Monday, 18 January 2010

How Gameplay and Narrative kill Meaning in "Games"

Introduction
In many of the posts here I have been discussing how having "unfun" gameplay can greatly enhance the experience. I have also ranted about how too much "fun" can completely destroy the intended experience. What I want to discuss now is how a game's most common ingredients might be detracting from certain kinds of experiences and are in some cases best gotten rid of. These ingredients are Gameplay and Narrative. It is my view that these two features can seriously get in the way when trying to take the interactive medium in new directions.

I also believe that using the word "Game" is holding back progress in certain areas. The reason for not using the word "Game" is that it comes with certain expectations, which I will go through below, and these can work against both user and creator.

This post will also explain a bit about the design and goals for our upcoming game Amnesia. Hopefully it will provide a bit insight into the game and explain some of the concepts and ideas that we are trying to accomplish. In Penumbra we put a lot of focus on the actual emotional experience and in Amnesia, we aim to take that thinking a step further.

To get things started I will first dive into something that lies at the heart of all artistic creations.

Meaning
In many people's minds, the word "meaning" probably provoke images of some hard-to-grasp piece of art with deeply hidden messages. That is not the sort of meaning I will discuss here though. Instead I am going to define it as the essence of all creations. When one make some sort of creative work there is always something that the creator wants to express with it. This can be to create a certain emotion, explore an idea, describe some events and countless of other things. It is this that I call "meaning". It can be shallow or very deep. It can be very obvious or extremely obscure. No matter its form, it is always there at the core of the work.

Different kinds of medium have different tools for expressing this meaning. When writing a book there are plenty of ways to do so (e.g. style and format) and the same is true for any other medium. When working in a medium a certain type of implementation is most often used because it will best express the intended meaning. This means that two works of fiction, using different implementations, can express the same meaning. For example, take the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This books tells a lengthy story, but its meaning is not the narrative but an explanation and exploration of Objectivism. The important thing here is that the story could be changed but the meaning, the essence of the work, would still be left the same. Further more, compare this with other non-fiction books written about Objectivism where the meaning can be very similar, but the implementation quite different.

Narrative
Basically, a narrative is a sequence of events and is (mostly) the building block for a story. I am aware that narrative, just like "meaning", does not have an exact definition and will therefore make it more precise in order to avoid confusion. When I say narrative, I mean a sequence of preplanned and connected events that have been laid out by a designer. The sequence can be branching and be told out of order, but it remains a narrative as long as the events have been purposely placed and in some way connect to one another. For many media, narrative plays a very large role. Pretty much all fiction books and movies use a narrative in order to express meaning and the craft of creating a narrative has been analyzed and evolved for a very long time.

Early games used the narrative structure to add more meaning, but mostly it was not connected to the interactive experience. Often the narrative was just inserted in between levels and had little to do with what the game played like. One of the first games that really connected narrative and interaction was Another World, where changes from cut scenes and gameplay where seamless. Also, most action that took place had relevance to the actual story. Since then the biggest step forward came with Half-life where the line between narrative and gameplay blurred to the point where the word "cut-scene" was not really applicable. Now the narrative was expressed without ever taking away the player's control and a great example of this was the opening sequence that told of events normally shown through non-interactive cut-scenes.

Half-life was released over ten years ago and there has not been many improvements since. In fact many games have actually not even started using the type of storytelling found in Another World and are still stuck at the level-to-cut scene-to-level-etc formula (While of course fine for some games, many could use the improvement).

Gameplay
Now yet another word needs to be defined in order to progress. When I say the word "gameplay" I will refer mechanics that have a goal. This means that mechanics on its own is not gameplay, but will become so when a goal is added to the mix. For instance, Mathematics is not a form of gameplay, but when a goal is added, such as solving a magic square, gameplay is created! Since a game can be defined as something that contains gameplay, this is the reason why I said that calling some interactive works "games" can be misleading and counter productive. More on this soon.

While gameplay are at the core of game making, it comes with a lot of baggage and makes certain meanings harder to realize in the medium. The most striking issue is the entire failure mechanism that is used in just about every game. You try a certain task, you fail and then have to repeat it. As described in other posts, this can be especially damaging in horror games, where repeating scenes seriously lessens the experience. This mechanism also impose limits on the player's rate of progress and effectively tells the player: "Either you complete this or you will not proceed!". Other baggage include the notion that gameplay must be fun and the need to constantly pose challenges. What I mean with the last point is that players assume that a game will always keep them occupied with some kind of obstacle to overcome. This leads to very little interactive content that is added for its intrinsic sake alone. Instead a game's interactive content almost always have some connection to the goals of the gameplay.

If gameplay has all this baggage, why is it used? The answer is simply that gameplay provides the same function an exciting story does in a narrative. It is an efficient way of keeping the player/reader hooked and engaged for the duration of the work. Also worth noting is that when a game does not have gameplay that is engaging enough, it almost always falls back on the narrative to keep the player hooked (as is the case in many adventure games).

To make myself clear here: I am not saying that gameplay is a bad thing. I am just saying that gameplay comes with certain issues and when applied to some meanings it leads to problems (such as the meaning to scare, which has been discussed extensively in this blog).

The Problem
Now to the heart of this matter and a discussion on what is wrong with all this. As said above, my main stand point is that having focus on narrative and gameplay is holding back interactive media's potential. It is now time to explain why I think this is so.

The main problem with a narrative is that it forces a linear experience and lessens the user interaction. It pressures that events should unfold, imposes a certain order on things and wants to keep a strict flow (e.g "prologue-middle-ending" and "character arcs") . These things work against the interactivity and freedom of the player. For instance, I have previously discussed how physics is very hard to add since players might mess things up and break the intended order of things set by the narrative.

Despite of this, there is currently a focus in games industry to combine gameplay and narrative. Perfecting this art seems to be some kind of holy grail. However, gameplay will never smoothly be part of a narrative and as noted by Jonathan Blow there is an inherent conflict between the two. Gameplay wants to give the player a challenge and sets up goals that needs to be overcome. A narrative wants to move things forward and is often highly dependent upon time and space. Simplified one can say that gameplay tells players to stay where they are and experiment, narrative presses the player onwards and wants them to obey commands.

This sort of conflict is highly obvious in games. Some examples are: making use of quick time events to fit certain events of the narrative (that does not work with gameplay), providing very linear paths and simplifying the mechanics. The end product is that either you focus on the narrative or you focus on the gameplay, making it impossible to be strong in both. This effectively weakens the amount of meaning that can be put into this combination and is why the market is filled with so many shooters and hack-and-slash games. Other types of meanings are simply not possible to pull off in this system.

