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Improving Gaming Through Biometrics

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the maybe-now-they'll-stop-with-the-escort-missions dept.

Biotech 34

PreacherTom writes "Programmers have long used the feedback of gamers to determine how to improve what they put on the market. British company Bunnyfoot aims to take things to the next level. Their assessments take pains to record the heart rate, respirations, facial tension, and eye patterns of the test audience in order to fine-tune the games. If only their motives were completely altruistic: one of the primary goals of their project is to maximize the efficiency of embedded advertising." From the article: "What Bunnyfoot specializes in has implications for gaming that reach far beyond in-game ads. Being able to analyze the way a person reacts to a visual is thoroughly useful for gameplay as well. Their technology works as sort of a 'super focus group' allowing them to collect feedback on not only what the person mentions afterwards, but also how they react during the game."

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Let's Have Fun With Numbers! (1)

HeavenlyBankAcct (1024233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065860)

And to think I thought games were fun BEFORE somebody figured out how to quantify why.

This does lend itself to some interesting new development paradigms -- "Hey, Tom, we really need to raise the average pulse rate of the player by about 2.5 bpms. Get right on that."

Re:Let's Have Fun With Numbers! (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067676)

"Hey, Tom, we really need to raise the average pulse rate of the player by about 2.5 bpms. Get right on that."
Probably would be easy to raise the heart-rate if one of the bio 'sensors' looked more like a bayonet [] pointed straight at it. Ought to do the trick.

use your ears, not your instruments (1)

2TecTom (311314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065934)

if you want to build better games, listen to players

how many companies spend millions on research but don't listen?

Re:use your ears, not your instruments (2, Insightful)

Longtime_Lurker_Aces (1008565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066926)

Proper research is just a better version of listening. They are listening to user feedback as well as taking specific measurements to quantify and corroborate the statements.

Research > "listening". If you listen to people they'll tell you "Opposites attract" and then 5 minutes later tell you "Birds of a feather...". What people say is full of inconsistencies and errors, thats why we do research.

Re:use your ears, not your instruments (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17068828)

Sure, proper research is valuable, but it's no substitute for service nor does it guarantee quality. The type of listening I was referring to is when companies produce what their customers want, not what upper management thinks is most profitable.

If they really listened, they'd know we:

. don't want to have to put in a CD to play a game.
. don't want to pay $50 for a 50 cent CD and a cardboard box.
. don't want copy protection.
. don't want subscription fees.

. do want the ability to mod and create content and territory
. do want the ability to run free public servers.

I'm tired of seeing great games, and great game designers, sold out simply to put money in the pockets of non-gamers and non-developers.

As well, sell me something I want, at an affordable price, or I simply won't buy it.

This is great! (2, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065942)

Now they can actually record my elevated heart rate, increased respiration, and increased tension right before I start swearing and throw their game out the window for embedding advertisements in it.

Re:This is great! (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066098)

Because we all think that no games should have cars, guns, soda machines, stores, signs, billboards, radio, or anything else that can be attributed to a brand.

Re:This is great! (2, Insightful)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067534)

Cars: Check
Guns: Check
Soda Machines: Check
Stores: Check
Signs: Check
Billboards: Check
Radio: Check
Outrage at the Needless Violence and Gratuitous Sexual Overtones: Check
Brands: Negative

You can have a game with things that could potentially be branded without real brands. A lot of games, GTA for instance, take these objects as an opportunity for parody and satire. While advertising in games has been done for a while in cases where it would appear in real life (sports games dating back before the PS1 even), the issue is more advertising where it doesn't belong. Sprite has no place in Middle Earth, Cheeze-its no home on a Protoss Carrier and Toyotas no niche in Final Fantasy.

Re:This is great! (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17083068)

Alright, then if you have a billboard mocking a real brand in grand theft auto, then how is that any different than a billboard portraying a real brand in grand theft auto? Neither is more invasive than the other, neither is forcing you to buy anything. It seems people are outraged because they want to be making some of the money that the companies are.

Re:This is great! (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085222)

I like the mock advertisements because often they are funny and entertaining. Anything that adds to my gaming experience is a good thing.

