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How Perlin's Law Makes Gaming Credible

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the suspension-of-what-now dept.

59

simoniker writes "Veteran game designer Ernest Adams has posted a new column on 'Perlin's Law' which suggests that all books, movies, and games have a 'credibility budget'. For games, both the designer and the player decide what happens: '...the story itself can only tolerate a certain amount of improbability before the credibility budget is exhausted, and the story is ruined.' According to this new law, named after Ken Perlin, who gave birth to the concept, games should not be infinitely wide-ranging or allow the player to do anything he wants."

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What About Ender's Game? (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455747)

According to this new law, named after Ken Perlin, who gave birth to the concept, games should not be infinitely wide-ranging or allow the player to do anything he wants.
What about the the Fantasy Game [wikipedia.org] that Ender played?

I've always secretly hoped that games would one day evolve to a point of them becoming specific to the user. This "mind game" that Ender played had seemingly limitless possibilities and also seemed to reflect the user's psyche back at them and cause them to make connections they never knew existed.

Maybe the next step for video game engines isn't graphics rendering but instead, stimulus/response rendering? Where by the game reacts to user input using rules, heuristics and a bit of randomness and the game states are loosely defined. Why is Spore so popular? Possibly because of the number of proposed outcomes of the game.

We're no where near this kind of game play yet but it may be possible in the future. Perlin's Law seems kind of like a restriction that I honestly wish game developers and publishers wouldn't try to adhere to. Only when people take chances and think outside of the box will we find true gems in the video games. I'm sick of repackaged games and ideas.

Re:What About Ender's Game? (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455921)

...of course, that game he played was run by an AI smarter than any human who ever lived that had god-like abilities and nearly infinite intelligence.

Where are we going to get that?

Re:What About Ender's Game? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456802)

I'm free on weekends :D

Jaysyn

Re:What About Ender's Game? (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15459171)

Once upon a time there was a computer called Deep Blue....

Computers evolve scenarios far faster than humans ever could. We just havent bothered giving them enough imagination yet.

Re:What About Ender's Game? (1)

cluke (30394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15461427)

Shit yeah, just need to uncomment out those "addImagination()" lines and we're good to go!

Anyway, Deep Blue was a crock. Well, I'm sure technically it was very impressive, but as a competition it sucked. After each game, the programmers were allowed to step in and massively tweak the algorithms. I think they were also allowed to veto any "stupid" moves the computer made. If I was Kasparov, I would never have agreed to those rules.

Re:Spore? Number of outcomes? (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456288)

Have you seen the demos? I've only seen one outcome no matter what you choose.
Oh, by "number of outcomes" you mean: The exact same thing but now they have three arms and live in round buildings?

Re:What About Ender's Game? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456508)

Well, Ender's AI Game on the computer wasn't exactly 'specific to the user'... The majority of the game was identical for each user, with only a few things pulled from his psyche to do whatever it was they wanted it to do. (The instructors didn't even seem to know.)

At the end, yes, there was areas that nobody had seen another child enter, but they -assumed- that they were unique to him. There was no proof of that.

A similar scenario could have been made by having the player enter pictures of certain figures in their life, and choosing some of those figures at the end according to how they handled other situations.

I'm not saying it's not more complicated (on a personal scale) than current games, just not so infinitely wonderful as you initially imagine.

Having said all that, I am also waiting for the day that 'RPG' means you don your cybervisor and wiimote^H^H^H^H^H^H^H controller and really feel like you are out slaying (and being slayed by) dragons.

Re:What About Ender's Game? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457012)

Why is Spore so popular?

Isn't it a little early to be calling it 'popular'? It doesn't even exist yet. No matter how excited people are about the game *right now*, it can still be a flop (though the fanboy mentality is making that more and more difficult. Nobody seems to want to admit they were wrong anymore).

I believe the term you were looking for was 'hyped'.

Zonk: (0, Troll)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455752)

Lately, it seems you are trying very hard to justify your existence through games. Well, it's not working. Please kill yourself now. Thanks.

Re:Zonk: (2, Interesting)

Trespass (225077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455813)

Really, is that any worse defining yourself by your favorite bands or TV shows?