Increasing focus on the narrative eventually creates a non-interactive medium. There are some very nice examples of narrative heavy games in Interactive Fiction (such as Photopia), but they all heavily cut down on the ability to control and interact (because of the problems listed above).

Gameplay by itself can also be used to created meaning and has been done so in games such as Gravitation. Again Jonathan Blow describes the problem in the lecture linked to above: when the mechanics are fitted for a certain meaning they might not work as a game and the slightest change will change the meaning. Obviously this approach works for some types of meaning (as in Gravitation), but it is very limited, especially if the game is supposed to engaging as well.

Interactive Experience
I am quite convinced (for reasons stated above) that there is a vast new world to explore if the interaction is in focus, instead of gameplay and narrative. Doing this is probably the only way to get away from having a majority of games that are just based on killing stuff. I am not against games with violence, but I think it is quite sad how overrepresented they are. Just check check the Game of the Year 2009 nominees from Gamespot - only two out of ten nominees did not have violence as the core experience. The two remaining on that list does not evoke much hope though, one of them is a car game and the other Sims 3 (although it was quite original 10 years ago). There really needs to be some change to this!

The first step is to get rid of the idea that a challenge is needed, at least in the way it works in today's games. This is why I said at the start that "game" is a bad word. Not only does it imply gameplay, but it also gives the idea that playing should be about winning. Because of this both user and creator have preconceptions of what a game experience is like. A user picking up a game will assume that there will be obstacles awaiting and the goal will be to overcome them. The creator will also assume that this is what the user wants and we got ourselves an "evil spiral".

Instead of having every challenge as a performance test, one can let the user just experience it. For example, navigating through dark tunnels can be creepy even if failure is not possible. All other media works this way and I do not see how the addition of interaction changes it. Just think about all of the horror games that does not have any player death in them and still manage to be scary (as discussed here). Just like when reading a book or watching a movie, there is a form of role playing going on and interactive works can use this as well.

Another way of overcoming the need of challenges is to have learning as a goal (discussed in a recent Gamastura article). An extreme example of this would be a "game" where players could skip a level at any time but was required to reach a certain degree of understanding in order to grasp later levels. Note that this would be far from what is expected of a game and I think many users would be very confused by the approach. This is another example why I think the word "game" simple does not fit (and is even greatly misleading!) for some interactive works.

As for skipping narrative, this does not mean that games cannot have stories. Instead it means that we need to rethink how stories are told. Many (sometimes most!) events in a narrative are there in order to express some kind of meaning. For instance, in a story about polar explorers some events might be needed in order to show how hostile and unforgiving the land at the poles are. In an interactive work, this can be accomplished through interaction with the environment, thus making these parts of the narrative unnecessary. What I am trying to get at here is that instead of replicating what is described in written form or shown on film, the focus should be on the meaning and how it is best expressed in an interactive format. I am convinced that goals like "creating a cinematic experience" are dead ends in terms of evolving the interactive medium.

Of course there is a still room for a narrative, but trying to copy the way it works in non-interactive media is wrong. The experience should be adjusted according to how the user interacts, instead of trying to control the user's interaction in accordance to the narrative.

I am not saying that gameplay and narrative should be skipped altogether. In some types of interactive works it might even be best to focus on them! But in order to be able to explore other kinds of meanings in the interactive medium, they cannot always be in focus. It is also important that we let go of some of the preconceptions that exist, both when "playing" and creating an interactive work. If not, we will miss out on a lot of rich and valuable experiences!

Some "games" like Everyday the same dream, Fatale and Dear Esther have begun experimenting with this sort of thinking, but I believe they are just barely scratching the surface of what is possible. This is especially true when it comes to using the power of interactivity, which the work listed are quite sparse with. Also, most works of this type have a certain avant-garde feel to them and I think it possible, and quite necessary, to use this way of thinking to create more mainstream works as well.

Our efforts
The above not only outlines a direction in which I think that "games" should evolve. It also describes a lot of the thinking we have had when designing Amnesia. As our project have progressed, we have moved more and more away from gameplay and narrative, instead focusing on the meaning we want to express. This does not mean that Amnesia will be absent of both gameplay and narrative though. It just means that they have been far from the focus during development. The goal (and meaning) with Amnesia is to create a disturbing atmosphere and expose players to concepts about the nature of human evil. All of the game's design has been built around enhancing these things.

Gameplay wise, we have never really thought about how we want to challenge the player, instead it has been all about creating a certain atmosphere and evoking emotions. No puzzle have been thrown in just to drag out on the playtime or just to pose an extra challenge. We have been very careful to make sure that puzzles have relevance to the story and the feelings we want to convey. The is also true for other gameplay elements, for instance how enemy encounters are handled.

There is a narrative in Amnesia (two separate actually), but instead of making an effort to have certain events at certain times, we have left it up to the player to explore and experience the story. In Penumbra we tried to make sure that the player could not miss certain plot elements, but we are taking a more "relaxed" attitude with this in Amnesia. The game is meant to be explored at a gentle pace and for the clues found to be carefully considered. We think this approach is more interesting instead of just spoon feeding all important information to the player. A vital aspect of the game is for the player to take a stance against things that are revealed and this is deeply connected with the way the game is played.

We are not suggesting that Amnesia is going to be a giant leap in the evolution of the interactive media, but believe that this way of thinking is a step the right direction. It remains to be seen if the finished game will benefit from it, but at least we are giving it a try!


43 comments:

  1. Thank you for this crystal clear analysis. I like how you distinguish meaning from narrative, and interaction from gameplay. Even if it's a bit counter-intuitive, we desperately need a terminology to discuss these things in.

    We do indeed need to explore the specific nature of our medium and avoid falling back on the old formats of cinema and games. And we need more people to do this. Because it's all very new and the potential is gigantic. So there's a lot of work to do. Thank you for trying! I also think that this is the key to the maturing of the medium and escaping from the nerdy niche in which games (though not cinema) is stuck.

    I'm not sure if this new medium needs to evolve out of the current videogames. There's a lot of valuable material in existing videogames already. But there is also a deep desire within the games audience and development community for games to be just/mostly/primarily games. And we can't deny that games can be very amusing. So an evolution of the interactive medium at the expense of games-as-games may not be desirable. Maybe we just need to think of it as something new.