It is true that no advertisements force us to buy anything, so obviously our aggression towards them can not be that watching those millions of car commercials on TV forces us to buy cars. What then offends those of us who are disturbed by advertisements in our video games?

The problem is not that advertisments can not fit in a game. As noted many times, certain genres of games actually benefit from them. Sports games attempting to be as realistic as possible benefit from having sponsors like Coke, Nike or Fujifilm. While my preference is with joke companies such as "Nuclear Dentures" and "Chunky Soda", I can see that true advertisements in these places can actually benefit the game experience and the gamer.

The problem is that like many things I don't see this being left at that. While there are many other useful and beneficial applications of advertisements in games, neither I nor anyone else who is concerned about this believe those are where advertising in games will stop. There may be a way to integrate Coke into WoW, or Ferraris into Zelda, but I doubt it will benefit the world or the gamer. Barring perfection, such juxtapositions will destroy an otherwise cohesive and engaging world.

We have a complete lack of faith in the restraint of advertising companies because they have only rarely shown any. There was a day where the internet didn't have banner ads, popups, popunders, cookies etc. When each of these features came to be added to the internet, they were not in any way bad things. Banner ads supported websites that otherwise couldn't function, and at the same time were not intrusive because there was only one. Popups originally were simply used to pop up new windows, or to pop up a window for an advertisement you did click on. However, the internet now is a slimy morass of marketing.

How many times on Slashdot have we seen complaints about how submitted articles were drawn out to 12+ pages when they could have been a mere 2 simply for the sake of subjecting us to the 5 banners, 2 sidebars and 3 popups 10 additional times? At the same time, we have critiques of said websites noting how completely uninformative said articles are. The summary of all this being that on the internet today we receive largely inferior products while at the same time being subjected to incredible amounts of advertising.

Now we don't pay these websites to do their spiel, it's free. We pay a service provider to give us access to the internet, but that money goes to the provider and not the internet. The same goes for most TV. We pay for cable, but that money goes to the cable company. We can't complain too much because we aren't paying them anything and they have to make their money somehow. (Overly simplified here to be sure)

The problem with video games is that we are paying them. We're going to be paying them $60 or more for next generation games. When we walk into a store and browse the cover of the game, it tells us great things like "Multiplayer Mayhem!" and "Hi Definition Experience!" It will never say "For full access to things this same exact game on seperate consoles has by default you must pay us another $40 in microtransactions" or "We offset the cost of making this game by filling it with advertisements". Unless you're an extremely tech-savvy person paying hideous amounts of attention to the industry you aren't going to be aware of any of that until after you've already parted with your money.

That is what offends us. It is the degredation of the gaming experience for the sake of providing better margins for gaming companies. Perhaps were it Capcom, Nintendo, Rockstar or some other big name we know makes quality games that pushed for this I wouldn't feel so uneasy. I'd have some level of hope they knew what they were doing, and it wasn't going to destroy the hobby I love. Unfortunately they aren't the ones championing this. In fact, they throw the whole notion on its head. They are all extremely profitable companies making innovative and excellent games without the need of advertising. In place of them, we have companies such as EA who continually show that they do not act in the best interests of gamers but in the best interests of their bottom line pushing the limits of how much stupidity we can tolerate in a game company.

I'm not expecting game companies to ignore profit for the sake of making our lives hunky dory. They need to make money to be successful, that's life. What I am expecting is that companies have some sense that the proper relationship between consumer and corperation is one of mutual benefit, trust and common decency. I buy their products because they benefit me, they make the product because they benefit from its sales. I trust that the product they sold me is what they told me it would be, and they trust that if it is I will continue to buy from them. What we have here is a breach of trust. The advertising I fear may come to pass in no way improves the product directly, does not filter back into the product to improve it, and does not promote new and exciting products. All it does is line the pockets of these companies and make the shareholders happy, while at the same time detracting from what is supposed to be a fun, enjoyable experience for me.

That is why advertising in video games disturbs me and others as it does. Can you guarantee us that some ubergiant of gaming bureaucracy isn't going to push the envelope of what we can tolerate? Can you assure us that the games where Gandalf laments that they should have stopped by REI to pick up snowshoes for everyone before attempting the mountain pass will be the rare exception and not the rule? Such things seem impossible now, but since when has impossible stopped mankind?