Re:Zonk: (0, Offtopic)

dhh8088 (976242) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456072)

A voter for George W. Bush.

First Hitler! (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455777)

Oops, wrong law.

What he says makes sense. I was watching my stepson play Thief 2 on Xbox last night and I knew I couldn't play the game. The thief comes across a guard who is directly in front of a burning torch. So, shoot a water arrow (yes a water arrow, there's also a noisemaker and moss arrow- which already strained my credulity) at the torch and put it out. Does the guard even notice that he's now in total darkness? No. Does he try to re-light the torch? Nope. Does he continue walking in the same pattern as if nothing as happened? Yep.

I think part of why I like Halo and WWII shooters is that their internal logic is actually consistent.

Re:First Hitler! (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455977)

...there's also a noisemaker and...

Ridiculous! In what universe would they make things whose purpose is making noise!

I can see how this would strain the credibility. Next you'll be saying that the main character shoots the arrows using a bow rather than with telekinesis.

Re:First Hitler! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456018)

I was watching my stepson play Thief 2 on Xbox last night

No you weren't.

Re:First Hitler! (2, Insightful)

caerwyn (38056) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456037)

The issue isn't the number of possible actions that your character can take. Those are good.

The issue is that those actions have only extremely limited and unrealistic results in the game world. What we need aren't restrictions on what the player can do (returning back to older games), but rather an improvement in how games react dynamically to unexpected user input.

Real life is not a state machine, moving from one state to another on linear paths. Games that try to be as expansive, or more so, than real life need to also not simply be state machines.

Re:First Hitler! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456753)

Err...well...most evidence suggests that the universe IS a quantum state machine, if a rather complex one, so I don't know what you're up on about.

Re:First Hitler! (1)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15458827)

The issue isn't the number of possible actions that your character can take. Those are good.
 
The issue is that those actions have only extremely limited and unrealistic results in the game world. What we need aren't restrictions on what the player can do (returning back to older games), but rather an improvement in how games react dynamically to unexpected user input.

However, there are limits to what is practical to do in the interests of making a game playable, particularly with MMORPGs. For example, in NCSoft's 'City of Heroes', you can beat up on a group of Freakshow on the streets of Brickstown, and the other members of the group will react and attack you as soon as you attack the first member of the group -- but the other group of Freakshow fifty feet down the street won't bat an eyelash, even if one of the group you're attacking runs away past them and you fire a blast of lightning through the group at the fleeing villain. Now, on the one hand, not having every member of a villain group within a half-mile of an attack on some of their members serves to keep a character from being overwhelmed by opponents, while allowing for the number of opponents available to all the players in the zone high enough to make play enjoyable. On the other hand, the artificiality of having mobs standing around in what would be clear sight of a battle (and superhero battles would be more attention-getting than simple gunfights, with fire, energy, lightning, ice, and other attacks going off in different directions and people getting knocked around, sometimes dozens of feet) is somewhat immersion-breaking. But the genre is superheroes; hanging out on the edges, looking to kite one villain and get them to pull away from the rest of their group, so you can whack them and do it again doesn't feel heroic, so the aggro ranges have to be set to allow players to jump into a fight without worrying that all the other villains on the street in a five-block radius are going to zerg them the moment the first zapblast lights up the area.

Re:First Hitler! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456149)

Health packs!

Sooo stupid and inconsistent with the rest of the universe. Also, enemies never pick up powerups.

Re:First Hitler! (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15458117)

Health packs!

Sooo stupid and inconsistent with the rest of the universe. Also, enemies never pick up powerups.


Well, have you ever heard about suspension of disbelief? [wikipedia.org] Now, a guard completely ignoring sudden darkness requires too much suspension of disbelief for the game to be pleasant, in this example. This is what this law tries to express.

Re:First Hitler! (1)

Wisgary (799898) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456185)

you should play hitman blood money, although the AI does some stupid things at times, it can also act pretty believable. I turned off the lights at a security control room while dressed as one of the security guys, and the other guy got up and yelled hey... wtf... TURN THAT LIGHT BACK ON RIGHT NOW, and I just ran off and the guy got up and turned it on himself.