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  2. I just wanted to note that there are some games, like Neverwinter Nights or (the classic) Fallout that are obviously games. However, those games where able to "drag" me into the story and i've been more busy with the story, the world, even the "message" than with gameplay. Looking back at them, they are also rather linear, however, they did not feel linear, at least not for me.
    You have mentioned a lot of valid points I totally agree, however I've been wondering if the ideas (or "mechanics") of those games i've mentioned couldn't be improved in some way to get further down the ideal of "a truely interactive medium", instead of trying to find completely new ways. What I mean is that I believe the "classic games" approach is not a dead end.

    On what you have revealed of Amnesia, I am now very excited because those ideas sound very convincing and seem to solve a bit of the problems i saw for myself with e.g. penumbra.

    Another thing is that personally I really love "exploration". I love running around that virtual worlds, exploring every tiny piece. This is not real gameplay, it isnt even very interactive though it obviously feels so. It's like reading the description of a world in a book, but in the order you like. You can come up with the "meaning" by yourself, while for a film, the director has to find the best pictures to communicate the idea.
    I think this is an important factor for good "games", which try to tell something.

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  3. There is a strand of art games that explores the expressiveness of the game structure. People like Rod Humble, Jason Rohrer and Jonathan Blow focus on this. I hope they will come up with something at some point.

    So that part is covered. What is far from covered, however, is the much greater area of digital entertainment outside of games. So I applaud Frictional's courage and ambition!

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  4. zerm:
    I also really liked Fallou and the world that it created. I do not think that games are dead-ends as such. However at its core, fallout is a game about killing stuff and a reason for that is because that is what a designer thinks needs to be in a game. I think that one need to take a step back and try to find new ways that a game can progress, for example just focusing on the world exploration that you mentioned. Much of the game mechanics can (and should!) remain, but the grand thinking should change.

    Also wanna point out that I think that simply evolving gameplay should continue, but right now that is what pretty much everyone is doing and there needs to be some more diversity!

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  5. Really interesting and well written!

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  6. Hello Thomas nice to ear that you guys are trying to be unique once again with your new game, but i must say that you guys need to build upon what you gained with Penumbra, if you change the new game in a new direction that completely alienates Penumbra fans it could be fatal, i'm all for new ways of "gaming" but theres a reason that only comes from free games or mods, is to risky for commercial. I sure you guys know this and i trust in your judgment.

    p.s . Sorry for my grammar English is not my main language.

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  7. Argoon:
    I think that we have kept the elements that people liked best, such as the ambience, detailed story and physical interaction, refined that and taken other parts of the design in new directions.

    It will definitely not be like with Requiem where we threw out what everybody liked :)

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  8. This post is making a straw-man argument. You're defining "narrative", "gameplay" and "game" in ways more restrictive than they are usually understood, and then pointing to the restrictions which you yourself have placed on the words as the reason for abandoning that terminology.

    Let's start from "narrative". Few would imagine that the story players help shape in a tabletop role-playing game is not a narrative, but that's exactly how you're framing the word. "Narrative" is something rigid and pre-cooked, and that's simply not what the word means. Ambitious developers are talking about making more interactive and nonlinear narratives all the time.

    And then "gameplay". Most people would say that the mechanics of a game are the gameplay, but you've arbitrarily decided that it doesn't "count" unless there's a goal involved. Then you criticize the idea of gameplay for requiring goals, when in fact you were the one who did that.

    And finally "game". The game Animal Crossing breaks all the rules you say are expected of a game, and yet it has not only been accepted as a "game" but has even become popular among gamers. In Animal Crossing you can keep going even if you fail every task, none of those tasks are challenging, and many of the tasks are tedious rather than "fun". If you were to be believed, games like Animal Crossing would not exist.

    But they do exist. There have been strategy games (like SimCity) without explicit goals for many years. There have been unchallenging games (like Nintendogs) for almost as long.

    I agree that these games are rare. But that's precisely why you should not stop calling them games! If you say that the majority of games out there are the only ones that deserve to be given the name "game", then you are doing two things and only two things:
    1. You are guaranteeing that gamers will dismiss your efforts as "not a game", rather than try to figure out how they can enjoy it. And in doing so, you are alienating the main audience for weird experiences. Basically, you're shooting yourself in the foot, assuming you want anyone to ever actually play your games.
    2. You are reinforcing the incorrect idea that there is only one kind of experience out there, and limiting the freedom of future game developers to make whatever kinds of experiences they want.

    There's no freedom to be found outside of games, because there isn't anything out of games. Gamers can be a tolerant bunch. You can break every single "rule" that has ever been stated by game developers, and still end up a big success both critically and commercially. It has been done, and it continues to be done. But that is only possible because there's no one saying "You can't do that in a game.".

    No one, that is, except you. Thanks a lot.

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  9. Mory:
    I think you are making a bit of a strawman yourself. The main point of this article was to explain that there is a lot of more "meaning" to be explored in games. Don't you agree that the market is flooded with shooters/slashers/bashers and that these types of games are what wins game of the year awards all the time?

    This article was an attempt of me to explain the lack of variety and to give some suggestion on what we should do in order to move in new directions. In order to do so I had to define some words and without that I could not possibly move on.

    Another large point that I wanted to make is that there should be more games made that started out with a meaning. Most games today first create their gameplay and then ad-hoc some kind of meaning around this. I want to see this made the other way around!

    To say that I want limit experiences is just wrong! Where am I saying this? If I am saying anything then it is that the game experiences we see today are extremely limited and could be vastly expanded. I argued that the name "game" is part of the problem. I do not argue that people cannot do what ever kind of game they like, because that is exactly what I am doing right now...

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  10. I understand that you're not trying to limit the kinds of experiences out there, but what you're aiming for and what will actually happen are two different things. There is not a market for things which declare themselves separate from games. There is a market for "games", a market which is so big and diverse that in it even new kinds of experiences can find an audience. If you try to sell new experiences to the games market with its terminology, you may find an audience. If you try to invent a new terminology and target an imaginary audience, you will not find it. Your work will exist, but it will be ignored and written out of what is considered "games". And without unusual games reminding people of the potential of interactivity, the publicly-accepted definition of "game" will become more limited just as your definition is limited here. And then there really will be no audience for the kinds of games you want to make.

    In short, "there's no place in games for us" is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more people listen to your message, the less patience they'll have for things that you don't call "games".