In closing, I repeat that the idea of advertising in video games is neither bad no even detestable. It is the potential abuses that we already see coming to fruitition that we balk at.

Rant over.

Re:This is great! (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085260)

All the advertisements you mentioned - car commercials, popups, etc - are completely different from a billboard ingame. For one, you are not interrupted by a billboard, whereas a popop makes you stop what you're doing and address it. For two, you see the popup whether you like it or not, whereas if you are not looking at the billboard up in the sky, you won't see it.

Re:This is great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17085358)

You're missing his point. Once advertisers have their foot in the door at all they will constantly try to open the door further, whether or not the initial advertisement wasn't intrusive. If publishers and game developers caving into this becomes the norm, then you will doubtless be confronted by ads for sprite first in your loading screens. Then they might become animated. Then they might become little .avi movies. Next thing you know there are ads everywhere, and you're paying directly for them.

If a giant billboard for sprite is way up in the sky in some game where you never look up, what advertiser would pay for that? They'd say, "No, stick this where people will see it". So it will be alongside the virtual road you're driving on. Since it is now readable on the screen you can't avoid it. You'll have to pass that sign several times on a screen that you're already looking intently at. You're going to see it and if you don't want to you're stuck, sort of like a timed pop-up ad.

It's far easier to ignore a billboard in real life.

Re:This is great! (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085402)

You're missing the point.

The advertisements don't have to stop the game to detract from it. They don't have to force me to view them to have their impact on the game world.

If there's a billboard on a road in GTA, I'm willing to wager I'll see it a lot. Unless they hid the billboard down some alley I'll never visit, I'm going to encounter said billboard. When I encounter said billboard, I am going to see it and whatever message it contains is going not going to interrupt the game itself, but it will interfere with my playing of it. Said advertisement will reference something in the real world otherwise the company wouldn't have paid to put it there. It will try to sell me Coke or WoW, and will try to get me to think about things other than the game. Whether I'm attempting to complete a mission, or just freewheeling, this is going to jive with what I am trying to accomplish.

Now, I do have the option of avoiding that road. However, this now presents two problems. The first is that I have just roadblocked myself from a potentially important and vital road the circumvention thereof will cost me in terms of my ability to get around and complete iportant aspects of the game. The second is that now whenever I come anywhere near the road I must remember the billboard is there or else be subjected to it again, which is in and of itself a form of being subjected to it.

Assuming there are multiple billboards around which I wish to avoid, I could be forced to quarantine half the city simply because of advertisements that disrupt my game.

The problem with advertisements are that, by nature, they want your attention. Chrysler isn't going to pay EA money to put advertisements into a game that will never be seen. They want return on their investment, they want their product to gain recognition. They don't want an obscure reference on a poster under a trashcan hidden in an alleyway between two buildings on an island you can only reach after stealing the helicopter. They want obvious, well placed advertisements where they can be seen. If avoiding them is a piece of cake, Chrysler isn't happy.

Additionally, advertising companies aren't likely to care about how their work influences the game, only in how much mindshare and revenue they can get for the price. Anything to increase those numbers will make them happy, even if it turns Grand Theft Auto into Grand Theft Advertising.

I encourage you to look at and respond to more of the points I made in my previous rant. You haven't really addressed most of them, and seem to be nitpicking rather than responding. I can understand that it's a long rant, but if you don't want to put the effort in to respond to it in full, I would suggest that you simply don't respond.

Re:This is great! (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085494)

I simply disagree that seeing a real-world item in the game detracts from it. Rather, for me at least, it adds to it, because it feels like I'm playing a realistic game, rather than one in an alternate universe, which only serves to further emphasize to me that I am playing a video game, and that it's not real. If I see a billboard for Coke, It furthers the illusion of realism.

Re:This is great! (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085546)

It's fine that you disagree, if you personally don't mind that's you, and I'm me.

However, you still have failed to address most of my points, especially as regards to games that are not attempting realism.

Were you to see Budweiser cans strewn about Orgrimmar after the orcs had an exceptionally long party at the death of the false warchief, would you think that it detracts from the game?