Re:First Hitler! (0)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457084)

My .sig already summarizes this...

Game Design is about the unholy trinity: Realism, Logicalness/Consistency, Convenience
Unfortunately, far too mamy players are argueing about the wrong thing, usually the red herring of realism.

Robin Hood - The Legend of Sherwood (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 8 years ago | (#15460837)

I was watching my stepson play Thief 2 on Xbox last night and I knew I couldn't play the game. The thief comes across a guard who is directly in front of a burning torch. So, shoot a water arrow (yes a water arrow, there's also a noisemaker and moss arrow- which already strained my credulity) at the torch and put it out. Does the guard even notice that he's now in total darkness? No. Does he try to re-light the torch? Nope. Does he continue walking in the same pattern as if nothing as happened? Yep.
A few months ago I played a really cute game from totalgaming.net: Robin Hood - The Legend of Sherwood. The greatest feature of this game is that guards, stupid as they are (this is Robin Hood, after all), still respond reasonably intelligently to changes in their environment. When they think they see something suspicious, they start to pay better attention, when they see a dead body, they warn their commander, who then organises a search for the culprit, when they discover somebody is not of his post, they try to figure out what happened to him. Make a few mistakes, and the entire castle is on alert (although you can also make use of this by drawing guards away from a certain location).

Re:First Hitler! (1)

Half a dent (952274) | more than 8 years ago | (#15461086)

Games by their nature are escapist.

They can be "simulations" of real life or they can be simplified or fantasy versions. All the different genres of game show this too - today I might want to play an RPG, tomorrow it may be some kind of sport or racing, FPS, strategy, etc.

But I agree, poor AI by in-game characters can spoil an otherwise good game, but maybe in the game the guard is an authentic simulation of an idiot.

True for TV? (2, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15455785)

'...the story itself can only tolerate a certain amount of improbability before the credibility budget is exhausted, and the story is ruined.

The story might be ruined, but the public will still pay you money for a totally incredible story. Just look at the lasting popularity of X-Files, which drastically changed its plotline every couple of seasons (first greys, then black oil, then super-soldiers), and the current hype about Lost, which appears to be doing the same (first mystery island, then DHARMA, then Widmore, now according to producer podcasts it's soon to be previous inhabitants).

Re:True for TV? (1)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456015)

Except you have named shows which feature episodic, as well as seasonal, content.

Is the credibility budget exhausted with each show? If not, then the story in each show is not ruined, and as long as each show itself is credible in of itself, in conjunction with the other shows then the story of the season, and then the entire series remains credible.

Re:True for TV? (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456724)

The story might be ruined, but the public will still pay you money for a totally incredible story. Just look at the lasting popularity of X-Files, which drastically changed its plotline every couple of seasons (first greys, then black oil, then super-soldiers)

You pretty well just proved that you missed the whole point of this theory. X-Files bounced around, but greys, the black oil, and the super-soldiers all fit very nicely into the same universe. X-Files requires you to suspend disbelief, but only so far; for instance, at least the stuff on the show is consistent with our current understanding of physics. (Thus, X-Files might be sci-fi, but Star Trek is not... But I digress.) Let me quote the article a tad.

Adventure was different from other computer games of its day because it didn't print a list of commands for the player to choose from. Instead, it simply put a prompt on the screen and said, "type anything you want to." It pretended that you could do anything. Of course, after five minutes of play you realized that this was an illusion; the game didn't really understand that many commands.

and

Ken Perlin's Law: The cost of an event in an interactive story should be directly proportional to its improbability.

and

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made, and the whole concept started to break up the logjam in my head about the Problem of Internal Consistency. What is the unit of cost of an improbable event in a story? Its credibility.

In other words, the real issue is one of consistency.

Re:True for TV? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456923)

You pretty well just proved that you missed the whole point of this theory. X-Files bounced around, but greys, the black oil, and the super-soldiers all fit very nicely into the same universe.

No, they didn't. The show had characters working with a "grey embryo" after they had already established that greys are the adult version of the savage creatures born from the black oil. None of it fit together in the end.

