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Games Are Supposed To Be Fun, Right? 122

The Game Chair has up an editorial examining the increasing complexity and learning curve that pervade todays games. He examines the reality that, for many people, games are becoming simply unfun. From the article: "As a Gamer, I am amazed and delighted that games have advanced as far as they have. I'm still blown away everytime a new Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda game comes out, and I look forward to spending hundreds of hours with them exploring all of their intricacies. That being said, the same things that attract me to these games might repel others who are casual gamers or non-Gamers. The importance of the 'pick-up and play' style of games, for me, lies not only in the nostalgia that I feel for them, but also in the importance of having games that are accessible to everyone."
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Games Are Supposed To Be Fun, Right?

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  • Why that's nothing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mukund ( 163654 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @06:32PM (#12867435) Homepage
    I'm still blown away everytime a new Pac Man [] out.
  • Two words: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by larley ( 736136 )
    Katamari Damacy. That game requires so little instruction (which is given anyways when you start a new game). It's almost as simple as Tetris to learn, and has comparable degrees of complexity depending on how seriously you take it. It's just brilliant...
    • Try reading the linked article before just replying with your uninformed opinion.

      I even put in Katamari Damacy because I thought it would be easy enough to pick up and play, plus it is one of my favorite games from last year, but she quickly lost interest because she had problems learning the dual analogue control scheme.
      • Given that the original poster has ACTUALLY played the game, i would say that would make him/her more informed than someone who ONLY RTFA.
        • Re:Two words: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Headcase88 ( 828620 )
          Actually, Mothlos is right. The dual control scheme isn't so friendly on beginners.
          • I'd take that a step further - console game controls are difficult to learn and use, period. I've played a lot of games on many different platforms, but only recently have played console games of the latest generation (XBox/PS2) and the learning curve on the controller alone is incredible. Three or four joysticks/direction pads (2 analog and one or two digital) and a dozen or so buttons, all of which are required in some cases. I played XBox for almost 6 hours straight and still mixing up buttons and joy
    • He examines the reality that, for many people, games are becoming simply unfun.
      Katamari Damacy. That game requires so little instruction...

      I agree with you, but even if every game released from today on increases in complexity there are still thousands of 'classic' PC/console/arcade titles from which to learn the 'grammar' of gaming.

      Most of us learned to read like this:
      Dr. Seuss->Where the Wild Things Are->Nancy Drew/Choose your own adventure->Novella->Novels->etc.

      In the same way, any
  • ignoring new users (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cursion ( 257184 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @06:41PM (#12867481) Homepage
    As an old user I know this new game is going to be good - I liked the last game in this series. I've just got to learn two new finger twisting button combos.

    As a new user I'm not even going to try to learn the 37 finger twisting combos that you use to move. The game looked good, got great reviews, but it's going to get me some credit at the game store next week now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2005 @06:43PM (#12867495)
    It's really hard to come up with a concept for a pick up and play game. Most titles attempt to refine existing formulas because there's so little left. For example, Will Wright's Spore is designed to be pick up and play, and look at the huge amount of technology required to introduce it. Basically, the low hanging fruit are already taken.
    • And the complexity of the "pick up and play" games continues to get bigger and bigger. About the only ones that seem to have found the perfect balance are the sports games (American Football in particular), and yet as the years go by, they add the off-season, importing players from the college versions of the game of the same brand, off-field incidents, dynasty modes. And yet, a player can ignore all that, hit "quick play" and have a game set up in seconds.

      Racing games add fine tuning to the vehicles an
      • Holy cripes. You think a football game nowadays is just a pick up and play game?

        I've bought a few football games, and the problem me and my friends have is that if I play it for a few games more than they get a chance to play, then I just whoop their butts...

        So they can't just pick up and go.

        Now, Tecmo Bowl - there's a football game that you can just pick up and play!!!
        • "pick up and play" does not mean you don't advance skillwise. You get more used to the physics and logic and can plan out your actions better because you're more used to the game. If the game was so shallow that there was no way to get better after the first five minutes of playing you'd see everyone complain. The point of pick up and play is to make the game very easy to get into and play while at the same time adding depth that can be taken advantage of if you spend more time with it. Take Super Smash Bro
      • Football games will NEVER be "pick-up-and-play." The first time I played a football game, I thought, what the hell are these colored lines on these little mini-reperesentations of the field? Bother even explaining it? No. They just assume you already have prior knowledge. Its worse than a game that has a 15 minute tutorial, because it doesn't even offer a way to figure it out, other than trying things over and over until you understand it.

        What the rest of the world calls football, THAT makes a pretty eas
  • by Mirkon ( 618432 ) <mirkon&gmail,com> on Monday June 20, 2005 @06:44PM (#12867502) Homepage
    Yeah. That's great.

    Where were these arguments during the Playstation 2, Playstation 1, or even the Super NES days? Certainly it wasn't a rare sight then to see a company like Square make a game dozens of times longer than the norm. While numeric hours of gameplay have gone up, I don't think that's the problem at all. Personally, I think that the problem now is that there are just too many games.

    With that in mind, making games that are un-fun will just shrink the market and solve this, right?
    • Too many games and not enough hours to play them in is the problem in my book. Any game that is either short but sweet or has very frequent save points is OK with me. But games that have huge gaps between save points are a real pain, worse still are the ones that put you miles back into the level when you die or ones that make you sit through un-skippable cut-scenes you've seen 10 times before.

      Back in the good old days I could devote hours to a game after school without caring, these days, a snatched 45-mi
      • I used to be a 'hard-core' gamer. No more...

        Sadly, I spend my gaming time on Xbox Live Arcade. I am actually 'working through' a super-duper version of Breakout. I do this because it is easy to pick up, and easy to put down.

