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<  News & gossip  ~  Without a Goal by Jesper Juul

Michael
Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:42 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
http://www.jesperjuul.net/text/withoutagoal/

Good read. If only because it makes us feel, if not less crazy, then at least less alone while crazy.

"(...) the lack of complete control over the game events is offset by the interest that lies in trying, and sometimes failing to, control the game. Trying and failing to bring two characters in The Sims together is in itself an interesting event that is also worth retelling, because the failure to execute a plan is interesting in itself."

"Games without enforced goals will not replace the classic goal-oriented game, but they open for a wide range of new player experiences as seen in the two quite similar games of Sims 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This is the new style in video games, and an illustration of how contemporary video games are severing the ties to their historical roots in the arcade game, becoming something new and unique, open and expressive."

Note that the two games he mentions happen to be some of the best selling games ever... (he may be optimistic about them not replacing goal-oriented games... Wink )
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rinku
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:04 am Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I think it's more of a range. It's not that there are games with goals and games without them, it's a spectrum where how clearly the developer suggests what your goals should be differs, from very strongly pointing (flag at the end of a level, a points system for doing certain things) to almost no pointing at all (just a big world where you can walk around in and do whatever you want). But even in mainstream games the player is free to not go after what the developer points at and create his own goal instead. People do it all the time, for instance playing through the Metal Gear Solid games without killing a single person is not only possible but an interesting challenge.

I think more important than the strength of goal-orientation is how complex the goals are. My goal (no pun intended) is to create games with complex goals, not simple goals. There's a difference between goals of get somewhere, kill something, rescue someone (most games) and goals of make a city happy (SimCity), balance the environment with human needs (Balance of the Planet), become optimally virtuous (Ultima IV), etc. -- so what I want to see more of is not necessarily games that are less clear about what the goals are, but games that have more interesting and complex goals.
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Michael
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:53 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
How about players creating their own goals?
I don't mean choosing from the goals that the designer offers but really deciding on what the goal is and trying to achieve it.
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rinku
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:11 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I think that's what they already do. In the first place, they decide whether or not to play the game. But even after that, a lot of them don't choose between the goals the author allowed them to choose from but create something the author never anticipated. For instance, I once went through to almost-the-end of the first Legend of Zelda game without ever picking up any sword, even though the sword is the primary weapon and battles revolve around it.

But there's a limit to this. You can only do things the developer has programmed in. As you said before, it's limited by the "verbs" of the game. A player can only choose goals within that verb structure, they can't choose goals which require verbs that don't exist in the game. No matter how many verbs you put in a game, you're still limited by those. So I don't think it's possible to truly choose a goal for which the developer didn't allow for, because you're always using the developer's verbs.
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Michael
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:01 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I think there is a distinction between goals created by users and goals that the designer did not anticipate. In The Endless Forest, all goals are invented by the players. Many of those were anticipated by us as designers. But we did not design them. In fact, we do not design with goals in mind at all. We were even surprised by how goal-oriented some players manage to be within our game.

And of course players can only set goals within the limitations of the game. But that does not mean that the amount of possible goals is limited by the amount of designer-created verbs. With the verb 'run' alone, you can play many many games, for instance. It's not about allowing the player to do whatever they want, it's about stimulating him or her to be creative within the confines of the game.

We also find it important that a game allows to play without a goal at all. And that that is interesting to do. That form of play is what we concentrate on when designing. All the rest is user-generated.
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rinku
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 1:19 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
There's a lot you can do with run, but it still limits you to goals that can be accomplished with running. And if the running is a constant speed and equal for all users, that limits it even more, as it excludes races and chases for instance.

I think there should be a differentiation between strategy and goal too. Let's take the Endless Forest (which I've never been able to get working because my computer isn't powerful enough, I get 2-3 fps, but I've watched videos of it on YouTube at least). The goal, roughly, is interesting social interactions between the people playing the game. People create their own strategies about it, but my impression is that that's still the overall goal that people run the program for. They can't choose too many other goals besides that; they can't (to my knowledge) choose to collect leaves or avoid being hit by cars or whatever, they can only interact with the other players.

So I don't think it's totally accurate that the Endless Forest is goalless or that people are creating their own goals, they're just engaging in different ways to reach the broad goal of interacting with other players. Of course some might choose not to interact with other players at all and just explore the forest, and that can be a separate goal, but that goal probably becomes boring after awhile, particularly because (from my impression of it) that there's little interaction with the forest itself (you can't, say, cut down trees, or dig holes, yes? so it's just wandering around looking, which is fun but you can do it better in real forests).
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Auriea
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:14 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 454 Location: at your fingertips
the main action in the endless forest is running. it is the most fun thing to do and it is what you do 90% of the time. and rinku i think you would be surprised how many people enjoy playing the game to just sit by the stream. one could consider it a goal, yes. but not as most game designers mean it, and i think it is that generalized "game-industry-certified" definition of the word goal that we have a problem with.
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rinku
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:51 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 14 Sep 2005 Posts: 128 Location: Paterson, NJ
I can understand doing that if they don't live close to a stream themselves (I've a river outside my window, even though I live in a city).

Point taken about how what I was talking about isn't usually how the word goal is used with respect to games.

Still, I'm not sure I'd want to play a game which was just a large collection of verbs where I could set any goal for myself that I wanted to; have you heard of Second Life? It's goalless in the industry sense, but it never sounded too interesting to me because it was so open that it's just like an escapist virtual reality, which can be anything I want it to be, with no strong meaning, nothing from the author in the game, so goalless that it's pointless. Personalized, stylistic realities with a restricted set of verbs which reflect the author of the game's likes and dislikes (like The Endless Forest) are better than pure goalless games like Second Life.
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Auriea
Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:47 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 454 Location: at your fingertips
yeah, i am no fan of second life
1) It's ugly
2) the camera system makes me physically ill >.< (but most do that)
3) exactly as you say, no authoring

but we do use the existence of second life to explain the play style in endless forest sometimes, it's useful for that as many more people know that game.

"its like second life, but in a forest and theres no chatting and you play a deer and you can't do everything you want to do but you can enjoy the things we've put there for you" hahaha. not so awkward as that, but something like that Wink
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