Eiji Aonuma Doesn't Understand Emergent Gameplay

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elheber

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#1 elheber
Member since 2005 • 2895 Posts

About a week ago, I posted an op-ed about how Eiji Aonuma doesn't understand emergent gameplay. A few days ago, Edge published an interview with him in which he says EXACTLY the things I was worried about. First I'll show you an excerpt from my op-ed (the images and captions are part of the article), then I'll show you a quote from the interview:

"And this is where The Legend of Zelda: A Breath of the Wild should make us worry. Let’s take a look at shots from the debut trailer:

Nintendo explicitly sanctioned that bee hive for use on this Bokoblin.
Nintendo explicitly sanctioned that bee hive for use on this Bokoblin.

These successive screenshots show Link shoot a bee hive, and then the angry bees attack the Bokoblin resting right next to the tree the beehive was hanging from. In the next shots, you see a couple of boulders precariously perched above a pair of resting enemies; Link pushes one of them down and, just as planned, the boulder takes out the enemies.

Director Eiji Aonuma made sure that if there is a boulder, then there is something it is for.
Director Eiji Aonuma made sure that if there is a boulder, then there is something it is for.

Sure, you could fight the Bokoblin’s directly, mano a mano, but there’s also clearly a “right” way to kill them each time. The developers created tools that should serve emergent gameplay, but they are just using them to make classic puzzles all over again. It’s like taking the batteries out of an electric razor and trying to shave by scraping the blades across your chin."

So that, in part, was what I said. Then just days ago in the interview with Edge, Eiji Aonuma said this with respect to how he's learned his lesson about designing a modern Zelda game:

In the past titles, if a player found a different solution to the on we’d intended, we’d call it a bug. But for this title we created puzzles with multiple solutions. Even battles against enemies have a puzzle element: you can push a rock off a cliff and defeat them that way, or have bees chase them away so you can sneak up and take their weapons. Even if it’s a strong enemy, there are a lot of strategies, and it’s not just about battling.

Aonuma literally used exactly the same examples I used to show he doesn't know what emergent gameplay is, and used them as examples of emergent gameplay! It's analogous to claiming to be a great burger chef, then proudly showing off the two worst examples.

I know speaking ill of a hyped Zelda game won't win me any popularity contests, but it must be said.

*raises flame shield

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JordanElek

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#2 JordanElek
Member since 2002 • 18563 Posts

I only read your excerpt from the interview, but Aonuma doesn't even claim to be trying for emergent gameplay. He called it various solutions to puzzles. I see that as focusing on how the player can affect the environment, rather than how the environment can affect the player. In other words, based on the stories I've heard from people who played the demo, most of them get excited about how they did this or that, how they figured out some cool thing to do, etc., while examples of emergent gameplay usually involve some aspect of the environment doing something unexpected (i.e. a tiger attacking an outpost).

It doesn't worry me that things in the environment might not do crazy random things to create stories like in other open world games. It's a different approach, but that doesn't mean it'll be bad. It's basically a Zelda-spin on that aspect of open-world, which is what I would hope to come out of a Zelda game.

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elheber

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#3 elheber
Member since 2005 • 2895 Posts

Eiji Aonuma was describing emergent gameplay when he said, "in the past titles, if a player found a different solution to the on we’d intended, we’d call it a bug." Emphasis added. In an excerpt from my article a few day earlier, I said this (emphasis also added):

In oversimplified terms, emergent gameplay is often unintended game design that emerged directly from the rules of the game (hence “emergent”), rather than being explicitly designed for a specific purpose. If there’s a wooden door, and you need a door key to pass through, it’s traditional design. If you couldn’t find the key and you wonder, “that door is wooden… what if I try to burn this door down with my torch,” and it works, then it’s emergent game design.

Essentially, Aonuma is bragging about finally allowing for emergent gameplay. Players finding solutions the designers didn't plan for, essentially. But in our shared examples, the very opposite is the case.

I'm not saying the game is going to suck. I'm saying it's taking cues from other modern game design principles and failing to understand them. The game could still be very good in the classical/traditional way.

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VFighter

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#4 VFighter
Member since 2016 • 7903 Posts

Ummm...so what? Seriously what does it matter?

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juboner

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#5  Edited By juboner
Member since 2007 • 1183 Posts

Uh isnt that how a game has to be made? The dev. have to design it that way for it to work. I always thought Morrowind had so many different ways you could try to achieve things, when generally you shouldn't be able to. But I'm sure the dev. understood these things could be done, well at least 90 something percent sure.

This is Zelda not a Bethesda game, I would never expect that kind of gameplay. But we dont know the extent of what can be done so it could be more than I expect also.

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osan0

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#6 osan0
Member since 2004 • 16073 Posts

no one does...not truly. fewer still desire it because it can be so unpredictable and can lead to a lot of problems. its one of those ark of the covenant subjects in games development.

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elheber

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#7 elheber
Member since 2005 • 2895 Posts

@juboner:I want to tell you that if you'd just read my article, you'd find I've already discussed this. But I know your time is valuable so I'll paraphrase what I said:

In a nutshell, modern games are getting so big and complicated that modern developers have found creative solutions to help them make big and complex worlds a lot easier. Instead of building a game room by unique room, they're simply pre-fabricating a bunch of stuff and then plopping them down on a large map. It's the difference between micromanaging and macromanaging. Games tend to be buggier (think Fallout 4 or Just Cause 3) but given how much stuff is in them, you're bound to do things nobody else has ever done.

Aonuma is trying to make an extremely large world, but he's trying to hand-craft every inch of it. It's impossible.

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juboner

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#8 juboner
Member since 2007 • 1183 Posts

@elheber: I dont see it, we are thinking completely different. BotW will be made from a pre fabricated world for sure. Any game this size is made from pre fabricated stuff.

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Sepewrath

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#9 Sepewrath
Member since 2005 • 30349 Posts

Its not impossible to build a large detailed world and maintain control over it--as long as the world is only large enough for you to control. The problem devs like Bethesda run into--is they make the world huge before they make sure it works properly. Giving 3 or 4 specific ways to handle a part of a game is doable and infinitely better than leaving it open ended. The latter will generally lead to lots of bugs and glitches, so I don't think its a matter of not understanding; they are just aware that its not the best approach. If 5 people approach one part 5 different ways, it will give the illusion of emergent gameplay and that is enough.