        While I play it, I think to god, I've been playing this game for 30 all comes back to where it started.
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:30AM (#12869965) Journal
      The problem isn't the length of the game, but about interface complexity and learning curve. If you put it in terms of time, it's the length of the time needed to learn even the basic controls or interface, i.e., time _not_ actually spent enjoying the game.

      I figure I might count as a die-hard gamer, having played computer games since 1983 and currently totalling some 60+ hours of gaming a week. (Ok, so I don't have a life.) But even for me a lot of games are basically non-fun because they expect me to devote a few days just learning what my options are, wtf I can do and how.

      I can think of games that were long and yet had a gentle learning curve, and which basically you could play right away. E.g., Diablo is the classic example.

      E.g., I once nagged mom into trying Tropico. The game isn't short and isn't simplistic. For that time it was IMHO _the_ most complex city-building simulation. And yet lemme tell you after the tutorial and a few hits from me, mom was playing like a pro and enjoying it. Sure, didn't yet know _all_ the options and subtleties, but knew enough to build a city and learn more gently along the way.

      E.g., I decided to one-up that experiment by introducing grandma to Sierra's "Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom". We're talking an 80 year old woman who is completely computer-illiterate and doesn't even own a computer. Ok, so it took a bit more tutoring, and every once in a while she'd hold her fingers wrong and use the left mouse button instead of right or viceversa. (Ok, Apple fans can feel vindicated.) Well, it was the first time she ever held a mouse, so can't blame her. But still, she did get the general idea, was doing an adequate job of building farms and roads, and most importantly was having fun with it.

      That's basically the point: a game can be complex and it can be long (mom got about 2 months of playing out of Tropico) without having a vertical learning curve. It just takes good design, you know.

      The trick Sierra's city building games did, for example, was to flatten the learning curve along the whole campaign. You start with just needing to build a well and houses in the first mission, and every subsequent mission gives you just a little more complexity, and a little bit more to learn. You can start to enjoy your game long before you know half the possibilities.
  • jumping puzzles (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AdamWeeden ( 678591 )
    It is for this reason that the ever present jumping puzzle has become more and more popular. It combines the simplicity of control (you really only need a d-pad and a jump button) and the complexity of being difficult. They aren't my cup of tea, but it's obvious why the seem to be a staple of modern action games.
  • But Tribes, Renegades in particular, is quite possibly the most fun gaming I've ever had. Yet it's also one of the hardest to learn games I've ever played. Perhaps it's just me?
  • by wishus ( 174405 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @06:49PM (#12867552) Journal
    More complex games, while harder to learn, usually entertain me longer than simple games. I still enjoy Starcraft, but I got bored with Bejeweled long ago.

    At the same time, a complex game has to really attract my attention if I'm going to devote the time to learn it. When I started playing EQ, I was nearly overwhelmed with the learning curve. However, the premise was so inviting that I took the time to learn my way around.

    Still other games just didn't look fun enough to figure out how to play.
    • Perhaps, but not everyone feels the same way as you do about computer games. My wife's two favorite computer games have both been free web-based games. One involved launching a football at Marcia Brady's face ("Oh! My nose!"), and the other involved catching babies dropped from a balcony by Michael Jackson.
    • Complex can be a good thing, but it really depends on the case. I played Tetris yesterday for the approximately one billionth time. In fact, I've been playing Tetris on and off for more than ten years now. But I don't think anyone could argue that Tetris is very complex at all. Tetris doesn't succeed in spite of its simplicity, but because of it. Tetris is a game that you can understand instantly, but take years to master. But not only does it take a long time to master, it's fun to play. So, those are the
  • In other news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rogabean ( 741411 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @06:51PM (#12867567)
    Math has become increasingly more *unfun* stated one high school student...

    seriously though... gamers have evolved... games have to evolve with them... what once held a challenge to the average gamer... no longer holds tru for today's gamer. Those kids are getting alot smarter...

    I once thought Super Mario Bros. was *too hard*...

    There are still plenty of *easier titles* available out there for the casual or non gamer. What you will notice however is those games tend to be cheaper... Most gamers who are the ones willing to spend the money today's games command... are the ones who want a challenge... ...not Pac-Man.

    Of course I could be waaaaaaay off base here...
    • Mario is too hard, I've never even come close to beating it. Now 100h on Final Fantasy is something I can handle.
    • It may be easy for you and I, but to a new gamer Super Mario Bros is just as complicated as it was when i first picked it up.

      Yes, the gaming population is getting older. But there are also a lot of new gamers that find many of today's games far too complex to learn. I'm not talking about too complex to master, but just too hard to pick up and start playing.

      In my opinion, this is where Nintendo will continue to draw new audiences while MS and Sony preach to the converted.
    • They're only getting easier for those of us who grew up on old-school die-hard kick-me-in-the-pants games with insane difficulty levels. We already know what to do there, and have already seen worse. But here's the scoop:

      1. You're then talking about someone with 20+ years of experience, not about a new player. It's like saying "but the Unix CLI is very easy to someone who's worked as a Unix admin for 20+ years." Well, yes, very true, but that's not the experience someone brand new will see.

      Humans are stil
      • You forgot about the arcade games where harder games meant more profit. Back in the 2d console days many games were arcade ports. Of course these ports were just as difficult as the arcade games themselves despite no longer making a profit from more credits used. Since so many games were arcade ports or of comparable difficulty you needed more skill to play those games. Nowadays games are much easier because credits no longer mean profit, winning makes the user happier than losing and a finished game makes
      • Humans are still humans. The species hasn't seen any evolution in 20 years. There's barely time for a new generation in there, so no time for natural selection or anything. And being a l33t gamer wasn't a natural selection factor to start with.

