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'Losing For The Win' In Games 159

Posted by Zonk
from the ftw-as-it-were dept.
simoniker writes "Designer Ben Schneider (Empire Earth, EyeToy: AntiGrav, Titan Quest) has written a new article exploring the possibility of enticing your players through the power of defeat. From the piece: 'Some of the most memorable moments in games depend heavily on reversals to kick their dramatic arcs forward, from Planetfall to Fable to Beyond Good & Evil to Deus Ex. And yet, as an industry, we clearly have a lot to learn — and a lot to invent. So, then, how do you draw a clear line between player failure and dramatic reversal? It is a question well worth pondering.' In other words, if the game forces the player to get his ass kicked, can the player ever forgive it, or is it the key to some really interesting moments when used in a positive way?"
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'Losing For The Win' In Games

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  • FTW (Score:4, Funny)

    by Skadet (528657) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:59PM (#18030616) Homepage
    hara kiri for the win!
  • Designer Ben Schneider (Empire Earth, EyeToy: AntiGrav, Titan Quest) has written a new article exploring the possibility of enticing your players through the power of defeat.

    This guy needs to play Ninja Gaiden. 1.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CrazyJim1 (809850)
      This guy needs to play Ninja Gaiden. 1.
      Or Megaman 1 Dr Wiley stage. You bring up an excellent point. In the golden era of video games, it was perfectly fine to make stuff near impossible to complete. Now with so many different games to play, people get sickened if stuff is too tough.

      (Aside)That's why I like the leveling concept. If you make a game that's actiony, but make it so bosses and higher levels are incredibly tough, you can always add a leveling concept to the game. Super skilled players
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I'm a big fan of action games where you can level your dude too.

        Then you should check out Crackdown [xbox.com], which comes out next week. The demo is crazy fun.
      • Re:uhh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:33PM (#18031186) Homepage Journal

        In the golden era of video games, it was perfectly fine to make stuff near impossible to complete. Now with so many different games to play, people get sickened if stuff is too tough.

        I don't think it's the number of games, although it is a side effect thereof. It's because we now realize that there are other ways to make games fun and hard besides making parts of them impossible. Also games can be a lot longer now. Sure, there were games that lasted a long time in the past - but only because you could play a hundred levels of them or what have you.

        Also, games were previously like that because of the legacy of arcade games. You made them have very hard points in them so they would eat the quarters of the game addicts. But now we play console games and we want a game that will more consistently be fun. The arcade was about being a badass. The home console thing (aside from network play) is about having fun. I think this is the real reason - they've simply figured that out.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by twosmokes (704364)
          Arcade games are hard so you'll plunk in more quarters.

          Home games are easy so you'll beat it and buy another one.
          • Home games are easy so you'll beat it and buy another one.
            Maybe now, but back in the day they were just as hard. Atari 2600 had many impossible to beat games, they just went faster and faster until you lose. NES had games like BattleToads, Ghosts n Goblins, and Ninja Gaiden.
        • by Fozzyuw (950608)

          Sure, there were games that lasted a long time in the past...

          Also, games were previously like that because of the legacy of arcade games. You made them have very hard points in them so they would eat the quarters of the game addicts.

          Very interesting point. First, games of the 80's (think NES [wikipedia.org], the master system [wikipedia.org], and the Genesis [wikipedia.org]) where particularly difficult because of the 'game design' to reward lives and punish players by taking those lives away, upon which the game is over and you have to start over.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I just downloaded "ToeJam & Earl" on the Wii. A simple game that I had some found memories of. I played it for an hour or so, and then I'm like "well, I'm done. Where can I save to I can continue my progress later?". Well... you cannot, and it's only about 10% complete (I waist a lot of time monkeying around. hehe) I never played that game since. I now have little interest to invest time, to not be able to save my progress.