Re:This is great! (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085636)

However, you still have failed to address most of my points, especially as regards to games that are not attempting realism.

I don't play those, so I can't even begin to have an opinion on that.

Re:This is great! (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17085756)

Fair enough.

An interesting idea (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065946)

However, couldn't this be done by simply recording (video) the focus group as they play? I know it isn't as hightech, and you can't record heart rate and such, however you can generaly garner alot of indications about what a person is thinking/feeling just by watching them.

And it is a heck of alot cheaper, and you get a more natural response. People will not activly notice when they are being videotaped (assuming the camera is unobtrusive), but when you start cliping things onto their bodies, they tend to notice that alot more.
(note: I do not advocate secretly recording things, however the recordign set up can be unobtrusive)

Re:An interesting idea (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066116)

a good idea, but it can be done semi-secretly. Just inform the focus group that they will be taped, however make it so that no cameras can be seen. That way, they know they are being recorded, they just don't know from what angle.

Or you could use the popular vague term "We will be monitoring your reactions"

So... (2, Funny)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065958) if I snarl angrily and give the finger to the screen, with they finally get the message and stop throwing adverts in my face?

Think of the children! (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065974)

If this eliminates even 1 bad game, I think it will have been worth it. -wipes away a tear-

Seriously. This should be required so that boring, stupid games don't even get published. So they'll KNOW beforehand how horrid their games are.

This is for marketting, not for YOU (2, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067572)

Seriously. This should be required so that boring, stupid games don't even get published. So they'll KNOW beforehand how horrid their games are.

Remember that this is done for the marketters, not for _you_. It may seem like they only want the best games too, but sometimes their interests and yours may diverge slightly. Think of having to choose between the following two games:

A. "The gameplay was fast-paced, interesting and with hardly any time-sinks. The players were busy and having fun at every step, and noone complained about their ability to suspend disbelief. However, they also hardly ever had time to throw more than a brief glance at our ad, if ever. In exit interviews half the participants said they didn't even think it was a real ad, but just some fictional company from that game universe, and that the billboards were just for flavour. The other half couldn't quite remember what product we're selling, and preferred to discuss such topics as, 'Duude, I blew that guy's brains out all over the fucking billboard!'"

B. "We had groups of 39 people at a time staring at the billboard for two hours straight, out of sheer boredom as they waited for the 40th guild member to join their MC raid. Better yet, they talked to each other about it too, once they ran out of other topics. Mostly about how it sticks out like a sore thumb in a medieval setting, but still they'll _definitely_ remember our brand after two hours of that. Two people actually typed the company URL in their browser, to pass the time away. And then they did it again when someone ninja-looted all the way to the first boss and they had to kick him out and wait for another guy for 2 hours straight... right in front of our strategically placed second ad. In exit interviews, people commented, 'Dude, you mis-spelled the third word on the fifth row of the fine print.'"

I know which one you'd prefer as a gamer, but now think which one will a marketting department prefer. Not quite the same, is it?

Also consider the sad tale of web advertising, and all the bullshit metrics they used as smoke and mirrors. See, the only thing that would actually measure the success of a marketting campaign is, basically, how many more people bought the product. Anything else, be it "clicks", "unique eyeballs", etc, is just prestidigitation and actually pretty much irrelevant. It's just there to sound like you have some scientific measurable criterion, but omitting that you have no idea what correlation (if any) there is between that and the actual goal of selling more products.

And you can see how irrelevant those are, in all the attempts to game the system. Fake UI, punch-the-monkey, outright redirects, etc, are just ways to inflate such a metric (e.g., "number of clicks"), without actually getting the user more interested in the product you're selling. There's a monster of a difference between (A) a user who was genuinely interested enough in your product to want to learn more about it, and (B) a user who was thinking he's punching the monkey to win some prize, and just closed the window when he was redirected to the company's page. But both look the same in aggregate "number of clicks" metrics, and it's very tempting to game the system that way.

So now think what will happen here. I can just see such bullshit metrics being used here too. "See, the users had a total of 100,000 extra heartbeats while viewing your ad, therefore you owe me a big pile of money." And the subsequent attempts to inflate those meaningless metrics without actually making either the game or the ad more interesting.