        So basically what was difficult to a new player back then, will still be difficult to a new player today.

        Right, if we were talking about not having enough fingers on each hand to use the controller. But evolution isn't the only (or even major) factor at play here
        • Now, if you went back in time, kidnapped a newborn infant, brought it Back to the Future, and had it play Quake Deathmatch against a newborn infant today... well, it's anyone's guess who would win. Probably the one who spawns closer to the Quad Damage.

          Best. Idea. Ever.

  • Console games are getting more complex to satisfy the PC crowd, and PC games are getting nerfed to satisfy the console crowd.

    Two different styles meet in the middle and end up a mediocre compromise. Unshocker.
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @07:04PM (#12867662) Journal
    As a rule, games should be easy to learn, but difficult to master. This is accomplished by making the basic game play not require many various button presses at the start. Hense the easy levels. But as the player goes on in levels, more special equipment is picked up, and the game play becomes more challenging.
    • Isn't that the general principle with any game, video or not? The rules for chess are easy enough to learn, but being -good- at the game is an entirely different thing. Most of the truly enjoyable games (where you feel you have some amount of control over winning and losing) seem to have simple rules with complex ramifications. You can't precisely see what strategy will be best, so you have to try them all to find out. And with multiplayer, you generally wind up with a rock/paper/scisors sitatuation -- no s
      • Most of the truly enjoyable games (where you feel you have some amount of control over winning and losing) seem to have simple rules with complex ramifications. You can't precisely see what strategy will be best, so you have to try them all to find out.

        I just finished playing throught Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones which actually uses a rock paper scissors style of turn based strategy. It's a great game and really challenging with player imposed restrictions. (ie. Don't have any characters die off) It

    • One of my personal favorite games is the PS2 version of Shinobi, and though it was considered 'difficult', it's difficultly progression was far different than the 'bag of items' type that you mention.

      As the game progressed, you simply had to be better at the few things that you could do. You had to think and react far quicker, and it became (severly) less tolerent of mistakes.

      Many older games (Atari, CollecoVision, NES) use a similar pattern as well. You simply have to get better at playing.


      • How many buttons does the game use? I've played the sequel (Nightshade), it has way too many moves for my tastes (shurikens? scrolls? couldn't they have scrapped those?). Is Shinobi better in that respect or do you just ignore those functions?
        • Yeah, scrolls are pretty much useless in later levels of the original, and are there primarly to bail you out when you first start. I actually used the kunai a lot, however. The targeting system probably is what could of used the most cleaning up.

          I'm guessing you probably won't like the first (PS2) one either...

          In retrospect, maybe it wasn't as simple as I thought, would super monkey ball be a good example?

  • One of the big problems in this debate is too many people see a single iconic 'path of video games'. When the new consoles come out we judge the companies based on how well their offerings compare to each of our Visions.

    What I think too many posters here will miss is that this article is trying to show that N is aware of this and they are focusing on making games that are simply fun. They probably aren't deeply moving or mind provoking, but they emphasize the game over the story.

    I still to this day sug

  • Board games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Godeke ( 32895 ) * on Monday June 20, 2005 @07:09PM (#12867692)
    There is a similar dichotomy in board games at the moment. The casual board gamers (i.e., the typical American family) continue to buy "classic" games (Monopoly, Risk, Yahtzee, etc). Anyone can put these things on the table and play them (albeit, frequently not as the rules actually are spelled out...)

    Meanwhile, there are several "hard core" gaming communities (Eurogamers, Grognards, etc) that demand games that fail to generate any interest at the Toys 'R Us level. The *interesting* thing is that (at least in America) the mass market controls board games (i.e., war-games are not sold at toy stores, nor are eurogames). In the computer game community, the Hard Core gamers seem to still control the gaming direction. Which seems a little weird to me, but enjoy it while you can, because once the development houses figure out they can sell 50 million "generic-easy-to-play" vs 5 million (if you are lucky) hard core games, the game industry will be nothing but forgettable tripe like the American board games available in the average store. I guess the only thing that keeps this unusual situation possible is the larger free time pool that the "hard core" can expend and the fact that $50 x 5 million looks acceptible compared to $10 x 50 million (especially with cost of shelf space, etc). If casual gamers continue to gain marketshare, expect that calculation to change.
    • There is a big difference between board and video games. New "mainstream" games come out every year. The last mainstream board game introduced was Trivial Pursuit in the 80's. As someone who likes dinner parties with board games finding a new game to play is impossible. I just have to wait for new editions of Trival Pursuit to come out.

      Someone should tell board game makers that board games should not be played with a DVD.
      • You've obviously never played Cranium
      • As someone who likes dinner parties with board games finding a new game to play is impossible

        Why not try to design and build your own games? We did it a lot when my friends and I played RPGs etc. Each of us had built our own RPG system (One had two: fantasy and cyber) which we GMed and played.

        At the risk of sounding like an old fart (i'm 29) we made our own (board) games, that the others tried to find gaps in the rules as we played. We even hacked the rules of chess and checkers, including rubber/mir

      • Try any of the following

        Settlers of Catan
        Ticket to Ride
        Puerto Rico
      • Back when I had lots of geeky friends in college who liked to find new games to play but lacked the financial resources to actually buy any of them, my friends and I discovered Cheap Ass Games []. Though only a few of their games have real staying power, they were all very cheap, easy to learn and at least some fun.

        I understand their game "Kill Dr. Lucky" is now played in tournaments.
    • Settlers of Catan is probably the best board game I have ever played, and it is so simple to play compared to games like Monopoly.

