Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Die Another Day

Another recent conversation on my new favourite discussion forum got me thinking: are games, specifically MUDs, specifically Karinth, too easy these days?

The story takes a nostalgic look at games that are long gone, where saving was difficult if not impossible, players regularly had to re-play the same level of the game over and over, or just start again from the beginning. Where the game was difficult, frustrating and completing each little section was a real triumph.

So, are we missing out? Is there something to be said for more severe consequences to one's actions, actually making things more enjoyable? Would people have more fun in the long run if there was a real danger that one false move could spell disaster? Clearly, it would make any achievement all the more special. Though, on the other hand, many would likely get frustrated and go play something else, if they could never get anywhere.

Personally, I kind of like things the way they are. I feel there are enough games that cater only to the superhuman player who has the best reflexes and tools and knows all the ins and outs. I like that any dedicated player can become someone on Karinth, without needing to be really much of a gamer at all. I especially like that we don't have permadeath - though there are successful games that do. I prefer a more relaxed style where the player can explore things at their own pace, without the pressures of knowing that each move could be their last.

But what do you think? Is recovering from death too easy? Could there be something in the thought that a more difficult game would be more rewarding in the end? Do we need more tension and risk? Leave comments!

3 comments:

Aelius said...

"The story takes a nostalgic look at games that are long gone, where saving was difficult if not impossible, players regularly had to re-play the same level of the game over and over, or just start again from the beginning. Where the game was difficult, frustrating and completing each little section was a real triumph."

This isn't good game design, it's just tedium. Having to play the same level over and over again doesn't reward good players, it just frustrates. I mean, if I've completed a level, then I've already proven I can complete it. If I die three levels later, it's very frustrating and annoying to have to play that first level again.

Owl's perch said...

Accomplishment without risk is often only embraced when it is something that no others can do. (Though how one would be alone in a field that takes no risk, is another matter.)

That said, challenges that are merely repetitive instead of engaging often lower the reward of the accomplishment.

So, it rather depends on the game. When the medium is an arcade shooter, it doesn't matter if its repetitive because one is simply trying to outscore others. That it is futile may not matter so long as one may have done more than others.

For simulations, it is the idea of being able to create something organic. Something that cannot easily be replicated, even if it does not pose many difficulties in the pursuit of a creation.

MUDs tread that line inbetween. The challenge of creating a character that lives in a world. That gains more power and prestige by slaying (through mandated needs of systems and underappreciated programmers who labor hard) monsters over and over.

An RP character's strengths come from their stories, where the ability to back up what they say they can do is nice (and sometimes necessary). A hack-and-slash character is there for the kills and the thrills.

It's nice to have a chance of mortality. The knowledge that your character needs to be careful because there is always a chance that an outside force could end their days, instead of the crafted ending or the unexpected turn in the living story.

But when learning a world? It is a pain when you find a new place and are killed, forced to create a new character and laboriously train her to try to overcome the possibly unknown threat. With that constant knowledge that you may have to do it again and again before you get it right.

So perhaps the happy medium is to have some areas be known for perma death. Not something that can be wandered into accidentally but a chosen and known risk. Something that surviving the harrowing adventure may be praised, yet not stumbled into by the unwary.

Kolix said...

Well, to be honest I never really saw MUDs as something that needed to be all that difficult.

For me, MUDs are a fun way to kill time: You log on, kill a few mobs, maybe do a quest or two, explore a new area, search for some new equipment or an explorer stone, etc.. For me, it's not about things being difficult, it's just fun to do this stuff.

And I like that it's not too difficult because this way I have some room to play around. I can try to fight that really tough mob, or go into that new area and not have to worry about my game coming to a sudden halt because of it. It's safe for me to experiment and try things, the worst that happens is I loose some XP for it.