Re:True for TV? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457054)

No, they didn't. The show had characters working with a "grey embryo" after they had already established that greys are the adult version of the savage creatures born from the black oil. None of it fit together in the end.

Sorry, I didn't watch every episode... but what's wrong with the black oil being the seed and there being an embryo later?

Re:True for TV? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457275)

Sorry, I didn't watch every episode... but what's wrong with the black oil being the seed and there being an embryo later?

If you didn't see every episode, then why do you feel you can claim the show was self-consistent?

The black oil, as established in the movie and in the season six opener "The Beginning", infected humans and, after a gestation period, caused large bloodthirsty alien creatures to pop out of their chests a-la-Alien. "The Beginner" established that these savage creatures, when exposed to enough heat (like in a nuclear reactor), become greys. Therefore, there was no embryo stage for greys, greys were an adult version of an already large child. Yet, later on in the series, a plot element is a tiny grey embryo. It was around this point that I myself lost my enthusiasm about the show, although I did see the later episodes dispassionately.

Re:True for TV? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457424)

I don't see any reason it couldn't work both ways, perhaps with there being two kinds of black goo. I kind of got bored with TV though, and I was too busy downloading anime to download X-Files :P

Re:True for TV? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457548)

I don't see any reason it couldn't work both ways, perhaps with there being two kinds of black goo.

You found a way to resolve it (though, no offense, it's rather lame), but the show's writers never did. They just abandoned the whole black oil/grey thing and started concentrating on super-soldiers since they felt it was easier to start afresh than resolve the contradictions they had created.

Re:True for TV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15457142)

The problem with the later episodes is they started to freely violate Perlin's law. Their lack of consistancy destroyed the credibility of their "world". Fans lost interest. Show got canceled.

Re:True for TV? (2, Interesting)

Total_Wimp (564548) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457385)

I never realized until this article, but this is the exact reason I tend to avoid games with a highly developed story lines. If you're "playing" a story, then you have to be restricted and, usually, you'll end up being restricted in some arbitrary way.

In Unreal Tournatment, Battlefield2, etc, the restrictions are static and well understood by the players. Even though they have a "story" behind every map in BF2, I couldn't tell you what it is because it's wholly irrelevant to gameplay and I never bothered to read it.

On the other hand, playing Black, even with as weak as the story is, I have to follow the course of action dictated by the specific place I am in the plot. Sure, I have the "freedom" to blow apart tombstones, but only because that's necessary to the plot. Similarly, I can blow apart walls, floors and ceilings, but not arbitrarily. Only where it's important to the plot.

I don't want to be guessing what the storyteller thinks it's important for me to do in any specific "scene". I'd rather have an internally consistant world and simply use my own brain to mold that world to my advantage in the game. That's relatively easy to do in competitive FPSs and a lot of other games with weak stories. The bettery your story is, though, and the more that designer is going to have to reign me in... and the more I'm going to have to avoid giving them my money.

TW

Re:True for TV? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15458402)

I can't comment on X-Files, which I always found unbearably dumb. But your criticism of Lost seems poorly considered. They did not "change the plotline" from season 1 to season 2. The characters are still on the mystery island. They've simply answered some mysteries, brought in new ones, and changed the story emphasis accordingly. Did you expect every episode to be about hunting wild boars?

It's all about Newton's Third Law (1)

Skotlake (891399) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456056)

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If a gamer can run rampant with power, there'd better be an equally powerful enemy to come in his way. For every mushroom he can eat to grow in size, there ought to be a poison mushroom to bring him back down.

Re:It's all about Newton's Third Law (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457903)

I really hope you're joking. If not, this is one of the worst abuses of scientific rhetoric that I've ever seen.

Oblivion/Morrowind, God-Mode, and Game Balancing (2, Interesting)

serodores (526546) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456084)

Take the cheats from just about any game. How often does playing with cheats 'take the fun out of it', and how often does it 'improve the experience'. Given a cheat that lets you go anywhere and do anything in a game, it's been my experience that more likely than not, it ruins the experience (unless the game is obsenely hard, which is relatively rare). That also lends itself to a game balancing issue. The more open-ended you make a game (e.g., Oblivion/Morrowind), the more chances you have for both bugs, and balancing issues. (With enough grinding, it wasn't hard to become a virtual god in Morrowind.)