      "Hardcore" gamers better get over themselves quickly. Accessible games are not inherently inferior. In fact, I would say that the longer or more complex games are just as frequently piles of crap as games for more "casual" gamers if not more so.
      • Re:Board games (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Godeke ( 32895 ) * on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:17PM (#12868459)
        Having a collection of over 400 board games, I'm well aware of Settlers. I'm also aware that it isn't available in major toy stores to this day, *despite* selling millions. I would consider it a fluke more than a trend.

        My point was that board games are dominated by games that don't *have* to be taught at all, because families play the game by memory and hand the games down through generations (thus Free Parking causing Monopoly to last even longer than the design merits). Soon, computer games will be dominated the same way. Not that there are not good casual games (TFA uses several Nintendo games as examples of that).

        However, as an example, Grognards (war-gamers) have been reduced to *promising to buy games ahead of time* to convince publishers to expend the resources on a game. The publisher says "if we can get 500 orders, we will finish the game". The Grognards pledge to purchase those games (by submitting credit card info via a website) in the hopes that they can scrape together *499* other orders. That borders on the pathetic.

        Now, why is it that the Hard Core gamers manage to convince companies to produce product that only they will buy while in the more mature board game world they have to pledge money up front to publishers to make something they might enjoy? I think it is because the mass market appeal of games is a fairly recent event and things haven't matured to the same point. Which means, as you say, the Hard Core "had better get over themselves quickly". Because once the suits realize they can make more serving the general public, you will see a similar stagnation that has produced 75 Monopoly editions, 10 Risk editions and one Settlers of Catan (which isn't even available to the "mainstream"... you might be a closet Eurogamer :) )
        • There is an important group of games that you have missed. For instance, Outburst, Scattergories, or Taboo. Party games like those are still rather popular.

          As I see it, the problem with the more complex board games is that they are better suited to computers than tabletops. Take Risk as an example. It is a game that can take a whole night on a table. On a computer, it can take less than an hour. From my short experience with a tabletop war game, games can take days and most of the time is spent setting the
        • Hard core board wargames tend to have rather long, detailed, complex rulebooks that have to be learned and internalized in order to play. I played wargames for years as a kid, but getting opponents was often hard because of the learning curve.

          One of my favorite board games was Squad Leader (I started playing long before ASL), which had 36 pages of rules, and which spawned 3 add-on gamettes that each added another 36 pages of rules, including some very particular special cases: e.g. attackers in close comb
  • I think that a game is only worth as much as you put into it. I like some of those harder games that take time. Starcraft, for example. If you held it up to what they are suggesting, no one would buy it. Yet it is still one of the most sold games of all times. It is hard, long and it is defintely fun. Another game i like is Ogre Battle 64 for the N64. That game takes about 50 hrs to complete. I tried playing it to find everything. It took me over 70+ hrs. And i still love that game. Its not the e
  • Two Words (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LordPhantom ( 763327 )
    Difficulty Levels. In the case of puzzlers, or shooters, it allows people to make the game as easy or hard as they feel they can and want to handle. For RPGs (or even FPSes), add a few hidden features and other "cool" things to make it worthwhile to play at a reasonably hard level (options and features you can't get at the easy level, or without completing a difficult side-quest). Maybe more than a few.... but this allows newer gamers to "enjoy" the fundamentals of the game without becoming frustrated
    • An "easy mode" can't fix complex controls, difficult puzzles, or frustrating camera angles. In most games these days, easy means "enemies do less damage" and hard means "more enemies".

      In addition, the two genres you mentioned are probably the two most "hardcore" genres in games today, besides possibly fighting games. Nearly every RPG and FPS is fairly difficult to learn unless you've had previous experience with the genre. FPSs controls are, by their nature, quite unintuitive for beginners, and RPGs have
      • Re:Two Words (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @05:05AM (#12870382) Journal
        While he indeed picked on the difficulty, as opposed to the learning curve that was the real topic, I think he does have a point, though. IMHO:

        1. The difficulty can make a lot of people get frustrated and abandon a game even if the learning curve was ok.

        2. More importantly and more on topic, difficulty levels can in fact ease the learning curve. A game, let's say an RPG, that a master can beat on Hard by min-maxing their char and knowing the exact best combination of spells, potions and attacks, becomes manageable on "Very Easy" even if you didn't learn all that. Lower the difficulty enough and a newbie can just run around poking things with a wooden sword, and not worry (or even bother knowing) that he was really supposed to use some complicated combination of spells, skills and special equipment there.

        The problem is that most of the industry can't seem to get their head out of their ass^H^H^H mentality that "waah, but a challenge is all we can offer the players! without a challenge a game is nothing!"

        Well, no, they need to get over it. Something can be entertaining without requiring more skill than operating a remote control. See the hordes of people who find it perfectly entertaining to watch football on TV or a movie on DVD without needing to learn arcane button combinations or overcome heroic challenges.

        _The_ most sold PC game ever was The Sims. Funny thing is: it's a game with _zero_ challenge. You have to actively try hard to "lose" the game. Otherwise you could pretty much do what you wanted, take it at your own pace (e.g., if you wanted to give a party instead of making Bob Newbie learn for a promotion, go ahead and do just that) and the negative consequences would range between non-existent and mild/short-term.

        Think of other games that sold well. Diablo? It was really one of the least challenging games of that era, and you could win pretty much no matter how you built your character. Max Payne? If you died often enough, the game basically automatically put you in God mode.

        On consoles, you know what sells remarkably well? "Cheat" programs like GameShark, Xploder or such. A helluva lot of people are willing to even fork over cash to be spared from a challenge they don't want.

        But, no, most game designers are still locked in a mentality that "nooo, it must be challenging and difficult!" So even when they do offer a difficulty setting, they just have to over-balance it to discourage people from using it.