    So it is the way you separate yourself from the word "game" that I am objecting to. The rest of your philosophy I quite agree with and try to uphold myself. What you call "meaning" I call "primary content", and the first thing I consider when making a game is what that primary content should be like. Then I keep adding to it until I am satisfied, and only at the end of the process add "supporting content" to fill out the experience. The only place I differ from you in my ideals (rather than my terminology) is that I think rule systems can be primary content (especially in strategy games) and stories can be primary content (especially in adventures). But there are plenty of other things that can be the focus of a game: my current project is a movement game, so its primary content is its controls, and my next project is an exploration game, so the primary content will be world design. Other than the words we've chosen we're basically on the same wavelength.

    But words do matter.

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  11. And... home-run!

    Let's make a Call of Duty + Sims game! Where you have a squad of soldiers or better a whole base of them and they all "go social" on each other between missions!

    But seriously, I think that to get away from the predefined narrative game designers need to make sufficiently deep models of the real or imaginary worlds. Any sandbox game tries to do that in some way - a complex modelling with huge number of possibilities so that each player can create his unique story. Fixed narrative through cut-scenes is just cutting corners if you look at it that way.

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  12. I find your definitions helpful, though I do see Mory's concern. While there are games that have non-narrative story or non-gameplay mechanics, as Mory mentions, I find it clarifying to think about what's out there and what's possible in these terms, as it only makes these examples stand out even more for consideration.

    "For instance, in a story about polar explorers some events might be needed in order to show how hostile and unforgiving the land at the poles are. In an interactive work, this can be accomplished through interaction with the environment, thus making these parts of the narrative unnecessary."

    I really like this point. It gives me hope again that story and games (or notgames) can coexist harmoniously, as one, without either detracting from the other.

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  13. Mory:
    You make some good points about market and such. We at Frictional Games will not be calling Amnesia something other than a game when we release it. This is mainly because it will still be a game (just pointing out again that we are taking baby steps here and not pretending to start a revolution). But even if we did made something that was completely different, I think we would still market it as a game, because as you say there is not really a market for anything else.

    The main help with not calling it a game is for my own sake when designing. It makes me break free of some of the preconceptions playing games for almost 25 years have setup. It is a way for me to overcome bias. Of course, others might not see this as helpful.

    I think it can be helpful for players too though. For a recent example, just check the PR for Heavy Rain and how David Cage is saying again and again that "it might not be a game". I think this is because he wants players to approach it with an open mind and without certain expectations. Of course a lot of people could still enjoy it without this propaganda, but it will most likely help some.

    I do think that story, mechanics, etc can be the core meaning of a game. I really like a lot of those games (heck one of my fav games is God of War, which is super gameplay and narrative focused!). I just think that the horizon on what is possible needs to be widened. As I have said before, the core meaning of so many games is the mechanics. First the game is made fun through lots of play testing, then story and so on is added. I would like to see strong meanings first, like: "This game is about life in an Inuit village". And then just design the game to make that meaning come forward as strongly as possible.

    Finally, I just wanna add something about The Sims and Animal Crossing: These are very interesting concepts and would like to see them evolve more. What I would really like to see is a Sims that had some kind of story to it and instead of being a sort of virtual doll house it actually had a message of some sort at its core. And I think a way to do this is to step back and first think about the meaning and not get too stuck up on other stuff first.

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  14. Thomas, the great thing abount Fallout was that you even did not need to kill anything if you've built your character that way (ok, in den end you need others that get you others killed, but hey). I guess this is one reason, why this game was so great. However, all possible combinations of player decisions have been tested and carefully designed so you can't end up in a dead-lock, so i assume that this was quite hard.
    I hope the next big invention could be something that even extends this freedom, so players could choose even more freely and solve the problems possibly in ways that even the developers haven't thought of.

    I am a bit disappointed that after possibly more than 50 year of reasearch in the fields of artificial intelligence, we still do not get anything (NPC) for a game where you could interact more naturally. In most works of film or literature, drama, meaning is created or communicated by the interaction of different characteres. If this cannot be made really "interactive" for games as well, you have to resort to the non-interactive techniques and make just another game.

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  15. The explanation you provide for the term "meaning" is pretty much the standard, common-sense one, and therefore there's probably a lot of truth to it.

    This standard view takes meaning as a starting quantity to which one may or may not add narrative, gameplay, and so forth. Adding these elements may help convey the meaning to the audience, or it might hamper and interfere with the conveyance of meaning.

    But there are other ways to think about meaning which, while harder to grasp, might illuminate some of the issues you are exploring.

    This other approach does *not* assume meaning as a starting quantity that the creator wants to express, but instead as something that emerges out of the interplay between structure, form, theme, narrative, and other aspects of the work. In many cases the creator begins with an idea about form and structure and the theme of the work is *not* the primary, core meaning to which other elements are subservient.

    Take Bioshock, for example. It's clear from hearing Ken Levine talk about it that the core idea of this game is about the overlapping systems of player tactical and strategic choices. The theme of Objectivism is an element that contributes to and illuminates this underlying core. And the thing that makes the game so interesting is the complex interplay between this theme and the interactive system beneath it.

    So, yes, in some cases the creator starts with a theme they want to express or a particular emotion they want to evoke, and in these cases that stuff is the "cake" and the gameplay can be seen as "icing", a way of "keeping the player/reader hooked and engaged". And in these cases it makes sense to talk about scaling that down and focusing on the cake.

    But in many cases the formal qualities of the interactive system *is* the cake. And in these cases it doesn't make sense to talk about the gameplay interfering with the meaning or to recommend scaling back on the gameplay.

    For me, it is this aspect of games that is most interesting - the ways in which the formal qualities of the interactive system are not ingredients in service to the work's meaning but are instead the inextricable and essential heart of the work's meaning. Looking at games in this way requires re-thinking some our standard assumptions about meaning and expression. I think this requirement is not just a difficult challenge but a tremendous opportunity.

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  16. Franz:
    I totally agree that it is really nice when the gameplay creates a "deeper" meaning and brings everything together. A recent example for me was Osmos, where I really felt that I acquired a deeper understanding of momentum, energy and even life (in a sort of way) while playing. I think that it is worth exploring things like this!

    However, for many meanings, focusing on gameplay can be very distractive. We actually started out new project by focusing on the gameplay and trying to make that the core. This approach failed and it was not until we took a step back, considered the meaning of the game and then focused on that when all came together. I think this is true for many other kinds of meanings and that using a sort of meaning-first approach can be very fruitful and is not something that is very common in the industry.

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  17. You have a point, Frank, and I wish more game designers would actually take what you say a lot more seriously. But sadly, the games that allow meaning to grow out of the interplay of rule systems and interaction are as rare as the ones that try to express a given idea.