E.g., just include some incredibly frustrating minigame there, like Fahrenheit's interminable "alternately press two buttons a frillion times per second, and you fail if you missed even a beat in 5 minutes" sequences by the end of the game. _That_ will raise anyone's pulse and blood pressure all right. Especially by the time they fail the 6th time and have to replay since a savegame that was half an hour ago. Does it make a better game, or better gameplay? Nope. But it inflates the statistics presented to the advertiser just the same.

Or better yet, do that for every single billboard in the game. Each time you get in front of a billboard, some insanely frustrating minigame comes up, and you have to reload 20 times to make it. Drives the exposure time up too. You can tell the advertiser with a straight face, "the average gamer spent 30 minutes looking at your ad." Whoppee. Does it actually make that gamer more likely to buy that product? Maybe, but that brand or product may also become associated subconsciously to the most tedious and non-fun parts of a game. But nevertheless, for the purposes of inflating some bullshit "why you should give us a lot of money" statistic, it works.

Will the advertisers eventually figure out that they're being shafted there? Oh yes. They're not entirely stupid. But the keyword is: eventually. Each smoke and mirrors phase gets some time (read: between months and years) to run its course before it becomes obvious that it's just bullshit. Then someone comes up with another bogus metric and another smoke-and-mirrors method, and the whole thing repeats verbatim again.

Will the gamers get shafted lots anyway in the process? Oh yes.

Blood elves (1)

Captain Kirk (148843) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066188)

My guess is that they will find that nude characters evince strong reactions, increased heartbeat, faster breathing and perhaps even 1 handed surfing. They will recommend this to their clients. Blizzard are beta testign this idea by adding pretty Blood Elves to the World of Warcraft Horde.

Useful for browsers ? (1)

Rastignac (1014569) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066204)

Browser's log: "Recording the heart rate, respirations, facial tension, and eye patterns of the test audience... Recording done... Analysis done... The audience is watching porn. Fatal error. Cutting net access."

Ridiculous (1)

Kirin Fenrir (1001780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066210)

The best way to make a successful game is to be a gamer yourself, and make a game you yourself would have a blast playing. At the end of the day, that's all a game needs to be: fun.

Here's the three points a fun game should hit:

Easy to learn, difficult to master - Anyone should be able to intuatively figure out how to play within a few minutes, but the gameplay should have enough depth to show a differance between a beginner and an avid fan.
Sense of power - Your character/car/robot/whatever should over 'feel' powerful; this can mean anything in the context of your game, but players like to feel their better-than-average in the game universe.
Replayabilty - Self-explanitory.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067290)

"The best way to make a successful game is to be a gamer yourself,"

While this is to some extent true, you cannot replace competence with "just being a gamer", for instance art has nothing to do with "being a gamer" for instance and yet it's a huge part of the gaming experience. Although I'm sure it can help if you are a very competent artist. But how many games suffer from bad art or poor artistic direction? Lots.

While I agree that FUN is the main goal, you can make a fun, easy to get into, hardcore game, and it can still not sell worth a damn. Gaming history is full of great games not enough people bought.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067628)

I'm going to disagree with you over a semantic technicality.

The best way to make a successful game involves being a gamer. That is important but not the be all and end all, as evidenced by your own follow up. If all there was to making a good game was being a gamer making a game, we wouldn't see half the crap we do that pours onto shelves, then into bargain bins.

It's not that simple, young padawan ;) (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17068868)

Here's the three points a fun game should hit:

It's not that simple. Those three points are not necessarily enough by themselves, and actually implementing them is a lot harder than being able to name them. E.g.,

Easy to learn, difficult to master - Anyone should be able to intuatively figure out how to play within a few minutes, but the gameplay should have enough depth to show a differance between a beginner and an avid fan.

This is a good principle, no doubt, but fine-tweaking it to actually work is another thing. E.g., how difficult to master is all right? How much mastering is _needed_? If you have to invest months to be able to finish an otherwise 10 hour game, most people will just get frustrated and hate it. If "difficult to master" isn't actually reflected in a minimum required mastery at some point, it might as well not be there at all. E.g., what's the point in mastering a double-grenade-jump if you can finish the game without it anyway?