        For example half the RPGs actually get it backwards: it's actually _more_ difficult to finish the game on the "very easy" setting. Because they also cut your XP in half, so by the end of the game you're 2-3 levels lower than the enemies, your status effect spells (e.g., "turn undead") don't stick, your warrior can't actually hit the enemies (3 points of THAC0 can make a helluva lot of difference), etc.

        Congrats, they've just kicked someone in the nuts when that someone basically chose "I'm a newbie, I don't want a challenge." Is that stupid, or what?

        And again, this affects the learning curve too. Because that kind of game starts easier, but becomes harder than normal by the end, the learning curve actually becomes more abrupt in that mode. Someone who played on "very easy" will have to do _much_ more advanced tricks to be able to survive by the end, and will have to learn them very very fast.
        • The difficulty can make a lot of people get frustrated and abandon a game even if the learning curve was ok.

          On the other hand, if a game is too easy it can become quite boring to hardcore-gamers and people that can learn very fast.

          But, no, most game designers are still locked in a mentality that "nooo, it must be challenging and difficult!" So even when they do offer a difficulty setting, they just have to over-balance it to discourage people from using it.

          I'm guessing you've never developed a game be
          • Well, I didn't say it was easy, but it takes a certain mentality in the first place to come up with an idea like "I know, let's give them a quarter of the XP if they play on easy." It's not exactly rocket science that the bugger will have 3 levels less at the end of the game, and his "Turn Undead" won't actually hit any undead any more.

            Basically what I'm saying is "stop 'balancing' the easy mode against the hard mode. Stop even trying to assign penalties to one." If the description for easy mode starts wit
  • One of the most rewarding experiences I've found in many games is that complexity continuously increases with gameplay as not to overwhelm the user. Consider FF6 for example. There's no skill system for the first few hours of the game; people have skills they do stuff and that's it. After that, they slowly introduce new abilities, a skill system, new characters and whatnot. It's simply a design flaw to introduce the player to a complex system all at once and say "sink or swim". Additionally, I like pla
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2005 @07:28PM (#12867810)
    As an amateur/hobbyist game developer and game student, I spend a lot of time examining interfaces and trying to put myself in the shoes of a non-gamer. I think the poster is both correct and quite wrong. Some thoughts:

    1 - Games, as a whole, take too much time to learn how to play and enjoy, ESPECIALLY for non-gamers. Too often, "learning how to play" means learning how to avoid pitfalls and problems that are due to sloppy execution or short-sighted production, rather than genuine "rules" of the game.

    2 - Counterpoint: All games should not be Katamari Damacy. All games should not be Steel Battalion either. It is OK to have complex games, simple games, long games, short games, etc. VARIETY IS GOOD. IF we demand that the industry make everything accessible, that is just as bad as making every game inaccessible. Choice is king! (is that a burger king thing?)

    3 - TFA uses the Zelda and FF series as examples of nice, easy to learn games. I don't think the author is stepping back quite far enough; these games, to non-gamers, are incomprehensible and confusing. Do your parents play Zelda? Do your parents play FF7? Games like Bejeweled or Rocket Mania are much closer to the point.

    4 - In response to many of the posts that have already been put up, Pick Up And Play does not mean Simple and Boring. Super Smash Bros (both iterations) was a pick up and play title that offered successively deeper levels of gameplay and strategy the more you played. It required zero to little instruction and was instantly fun. I admit that most current Pick Up And Play titles ARE simplistic and get boring more quickly than complex games. However, I hope that the example of Super Smash Bros sheds a little light on the possibility of avoiding those problems in the future.

    5 - I think that fixing this problem is easier in multiplayer games than in single player. Most of the examples listed previously (starcraft, etc) are still interesting not because of their complexity (or at least not wholly) but because they are a way of competing with friends or strangers, something people love to do anyways. Multiplayer gaming has a chance to really "lead the charge" here, as it were. Super Smash Bros is an almost invisible interface that allows you to fight your friends; Starcraft is the same, though with a steeper learning curve.

    6 - Here are some things non-gamers don't understand:
    A - If there is a blue key, then there is a blue door.
    B - The big key is the boss key.
    C - Red bad guys are harder than blue bad guys.
    D - In all likelihood, your avatar is nearly invincible by real world standards.
    E - Invisible walls are commonplace and accepted.
    F - Animation isn't a real reflection of your interaction with the game world (is changing though - compare Prince of Persia: Sands of Time to Onimusha: Moonwalking In Place).

    7 - I call at that stuff in #6 "game grammar." It's something that everyone who reads Slashdot has schema for, its hardwired in after 1000s of hours of Nintendo and Sega Genesis. It is a much larger stumbling block for non-gamers than many people realize. That's why the Sims was such a HUGE hit (and also a good candidate for pick up and play with complexity).

    This is a lot of unorganized crap. But I hope it speaks to some of the concerns related to the topic at hand.
    • Yep, and without maligning folks like my mother, people who get game grammar can be dropped into almost any arbitrary game in their chosen genres and Pick Up and Play, whereas people who don't, can't. WoW has a very, very nice difficulty curve... if you're coming to the game with an ingrained understanding that kobolds are less dangerous than dragons, "levels" are a qualitative measure of power, mages always are physically weak, "hit points" are something its good to have more of because they keep you from
    • Um, as to your point number three, the article uses Zelda and FF as examples of games that are not pick up and play. "I'm still blown away everytime a new Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda game comes out, and I look forward to spending hundreds of hours with them exploring all of their intricacies. That being said, the same things that attract me to these games might repel others who are casual gamers or non-Gamers." Nintendo is good at pick up and play games. I was thinking of Super Smash Bros. as well. And
      • One inherent thing for racing games is that you don't have to have played a computer game before to know the following:

        1) Cars go faster if you press the accelerate, and slower if you press the brake. Similarly, there are steering controls to turn you left and right. The basic movement paradigm is something we're introduced to at a very early age in real life.