    I also don't think that "meaning" needs to be seen as such a solid thing. In our practice at Tale of Tales, we also always start from the content and build the form around it. But this content is not as simple as an emotion or an idea that we want to express. It's more like a question, more like asking "what would it feel like if I were that person in this situation" for instance. The game, then, does not really express anything as such, directly. It becomes a tool for the player to fantasize and invent all sorts of "meanings".

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  18. Thomas, what's the difference between a pre-written by script writer kind of story and a story made by player through his actions? You seem to imply that the second case somehow does not have a story at all.

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  19. infidel:
    The reason I had to be so specific on narrative, is that it can mean pretty much the same as a story, something that I did not intend. I think that a story can come from just about anything, for example I think that playing a round of civilization will end up becoming story.

    In the text, I specifically mean the type of narrative that is written out in a script and this should not be confused with the more general "story".

    I know this has confused some people and I should perhaps have written differently. But the main point is that narration as I define it is what most games, that try to add a complex meaning and story, use. And it is the usage of this that is in the way of using the full extent of the interactive medium.

    Hope that made things make more sense :)

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  20. Thomas:
    In screenwriting there is a distinct difference between plot and narrative: the plot is the linear sequence of events leading from the beginning to the end; the narrative is the story as experienced by the viewer, what unfolds on the screen. There are many examples in cinema of a film that begins somewhere other than the beginning of the story.

    I think you may solve a lot of the arguments about your comments on "narrative" if you replace it with the word "plot" instead. In an interactive game, just as with an improvised theatre performance, narrative can emerge from nothing, but a plot is always pre-written.

    Thank you for this and all your other articles, I find them very enjoyable to read!

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  21. Anonymous:
    Thanks for the info! Did not know that! Always better to use definitions that are agreed upon that making up me own :P

    Not gonna change this post, but will probably start using the word "plot" in the future. I just need to learn to use it, since to me "plot" is the sequence of events at a very high level (like "guy goes to greenland, finds strange base"). But now I need to rethink that.

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  22. Thomas:
    Oh, now I see that you specifically meant predefined story/plot. Yes, in that case I agree with you and my earlier point about deeper and more interesting models still holds.

    I remembered something that might be useful - Chris Crawford (the legendary one) went into a deep recluse somewhere in the nineties to produce a tool that would enable an author to make fully interactive storyworlds with human emotions, drama and stuff. Quick googling shows that thing here - http://www.storytron.com/
    I haven't tried it myself yet, so no idea how good it is at modelling.

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  23. Great post - a good blog all told, and thanks for supporting Linux =)

    I guess you can play with curiosity: people do like exploring, finding things out. The trouble is that if you want to let them truly interact you need either better AI than has ever been known or a world utterly devoid of characters. How can you talk about humanity without humans?

    There are two kinds of "horror" really - one is "psychological horror", playing on subconcious fears. In Dear Esther the narrator's descent into madness is disturbing enough to make it a frightening experience. It's thus the sort of thing that can easily be achieved in games: indeed, games are particularly well suited to it.
    The other plays on the fear of death or pain or failure. Trouble is to make the player afraid of these things they need to be possible, and what happens when the character dies? What happens if you fail?

    In my opinion too few games properly ***k with your head - just my 2 cents.

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  24. I think it might be worth noting that the definition of narrative used in the article is, I think, in need of a bit of refinement. As it stands, I think the definition is misleadingly vague, and weighted unfairly in support of the argument; that is, that a narrative (as a pre-defined, intentionally connected series of events) runs counter to 'gameplay', which involves the overcoming of obstacle.

    The problem as I see it is this: the overcoming of an obstacle is a trope that is inherent to narrative. To say that a connected series of events constitutes a narrative would imply that my day so far (got up, had shower, took cat to vet, went to work, ate lunch, prevaricated online...) constituted a narrative. But without a driving force presented in the form of opposition, of an obstacle to be overcome in the attainment of a goal, a connected series of events is merely a report, rather than a narrative, a story. If I were to say 'I have a huge deadline to meet, and my cat's exploded - I have to get to the vet's right away, but still find a way to make my deadline' then this is a rudimentary (i.e. crap) story, because it sets up a tension in need of resolution: how will the obstacles be overcome in order to attain the stated goal(s).

    One knows when one is involved in a narrative, as opposed to a simple series of events, because a narrative creates an appetite in its perceiver that needs to be satisfied; if it isn't a(n effective) story, we feel okay with walking out half-way through. Quoth Spotty Teen in the Simpsons: 'Wait! I need closure on that anecdote!' We know we are in a story because we suffer an appetite that, when satiated, announces the story's end. If Moby Dick continued beyond the return of Ishmael to dry land, this would be extraneous to the narrative, as the obstacle (the great white whale) has been defeated, albeit at the expense of the Pequod and it's crew. We are satisfied, and wish for no more.

    In this sense, a narrative is a form of gameplay; what differs is the level of interactivity. The problem arises from the level of control that the storyteller may wield within an interactive setting; while a film, novel or comic can guide the reader and forestalls any (non authorial) attempts to deviate from the pursuit of resolution, a game, by its very nature, cannot do this easily (Half Life, for example, effectively created a *feeling* of freedom, while being highly linear in construction, which can only have added to its success). MMORPGs are successful partially because, the way I see it, they offer the ability for their participants to create their own narrative - in a sense, the game provides the language, or the various building blocks from which a narrative can be constructed, rather than seeking to impose a narrative on the reader.

    This is not to say that I think non-goal oriented games aren't worthwhile; in fact, I found what was said about Amnesia and the other games mentioned very exciting, and has made me re-think my own approach to gaming. But I think the nature of a narrative needs to be more fully explored, and that this will only bring benefits. Maybe an examination of the potential of seeing a game as a language from which to construct narrative (perhaps akin to D&D gaming) would bear fruit?

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  25. Shaun:
    I think that you make some good points! I agree that a narrative needs some kind of goal (or perhaps "conflict" is better to say?) in order to make an interesting one. So my definition might be a bit dry.

    Many games do use gameplay as this kind of goal and that is exactly why we have the kind of stories that we do in today's games (ie about killing stuff). The reason is that when the gameplay is used a driving force, it limits what kind of conflicts can be used in story.

    This is why it is so important to explore "games" without gameplay, because it opens up to alot of different goals!

    I also want to make clear, that when taking this direction, the game can still be goal-oriented, but not in some kind gameplay mechanism way but instead it can be emotional, story, or something else.

