Player choice in game[play] design (ex: vision modes)

#1 Edited by darkknight9174 (225 posts) -

In a lot of games, the game is designed to be played in a certain way. Certain areas of the game require stealth as they are basically impossible to do any other way. In other areas, being stealthy is impossible. With this approach though, the designer can do a very good job at producing the exact type of "fun"/feel that they want, making it a very polished experience. The designer can also choose to make the game in a way such that a player could choose to approach a given situation in a number of different ways, which is great for players who don't always want to have to walk down a specific path or be stealthy in a particular part, but often the experience ends up being half-baked for all the ways that you play it and just doesn't feel as "focused" or polished. Do you prefer more choice with a less polished experience or fewer choices with a very "focused" experience? Do you think that it is reasonably possible to give the player lots of choices while still providing a "focused" experience without basically remaking the game over for each different playstyle?

Below I provide an example of player choice in games.. vision modes:

While night vision, etc. in games like Splinter Cell are cool and all, does anyone else find it annoying that in some games the use of a vision mode, like detective vision in Batman for example, is almost required to play the game effectively? For example, in the Batman games, yes you *can* choose to not use the detective mode, but then you make certain areas artificially difficult. For some people this isn't an issue.. if they don't want to use a vision mode they just don't use it and see the increased difficulty as just another challenge.

However, for me, I am bothered that although I have the option to not use <insert vision mode>, in many games the artificial difficulty that comes from choosing *not* to use <insert vision mode here> is not enjoyable. [Most] developers design games so that the game plays a specific way, and that way is tweaked and tailored to be enjoyable. However, if you are playing something like Splinter Cell for example and don't want to have to view the entire game through a washed out green filter, you are pretty much just going to be walking around in the dark bumping into people or walking down the length of the hallway feeling around for a keypad. Do you have that choice? Does it provide a new level of difficulty? Sure, but not in a way that is enjoyable. A better way would be to design the gameplay such that the game provided a different, but *still enjoyable* experience if a player decides he or she doesn't want to play through the whole game in green or blue screen mode. For example, in Splinter Cell, you could choose not to use the night vision goggles in certain parts, but the level/area would be designed in a way that you could still play a part stealthily, albeit in a different but not necessarily difficult way.

I am aware that a lot of games are much better at this these days, but it is still an issue. I haven't played it yet, but from what I understand Splinter Cell: Blacklist actually did a very good job making sure that you can both a) play the game in multiple different ways and b) that the game still provides a similar experience/similar amount of entertainment regardless of the play style you choose (as opposed to trying to do a stealth only run on Splinter Cell Conviction, which I'm pretty sure is impossible).

#2 Posted by mastermetal777 (1719 posts) -

One solution: give the option to turn it off without sacrificing what makes the gameplay work.

#3 Posted by EPICCOMMANDER (587 posts) -

Sort of related to player choice is when a game gives you the illusion of choice. Bioshock Infinite was the first game I've played where you are given choices that don't really have any effect on the game other than maybe a cutscene proceeds somewhat differently. For the most part, I'm a huge fan of player choice, even if it is just an illusion of choice.

#4 Posted by mastermetal777 (1719 posts) -

@EPICCOMMANDER: I'm a big fan of that approach as well. Mass Effect does it as well in a majority of the dialogue options.

#5 Posted by darkknight9174 (225 posts) -

Yes, Mass Effect did it well in regards to roleplaying/dialogue choices, but I was talking more about play styles. The obvious answer like mastermetal mentioned is to have the game play well enough so that a feature like a vision mode or something isn't absolutely required to enjoy the game. However, see my question at the very top... can you have play style choice and a good polished experience at the same time? Would you have to do something like increase the number of enemies and their aggressiveness if a "stealth" area wanted to be played in a different way (this would only work in games like the new Splinter Cell that allow you to choose the play style you are going to use, not for games where you make up your own objectives/play styles).

#6 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (13709 posts) -

I remember when stealth games where designed in such a way that you didn't need to be able to see through walls, they were plenty vantage points and you spend less time exploiting the 3rd Person Camera to peek around corners to avoid walking right into a patrolling enemy. Yep, those days are over.

#7 Edited by mastermetal777 (1719 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: you do realize you can turn those modes off in most stealth games, right?

#8 Edited by MirkoS77 (7627 posts) -

I never used the detective visions in the Batman games any further than was necessary for what they were needed for (following alcohol trail, tracking ninja, riddles), because the modes overlayed and obscured the artstyle and texture work that gave such a feeling of atmosphere, which is a large part of the Arkham series' enjoyment. Not to mention the sound changed. It literally changed the entire presentation of the game. I don't know how anyone could (or would want to) play through the entirety of the game with it on.

As for other games, I only usually ever use them when required.

#9 Edited by darkknight9174 (225 posts) -

@mastermetal777: Yes, you *can* turn them off, but many times that makes the game artificially more difficult in a way that is less entertaining or not entertaining at all. If the game is enjoyable/reasonably doable without them then yes, you can just turn them off. In some games though you literally can't play the game. I remember some places in Splinter Cell specifically where if you didn't use night vision you couldn't see to move without turning the brightness on the display all the way up (how did the enemies see? haha).

@MirkoS77 yeah, the detective vision really messed with the visuals and the sound in that game something terrible. Even in situations where I needed it it was sometimes bothersome (especially the purple tint for alcohol tracking...)

#10 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (13709 posts) -

@mastermetal777

Theres no vantage points in any modern stealth games, seeing through wall is a necessity unless you enjoy learning enemy behavior by bumping into them when you go around a corner. Number 1 offender happens to be The Last Of Us.

#11 Edited by loafofgame (634 posts) -
@Lulu_Lulu said:

@mastermetal777

Theres no vantage points in any modern stealth games, seeing through wall is a necessity unless you enjoy learning enemy behavior by bumping into them when you go around a corner. Number 1 offender happens to be The Last Of Us.

I think Dishonored did fine in that regard. There were plenty of opportunities to study enemy patterns from high vantage points. I never spent any runes on that see-through-walls power. Not saying the game didn't have flaws, but at least it had vantage points.

#12 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (13709 posts) -

@loafofgame

Its on sale right now on XBL and I was considering getting it, but then I remembered my I hate RPGs so, its very unfortunate that Games like this and Deus Ex were so close to being the perfect game ! :( Its like they don't love me.

#13 Posted by loafofgame (634 posts) -
@Lulu_Lulu said:

Its on sale right now on XBL and I was considering getting it, but then I remembered my I hate RPGs so, its very unfortunate that Games like this and Deus Ex were so close to being the perfect game ! :( Its like they don't love me.

Well, there's no leveling system in Dishonored. There are runes to collect in every level (but you can also buy them), which you spend on powers, which aren't that plentiful. There's also cash lying around to spend on weapon and armor upgrades. But well, if you didn't like that sort of stuff in Deus Ex, then I guess you're not going to like it in Dishonored. They're pretty similar in that regard (also when it comes to repetitive gameplay, although Dishonored allows for a bit more creativity and the powers are much cooler).