        2) The way you win a race is to cross the finish line before the other racers do. Unless you're playing PGR there's no mysterious "Kudos" point syst
        • Just to play the devil's advocate for a moment, with regard to racing games, I find it is NOT inherently obvious to people with no gaming experience that crashing is generally OK (ignoring the obvious annoyance factor in multiplayer, etc), and more specifically, driving games virtually never "kill" you.

          These are two other obvious, ingrained pieces of knowledge which are entirely counter-intuitive. I find they actually take quite awhile to "unlearn" for someone whose first videogame experience is a driving
          • I completely see what you mean - I actually stopped playing driving games completely for 6 months while I learned to drive, because I was conditioned to just look ahead and not all around like you need to do in real life.

            MSR/PGR/PGR2 Kudos is really good, yes, it's just something that complicates matters for the newbie a fair bit. MSR was seriously harsh on you about any minor mistakes, so I'm glad it got easier, though.
    • by dbcad7 ( 771464 )
      You hit the nail on the head with this one. Doom as single player when it came out was a cool game.. but when you finaly got to play multiplayer (modem or ipx at the time) you realized that it was an awsome game ! so much more fun to outsmart and kill people you know !!

      that said, I guess I'm old

  • I think that there's a place in the world for both simple games and complex games. Simple games are great for casual gamers or short gaming sessions. More complex games are better if you want to have a longer, more involved session. Too many simple games just don't have the depth that the more complex games have. While Nintendo games are a lot of fun, most of them don't have much in the way of strategy or tactics. The most complex genres, FPS, RTS, and MMORPG are the ones that have the most depth, stra
  • by DoctaWatson ( 38667 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @07:30PM (#12867822)
    Steep learning curves and complexity add a richness to many games, maybe at the price of "pick up and play" qualities.

    Tedium, however, sucks the fun out of games and adds no great stimulation to make up for it. Sometimes it's unintentional tedium, like bad inventory management systems or lack of non-repetitive content.

    Oftentimes though, the tedium is artificially added. The best examples of this are in MMORPG's where "timesinks" can literally account for DAYS of gameplay over a long enough period. In WoW, for example, you can expect 15-20% of your gaming time being spent travelling.

    If you want to make games fun, don't bother with the learning curve- just get rid of the tedium.
    • Now complexity, yes, that can add richness to a game. But you can have a complex game without dumping people into a situation where they don't know where they are, what they're doing, what _can_ they do, etc. Because that's what "steep learning curve" really means, and that's why some of us are against it.

      As an extreme example, consider this: there was one map, among the many many user-made maps for Doom 1, that made you start in what seemed like a square room with no exits, facing a huge demon. No weapons
  • Old School (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zicherd ( 824349 )
    That is why some of these old classics are making a come back to some degree. The joystick consoles that you can plug into your tv to pla pacman, digdug and joust are simple no brainer games that are somewhat successful products.
  • Non-issue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HD Webdev ( 247266 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @07:47PM (#12867931) Homepage Journal
    FTA: He cites the complex, inaccessible, and time-consuming nature of today's most popular games.

    If they are so inaccessible, etc... then why are they the most popular?

    This is a non-issue. The sky is not falling. There are games for all types of people. Also, o one should feel left out or need to contact their Governmental representatives to enact legislation to stop this sort of thing.
  • by EvilMagnus ( 32878 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @07:59PM (#12868005)
    Games are supposed to be all about making Will Wright feel like a God [].

    Your only role is to purchase the game, then sit in Awe at his Magnificence.
    • ... that a lot of us actually enjoy Will Wright's games.

      Since you've linked to Penny Arcade, I trust you've read their blog entry for that day, right? Because there Tycho says that only Gabe feels that way about Will Wright's games, whereas he (Tycho) actually likes them.

      Any way you want to slice it, The Sims is _the_ best selling PC game _ever_, and that's not even counting the 7 expansion packs. So Will must do _something_ right.

      Actually, let me even comment on what he's doing right: most criticisms of
  • I'd like more game designers to recognize that not everyone has the reflexes of hard-core gamer. I often get frustrated by games in which I get blocked at a section that requires exact timing and perfect coordination to succeed. I bought the game to have fun, not to be reminded that I have no future in professional sports.
  • I'll say! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by furry_marmot ( 515771 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @08:37PM (#12868235) Homepage
    My first game on my PS/2 (late bloomer a few years ago) was GTA3. There was a learning curve, and then I had many hours of fun with it. GTA Vice City was larger, harder, had some annoying bugs, and I never did finish it. It just got to be a task to figure out what to do next. My wife bought me GTA San Andreas for Christmas, and I'm still barely into it. I originally thought the hugeness of the game would be great, but it's just boring. Get an assignment, drive for five minutes, blow it, start again. That's not fun. It's a huge waste of time, while hoping some fun happens eventually, when you're not eating, working out, and trying to earn respect points.

    It reminds me of when I tried my wife's copy of The Sims once. I friggin' live my life already. I don't have time to help a bunch of digital homunculi work, sleep, pay bills, and indulge their neuroses. Despite the popularity of it, I lasted three days with it and was done forever.

    My favorite PS/2 game in the past year was Simpson's Hit & Run. Just silly mindless fun. I'm old (old enough anyway) and I like to play games to unwind a bit, not to get wound up. If I want to engage my mind in something deep and complex, I look for a game of Go or a good book.

    • Re:I'll say! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Txiasaeia ( 581598 )
      Just feel lucky you got the PS2 version. PC version is so buggy you can't get into it, even if you tried.