    While I would love to see roleplaying like games (where a game master constructs a narrative as the characters play, given some basic plan) I do not think this is possible for quite some time. I also do not think the future must be that the player create her own story. Instead, I think the first basic steps would just be to get away from demanding that games have "gameplay" and just focus on expressing some kind of meaning.

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  26. Thomas:
    Cheers, glad you think so! I guess the point you make is that it's rather the nature of the conflict being utilised in modern games that is unappealing, or at least dreadfully repetitive and predictable...

    It seems to me that there's been very little advancement with games on this front, at least as concerns the mainstream. I gather that casual gaming is rapidly becoming the most profitable (and therefore, almost by definition, the most populated) market, and while this gives some room for innovative conflicts (Plants Vs. Zombies springs to mind), they remain in essence very similar to what went before. That is, light on story, and heavy on immediate gratification - perhaps even moreso than the old, single player style, which at least required a nod towards a plot to justify the ensuing action. Pick-up-n-play makes little such requirement.

    I have to admit, I personally have a soft spot for Oblivion, simply for the freedom it allows the player. However, even this has limits - it's impossible for the player to define their own goals, only to chose between the (admittedly extensive) alternatives presented by the designers.

    The concept of a freeform game isn't impossible - I remember a game I played when I was a kid (and would love to play again) which featured a stockpile of random gadgets and gizmos (balloons, a revolver, a mousetrap, a candle, a book, a desktop fan, and so on, and so on) - just random junk. The player could assemble this stuff in any manner they chose, much like the insane contraptions in the classic Warner Bros toons. The pleasure lay in seeing how the assemblage worked, seeing if all the parts actually worked as intended. The joy lay in that objects like the book could interact with other objects in unpredictable ways - the candle could set it aflame, the fan would ruffle the pages if it faced the right way, and so on, and so on. It's literally chaos: from simple, well-defined objects, unpredictable behaviours emerge. But still this isn't a story, any more than the weather's a story. As such, the game suffered from the same problem as Simcity and, to a lesser extent, the Sims: with no pre-defined endpoint, the only 'goal' (i.e. the eventual stopping point or conclusion) was player boredom. This is, frankly, unsatisfying when compared with the structural tension and resolution of a narrative arc well-handled.

    The most interesting points for me are where games are begin to blend with actual narrative storytelling, when a game becomes a vehicle for a story, rather than vice versa - whether this be through total immersion via minimalistic interfacing.

    Shadow of the Colossus is the example of such games I would choose. Shadow featured a wonderfully simple - as opposed to simplistic (*cough* Doom 3 *cough*) - story, and *involved* the game design in the storytelling. (SPOILER 'LERT) The Colossi were so designed that, in destroying them, the player's sense of accomplishment was set up against an ephemeral sense of wrongdoing. The colossi were, on the whole, innocent, in tht they either ignored the player, responded to the threat the player presented, or obeyed their apparently natural inclincations in attacking him; there was no *real* malice in them, as there always is with orcs or hellknights. This built tension, which was resolved by the game's twist ending, which revealed that the player's underlying sense was correct, and that the immediate goal (destruction of the Colossi) was, in fact, the wrong thing to do. Tension, release: excellent minimalistic storytelling.

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  27. (sorry, overshot the character-count...)

    For me, this sort of gaming is very interesting, as it sets up a counter against the typical methodology of gaming (attack, kill, move on), even as it rewarded the player with advancement. In this way, the medium - the interactivity of the game itself - was involved in the story, and the game imparted a subtle lesson of non-violence.

    Again, not to say that non-goal oriented gaming would necessarily fail - but I think such games need to present an opportunity for players to define their own goals, or accept that they must be story-driven; otherwise the eventual loss of player interest may well be the ultimate cut-off point for play.

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  28. There's nothing else in the games but gameplay. When you explore the caves, even if it's impossible to die, you still have a goal - to get to the exit. In every game there's at least one goal - to finish it. Without that it's, yes, some "interactive experience", a virtual encyclopedia which you can open or close at any time, and look at any entry. Encyclopedias are full of meanings - there's one for every word, but I believe that's not what you strive for.
    Also, rudeness of the link itself aside, read this: http://insomnia.ac/commentary/massage_my_ass
    I believe the "message" Alex mentions is the same as your "meaning".
    Also, I think your post would be a ton more useful and respectable if you gave some example of HOW are you going to create a disturbing atmosphere, and especially show us the concepts of the nature of human evil without gameplay or narrative? Apart from those caves you mentioned. Does it mean that evil comes from the caves?

    You may be interested that I found this post through the link at Tale of Tales's site, though I knew about your company before and briefly played your previous works.

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  29. Shaun:
    I also love Shadow of the colossus for so many reason, but the favorite thing is probably the experience of traveling to these colossi and experiencing them. I also agree that there where a lot of conflicting emotions when defeating a colossus, which felt really special. My pick for best game of last decade.

    Chentzilla:
    Good point about gameplay! I should probably say "short term goal" with an additive quality to it. That might not be true for all mechanics though, so any definition is bound to fail. What I meant in the text was "short term goal" though, hopefully things a slightly clearer with that in mind :)

    As for how to create horror atmosphere, I did not have space to dig into that + can not spoil the upcoming game :P Also, Amnesia will not be without gameplay and narrative. What we have done is to stop thinking in terms of creating a laid out story and some fun gameplay to keep the player busy. Instead we have focused on creating a certain experience. Sorry I cannot be more clear on this right now, but perhaps this discussion on creating horror is of some interest:
    http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2009/06/fun-in-horror-games.html

    I agree though, always better to come with ideas than just nag. However, in this point I mainly just wanted to highlight the problem and suggest a new way of thinking (which is a tiny bit help in the right direction perhaps?).

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  30. Seems this discussion sheds more light on the fact that it's difficult to find an agreed upon definition of the word "gameplay". Gameplay is used differently by a lot of game journalists, academics and especially industry people. If I recall correctly, it was Ernest Adams who wrote about gameplay being the activities of the player (or "what the player does"), which is an okay definition, although not overly helpful to us.

    Regarding your ideas of providing experience-focused game design, Thomas, I agree that is an underexplored area, since it has not gained commercial widespread success, even if the approach is by no means new (see Facade and the already mentioned Storytron along with the entire debate on Interactive Fiction/Interactive Narrative).

