Tuesday, 14 February 2012

What I mean by Gameplay...

I was having an interesting debate the other day about HL2 mods and gameplay. My friend maintained that when people create maps for HL2 the gameplay was already set out for you (i.e. you have guns and NPCs) so it wasn't necessary for mappers to design their own gamplay.

I disagreed and here's why.

We've all played maps where you run through corridors and rooms and shoot a lot of bad guys. It's the bread and butter of the HL2 game however, if you take a close look at HL2 game these shooting sections are actually quite small and well designed.

The rest of the game is made up of very specific areas of gameplay designed using the elements of HL2 in very different ways.

Here's a simple statement of gameplay:
Shoot all the descending aliens before the reach the bottom of screen.

Thats a fairly simplistic view of space invaders but accurate as the main goal for the player.

Heres another one:
Kill all of the Striders before they reach the White Forest base.

Sound familiar? These two games are 25 years apart yet the core basics of what makes a game don't change. Both require the player to master certain skills, both put the player under increasing pressure, both get more and more manic as the pressure intensifies.

I would argue that in this respect, HL2 is no more complex at a basic level than Space Invaders.

It's this core idea of the game itself that is something often missed by mod makers but without it what do you actually have? I mean if you're attempting to design a mod then surely the first thing you should have in mind is the game itself?

Mod DB shows so many projects with concept art, music, player models, weapon models but if you try and find a simple, clear statement of gameplay, you'll probably come up empty. The content mentioned above may be stunning but it may as well be for a movie or some machinma if the mod team have no idea of what the game they are creating actually is.

Here's a related question...

Why is it 95% of movie related game titles are shit?

They have the artwork, the soundtrack and the story all laid out for them. How could it fail?

The answer is of course that these games are rushed out the door to coincide with the film release and virtually no time is spent developing the gameplay. As a result movie titles are usually at best boring or at worst unplayable (Iron Man on the Wii I will never forgive you).

So next time you begin to plan a map challenge yourself with this question.

Is there a game here outside of opening doors and shooting bad guys?

If the answer is no then I think you owe it to the player to try harder...


Dysprogue said...

Even when movie games aren't rushed out to fit with their movies release schedule they often aren't that good. I think that is largely because creating a game for an existing IP is extremely limiting, especially if its of a different medium.

In a new IP you have the freedom to adapt the story to the gameplay, if something isn't working you can change it. In a borrowed IP you have to start with the story, any deviation from that sacrifices the authenticity of the game and displeases the fans and bad gameplay as a result of trying to achieve authenticity also displeases fans.
Not to say that it's impossible, the Arkham series did quite well for Batman and I personally loved the Punisher game (by Volition)
It's possible to create a great game based on an existing IP but often IP's don't really lend themselves to videogame adaptations and I think that associating with existing IP's creates huge player expectation that is rarely fulfilled.

I realise that has almost nothing to do with the main point in the post above but I felt like a rant.

Aazell said...

I see exactly what you mean but I don't think that's the reason why movie games suck. If we look at the rare exception Goldeneye 64 - was based entirely on the bond movie, but was not scheduled to be released with the film. Goldeneye came out quite a while after the film. In that game the developers took the characters, locations etc and made fantastic, playable fun levels and gameplay. It is a fantastic game because the developers actually cared about the gameplay.

I think creative limits actually help you create. A world without limits is very difficult to work with. I map for Half Life 2 and I'm very happy that I have all the canon and world rules to rely on and build my maps on top of.

Guest writers for Star Trek often say that same thing. Creating within set limits actually helps you to become more creative, you have to think harder and put in more effort to fit what you want to do.

Another good example is Tim Burton movies. When he's on a tight budget with one of his own concepts (Sleepy Hollow etc..) then he's amazing. Throw a bundle of cash at him for a mega movie (Planet Of The Apes, Mars Attacks etc..) and he sucks!