Re:Oblivion/Morrowind, God-Mode, and Game Balancin (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456768)

Meh, it depends on the game, and the gamer. I'll just take GTA for example. I did not find the missions to be particuarly fun. Some of them were, but some of them(particularly the ones with time limits) were very boring to me. So I stopped doing them. But I still had many hours of enjoyment of the game, just through exploring the huge city they had created.

The cheat codes really made that aspect of the game more fun for me. I got to enjoy parts of the game that never would have become available to me otherwise, because I wasn't willing to grind the missions. But I made my own fun, and the cheat codes were just another tool for that.

And another less extreme example. Contra, back on the NES. The 30 man code took what was otherwise a very frustrating experience and made it much more managable and fun. Could I have practiced enough and become so skilled that I could get through that game with only three lives? Possibly, but that's not really how I wanted to spend my time. Instead I'd play the game, trying not to die, but also not worrying about it too much.

Cheat codes just add another option to the game, and often open up new possibilities. If you don't want to use them, there's noone forcing you to. And if you just can't help yourself, despite wanting to play it normally, then you've got some self control problems, and how they affect your gaming is probalby going to be the least of your worries.

Re:Oblivion/Morrowind, God-Mode, and Game Balancin (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 8 years ago | (#15459363)

Depends what the cheats are, and what you call destroying gameplay. Some people play Oblivion like Nethack, restarting completely when they die. Some people eschew the fast-travel system, preferring to visit every piece of virtual landscape directly.

I on the other hand don't have the ability to concentrate closely enough on every dungeon wall and have been killed a few times by traps (I play with deadlier traps - oncoming spiked logs should HURT) and have merely reloaded. Is it a cheat, or much more fun? I use fast-travel extensively, from one side of a city to another, because I've played a lot of these games and don't need to hear the same two chat lines repeated endlessly as I walk around the city for the umpteenth time.

I find my gaming experience VASTLY improved by "cheats". In games that don't allow these features, I enable themselves myself with console commands, simply to avoid "play" (I use the term lightly) that involves running over the same map from end to end. Did you ever play Heretic or Hexen? If so, you know the blecherousness of which I speak.

Imho, a bad game ruins a game. Cheats just let people skip all the crap until they realize they don't actually like much of it. Doom on the other hand, kept us going for years because its cheats let us play exactly what we wanted to, and it was always fun.

Cheats vs. Difficulty Level (1)

serodores (526546) | more than 8 years ago | (#15489128)

To me there's a huge difference between cheats and a lower difficulty level. If you really are having problem playing a game, nowadays there's almost always some way of 'lowering' the difficulty level with most decent quality games. I think this is a much better approach than just using cheat codes to whiz through the game.

This is not a new law. It's not even a law. (4, Insightful)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456245)

It's called suspension of disbelief. Science fiction and fantasy stories start out with a lot of it. Romance novels have much less. Traditional literature gets even less.

No matter how much you start out with you must never cross the line and have a character do something that is inconsistent with the world in the story. You cannot have a character from The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter leap into the air and fly. You MIGHT be able to get away with that in a Star Trek story.

Re:This is not a new law. It's not even a law. (2, Insightful)

smug_lisp_weenie (824771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457282)

I think you're being unfair- this article poses several tangible extensions to the "suspension of disbelief" concept:

1. Credibility can be treated as a quantifiable substance that can be codeified in a game

2. In interactive fiction, both the developer and player draw from a common pool of credibility, making it unique from other fiction

3. Players can destroy their own enjoyment of the game by using playing strategies that lead to wins but hurt the story telling element- Telling a story and beating a game are two separate ideas and interactive games struggle to accomplish both.

4. The developer can minimize this problem by stratifying the cost of player actions based on the storytelling arc, based on the rules of the law.


I think this is an incredibly interesting new idea!

Re:This is not a new law. It's not even a law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15457639)

Call it the Samuel Taylor Coleridge Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbeli ef [wikipedia.org] . He wrote about it first in 1817.