And now that I gave you the questions, let me give you an answer too. And it's not the one you'd expect: at least for single-player games most people actually _don't_ want it to be necessary to master anything. The ideal game for casual gamers (and those are more than 90% of the market) should actually only create a smoke-and-mirrors illusion of the gamer being good at it. In reality, it should be perfectly possible for a quadriplegic on hard drugs to finish it just the same.

It's not even something new. See such concepts as "rubberband AI"/"rubberband physics" in driving games, or scaled enemies in RPGs, or Max Payne's outright manipulating the difficulty level, all to the same end: addapting the game to the player's skill level, instead of forcing them to master the game. You could miss half the side-quests in an RPG, and it will just give you an easier end boss. You could never learn to dodge or use cover in Max Payne, and it will just lower difficulty to the point where enemies become Humpty Dumpty with a peashooter to let you finish anyway.

Sense of power - Your character/car/robot/whatever should over 'feel' powerful; this can mean anything in the context of your game, but players like to feel their better-than-average in the game universe.

Not only it can mean different things in different games, but it means different things to different people too. E.g., taking Bartle's 4 categories, "power" means:

- for a socializer: the ability to become a popular guy or gal, make friends, maybe organize a guild, etc

- for an achiever: getting in-game achievements. A high score, a gazillion gold coins in the bank, the deadliest sword in the game, the biggest castle in the game, a full tier 2 equipment set, etc

- for an explorer: discovering how the game works, and occasionally how you can use that knowledge to your ends. Discovering a piece of the story. Discovering a new area. Etc.

- for a killer: the power to annoy/harrass/humiliate other players, and maybe drive them to leave the game completely (effectively "killing" them off the game universe, hence the category name)

And that's just one such splitting players into categories. Other splits like "crafters vs adventurers" or "RP-ers vs min-maxers" introduce more differences in interests, and occasionally impossibilities to please everyone. E.g., to give crafters a sense of power and of being above average, you have to make their goods better than any loot in the game. But that also invariably creates a massive inflation, and cuts a lot of incentive from adventuring too: why bother collecting a full MC set, if any crafter could forge you better equipment? Which is why both Blizzard and Sony have effectively reversed an earlier attempt at pleasing the crafters, and in some cases made crafting just a money sink.

Replayabilty - Self-explanitory.

Actually, this is the least self-explanatory. Think of it: to bother about replaying it, you must have fun playing it the first time. The world is full of sub-par games which would have been perfectly replayable, except almost noone could be bother to finish them the first time. Or had 90% of the game content locked and having to be unlocked, in the name of replayability, that it just ended up (A) putting off anyone who'd have preferred to play one of the locked characters from the start, and (B) with content that 90% of the players never saw, and just saw a short and small game.

So basically if I was giving advice to any game designer, my advice would be paradoxically the opposite: forget replayability. Make it fun the first time. If you've managed to (A) make it fun enough, and (B) have enough variety and choices to please a broad range of players (some prefer to play a mage, some prefer a fighter, some prefer a diplomat, some like to RP someone nice, some like to play a psychopath, etc), then replayability will come naturally too.

And for Christ's sake, never limit choice and variety in the name of replayability. If you included, say, a mage class in the game, I should be able to play a mage from the start. If I have first to unlock X secrets to be able to play a mage, when I want to play a mage, then all I'll see on the first try is "fuck, this game doesn't have the class I want." Same for cars, characters, whatever other content you bothered including. Don't worry, if the game is fun, we'll play the other classes/characters/whatever too on the next try. But if we have to wade through shit creek to "unlock" the fun parts for the replay, there might be no replay at all.

Yes, it ends up a design for replayability too, but only as a side effect of trying to make it as much fun for as many people as possible. Keep _that_ goal in mind, and you won't have to give replayability any thought by itself.

Re:It's not that simple, young padawan ;) (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072922)

If you have to invest months to be able to finish an otherwise 10 hour game, most people will just get frustrated and hate it.

