
Posted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:38 am Reply with quote
Joined: 08 Apr 2008 Posts: 8
Wildbluesun wrote:
I like it, it's quite nice. What would be interesting as well would be a story played out in front of you, with perhaps the different character's fates dictated by how much time you spent looking at them. Though that would be quite complex to implement.

I'm glad to see my description came across well enough for someone else to be able to fit there own ideas into the concept! I think that using individual characters is a great idea. Maybe each time you play, you will only really "see" a fraction of the whole situation. But after some time, when you get to know the characters better, you understand their history and backstory and puzzle the pieces together. The crave to understand would be a driving force (one of many) to keep playing.

Surely, like any game it would take a lot of time to create the content, but I'm not sure it would be "complex". I mean, it's all down to simple logic, choosing between different story threads - if we're in situation x, and the player influences it in a certain direction, simply go to situation y in the story. This tree of possible outcomes would of course soon be very big, but if you make it loop back and forth that could probably be masked somewhat. Of course, since we're not simply talking about choosing between snippets of movies, but rather about a 3d environment being composited on the fly, a lot of details in the world could easily be changed dynamicially in a pretty complex way through procedural generation. Maybe very fundamental things such as colors, light, even rendering technique etc could turn out completely differently in different games. This could be partly separate from the story tree - if I look keep looking in a direction where there is a certain color scale, I promote that palette and the whole view starts to adapt it. The music could also be non linear and change to all kinds of different flavours.

What I'm after is an experience that at first may seem to be very chaotic and almost random, but is actually fairly predictable and controlable once the player starts to get a grip of the background system of relationships in the game.

Wildbluesun wrote:
However (if this genre ever became commercial), it would probably need some form of scoring system to be mainstream enough to be sustainable. Obviously there would be an indie arthouse following, but that market isn't really large enough to sustain a creative team. Perhaps not even a scoring system, but an - I don't know - maybe images from the growth of your planet would be saved automatically every few seconds/minutes, and then formed into a slide show which players could share with each other.


Well why not simply "record it", not as an actual movie file but as instructions that can be played back again by the game (on your own computer, or one someone elses)? I'm not personally so keen of scoring though, I feel that the "score" is the experience itself. That's one of the things I was striving for. There is no right or wrong - even if the player creates total havoc in the game world, that experience might still be very interesting (maybe more so!). It's not about achieving quantity (a high score), it's about quality (an interesting experience).

However, this would probably be unique for each individual idea - there are probably a number of stories/situations where a score would be just fine. Or maybe several scores for different elements - in the example of several characters interacting with each other, maybe each one of the characters could get a score depending on how well their fortune turned out. In that way, the score reflects how well the player controls the game (by choosing his/her own goal) rather than to what degree he/she did it "the right way".
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Aromatic_Pizza
Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:27 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Jan 2009 Posts: 3
It's an interesting idea, however I think even 15-20 min is a little long. 5-10 would make it something you could just turn on and play around with without any sort of commitment, which as a procedurally generated game where it is different every time, you can't really count on player commitment to each individual game. I like the idea, it's almost a God game in the purest sense. However, you hinted at this but I think it would be awesome if the rules as the player understands them are not a total constant. You hinted at the forest overgrowing and killing everything else, but what if one thing overdeveloped it actually destroyed itself? This game is so transient in that you play it many times and no-matter what you do in the end that game itself is destroyed (ie. you close the program) wouldn't it be interesting if instead of being about abundance and prosperity it is about inevitable decline. It would really fuse the "narrative" (I use the word loosely to mean the emotion or idea that the game conveys to the player) and the mechanics and the player experience with the software itself. With your permission I might like to try this out in Source or something if I can ever find the time (I have 2 other projects I've never gotten around to actually doing).
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tobr
Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 12:17 am Reply with quote
Joined: 08 Apr 2008 Posts: 8
Aromatic_Pizza wrote:
It's an interesting idea, however I think even 15-20 min is a little long. 5-10 would make it something you could just turn on and play around with without any sort of commitment, which as a procedurally generated game where it is different every time, you can't really count on player commitment to each individual game.


Thank you for your comment! I think probably anything between half a minute and an hour could (theoretically) work for this, after all I'm just proposing a form, not an actual game. The landscape/plants/animals/human thing is just an idea, albeit probably an obvious one to try out. The exact mechanics and things like play time all depend on the individual game rather than the form, I guess.

What might be the danger with too short a play time, is that the connection between the player's actions and the result might have to be a bit too immediate, and the player will choose his actions to get an interesting outcome, rather than on whatever piques his curiosity the most. But whatever the individual designer finds to be right will of course be right - experimenting is certainly a healthy way to find out what works best.

Aromatic_Pizza wrote:
I like the idea, it's almost a God game in the purest sense. However, you hinted at this but I think it would be awesome if the rules as the player understands them are not a total constant. You hinted at the forest overgrowing and killing everything else, but what if one thing overdeveloped it actually destroyed itself? This game is so transient in that you play it many times and no-matter what you do in the end that game itself is destroyed (ie. you close the program) wouldn't it be interesting if instead of being about abundance and prosperity it is about inevitable decline. It would really fuse the "narrative" (I use the word loosely to mean the emotion or idea that the game conveys to the player) and the mechanics and the player experience with the software itself.


Your ideas all sound great! I find the god game comparison interesting, but I would probably rather describe it as a "dream" - the player is a key part to the experience, yet will probably not feel as if he has a direct, steady control of things - the way I imagine a god would/should feel. Playing this over and over could be something like having the same lucid dream every night, trying to make things happen differently.