Thank you. I did not know this. (1)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15462383)

I have used the term for decades without knowing it's history. Thanks again.

Scope Constraints vs. Behavior Constraints (2, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456445)

'...the story itself can only tolerate a certain amount of improbability before the credibility budget is exhausted, and the story is ruined.' According to this new law, named after Ken Perlin, who gave birth to the concept, games should not be infinitely wide-ranging or allow the player to do anything he wants."


This seems to conflate two very different ideas, one of which is obvious, the other seems misguided. Clearly, if there are no constraints at all on what players can do, that's going to strain credibility, in and of itself (at least, if complete freedom isn't limited to a special distinct mode designed for editing the environment rather than intended for "playing the game").

But I don't see how an increasing scope is countradindicated, so long as items in the game are designed for credible behavior and reaction. Sure, infinitely wide ranging requires infinite programming to create credible behavior, but its a nonsense limit anyway, since you'd need an infinitely powerful computer to run the game, and infinite media capacity to deliver it, anyhow. "You shouldn't do things that are impossible" isn't really a necessary warning.

Re:Scope Constraints vs. Behavior Constraints (1)

some guy on slashdot (914343) | more than 8 years ago | (#15464463)

Yes, but we're talking about stories here, not just video game programs. Without restrictions, there are no conflicts. Without conflict, there is no story.

On the flipside, without restrictions there are no goals or rules. And a game without goals or rules is not a game; it's a utility program or a toy, depending on whether it is useful or not.

prevalence of narrative structures (2, Funny)

rodentia (102779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456560)

. . .how do we balance the player's desire for freedom with the designer's desire to tell a consistent, coherent story. . . .

This tension is an essential element of classical (Freudian) phychology. Substitute the terms Id and Ego for player and designer, respectively. Indeed, in a post-structuralist view (informed by Lacan), any discourse structured as a narrative (that is, nearly all, internal or external), Perlin's Law offers interpretive value. For example, a measure of the bounds of normativity for an internal discourse (whether you consider yourself crazy) is a function of Perlin's Law over the constituent terms of that internal narrative.

Further study: Can we apply the concept to shared narratives like normative social behavior or political formation? Is the concept redundant with the contributions of the Frankfurt School?

Extra credit: Does this idea offer a description of the development of political reaction in response to sharply divergent, even orthogonal, shared narratives (q.v.--the Bush team vs. *the reality-based community*)? Is it persuasive?

Indeed, credibility has been a consistent focus of Rhetoric since the inception of the Western cultural tradition. Perhaps Mr. Perlin's own modesty should prevail over the enthusiasms of the geek community in general and Mr. Adams in particular?

The cost is relative (2, Insightful)

vhold (175219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456702)

I think there is a certain amount of usefulness to this notion, however what I think it needs to clarify is that when the player is what causes the improbable action, it spends far less of the 'credibility budget' then when the game seems to be the impetus.

When I drive off a ramp, flip over and cause a 15 car explosion in GTA, it doesn't really affect my notion of the game as a vaguely believable caricature of America. However, if that happened all around me constantly it would bust that and I'd feel like I were in crazy stunt world or something.

I think that the difference in credibility effect between player impetus and game impetus is so great that the mere suggestion that player freedom is a bad thing is almost entirely busted.

It certainly makes it more difficult for the -game- to respond to the player in credible ways, but it isn't directly what the player did that hurts that credibility.

I'd say that arbitrarily limiting a player's freedom has a credibility damaging effect as well, since you feel like you are in an invisible straight jacket whenever there exists a mind numbingly obvious solution to a problem that can only be dealt with in the circuitous manner decided by the game developer.

Re:The cost is relative (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 8 years ago | (#15458330)

It's not so much that you can do that in GTA since you could actually do that in real-life. But you are right, if stuff like that was occurring constantly it would use up the "credibility".

The part that uses up the credibility is that unlike in GTA, doing that in real-life won't result in you appearing outside the nearest hospital with less money in your pocket.

Say what now? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456952)

Many, many games don't even have a plot.