            The solution, as I have seen it, is to play in a freeware emulator. They tend t

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      RTFA. The guy mentions Ninja Gaiden 1.
      • Exactly. Specifically, its in this passage:

        "The earliest, simplest method of creating dramatic setbacks in games would be the cut-scene ex machina. One of my earliest memories of this venerable technique is in short clips between levels in the very first Ninja Gaiden, but the same effective ploy can be found in the likes of Diablo II, not a few Final Fantasies, and to wonderful effect in Grim Fandango. It's safe. You are not likely to think you failed in a scene you had zero control over, especially as they
  • 1. On whether you learn from your mistakes and enjoy learning that way.

    2. On whether that portion of gameplay is well depicted with interesting consequences.

    I learned a lot from crashing in flight sim games, for example...
    • by tepples (727027)

      1. On whether you learn from your mistakes and enjoy learning that way.
      There are a few songs in DDR that I can't complete after trying each 100 times. My breathing apparatus fails 45 seconds into each. What can I learn from that?
    • I think in the way TFA is referring is sections in games where you can't NOT loose. Maybe it's a boss fight where he'll just refill his health automagically if it gets too low or some lame outside force that swoops in and captures you just before you deliver the fatal blow.

      In most cases this sort of thing really annoys the hell out of me, not because I dislike failing but because the methods they use almost always feel like they were playing outside the rules to do so. The only reason I lost that battle
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:05PM (#18030706) Journal
    Super Metroid: You either lose fast to Ridley, or you're super good and he doesn't kill you and he flys away. Either way he flys away.

    Sam and Max hit the road(original for 386). If you ride the Cone of Tradjedy, you lose all your items. My friend loaded up a saved game after he rode it, and he couldn't complete the game anymore. I come over his house and ride the Cone of Tradjedy because he says not to ride it, and then I collect all his items at the lost and found.

    I think loses and setbacks are ok in games. I mean if you can't lose, its not a game really is it?
    • by Kawolski (939414) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:44PM (#18031360)
      Sounds like your Sam & Max playing friend played one too many early Sierra adventure games, especially ones where one stupid mistake will make it IMPOSSIBLE to finish the game and to pour salt on the wound, there's no "game over" when you do it. Typing "give [item] to [person]" usually resulted in the person saying "Hey, thanks a lot! But now you'll NEVER get it back!" If you gave away or forgot to pick up a plot critical item, you're screwed, and you probably wouldn't know it until several hours and saves later when you reached a critical point in the game and you have to use that item. Because you can't go back and get the item, you got stuck and continue under any circumstances and the only solution was to go back to an old save.

      Poor game design elements such as this can sour the player on future games where any sort of loss or setback is considered to be the same as "game over."
      • Typing "give [item] to [person]" usually resulted in the person saying "Hey, thanks a lot! But now you'll NEVER get it back!"

        Could you give an example of this in a specific parser-based Sierra adventure game? I played quite a few of them and never ran into this problem. I'm asking out of curiosity, not as a challenge. I worried while playing them about doing something like this, but it never happened to me. Of course, I wasn't actively trying to make it impossible to finish the game.

        I did, on the other hand, get a fair share of "You tried something we didn't think of" errors, but at least those didn't let you wander around ai

        • by Khyber (864651)
          I can't do a Sierra Example, (oh, wait, I can. Leisure Suit Larry: Looking for Love in all the wrong places) but I did manage to do this in "The Dig" (and it's supposedly impossible for this to happen) But I got it truly stuck. A crystal that you have to use to lure out a thieving critter ended up getting used in the control panel just a bit before it's time, and once it's in there, you can't get it back. I read the walkthrough, found the screwup, and reported it to LucasArts. I got a free t-shirt from them
        • I seem to recall that Leisure Suit Larry 1 did this. And it's not like it was the only Sierra game where you could easily get the game into an unwinnable state. I remember that Space Quest 1 had a particularly obnoxious example. A guy would come along early in the game and offer to trade you something for one of your items. If you said yes the first time, you wouldn't get the jetpack, so you could complete the game all the way to the end when you'd suddenly need the jetpack to solve the last puzzle. Of
        • by LocoMan (744414)
          I do remember that in king's quest 4 you had to save an ants colony from a dog that was digging, and later a bee colony from a bear that was trying to get their honey. You had two items you could throw at the dog, an old shoe or a fish, either of them would hit the dog and make it run away, but the bear only left the bees alone if you threw him the fish, so if you used the fish at the dog instead of the shoe, it would be impossible to finish the game since later in the game both the ants and the bees helped
          • by LocoMan (744414)
            eeer.. make that king's quest 5... king's quest 4 was the one with Rosella as the main character (that one also had quite a few times where you could get stuck too if you hadn't picked everything you needed before going to the main baddie's castle).
            • Or, if you didn't pick up a feather prior to getting swallowed by the whale, you can't escape. That's just one of many 'gotchas' in KQ4.

