Monthly Archives: September 2009

Storytelling

Whenever an anime gets really, really happy, my reaction is one of fear, because it usually means something terrible is going to happen soon.

I wonder, does the same thing happen with video games?  I guess there’s always the assumed fact that the “good guys” will win out in the end, right?  So no matter what happens, as long as you don’t “lose”, then somehow everything will be okay–despite the fact that the world just got destroyed and you’re trapped in an interdimensional prison, somehow you’ll be saved.

Then again, there are certainly games that try to bend this rule.  For example, games that give you “unwinnable” fights that you’re supposed to lose.  This has to be done somewhat cleverly as it can’t be obvious that whatever enemy you’re fighting is 100% impossible to beat no matter what, but maybe more like 95% impossible.  There has to be a sense of being overwhelmed, so that you almost feel like you -should- be losing, even though in the past you’re used to never being “supposed” to lose.  But, the unwinnable fight isn’t actually all that interesting anymore, since we’ve seen it a bunch of times before.  BoF 3, for instance, or Super Metroid.

I thought Lifesigns: Surgical Unit had a really interesting last mission because there’s actually a separate ending that’s played if you fail the surgery (and the patient dies).  It’s really sad, and it also kind of sucked because I watched the credits and then had to go and play the whole stage again, but it’s still an actual fully-fledged ending.

So maybe there’s more to explore here.  What if, when something goes wrong, you don’t simply get shown a generic “game over” screen, and restart from the last conveniently-located save point?  After all, in real life there ARE no save points, are there?  So maybe it would make games more engaging–more “real”–if you just had to live with the consequences of your mistakes.  Of course, you still have to be careful because people don’t like not being able to “win”.  It’s usually (though certainly not always) good practice to make anything in an FPS unkillable, because the fact is–players want to shoot things and kill them!  If they’re forced to run away, they totally feel cheated.  Unless of course, it’s “tactical” running away–as in, sneaking past the guards instead of engaging in combat.  But even then, it’s usually better to at least have the option (however difficult) to kill them.

Back to the original topic–there have been some interesting things done in terms of the concept of being forced to live with your mistakes in games.  The “You Only Live Once” game, for example, is a platformer where you only get to play it once…EVER.  There is no save point, there is no multiple lives, there is no reset, no nothing.  There’s also a shootemup game that i think I saw on slashdot where shooting down enemy ships actually causes random files to be deleted from your hard drive (!), and getting killed yourself erases the game executable.  But I think those two cases are rather extreme.  What about a game where you can play it many times, but there’s no saving, and the actions you take/mistakes you make dynamically influence the outcome of the game.  Of course, when I say “outcome of the game”, I really mean =plotwise=.  Otherwise, something as simple as Tetris would already be an example.  But no, wouldn’t it be interesting to have something like that?  Of course, you’d have to do some work not to make it feel like you’re just being put through a bunch of A/B choices here and there.  I’m not really sure what genre this would work best in, but FPS, RPG, adventure/point-and-click would all work.

Dear Esther” seems like it might be doing something really similar to what I’m describing here, though it’s not so much focusing on having the ability to make mistakes and still play through a meaningful game–instead it’s more about utilizing the interactive “explore the way you want” capability of a game to make each play unique in terms of the storytelling.  I’d try it, but I don’t happen to have Half-Life 2.  I’ve never actually even played Half-Life 2.  I’m hopelessly behind on contemporary gaming. =(

Now I know…

evim (vim’s “easy” mode) doesn’t work well if you can’t run vim in GUI mode, because if you’re in console, you can’t use ctrl+c, ctrl+z, etc.

emacs’ CUA mode works fine on stanford’s machines though.

honestly, I can’t judge *nix editors because I haven’t used them well enough.  I’m not sure I ever will, despite multiple camps claiming that i’m inefficient.  I don’t know if I can overstep the barrier–even if I do take the trouble to get used to them, it’s still bad because I’m doing everything else in “standard” editors.  It’d be like transitioning from colemak to qwerty…and back…each day.  Maybe I will sometime.  …maybe.

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then again, Visual Studio is the gaming industry standard.

HolyCrapNoPostsForFourDaysWhatIsTheWorldComingTo

Today was a day in which socialization was a big success.  I also skipped half of my classes, didn’t get much work done, didn’t really exercise, and am going to sleep really late.

Any day like that should be considered a big success.

Seasons

(no, not band seasons)

We all know (or, you -should- all know) that I like Winter more than the other 3 seasons by far, and that I’m not that fond of Summer.  But which season do you think best corresponds to me as a person?  Is it Winter?  Or perhaps Fall?  I doubt it would be Summer, and Spring is somewhat iffy too…

Due to stupid thinking on my part, the front cover screen (not main screen) of my cell phone is now scratched.  Boo…

I guess it’s okay though.  After all, my iPod and Nintendo DS are scratched up too.  It happens.

Commitment

If there’s one thing I have over most people, it’s that I’m pretty damn committed to what I set myself out to do.  My friend recently was talking about how always at the beginning of every quarter it’s like “Okay, this quarter I’m totally gonna be on top of things; I’m gonna go to bed early and get up at 7 AM everyday and eat breakfast and go for a jog before class”, etc etc etc, but then a few days pass and it’s obvious that it’s not really gonna happen.

But the thing is, I actually DO have success with the things I try to do.  That’s right–I’ve been doing letter-writing pretty much every day now since Spring quarter, not to mention a bunch of other things.  Of course, I probably may not reach ALL of my goals, but I’m going to make a really good effort and see what comes out of it.

Is it because I just have a better idea of what I’m capable of, so I don’t bite off more than I can chew?  No, I think it really is just because other people don’t commit themselves.

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So does it -bother- me that other people don’t commit themselves?  Well, most of the time no, but many times it does, because it means that people don’t hold up to their promises.  It’s no wonder, then, that I’m so cynical about the world–it’s disappointed me too much to think any other way.