I've been playing nethack for years and never even gotten to the Quest, with games that take a week to play able to be wiped out in a single bad move. Experts can routinely ascend an arbitrary character in a few hours.

And here are a few more points (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17070856)

Well, since I've said that those three points aren't enough by themselves, here are a few more to consider:

1. Balance -- it's not just for Blizzard any more.

1.a. Not all classes should do the same, of course, but all should have a fair chance of completing the tasks ahead of them. A rogue may backstab, and a hunter may use their pet to avoid taking damage, and a paladin might win it by attrition, but all should have a fairly equal chance against an equal level opponent.

1.b. All classes should bring _something_ unique to a group, and combine in some way with other classes' abilities. E.g., take a hint from Blizzard. A paladin's auras and seals aren't there just to boost his own combat ability, but they can also boost the meatshield warrior to be a more robust meatshield, or the rogue into being an even better damage dealer, and the mage or priest into drawing less aggro and having more mana. And the mage isn't just a damage dealer, but can also take one enemy out of combat completely so the meatshield warrior doesn't get pounded into the ground prematurely, or slow down a fleeing enemy so the rogue can finish him off before he allerts others. Or the priest may be a "healer", but combine it with some paladin's holy damage boosts, and you'd be surprised how a holy/discipline priest can actually become a primary damage dealer in non-instance missions. Etc.

Few things are a bigger put-off than pulling a "wow, this combat medic class looks great" and then discovering that you've picked the pussy class which can't even go to the toilet on its own. Worse yet, discovering that while you can't solo it, everyone else doesn't have an incentive to group with you.

2. KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid -- or let me rephrase it: if some option doesn't bring something unique to gameplay, it shouldn't be in the game at all. Having, for example, a sniper class and a martial artist class that both do exactly the same and fulfill the same role, only with the sniper being weaker and more expensive to play, like in AO at launch, should tell you that you have one class too many there.

3. Keep It New, Keep It Interesting -- a lot of the "but people get bored of our games after 5 hours" justifications of why games should be shorter, just prove that those people haven't understood much about game design. People get bored if they just have to do the same over and over again. Most successful games slightly shift focus, challenges and gameplay over the course of the game. It's that shifting focus and discovering new toys and new kinds of challenges that keeps it interesting.

E.g., in a city/empire builder you could start only worrying about taxes and placing the houses near a well, but by the end worry more about polution, religion, war, diplomatic relations, etc. You may even automatize some of the tasks which, at the start, you had to min-max by hand. E.g., even in a board game like Go, there are differences between the opening phase of staking your claims and generally avoiding getting bogged down in a combat for them (if your opponent gets bogged down removing your one piece in a corner while you claim the rest of the board, let him do so at his own peril), and the finishing phase where you actually fight it off and resolve any ambiguities.

Or in an MMO your fighter may start as just hitting wolves with a mallet until they fall down, and by the end of the game worry more about things like holding aggro, min-maxing their use of the rage bar, etc.

4. Avoid Disrupting Gameplay Or Social Mechanisms -- here SWG is the prime example. For a game and a designer which keep using the cheap excuse that players should create content for each other and leave the designers alone, its forcing people to play one character per server (ok, _two_ per server in the NGE) sure disrupts exactly that kind of social mechanisms. If you want to play more than one char, you'll perpetually be on the wrong server, compared to where other people play, effectively getting in the way of any long term relationships. Two people who both play all day long, may nevertheless spread it randomly across several servers and never quite end up with enough time near each other to form a social bond.

5. Avoid Massive Changes, Especially "Nerfs" -- here most Sony games are the perfect poster children. Classes swung between all kinds of extremes in, say, Everquest 2, to the point where one class was a damage dealer in one patch, but a tank that needed a tower shield full time in the next, to something completely different in the next. You could go back to an old character and find that it's no longer even similar to the character you've created. And don't even get me started on the NGE in SWG.

If you must change something, plan ahead, do the manths, and make damn sure you won't have to undo it in the next patch. Having the whole thing swing in the other direction later just means you piss off _both_ those who liked the first version, _and_ those who liked the changed one. And while a lot of us will accept that change and fixes may be necessary, it's _very_ annoying to discover that all that was for nothing, and you had to put up with something that didn't make the game any better or any more balanced after several massive changes than it was on day one.

