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Letters To The Editor: Risk, Clicks, and Dragons

Gamasutra has recently had further interesting feedback to some of our notable features and opinion pieces, as collected through our
September 21, 2006
Gamasutra has recently had further interesting feedback to some of our notable features and opinion pieces, as collected through our Letters to the Editor, so here's the second weekly roundup, with some of the reactions you might've missed. Click through on each link (free reg. req.) for the full Letter. Lionhead and Climax game design veteran Tadhg Kelly once again writes in to further the discussion kicked off with his original letter on game worlds attracting players versus game characters. This time though, he responds to Earnest Adams' recent response to Kelly in which he said, "It's time for people to quit asserting that there's One Right Way to implement interactive stories for all players. Not all players want the same things; not all genres need the same things. And I certainly don't want what he thinks is the One Right Way." Kelly rebuffs the opinion: "You know, it really isn't. It's time for people to stop with the endless appeal to the wiggy and the "with this interactive entertainment we could craft such wondrous dreams like as if you're really there" fantasy because in reality it hasn't worked out that way. There are plenty of videogames stories that have worked just fine and all of them have followed the baubles and rewards line. Grim Fandango, Wing Commander, Final Fantasy VII and so on are all a part of that same idiom. [...] One of the easiest and laziest things for designers to do is reach for the stars. It is very very easy to blab on about genre and different solutions for different contexts, and the mysteries of the form and Don't You Tell Me What I Think and so on. But good design is about understanding what doesn't work, what the natural constraints of the form are, and so forth. " Michael Gersten comments on our recent feature 'The Importance Of Risk In Game Design' with what he felt were two illustrative examples of well-designed risk: MicroProse's X-Com series and Magic: The Gathering, and points out just why each risk was meaningful: "Both of these alternate a "downtime" where you are doing "non risky" decision making (which in both cases is some form of resource management/allocation), followed by a risky activity. Here, loss meant loss of time, but not loss of game -- and, while any loss was harsh ... the expected cost of a loss was less than the expected value of a play -- you were either expected to win more often than you lost (xcom), or win more value than you lost (magic)... Both games had a concept of a permanent loss that threatened to creep up on you -- with XCom, you could lose governments and funding; with magic, you could lose cities and lifepoints. A few of these wouldn't hurt, but enough of them would kill you." Tom Auger writes in regarding our 'Too Many Clicks! Unit-Based Interfaces Considered Harmful' feature with a firm belief that scripting, rather than issue-order-clicking might be the best way to move forward in the RTS: "For the last half-dozen years, I've believed that the true innovation in RTS would be the ability to "script" unit behaviours, enabling units to behave in a semi-autonomous fashion, eliminating tedium and elevating the game to a new meta-level of strategic play. In many ways, as Phil points out, a much more realistic control model, analogous to the way chains of command work in real life. What always caused me the most trepidation is an issue of bias. Am I, a programmer and a lover of logic, biased in my belief that such an innovation would, in fact, be "fun" to our gaming audience?" To sum up, he asks other Gamasutra readers, would non-programmers be able to get as much from this hypothetically scripted RTS? Submit your own letter to let us know. Finally, the pseudonymous 'epobirs' writes in to add another dimension to the recent editorial on Microsoft's Xbox 360 experiences in Japan. He notes, among other comments: "[The Sakaguchi-created Xbox 360 game] Blue Dragon may be hampered by a limited installed base in Japan but the game stands to easily surpass a million units sales in North America if it comes even close to fulfilling its promise. Getting games like this for the Xbox 360's western audience is critical to taking marketshare from Sony. The complete lack of support for this and other distinctly Japanese styles of game design were a major setback for the original Xbox in attempting to compete with the Sony PS2."

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