    What is interesting to me about it is the many very different methods of improving the interactive experience by stepping away from the formula you describe. The attempts in themselves have given birth to a lot of very interesting and different game designs:
    The Void, our own Prom Queen, Facade etc all use very different approaches to deviate from that conventional set of rules for failure and success: No one forces a restart or stops time as soon as the player fails a task (which also opens up to another very interesting design: the player may not know what the "correct" option is - hidden agendas). The player is free to continue acting within the game space. The problem quickly arises that production becomes more demanding, since the world still needs consequences (in order to provide experienced meaning), and the game space needs to acknowledge the effects of those actions in the future. We make it easy on ourselves when we kill the player and tell her "You fail, do it again!". If we disregard consequences, the risk is that we are designing an interactive movie. While this is underexplored as well, for the purpose of reaching beyond the current state, we are back to step 1.

    I am looking forward to seeing this movement advance into new areas and especially to see how the approach works coupled with Frictional's experience of horror game development.

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  31. Jakob:
    I think the discussion of consequences is really interesting as many might consider it the core of interactivity. Why have interaction when there I cannot change anything?

    For my part, I do not think that consequences are needed at all. Being focused on that all actions must in some way shape the world, can actually be harmful for some meanings. For example, if the meaning of a game is to have a certain goal (e.g. driving the protagonist mad) then having too many consequences might detract from this. A player could still have freedom in a game like this though and I would not call it an interactive movie. For example, take a the game Fatale, where there are no consequences, yet I would hardly say it is an interactive version of a movie. Also, most adventure games have no consequences either and are in a simplified form just an interactive exploration of a plot. Yet, they feel very much as a game (and not an interactive novel/movie).

    Just so I am clear, I agree with pretty much everything you say, but I just think it could be harmful to say that something is needed in order for it to be a game. When the focus is on expressing a meaning, I think all should be fair as long as it expresses the meaning as good as possible. Perhaps consequences lie at the hard of the experience and perhaps it does not.

    Two other small thoughts on this:

    - I think it is fair to fool the player that something is a consequence of a previous action when in fact it was predetermined. Giving the sense of actions having consequences is what I think matters.

    - Consequences can be very local and not affect the game as a whole. For example, when choosing between two different answers in a conversions, each will give a different reaction and this can be thought as a form of consequence. Perhaps choosing some answers might close of some other discussion, thus making it a very real consequence. This would not have any major consequences on the game as a whole though, but just add to the immersion.

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  32. On the subject of consequences, however, I think it is important for the player to feel effective. Take Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, there were rankings and such that one could achieve, but with the exception of another added cutscene at the end, the actual result was—as far as I know—beyond the control of the player.

    That game had a sanity system and one goal of gameplay was to reduce one’s exposure to disturbing imagery—and thus receive a better ranking. But given that, one should be able to gain other endings than the one presented. It makes the player feel less like a decision-maker and more like a viewer.

    One can make a game with such constraints, but it’s important to allow the players to have choices which make a difference. I remember earlier blog entries saying that choice is a bit of a buzz word in the industry and that games—or interactive art—truly rely on establishing constraints. But I think we now see that this is only partially true and that some degree of choice—within established limits—is necessary for an interactive experience.


    I personally look on ideas such as branching storylines as an important tool in games. Your choices matter and make a difference; you can affect the world. This is, I think, what separates games from film or books.

    At the same time, realise that this is from a very particular perspective. I'm a part of a game development team on campus, and last night I had an interesting discussion with another member. We have very different criteria by which we judge games. He plays shooters and Real-time strategy games and prefers for the gameplay to be the center. His opinion of Plants v. Zombies was that it had a very simple, uninventive, and/or unchallenging model of tower defense.

    I prefer role-playing games and such and generally look more towards the content and away from the gameplay. Participating in a story, making decisions, developing a character, enjoying the atmosphere, or exploring a world are things which appeal to me.

    For instance, we spoke of Bioshock, and he noted that the gameplay suffered because of the lack of consequences for death-- rejuvenation in a Vita Chamber-- but noted the excellence of the story and game production. I hadn't really noticed the gameplay aspect at all, and that was relatively minor to me, as I focused on the rich world that was created.

    Similarly, the combat system of Morrowind was criticized as not being very fun, but I barely noticed since there was a huge world for me to explore and a character to develop in any way I choose.

    I wish to make further note that, as I'm sure you've acknowledged, the direction in which you see games needing to go is but one path, and that different gamers look for different things in games.

    It truly relies on what one wants to experience and what one's expectations are. Take Silent Hill, I went into those games with the expectation of immersion and horror, and I've never though to complain about the combat system-- to me it could be even more unwieldy and I'd be happy-- but if someone was expecting a shooter and found that combat was not the crux of the game and not very "lay waste to thousands," then they'll notice and criticize that more.

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  33. Very interesting article I agree with your definition of game/gameplay. That there is certain expectations from players and creators with these. Game says conflict it says competition. I like the idea of games not always having to be about confict, but can be about conveying some message or emotion.

    I dont agree with those that have said you must call your a game a game because there is no market for anything else. That perhaps is part of the problem. People did say there was no market for a machine with a wandy controller thing and fitness games(its not a game), or software where you do maths questions.

    The market is not a rigid thing and there is plenty of untapped potentional for new markets, especially in the current calcified, inward looking games industry. All it can take for someone to see something differently is for it to be described slightly differently.

    Interactive fiction perhaps?

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  34. I like what Michael Samyn says above about inventing meaning, but i would take it a step further - i would say that games act as mirrors, reflecting our own meaning back to us. Regardless of what we put into it, players get their own meaning out of the games they play. Often times it will resemble our or other's meaning, but that's not so important.

    Games provide an opportunity for players to come face to face with themselves - what decisions they make and why. It's easier (and more commercially viable) to release those decisions in small doses, and frame them in a context of our own story, but this undercuts the potential of games. The more collaboration between the player and the game, the more meaning develops. I think that this has some very real implications for game design, but i am far (far FAR) from having any sort of prototype ready, and it's too easy to say "well, just make a game like this!"

    Nice post. Nice comments, too.

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  35. Hmm, interesting article. I personally believe that narrative is the most important element but the narrative should grow from and be constantly defined by the meaning the designer wants to express otherwise the separation will lead to a disjointed end product.

    I'm incredibly biased in this regard since I'm a "story beats everything" kind of person, I've finished many a godawful game and watched many a 'used to be awesome but now is awful' tv show purely to see what happened in the story. Focussing entirely on meaning could well lead to a product that looks like "developer being pretentiously arty with his head up his arse" software, much the same as focussing entirely on story can lead to "Oh so I get control of my game again for 5 minutes?" software.