Re:Say what now? (0)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457228)

Exactly, you don't need a plot to have a great movie / game, but it usually helps.

i.e.
Baraka
Tetris

--
Game Design is about the unholy trinity: Realism, Logicalness/Consistency, Convenience
Unfortunately, far too mamy players are argueing about the wrong thing, usually the red herring of realism.

Laws are meant to be broken (1)

shoma-san (739914) | more than 8 years ago | (#15457043)

"games should not be infinitely wide-ranging or allow the player to do anything he wants."

Because we said so. And it's a law now so you have to follow it. pfhhhh.

I'm gonna go play some Grand Theft Auto and Spiderman 2 now...

Re:Laws are meant to be broken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15457380)

From TFA:
This is partly why the Grand Theft Auto series has been so highly praised. Never before has a game offered the player so much freedom. The game world reacts appropriately to just about anything the player tries to do. If you steal a taxi, you can be a taxi driver and earn money legitimately, taking people around town. If you steal an ambulance, you can earn money by taking people to the hospital. You can listen to different radio stations in the car, play basketball in the right places, and so on. Of course, the range of player actions permitted in Grand Theft Auto is restricted to certain domains, mostly to do with violence and vehicles. You can't earn any money being a street mime, and you can't set up and run a homeless shelter. The game world doesn't include the necessary actions or mechanics to support these activities.

Nothing really surprising there (1)

garylian (870843) | more than 8 years ago | (#15458610)

Let's be honest about it. With books, movies, and games that involve a fictional setting such as sci-fi or fantasy, you have a "reasonable suspension of disbelief" factor. Once you cross that line, things start to bog down. The problem is, that line is different based on people's education on the areas around the disbelief portion.

I have a fairly good knowledge of medical areas, from my time working in a pharmacy and studying to be a paramedic. I can already tell that the new TNT network show "Saved" is going to be a major flop with paramedics everywhere. On one of their commercials, they show one paramedic telling the other one "If you shock her one more time, you may kill her." Um, guys? If you are shocking someone, they already have a heart rhythm incompatable with life. (Pacing is not considered shocking, and you don't use the paddles to do it, but pads that adhere to the chest.) This is a reverse from what you got with E.R., which tried to be factually accurate about medical details, and thus had credibility, making a reasonable suspension of disbelief not necessary.

How does this apply to games as well as books and movies? Well, once you go past that point, the viewer/reader starts to mentally question everything else the author/producer is telling us. It becomes a distraction from the entertainment factor. The more distractions, the less you are entertained, until you are staying "enough is enough" and stop participating.

I've played a few games where they try to mix up the laws of physics, or have magic and technology both flourish. It depends on the setting and how it is used. City of Heroes/Villians had both magic, genetic mutations, science, and natural abilities all working easily together, because it was about comic book heroes/villians. We've been given forever to accept that this is a fantasy world, so we can fit in things that don't make a great deal of practical sense and enjoy the game.

As for games that didn't work for me, they have been so immemorable that I don't recall their names. I think the rule of thumb applies more to books and video, since they have a more controlled storyline. For games, it is more often a case of stupid mechanics or dumb ideas.

Because Reality Is So Much Fun (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 8 years ago | (#15458838)

'...the story itself can only tolerate a certain amount of improbability before the credibility budget is exhausted, and the story is ruined.'

Because I, for one, don't like there to be any improbability whatsoever in my games. They should be exactly like real life, diverging in no way whatsoever. Escapism indeed! Gaming should be sheer drudgery and nothing more or you won't truly appreciate it.

I've had nothing but the worst experiences of my life killing Hitler armed with twin gatling guns, wiping out every Nazi in WWII Germany, turning the tides of major battles, stealing cars and eating ghosts whilst looking like a pizza with a slice missing. When I play a war game I want to sit there numb with fear then die as soon as the ramp goes down on the landing craft with absolutely no possibility to have a real effect on the massive landings, let alone "restart". When I steal a car in a game, I want the police to chase me, catch me, then throw me in a jail that locks my console with absolutely no possibility of playing a computer game for another three years (unless I behave well in which case it might unlock in two years instead). Now that's entertainment. Mmm. Credibility.