              I hate Sierra-type adventure games. So do most people, that's why practically no developers make them today.
        • by Unbeliever (35305)
          Don't eat the pie.

          http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=613386 [everything2.com]
      • by LKM (227954)
        It's worth noting that many early Adventure games are like this, even those from Lucas Films Games (or whatver they used to be called).
    • Remember TIE Fighter, when you get to go clear a minefield in an unshielded craft... and then your wingmen turn on you? And you while you run for your life, you have to also identify who's on board that shuttle heading towards the Calamari Cruiser?

      If you played it, you remember it. And it might even be one of your favorite gaming moments of all time.

      I can think of a couple of other great dramatic reversals:

      Ultima VI, when you realize that the Gargoyles aren't evil, but are after you because you're destroy
  • by nomadic (141991)
    Planetfall

    I still get misty-eyed over Floyd.
    • by syrinx (106469)
      indeed. Found a copy of Planetfall floating around on an old hard drive just the other day -- should give it a go again, see if I can remember the way through. :)
  • What, like in Chrono Trigger where you had to let Crono die?
    • Technically, that's a bad example because in New Game+ playthroughs, it's possible to win that battle and end the game early.

      I personally think the dramatic reversal is overused in games. "I've just had my ass kicked by the player, but little does he suspect that that was only my shadow/I haven't used my trump card/I'm going to kick his ass anyway."
      • by Frumply (999178)
        "I've just had my ass kicked by the player, but little does he suspect that that was only my shadow/I haven't used my trump card/I'm going to kick his ass anyway." But all the fanboys bitch and whine over an incomplete game if that doesn't happen, as was shown with all the people who believed there HAD to be some way to revive Aeris in Final Fantasy VII.
      • by PingSpike (947548)
        Oh, I totally agree. Or how about this little cliche: "My mission is to collect X number of doodads, held by various powerful monsters/gods/etc and install them in a temple/machine/other plot device to prevent an all powerful monster that cannot be destroyed by anything on this earth from coming into creation. Even though I did everything right, and the entire game everyone has been saying the world will end after this guy comes into creation, the guy is born anyway (insert contrived plot element here) and
  • I remember a old game called FreeSpace 2, a many of time you would lose a to a over powered mothership, but you would come back later with a squad of ships and kick some ass! i always loved being in the moment trying to servive the battle, and find out i was ment to lose, i love that feeling, they should use it more, (The FPS Games should do this alot)
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      The FPS Games should do this alot

      Like when you say no to the man in the suit at the end of Half Life. That was fun.
      • by jrwr00 (1035020)
        no i would say more like the panic feeling you get when you are trying to win. then comming back with a bigger force and making them panic!
      • by amliebsch (724858)
        That doesn't move the story forward at all, though. Probably a better example from the same game is when you get captured by the marines, lose all your gear, and get thrown in a trash compacter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Duggeek (1015705)

        If you're going to use Half-Life as an example, I don't think the "end choice" is much of a parallel.

        I mean, whether you go out the tram ("yes" to G-Man's proposal) or say put ("no") is only a slight difference in the final cutscene. Saying yes only gets you to the credits sooner; saying no gives you “a situation you cannot possibly win” and also goes to credits. It's the same thing, just two different flavors.

        I still think it's in there... let's see... [/me rummages about]

        Here it is; at t

    • (The FPS Games should do this alot)

      It would've been nice to know that was the intention in the first scene in MOHPA - you do a beachhead assault, get to the beach and are hiding under a bridge, and no matter what you do, a grenade frags your ass. This is, I think, the first in the MOH series that used that tactic, so I wasn't expecting it and got a little pissed that the grenade was unavoidable.
      It was better done in FEAR when the main badass thumped you round the head in the opening mission - shame the e

    • by steveo777 (183629)
      I guess that would be cool with a FPS or something, but nothing pisses me off more in an RPG when a battle is not winnable, but sustainable. I can't think of an example off-hand, but it's when no matter what you can't beat the enemy, but there isn't an implication that you can't. Yeah, he's kicking your ass, but you can stay in it. The only reason this pisses me off is that I'll use EVERY tactic I've got to try to beat the enemy. So if I've got one-shot items and the like, I'll use them. Only to find t
  • by Ihlosi (895663)
    The most evil end sequence ever.
  • This reminds me of sports drafts. For example, the Celtics are vying for the worst record in the NBA this year, and if they get it I'll be glad because they will have a high chance of getting the #1 draft pick. So it's just as fun to watch them toil and lose games.
  • by llevity (776014) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:38PM (#18031258)
    There's always the indefeatable boss that you're supposed to lose to. But hey, surprise, instead of a game over screen, your hero is knocked unconcious and the game goes on.

    I really hate those. I end up using all my consumables trying to stay alive and win, only to be meant to lose, and end up wasting all my potions.

    Of course, the other side of this is when I suspect this is the token unbeatable boss, I don't waste any potions, and just lose on purpose -- oops, game over. I guess this wasn't the token unbeatable boss.
    • Don't worry... Usually the undefeatable boss is one you have to defeat in battle but lose to in the cut scene following that battle, regardless of how well you actually fared.
    • by Swifti (801896)
      Chrono Trigger probably demonstrated the best way to implement this. Make the boss almost undefeatable (Lavos in the Undersea Palace) but if the player somehow defeats him, you either branch the storyline or in Chrono Trigger's case, get one of many secret endings.
    • Metal Gear III took this a step further, even:

      In MGSIII, There's a part where you actually die, they show the "GAME OVER" sign, and start playing the end of game music, and so on. You have to do something special to get past it, and further through the game.

      There is no way of avoiding this scene-- you have to do it. It's a basic part of the story.
      • Imagine how evil MGS4 will be with tilt control.

        A passage from a future FAQ:

        At this point you'll encounter Psycho Mantis' son, and he'll kill you instantly. At this point, you have to throw the controller, flipping it multiple times in the air. This will literally make you spin in your grave, which will cause some sort of ironyquake*.
        "Damn you, Kojima!!"

        * The FAQ writer has a distorted definition of irony
    • Fake unbeatable boss, thy name is Exdeath.

      Ugh.
    • by JFMulder (59706)
      I really hate those. I end up using all my consumables trying to stay alive and win, only to be meant to lose, and end up wasting all my potions.
      While it's frustrating, I think it makes for a far move believable experience. I mean, if this were real life, you'd do your best to stay alive, right? Personnally, I just accept the outcome after realizing I was fooled. I don't think you'd go : ok, well, this guy is probably unbeatable, so I'll let him pound at me in real-life.
    • Of course, the other side of this is when I suspect this is the token unbeatable boss, I don't waste any potions, and just lose on purpose -- oops, game over. I guess this wasn't the token unbeatable boss.

      Bastard developers will probably eventually addresses this by killing your characters for a real game over if the game detects that you didn't try hard enough, but continuing on with the plot only if you do use up most of your potions.
  • Absolute Zero was a great cinematic space combat game from, oh, ten years ago... It had, for its time, a whole lot of options - you could choose which vehicle to use to complete a level, how it was outfitted, etc... It also had several different characters that you could play as. There was one point where you blew up a giant alien mothership thing by crashing into its core (sacrificing that character) - I'm not sure if you had to do it that way, or if I just got tired of shooting at the damn thing, but it w
  • Ugh. I remember how the Gold Box sequels -- Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, etc. -- used to do this to the player at the begiining of the game, so you wouldn't get any of the cool items they'd handed out like candy in the previous installment. It got old really quick. I'm trying to recall whether BG2 pulled this same stunt with imported BG characters. Does anyone remember this?

    On the other hand, I rather liked Quake 4's use of the dramatic reversal.
    • I never played BG1, but I do remember some text from Imoen at the beginning of BG2 that said, basically, "He took all our stuff, I don't know where it is, so I guess we'll have to make do with whatever we can find." I assumed this was a way to hobble otherwise uber imported characters.
    • by Adambomb (118938) *
      Not at all for BG2, since BG2 started your characters at about the level range you would need to compete in that first dungeon, your characters from bg2 should at least have their stats and skills.

      However, if you were kidnapped by a crazy amoral elvish outcast, i'm pretty sure he'd take your gear too.

      heh
    • by Andy Dodd (701)
      Quake 4's dramatic reversal was extremely well done. Probably one of the best examples so far in this discussion.
  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:45PM (#18031362) Homepage
    What I call a "plot loss" in a video game works once in a while, but definitely needs to be done in moderation. For example, if it's obvious to a seasoned gamer that you will lose a given battle/challenge/etc (needed for a plot element), then it's not as much a hassle. As in, if it's clear from the get-go that you're drastically outclassed by your foe, he/she/it/they has/have no obvious weak points, and/or the battle is blatantly unfair and is over with quickly, it's cool, many gamers will understand this. Even if it's not so much an extreme outclassing, if it becomes clear that you seriously won't win this and this is the way the story unfolds, that's acceptable.

    The problem comes if there's no hint to this. Or to put it in other terms, if the game is toying with you. As in, a battle seems to otherwise be fair and "normal", all your attacks and/or moves appear to be behaving properly (i.e. they appear to "hit", not "clang off harmlessly"), but whatever you're challenging just always seems to have a slight edge in that it plain and simply will not lose. Case in point: The field runner in Ocarina of Time. Link is challenged to a race across Hyrule Field. You're never given any impression that this is a fixed race, there's no way to "unfix" it (i.e. this isn't a plot situation where Link has to uncover a cheater), and the only way to discover this is by giving up, wasting your time empty-handed (or use a cheat device, which reveals the problem when he claims he won with a time of -1 seconds). Things like this could easily be taken as direct insults to the player, worse if the player unloaded all or most of a difficult-to-replenish or non-replenishable resource (expensive healing potions, stat-boosting effects, rare one-time attack items, etc) in the process.

    So all in all, sure, it works once in a while. Just don't insult the player in the process.
    • I've definitely dealt with AIs that won't lose at any cost. Hell, I've found bugs in games thrown up by a desperate AI. I think that like in "Wargames" some AIs need to be toned down just a bit. It's hard to convince gamers that fantasy isn't reality when you see AIs go to great lengths to win something that they'd normally lose (feels kind of like a "survival of the fittest" scenario). Excessive meta-game activity is a sure sign that things have gotten out of hand. Arguably, virtual currency and item tradi
    • by cgenman (325138)
      Personally, I always feel like these should either be unplayable or of alternative goals. Getting overwhelmed by a Zerg swarm in the beginning of Starcraft still felt like your side was losing ground, even though you "won" the battle by surviving for just long enough to retreat before getting swarmed all to heck. Your character committing suicide in Final Fantasy III was dramatic even while you had achieved the fishy goal set out for you.

      I know many gamers who have managed to "beat" unbeatable creatures [corante.com].
  • I thought it was pretty cool when the cleanup team managed to get Gordon into a closet and knock him over the head. It also made for a good transition to a different part of the game.
  • by rpw101 (990890)
    Planescape had some sequences like this - seeing as how you're immortal, dying can be used as quite a useful plot device or puzzle element! It does take a little while to get your head around dying on purpose though.
    • First of all, Planescape: Torment ... awesome game. It arguably sports the best plot/story in an RPG ever. Just wanted to get that out of the way. :)

      It does take a little while to get your head around dying on purpose though.

      Dead Rising has a similar purpose (dying on purpose). The main character is definitely not immortal. However, upon dying, you can choose to either reload from your last save point, or "save and quit" which actually saves your current stats, quits the current game, and forces you to rest

  • This comment does stray a bit from the scope of TFA but I will say that growing up for some reason I've learned to enjoy the comeback win. I root for the underdog. If a game can be constructed to enable losing before the win then it could be very dramatic and enjoyable for anybody willing to give the comeback a chance.

    My anecdotal evidence regarding my nephew (almost 15) that is an only child would probably give up on a game like this as would, perhaps, many gamers. It would be a good learning experience
  • Very interesting observations, and quite correct, there aren't many games I have played lately that incorporate an element of loss.

    The one exception that springs to mind is, surprisingly, EverQuest 2; there are a couple of quests/events where I feel the SOE team have actually incorporated losing into the storyline very effectively.

    The first I can think of is a more minor one - if your character chooses to betray his home city of Freeport to go and live in Qeynos (or vice versa) you embark on a quest series
  • One of my most memorable moments from any game that I've played was in Deus EX(which was mentioned in the article) when you are forced to die and wake up in your what amount to your enemies lair. From the very start of the game you are taught how good you should be and then, 10 hours into the game, the game forced you to become evil even though you might not have wanted you. At the time that really brothered me so I went back any played the level a few times and realized that I had to do it.. . This was one
    • by Kyune (948300)
      That's part of the charm Deus Ex had though, and it runs a bit deeper than that. What you decribed was the experience of finding out that the character (you) are no longer on the side of the fence you had started on. In terms of good and evil, that was better characterized by the way you accomplished the various tasks in the game. For instance, depending on whether or not you actually killed anyone in the first stage of the game, the response to your actions was different at the end of the level.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @07:54PM (#18032354) Journal

    If you haven't played the game yet, stop reading. Stop reading anyway unless you are in the mood for a rant.

    Okay, you were warned. In Neverwinter Nights 2 you have two "dramatic" moments. The opening act has you partnered with two childhood friends. A male fighter and a female wizard. Both like you start at level 1 and get maybe 1 or 2 levels during the opening act.

    Your village is attacked because of you are the destined one. How original. Young farm person at just the right age to go out into the world has evil (wich for some reason has been laying low between the events of the opening credits and this moment) attack your peacefull village of your youth.

    There are even in pulp fantasy variations of this you know. Conan was a slave his entire youth. Willow was a mature adult (well he had kids).

    Oh well, you are attacked and for no very good reasing you get a cutscene were the girl suddenly decides to help her teacher out (who doesn't even look like he needs help) and gets herself killed. Drama!

    Well no. It has everything wrong with it that the poster talked about. You first think it is your fault, then find it isn't and therefore feel only frustration. What a way to kick of an RPG that is supposed to have a influence system. Oh, and the lesson? Well listen to warnings and don't get in over your head. Good warning, except that it never has to be apllied in the rest of the game. You never meet anyone more powerfull then you that you can't handle. You never are asked to let someone more experienced handle a battle OR do a tactical retreat. So what is the point?

    But that ain't the only one to snuff it. Later another girl joins your party and voila, she gets killed too. Again nothing you can do about it. Drama? No not really, hell the game doesn't even allow drama. If you really cared about her, you would be a little miffed you don't even get to kill her killer. At all, not even after you have no use for him anymore.

    Oh, and the people from your village that survived the first attack? Well, they are killed off too. What? You are the desitned hero, so everyone you grew up has to die so that no stories of you running around with no pants as a kid can every ruin your heroic reputation. It is a rule!

    Drama is nice and all, but the simple fact is that YOU are supposed to be in control. So if the game removes control, then anything that happens that you are supposed to be in control about just isn't "real".

    Drama can happen outside your control (that is really totally outside your control, rather then just having the game take control) OR because of a choice you made.

    System Shock 1 & 2 and the first Unreal did it very effective. Every bit of "drama" had already happened. You were in total control of events in your own time but naturally NOT in control over things that had already happened before your time started.

    Finding out that the person whose emails you have been finding has died a tragic dead WORKS when it is clear it happened outside your time. You couldn't have gone faster or anything. So you do not feel cheated by the game. It worked for me.

    Do you want to know one of the most dramatic moments in games for me? Planescape Torment, the dead nations, has an undead NPC who has lost her name. You can help her find it or give her a new one. The way that extremely short non-combat, non-fedex, non-runaround, non-loot, quest is told just worked for me. The entire area is nothing short of brilliant, undeads who are not just cannon-fodder, but that element is just damned good as it impressed upon me the sadness of an undead existence, destined to only rot away further and further while only memories remain of your former live.

    Brilliant. And nobody dies, no cutscenes take away control. Just you, and an NPC and a few simple lines.

    From the days of Wing Commander games have attempted to get me to feel drama by snatching defeat from the jaws of my hard won victory. It don't work for me.

    Games are NOT movies. LEARN this deve

  • It's a central plot device, so it's obvious that it's not the player screwing up. I was going through the game thinking "this is too easy" and then ... BAM. I loved it - it completely rejuvenated the game.

    <spoiler>
    The central character is taken out and the one character I had available to use hadn't been levelled properly for the tasks she needed to perform. When I got the central character back, he was crippled, and unable to use his most important power for quite some time.
    </spoiler>
  • if the game forces the player to get his ass kicked, can the player ever forgive it

    I know some people who sure as crap won't ever forgive Myst.

    Half the internet hates Myst, mostly because they're not clever enough to finish it. (It's lucky they never played Riven.)

    • by tepples (727027)

      Half the internet hates Myst, mostly because they're not clever enough to finish it.
      Instead, they got Pyst [wikipedia.org].
  • A dramatic setback is all nice and good in theory, but more often then not it destroys any immersion instead of creating it. Games are after all about interaction and interaction implies having at least a little bit of freedom. If the setback however comes in the form of a challenge that is impossible to overcome it just comes of as fake, since it violates the very basic rule of giving the player a choice. This is especially annoying when it isn't clear that the challenge isn't beatable and you try and try
    • I'd argue that perhaps the biggest problem facing games today is the way in which developers implement the loss condition. Namely death.

      Sure, death seems like a very big deterrent for the player. It sounds sinister. "You're dead." Scary stuff. But in games its not really like that. You're not dead, you're simply required to start over from some point before. "Respawn", so to speak. Its like a sort of digital "Ground Hog Day" without the laughs. Some games have dealt with the reason for this creatively, and
  • What about games where losing in the short term is a perfectly viable strategy towards winning in the long term. Think about chess. That's what pawns are for. Though I am reminded of Overpower (the card game). The object was, over the course of "rounds" of battle, to venture and win 7 missions. A viable strategy near the end game was when you only had one character left alive, to venture the rest of your missions, land one large attack on your opponent, then accept your opponents next attack of lesser
  • by Headcase88 (828620) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @09:19PM (#18033336) Journal
    The best games will have a few moments where it becomes intensely difficult and losing is not Game Over but winning will change the story slightly.

    This is akin to the stage clear mode in Tetris Attack (or Spa Service in Pokemon Puzzle League). There is a "bonus" level that's pretty much as difficult as the final boss if not harder, but if you fail it, you just go on to the next level.

    In Fire Emblem GC, *minor spoiler* you can flee from the black knight if you're not up to it. It's pretty hard unless Ike has the Aether badge and Mist is on your team, but retreat only makes minor changes to the story, and affects who joins your party.

    The SpiderMan/Venom Ultimate Carnage for Genesis/SNES has this part where you're ambushed by multiple boss characters at once. Not sure if you can beat it, but the longer you hold out, the better items you get.

    Scripted losses are ok, but generally I only want one near the beginning of the game. Otherwise it gets to be a waste of time, considering your actions have no affect on the outcome. The optional losses are where the real money is though, and it gives developers an opportunity to make really hard parts.
  • There was no unbeatable battle in Deus Ex, sure the hotel fight was tricky but it was doable and you can save Paul.
  • This is the problem with Oblivion. The game is always tuned so it's the same level of difficulty. There is no loss... and thus no sense of accomplishment with coming back and kicking ass later.
  • System Shock 2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Friday February 16, 2007 @03:43AM (#18035814)
    Yeah, yeah, I always whip out the SS2 when people are talking about what makes a game good. Anyway, --spoiler alert-- for anyone who hasn't played it through before.