    Probably the biggest problem is that we're all different. Many people would say that story doesn't matter at all as long as there's gameplay and the number of games where story is interchangable, cliched or simply nonexistant but which are nevertheless good examples of their genre is proof that it works. Is Space Invaders an inspiring tale of "Horatio At The Bridge" heroism or simply the perfectly distilled elements of a atavistic 3rd person shooter?

    I don't think that narrative necessarily needs a meaning to be effective but I do think that a meaning requires a strong and tightly scripted narrative to convey the nuances or it'll be open to interpretation and thus not be A MEANING (specific) but a THEME (general). Braid is an excellent example of this, the meaning wasn't communicated with as much clarity as it could have been and lacked reenforcement so when the storybooks started talking about the atomic bomb tests, the internet was abuzz with arguments over the meaning of it, was it a clever allegory or the developer trying to sound clever with pretentious crap.?

    When both elements work in tandem you get particularly strong end product. Planescape Torment is an example of it being done right. The meaning was stated several times through the game but not overdone and both the core meaning and the supporting elements periodically reenforced so as long as you paid attention the whole thing kept a solid structure, maintained a coherent narrative (depending on who you talked to, it IS set in Sigil), never lost sight of its meaning and objectives and had jennifer hale to voice a hot succubus. End result: One of the best games ever made.

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  36. @Aliasalpha

    The thing about Torment is that it doesnt just have one meaning. Its like the difference between the sensates and godsmen. You can play the game without much knowledge and just have it as very little meaning you may not understand it at all but you can still sort of get a good experience out of it.

    But if you understand the character and the story then you know the path that he must take, and you Roleplay his character as it is supposed to be. You can have many paths with different or no meanings but only one has the true meaning.

    I didnt particularly like, Braid. The story appears to have no connection to the gameplay, you might as well not have a story. I ignored it as the elements of it were outside the parts that were mildly enjoyable and they were just too cryptic to make any sense.

    I think when people say the like games with stories, they mean they like the act of unlocking it, of being a part of it, the feel of being in an adventure, as those are the things which it offers that other media does not.

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  37. I must say, I am superbly impressed to hear this in-depth discussion of the purpose behind narrative fiction/gaming fiction and how there is a more crucial layer beneath which is the supreme reason behind the work, if you will. So many things, fiction, film, and game alike, ignore adding in those deeper layers, and the entertainment industry as a whole suffers as a result.

    I saw someone mentioning Fallout as a good example. I'd also like to add Planescape: Torment, which, I felt, had even less "gameplay," at least in the sense of fighting, than Fallout did, but I still adored exploring the world and talking to the variety of interesting characters, slowly shaping an understanding of who my character was and what happened to him as I went.

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  38. Quote from article:

    "The most striking issue is the entire failure mechanism that is used in just about every game. You try a certain task, you fail and then have to repeat it. As described in other posts, this can be especially damaging in horror games, where repeating scenes seriously lessens the experience."

    This stood out to me, I agree. But I'm left wondering, if this is how you feel, why do you design your own games in exactly this manner? In your games you often have insta-death results if one fails at a certain task, like carrying an unstable explosives mix, running from a big worm, falling through a vent, etc.

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  39. MadVillain:
    In the past we have tried to avoid instant death scenarios and instead had events where it is very likely that the player lives through if they act properly (as in take all hints into account and so on). There are some points where this is untrue, like the steam puzzle in Overture (which is more of a classical platform obstacle). However in most cases, especially in Black Plague, we tried to make sure that it was easy for the player to get away, but at the same time make it very dangerous so that players felt they had to be careful. It is a very thin line here and I do not think we succeed on all occasions.

    For Amnesia, there has been even more thought into this and while we (at least I :) ), still believe in having "real" dangers, we want to make sure that there is minimum amount of replay. One of the design choices have been to make sneaking easy (and not as in Overture where it could be very hard) and focus more on the player being alert and making the actual experience of hiding exciting. By easy I mean that if you made the _right_ moves, make the wrong moves things will become difficult.
    Another choice we added is that you do not die in the normal sense. Instead we awaken the player at a certain point and then change the map a bit. So the player will never repeat the action but is instead forced to face something different and thus maintaining the fear. It is not perfect as there are some loss of immersion and we are spending a lot of time on tweaking it!

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  40. Just want to say first, that it's great you're so easy to get in touch with, and that you explore game ideas to the depth you obviously do. Then also share your thought process with your fans, I wish all developers were like this!

    About the couple (two, was it?) worm chases (it chasing me) in Overture, I have to say, even though on one of them it took me a few tries, it was a heart-pounding experience (which is a good thing). It probably wouldn't be as intense if I knew I couldn't die? It's definitely a thin line between that balance of making things not dangerous enough, and making it too hard/causing some replaying...

    Recently I started playing Black Plague, after finishing Overture, and by the way, so far Black Plague is much scarier :D Now I think of Overture as sort of an introduction to your series (and of course it literally is) and a way to learn how to play your games, Black Plague starts off with more of a bang.

    There was one point, early, where I was in a vent and had to use a couple of boards to get across a section, I guess this is one example of what you mean when you say it's easy for the player to get away/survive. I actually died one time, but in hindsight, there was many signs of the warning, even something like "watch your step" (not quite, but something similiar), written on the wall. Actually here, maybe there might have been too much warning, making the player not use his brain enough, rather just following directions?

    For me, in Overture, there was only a couple of really annoying things, one of them was the steam puzzle you mentioned, hehe. But, when I stopped for a second, used what little is in my brain, it was actually easy. So again, like you said, make the right moves, easy, wrong moves, difficult. But I guess you could say that about almost anything, in life too.

    The other annoying part, more so, was carrying the explosive, and highly unstable mix. This because it was difficult to judge how close to a wall, or other obstacle it was, while jumping around on the pillars, so it would sometimes snag on something, even though it looked like it wasn't actually near at all.

    What you say about Amnesia sounds very good, it's actually something I thought about doing for my own game as well, so if the player enters a room, sets something in motion and dies, because he didn't make the right moves, when he came back to the room to try again, something different would happen, or maybe nothing would happen at all. I thought about having 3-4 random events. Always keep the player on his toes.

    I'll be commenting more, I'm busy now, reading all your articles, hehe.

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  41. I must know more about this.

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  42. If you want a story with "meaning", then read a friggin' book. Video games with storylines are overrated anyway.

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  43. I'm going to keep calling them games anyway just for heritage sakes (like the people in South USA that still use Confederate flags).

    Anyway, that was a good read.

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