Oh, and those hookers in GTA3? I want them to take one look at me from head to toe and say, "I'm going to have to charge you double." Sure it crushes my ego but it's all about the credible reality!

Damn, I just broke my sarcasm switch.

Re:Because Reality Is So Much Fun (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 8 years ago | (#15459412)

Sure, but let's say you were playing the real GTA, the one where hookers don't dis you. You've seen a ton of hot cars rolling by on the street, so you enter a mission to steal one, and all of a sudden there's only one in the whole city, in a locked garage with a guard.

I mean, maybe all the 'vette owners in the city did just decide to leave the state for a day, a rally or something, sure...

Things don't have to be like real life, but they need to not be arbitrary and change based on the designers convenience.

If you can blow up tanks, flimsy wooden doors with cheap locks shouldn't keep you out.

Because Innovation Trumps Stagnation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15480034)

I'm sure Nick Davison would be perfectly content for games to continue to stagnate in their infancy until they become a pathetic form of self-parody, as comic books did between the mid-50s and the mid-80s. Others of us see the potential of the medium and seek to realize it, perhaps to reach as-yet unserved markets for whom stealing cars and shagging prositutes is not the summit of human felicity.

To each his own.

Interesting behavior (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15459149)

All interesting behavior happens at the fringes of systems.

In this particular case, I believe the author is incorrectly connecting two different factors;
1. Giving the player consistent purpose
2. Deciding how or whether they move towards that purpose

Elder Scrolls has been a fine example, although a little short and unclear on criteria #1 (furthermore, earlier ES's lacked a a form of internal consistency such that the player could, in effect, get trapped outside of plot due to stupid bugs). The player truly is free to do just about anything, there is no real expected path for them to walk, thus no potential for loss of credibility. Credibility loss would consist of stepping outside game mechanics, aka bugs.

If anything, most games lack credibility because they try to prevent the player from doing imporbable things. The real credibility loss comes from having the characters trapped in such small snow globes, so to speak. The world is false & artificial. Half life 2 is a blast, but its still obviously false because its totally linear in nature.

Towards the end though, the author makes it clear. Really what he's talking about is Mage: The Ascension.
Description/Aside: M:TA is a Pencil and paper RPG where you can bend reality to your will, although reality objects with increasing viciousness the the more flagrant your violation, often to painful ends. Basically you loose credibility with reality for ignoring it too often.

I fail to see how the credibility rating would apply to a game. Thats the thing, lucky or abberant behavior, un-credible actions do not carry real consequences with them in real life. Thats the definition of luck, of probability; its just one roll of the dice. Cold table effects be damned.

Personally, I think its game developers jobs to create environments where players can fool around on the fringe of possibility, to expand the horizon of possibility as far as possible. Only when our worlds are credible enough can we start going back and trying to limit the plots within our worlds to more credible boundaries.

The perfect story here is Halo, what it was planned as and what it became. The original goal was to allow you to wage an adhoc gureilla war against Covenant. But Bungie realized taht would mean building a complete world, a credible dynamic world. They chose what hte author chose; limit the world to build credibility. The ultimate goal though, the interesting goal, is the opposite: to build a credible world, and then help the player chisel a plot out of it.

myren

Aestetics cannot be reduced to a stupid law (1)

dom1234 (695331) | more than 8 years ago | (#15461238)

It is interesting to consider video games as a form of art ; dynamic art to be more precise, a lot like movies. Then we can refer to aestetics, which is a branch of philosophy that has been studied for centuries. Tryings to determine formally what is good and bad, in any art form, has always failed. There will always be a counterexample. And if there is not, interestingly, a counterexample can arise from the analyse of "what's bad", which will likely be original and really good. Breaking such laws in some realization can often be what's best, as long as the author knows what he is doing. There are much higher levels of analysis to arts aesthetics than saying "this movie/game is good because its degree of realism is well balanced". Most repertoire movie litterates will have so many more criterias for judging movies, that realism becomes just one among others, and does not matter anymore. Even shifts of realism within a movie could become interesting. And I don't see any reason why it should be different for video games. Think about Tarantino's "From Dusk Till Dawn".
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