Also, take a hint from Blizzard: when in doubt, it's always better to give class A a small upgrade to bring it up to par, than to downgrade class B. Even the people playing class B might understand something like "in all fairness, it wasn't much fun to play class A", but will be annoyed to see their own character "nerfed".

6. Suspension Of Disbelief is Your #1 Asset -- it may (or may not) be self-explanatory, but you'll want the player to actually be able to escape to your world, not flip right back with a "you've got to be shitting me" reaction at every step. This does _not_ mean "realistic" (after all, we wouldn't play games with magic and dragons, if "realism" was important), but you want it to be internally consistent and to not trip the players' suspension of disbelief in other ways. It's also a bit of an art, and considerations like the "uncanny valley" effect can ruin an otherwise beautiful world. See, for example, how it's actually easier to suspend disbelief in WoW's cartoonish graphics than in Everquest 2's high-res "realistic" graphics.

At any rate, it takes a lot of work to get players to stop disbelieving in your imaginary world, and it can fly right out the window over something seemingly as little as "wth is a swamp troll doing living in the mountains?" So pay attention to details.


Those are just a few considerations, more to make an "it's not that easy" point, than to give you the exact recipe of how to make a best-seller. Noone actually has a guaranteed recipe like that, anyway. But there are plenty who've screwed up in the quest for that, so there are some hints as to not what to do.

Interesting.. (1)

Scothoser (523461) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066328)

Advertising within a game has been a great money-maker for gaming publishers for a while now, and I can understand why they would want to have this data. If they are going to spend money on the ad, they want to make sure it generates revenue. But I like the development of Bunnyfoot in another way: It ultimately gives the power to the gamers to decide where and when the ads will show up.

Imagine if the gaming community had collectively decided to ignore the ads throughout the games, which was then recorded with Bunnyfoot's technology. Or, even better, they chose to react negatively to each ad. Perhaps the in-game advertisement industry will suffer and dwindle.

Granted, it would require a level of concentration that most would rather devote to the game, and would then ruin the game-play experience. This would then lead to a short-term frustration to the gamer, who may decide to just move on with the game and accept the ads as they come up. But imagine if they refused to enjoy the game? The gaming company would lose market share on a failed game, which would prompt them to find out why. If they find that it's because of in-game ads, then the next game will have less.

In order for this to work, it would take a lot of education of gamers, and a coordination of effort. Can the gaming community organize themselves to the point that gaming companies will start rethinking in-game ads? And perhaps the better question is, do they really want to?

Re:Interesting.. (1)

fullmetal55 (698310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17066754)

in game advertising can be done well though.. rather than having them as true ads, throw in a couple cans of coke on the computer desk, have the car be a brand new Cadillac Escalade, They're talking about this kind of advertising for TV shows, why wouldn't they work in games? you could have the occasional poster or billboard in the game where you'd normally see them, just don't be excessive. subtle advertising works well for a lot of people, and I think would generate more revenue for the advertisers than a blaten plug. There are lots of places for ads, heck on T-shirts, use real world products, get advertising dollars for the real world products and it'll be good

Re:Interesting.. (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067748)

That works great for games which involve desks, t-shirts etc. However, there are two points to be made.

1) Not all games are in a setting condusive to ads (See WoW, Final Fantasy, Supreme Commander). A lot of gamers are afraid companies will start shoehorning ads into games like these.

2) Even games that work very well as a platform for these ads can benefit from not having them. I always enjoyed parody ads in games myself.

I don't begrudge the idea of soda cans on a desk in an office as I'm hunting down terrorists holding people hostage. What bothers me is the potential for advertisers and game companies to want more than just that. It may be a baseless fear, but then again I can recall some people claiming popups on the internet would never become ubiquitous because of how annoying they were.

duh (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17067090)

They are aiming for
- replayability
- focussed attention
- increased heart rate and breathing?

Sounds like the next game they produce is going to be essentially just masturbation. more nude chixx0rs in games! w00t!

On the brighter side, it's got some seriously interesting MMOG opportunities.
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