      Games *are* supposed to be fun, but they seriously start to lose their appeal when they hard crash and force your computer to reboot for the *third* time in the same fricking mission, and because it's a console port you can't save whenever you want to.

    • My wife and I have both "Hit & Run" and "Road Rage" for the GameCube and these are the two favorite games for us to play. We prefer road rage since we can take turns or race against each other. On thing though, does anyone know how to unlock the 'question mark' car in Road Rage? We have beaten the game, and finished all the secret missions, play on difficult mode, and have found numerous 'secret' shortcuts and easter eggs in the various levels, yet we still have that annoying question mark. Anyone telli
  • With FPS... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:13PM (#12868428)
    I prefer well-lighted environments (Half-Life 2) over dark hell-holes (Doom 3) so I can see where I'm being shot at from.

    If the game has a sniper rifle, there better be plenty of long distance targets to make it fun in single player, or have multiple camping... uh, hiding spots... in multiplayer. ;) The AI needs to be intelligent enough to realize that his buddy AI lost his head (or nuts, depending on how realistic the game is).

    Having zombies in the game is always fun when you can blow them up in different ways. If you don't blow yourself up [] instead. And don't forget the nail gun.
  • I personally don't have a problem learning a game. It's a challenge, but it's a fun challenge. I'll use Starsiege: Tribes as an example here. That game was, and still is, very difficult to learn. You don't just have two dimensions anymore, the maps are huge, and the pace is very fast. It took me forever to learn how to conserve jetpack energy while being able to aim and hit someone while we're both flying around like maniacs while we're both trying to dodge bullets, sniper beams, and mortar shells from the
  • by malejko ( 216594 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @11:45PM (#12869290) Homepage
    So you have casual gamers, hardcore gamers and non-gamers all playing games. The hardcores want the latest and greatest stuff and are generally satisfied. The casual gamers can usually pick up a console game and most PC games and be happy. The non-gamers that use their PC for solitaire or bejeweled -- why aren't these games on a console?

    I personally have had enough of fixing people's PC's that are used for online games like Bejeweled. These are the people that mess up their PC's with spyware and adware quite a bit. So where the heck is the relatively cheap console that plays Bejeweled for $20 and Solitaire for $10 ? It doesn't exist as far as I know... Knoppix or some bootable distro with a bunch of games you say? Well I either haven't found the right distro or I'm just looking in the wrong place. Someone please - do enlighten. I want to put something together, or find something that my Uncle or Mom can sit down and play with for 45 minutes or 2 hours before the kids get home.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Um.. you'll be wanting an Xbox [] then, which can be had for $129 refurbished or $149 new [], a subscription to Xbox Live [] - and a copy of the free Xbox Live Arcade [] disk.

      Once you install Live Arcade, Bejeweled is available as an online purchase for $14.99.

      They also have games like Zuma ($14.99), Mutant Storm ($9.99) - and Ms. Pac-Man is bundled free on the Live Arcade installation disk. Demos of most games are also available to download and try for free before you buy the full version.
      • That's close. That's REALLY close, but not perfect. The concept of just one disc in the Xbox - good, if not great. However the online part really doesn't appeal to the people in question, and a monthly fee doesn't either. Having a disc full of like 10 or 100 games like these - or even simpler ones would be even better. I can understand the subscription model myself, but how about an offline disc full of a bunch of these games for $100 or something? $149 + $100 = $249 for a bunch of games on an Xbox? Now we'
    • I don't know about Solitaire, but Bejeweled [] and Texas Hold 'Em [] (two of my Mom's favorites...she also like Rocket Mania) are available on the GBA. If they really want to play on the big screen, hook them up with a refurbed GameCube with a GameBoy Player. Never take the GBP boot disc out, and voila, Pickup-and-play games station with no spyware!
  • The author of TFA is a Nintendophile, but not without reason. The truth is there are many pick up games on all systems, especially the Namco classics and Karaoke and Dance games. He qualifies his editorial that his likes are not everybody's. Mine are fringe tastes, which includes Nightmare of Druga (most hate it), and Beatmania IIDX. Both games are simple in concept, but require a near obsessive attempt to perfect a level over and over.

    I see a lot of repetition in game concepts, but there really are a
  • my friends and I picked up donkey conga last week (the bongo drums games). For the side scroller game, the instructions are /in game/. Your started off, and a bubble pops up w/ hands clapping, the another bubble pops up showing you what next. Its quick and easy and is a great intro to the game.

    End result: 'Nintendo gets it.'
    • I tried Donkey Conga the other day in some game store. I couldn't figure it out at all. Granted, it was already past the tutorial, but still, it would have be nice it it was even somewhat intuitive. I don't think newbies would like it very much.
    • If you were playing the Bongos-ready DK side scroller, I think you were playing Donkey Kong Jungle Beat []. Donkey Konga 1 & 2 are both music games: no player side scrolling required.
  • Better Tutorials! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Headcase88 ( 828620 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:34AM (#12869770) Journal
    As said before, it's good to have a mix of simple games and complex games.

    But if you're going to make you're game complex, then teach people how to play. Most games will attempt to teach you controls in the first level of play (or training mode), but most of them suck at doing so.

    Example: Timesplitters Future Perfect. When you play the first level, it will tell you really basic stuff like how to move move, shoot, switch weapons, etc, but it neglects to teach you a lot of important controls, and gives you zero information on what kind of tactics you should use. In other words, people used to FPSs made this game, and the obviously don't understand what it's like to not be an FPS player.

    In short, companies really don't spend enough time on tutorial modes, especially when the game is of a common genre.