    SS2 has one of the biggest "reversals" in a game ever. You go through the first half of the game clinging to the hope that Polito, the one human who's spoken to you, will be able to help you get out of this mess of mutated humans and haywire robots. That's all shattered when it's revealed that Polito was dead all along, and it's really been SHODAN egging you on the whole time. The second half of the game involves you being her (now witting) pawn as you follow her instructions to destroy The Many.

    It's an ingenious plot twist that makes you feel, despite your success in finally reaching Polito('s rotting corpse), like you actually lost. And every success you have ends up feeling a bit hollow as well, because SHODAN told you to do it. It makes the voice logs you find lying around that much more valuable, as you try to cling to whatever humanity you can, because that's the only real victory in sight.

  • It's annoying though, when you're forced to not roleplay to avoid being fucked.

    For example, in many games some boss shows up early and you're *supposed* to lose, he is strong enough that you'll *definitely* lose.

    So, if you're smart you just kick yourself in the groin and go down early.

    If you, on the other hand, play your very best, use all your buff-items, quaff all your healing, hold out for aslong as humanly possible. Then guess what ? The game "rewards" you by letting you lose anyway, only now you'

  • I find it quite charming when I read an article by a game developer, such as this one, where they apparently seem to have uncover some secret or special technique that gives them a newly found insight into how to make games more fun or enjoyable. More often than not, these wonderful, brand-new pieces of knowledge are actually commonplace in other art or creative media, specially the age-old, well seasoned, creative outlets, such as literature and storytelling, where most techniques have been honed to perfe
  • NOLF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rlp (11898) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:09AM (#18037682)
    NOLF - "No One Lives Forever", a wonderful parody of the 1960's spy genre. One of the most enjoyable FPS's I've ever played. Mostly due to HUMOR being a major element of the game. However, it definitely fits the mold of 'losing for the win'.

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    You proceed through a long series of misadventures - ultimately failed missions. By the end of the game it turns out that the agency had a mole who was sabotaging your missions. The agency knew about this and set you up, in order to find the mole. A final surprise awaited at the end of the credits. Overall, a GREAT game. Alas, followed by a very disappointing sequel.
  • I haven't played it in a while, but I don't recall "losing for the win"...

    Was it when you found out you were on the wrong side, and the UNATCO Forces started turning on you?

    I never actually thought I was losing, I just thought it was an interesting part of the story. Any good story will have setbacks for the main character. For instance, when Neo fails to jump over the buildings, or when the Agents kidnap Morpheus.
  • The classic 'autolose' battle usually involves some guy who was supposed to be too powerful for you to handle. But then you've to ask the question: why doesn't that guy kill you? Suikoden 3 comes to mind where there's something like 5 or 6 battles you're supposed to lose against Luc (you could win them but it has no effect on the outcome), and after a while you wonder why this guy who can cast a spell that instant kills your party always failed to actually kill your party, and it's not like you're falling
    • by pecosdave (536896)
      I've never played the Dreamcast version, but I did the Gamecube version. I fought Ramirez for an hour and a half, and the attacks did land. His power would actually drop a little, but it looked like it slowly regenerated. To say the least I was pissed. I held on to my consumeables as best as I could for big battles, and I used a lot more than I intended on him. I probably could have fought him for another hour at least when I finally gave up and let him beat me. Yeah, destroyed immersion alright, if i
  • What the article suggests already seems pretty standard in the more straight-forward games that are already heavily scripted. What I would like to see is for developers to making losing fun in games where there is no scripting- like Civilization. In games like Civ a game can take a long time, and losing completely can take a long time- and it's hard to tell sometimes whether you've just experienced a minor hiccup or that one city you lost is going to be followed by another and another- so you should reloa

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