I like the idea of something killing itself - a forest certainly is likely to do so, since the tall trees block the sunlight for other trees. But I think there should also be a way to find some kind of "balance" by letting the right things develop in the right order, time and speed (sort of like grow). Also letting the gameworld inevitably die is interesting, in fact it's a great way to come to a natural closure in the narrative, I have actually considered how you would best come to that no matter what happens. It's a very interesting thought. Maybe it will feel a bit discouraging for the player though, as it may be interpreted as a failure. But it could probably be presented in a way that makes it feel good.

Aromatic_Pizza wrote:
With your permission I might like to try this out in Source or something if I can ever find the time (I have 2 other projects I've never gotten around to actually doing).


Do go ahead! As I've said, this is not so much a game design as it is a mold or template to color up, fill in and turn into something individual. So go ahead and do whatever you want, though it would of course be nice with a mention if it starts to look like something substantial. Smile Of course, I'm also eager to see how a game like this would actually feel to play. I have no idea what Source is though (unless you mean source code, but I got the hunch it's a platform or app of some kind).

Would be great to hear back from you! Cheers!

- tobr
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Aromatic_Pizza
Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 7:34 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Jan 2009 Posts: 3
Yeah, right after posting I thought "man, he said 'genre' not game."
But as you say about speed I totally agree. I liked the idea that it was subtle in the change, so through the interaction the player can discover the rules but without it being right there. However, isn't what the player would find an "interesting ending" subconsciously what piques his interest most? The reason I thought it would be interesting to have the collapse was because it is realistic and can actually convey something, almost a 'story' without anything but interaction, (what the purest games should be imo). Parallels to 'God' would also be really interesting and could be conveyed (say by putting the camera higher in the sky and including subtle religious references) because I like the idea that God is fallible, and that despite the best intentions to one thing, in the end it might just be helping it to destroy itself. It's like the real example where deer hunters in Arizona killed all the wolves so that the deer population would be unhindered and they would have more deer to kill. It worked for a year, but after that the environment was unable to sustain the population. The environment became so ravaged from the overpopulation that many of the deer died and the carrying capacity was drastically lowered from what it had been even when the wolves were around. I do love the comparison of dreams and games though. I think there is tons there to be explored because I think they're so similar in many ways. I think that balance should be attainable, but difficult so that the player will almost inevitably fall into the trap of helping something too much and finding out that there can be negative consequences to purely positive intentions. One thing that I thing ToT is onto is that games are like fairy tales. They have a 'story' but the 'moral' should always be there, and realized through game play not text or movies like too many games.
Anyways, I think your idea is potentially beautiful in it's simplicity (I especially like the analogue nature of it all, both in control and in it's free-form game-play and narrative) and I really hope I find the time around school to try it out. btw, Source is the engine that Half Life 2 and all new Valve games run on and is super easily modified. Might not be the best platform to try this on (flash could actually work well) but I have some experience with it and it looks rather pretty.
Cheers, Eli.
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axcho
Posted: Tue Sep 29, 2009 11:51 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Jun 2007 Posts: 66
I like the idea quite a bit. I could see it being interesting - the analog control, acting by looking and encouraging or selecting for something that, and the radically changing environment in a short play session.

At the moment it's still pretty vague, but I'd be interested in trying to make a game like this if I can think of how it might work. Smile

I'd probably want to start by adapting it to 2D, if that's at all possible. I guess you could move your mouse over things that you want to look at, and maybe the other things blur out of view?

What do you think?
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Emriss
Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:51 am Reply with quote
Joined: 23 Sep 2007 Posts: 612
axcho wrote:
I'd probably want to start by adapting it to 2D, if that's at all possible. I guess you could move your mouse over things that you want to look at, and maybe the other things blur out of view?

What do you think?


Maybe for 2D, it could be like everything's on a flat background around the central camera. Like taking a long piece of paper and making two ends meet, then putting it on its side so it makes a ring shape. The plants and animals could be animated onto that background, and the player could just move the mouse back and forth to turn, eventually coming full circle.

Personally, I think it's more interesting if there's no way to narrow down the focus to something. Everything on-screen would evolve. That would make it so the outcomes would still be varied even if the player tried to focus on only one thing, since that probably wouldn't be entirely possible.
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Whitellama
Posted: Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:22 am Reply with quote
Joined: 23 Mar 2009 Posts: 129 Location: In the forest grove.
I didn't actually read everything (I know I suck), but this made me think a little.

I don't think anyone's really heard of it, it's 300 dollars, and I really want one, but it's a device that reads the players brainwaves, and things happen in the game based on that. So you could think for an object to move, and it moves. Here's the website: http://www.emotiv.com/

Instead of having these things happen based on looking at it, it would be cool to see them change based on the player thinking about the it. Of course it would take a lot more work in development, but a game like this that reacts to the player's mood and opinion, along with their interest in their surroundings would be awesome. They have an SDK for this product but I don't really know much about developing for it.
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atomtengeralattjaro
Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:29 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 25 Jan 2010 Posts: 15 Location: Hungary
i very much like this concept.
if i were to make a game like this (and who knows, one day i might), i would make it a little more abstract, because the world you described in the first post looks too complex to me. But that's just details. What actually came to my mind is that this kind of game could make very good use of some sort of genetic algorithm, (linking wikipedia because i'm lazy to find a better article, however, genetic algorithm is not necessarily a search heuristic like the linked article says in the first sentence..). In this sense, the "world" the player sees would consist of lots of entities of different types, with different randomly generated properties, and even if the player doesn't do anything for a minute, even in the beginning, these entities would start "living" on their own, at some points altering their properties or interacting with each other, and when the player looks at a group of entities, their "fitness" values will increase. Randomness would of course be a vital part of the game.

Okay i'm maybe just rambling here, but this idea really got me thinking Smile

It has always interested me how one could make a game that is enjoyable and exciting even for its creators themselves, and i feel this game would achieve this.
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