    (Personally, I love playing tutorials, even when I'm familiar with the game).
    • One of the things I think it's important to note about Future Perfect - if you havent played at least one of the previous games in the series, I doubt youve even heard of it. The game was designed Exclusively for fans of the previous 2, with NO exceptions. There are veins of these games out there - the best example that comes to mind are the strategic real-combat sims (wargames).

      There are games (thank god!) that make NO concession to the new gamer. There are complex controls by nature, no suggestion of st

  • by Digital Vomit ( 891734 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @09:28AM (#12871463) Homepage Journal
    Here's a list of things that software developers should continue putting in games. Thankfully they haven't steered away from these features for decades:
    • When you die, you should always start back at the beginning of the level. This builds perserverance, which is a good character trait.
    • If a game is really good, gamers won't mind excessive backtracking. Getting the key at area A, inserting it into the slot back at area B, heading back to area A to move the now unlocked lever, and running back to area B before the door closes gives the player a lot of time to look at the beautiful backgrounds and maybe learn new and better techniques to defeat the monsters along the way.
    • Have every neat thing in the game become available after completing a certain task. In fact, don't make the regular game available until you've successfully completed a few training levels. This gives the player goals to achieve. Oh, and don't make multiplayer available until you finish a few single player levels. This just gives the players a chance to practice before playing against each other. To be fair, never put in any code to make all "unlockables" available. If someone can't put in the forty hours of gameplay to unlock the cool stuff featured on the back of the box, they shouldn't be playing the game.
    • Nothing says "fun" like a big maze!
    • A great way to introduce variety in a game is to use the same bad guys, but make them different colors. This surprises the player because he thinks "Hey, I've fought this guy before, but he was a different color. Something's up! I'd better be on my guard"
    • Include as few options as possible. Too many options may overwhelm the player.
    • Never re-use gameplay from previous games, even if thoes games did well. You can always improve the control scheme on the First Person Shooter genre.
    • Players should not be allowed to save their games "whenever". This makes them too easy. Have save points strategically placed throughout the game (but not too close to bosses).

    I'm sure there's more, but these are the ones I could rattle off at the top of my head. So, stand tall, video game developers, and continue providing the level of excellence that has stood the test of time in the video gaming world!

  • Oasis [] is one of the most intuitive games I have ever played, and it's fun and original enough that I actually plopped down the $20 for it.

    You can learn all you need one piece at a time in the tutorial levels, and then you've got three skill levels: Easy, Normal, Hard that are, get this, easy, normal, and hard! ::Gasp!::

    It's turn-limited Minesweeper meets Civilization-lite. It is very enjoyable, and it's proof that pickup-and-play games aren't dead. They just seem to have moved away from the console marke

    • For what it's worth, the Sly Cooper games (1 [], 2 []) were very intuitive console games. The character acknowledge the contoller. They call the 'X' button the 'X' button instead of the 'jump' button, etc. It's nice to hear Bentley say something like "In order to execute your new thief move, jump with 'X', then press the 'O' button."
  • by quantax ( 12175 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:19PM (#12873702) Homepage
    I do not really agree that games are becoming more complex, but I am also one of those gamers who enjoys complex games, so my standard of judgement is probably not that of your average consumer. Barring that however, a somewhat new trend (new in that I am seeing it used well in modern games) is the ability to select the complexity & difficulty you play the game at. A great example of this is a rather recent game called Silent Hunter III, which is a WWII u-boat game.

    I had always found subsim games interesting, but was always put off by the fact that they often required you to have an existing knowledge of submarine terms, the mechanics and so on, and given the complexity of submarine combat, this would result in me not playing the game again due to fustration. Enter Silent Hunter III which allows a player like myself to choose how realistic I wish to play the game. At first I played at the most unrealistic level with unlimited oxygen, unlimited fuel, automatic targeting, etc etc, and let the game AI deal with most of the ship management. This allowed me to focus on ship interception strategy & get a firmer grip on whats important when playing. Then slowly, I enabled the realism options as I became more confident & knowledgable about the gameplay. I still do not play at a true realism level as I do not personally find it too incredibly fun, especially since I am not quite that good yet, but the game succeeds wonderfully at scaling to a player's level of knowledge. As well, if I find the motions of sighting, configuring, etc a torpedo attack, I can relegate the task to the AI, and focus just on navigation, ever having to deal with torpedo details. Same for sonar, radar, deck guns, and so on. You can play the game the way you like.

    It is this type of choose-your-own-complexity-and-gameplay-style that I'd like to see more in games beyond just 'Easy, Medium, Hard' (though most games need only this), especially in the more complex games that require micromanagement. Rome Total War was great in this aspect; you could let the AI manage your cities building queues & recruitment and just focus on combat. Or you could do the opposite purely manage resources & territory aquisition and just let the AI fight the battles for you. In this manner, both a Civ fan and a Command & Conquer fan would both enjoy the game in a seperate way.

    Both of these games, Rome Total War, and Silent Hunter III are fairly complex games but each is great in that I do not have to be a Roman historian or a U-Boat expert to play & enjoy the games; and better still, those experts can play the game and love it too in their own way.
  • Party games are a great example of old school, pick up and play gameplay in a modern setting.

    I have pipedreams of building my own for DreamCast, cribbing from Mario Party and Fuzion Frenzy...
  • We've already talked about moviegoers being essentially spoiled which is why 47% think the at movies are getting worse when they're clearly getting better.

    So it is with videogames too. When Pac Man came out, people were just happy that they weren't stuck with pong anymore. But now, no matter how realistic, how impressive the graphics or gameplay is, none of them are good enough, and lately we've been subjected to an endless stream of "Why Videogames Today Suck" articles.

    Honestly people, doesn't anybod

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM