A Pointless Challenger…

Conflict is only meaningful when the outcome is in question.

Often, computer game challenges are against foes who have a noticeably different in-game status from the player character. The player character has depth, while the foes are hardly characters at all. It isn’t even a challenger. It’s just a challenge. Even the most difficult challenges, the “boss” foes, rarely have any out-of-plot motivation, duty, or even activity that they engage in. There are several causes for this (not that it’s any excuse) all of which are more or less surmountable.

Character background is difficult to convey and generate.

The rise of multi-player direct competition games has illuminated this difficulty even more by demonstrating what happens when player characters to compete against each-other.

It doesn’t mean anything to challenge a non-entity, nor does it signify to crush an inferior. “Boss” characters are often meant as a game-play challenge, but as they are presented as characters, they often fail on that merit.

Reducing the player’s character to the level of other in-game characters is important for verisimilitude. Giving the player special powers makes them special, but also adds exceptional expectations which can often not be met.

The player should compete against evenly matched foes. Whether this is symmetrical or not, there must be a balance of forces or there is no need for contest.

Narrative Momentum and Manuverability

games are not stories, but they do need momentum.

History building up to the point of interaction. NPCs and environment needs to support this momentum.

Good manuverability (high player agency) in the narrative trajectory.

Balance between the two, if too much manuverability then history means nothing. If too much momentum then the player’s choices don’t matter.

Many games neither justify the player’s character’s actions, nor give them options to make real choices.

Goals, Actions, and Posessions

What you want, what you can do, or what you have. Which is more important? Each informs the other. Each is superior to the others. Each serves the others. They all work together.

There are continually trends to move games (and everything else) toward a focus on one or the other of these aspects. An exclusive obsession with “what you have” is the basis of materialism. Fascination with “what you can do” leads to endless labor. Fixation on “what you want” produces day-dreaming and dissatisfaction. Continue reading

Influences and Paralells

Where did these ideas come from? Some are seeds which spawned concepts, others are examples of where these same ideas have cropped up independently.

Life: Most things, including deep nesting. I attribute most of the independent consensus to this aspect.

Revelation: The book in the Bible. Axies of merit and paralell spiritual hierarchies.

Dungeon Siege: Linked limitless spatial nodes.

Megatokyo: PCs with emotional stats and independent behavior.

A Fire Upon the Deep: Vast scope fiction and data-intense societal development.

D&D and GURPS: role playing games (a mixture of positive and negative examples in both).

StarTrek Enterprise Floorplans: Vessels really can be fleshed out internally.

Dwarf Fortress: Lots of deep and broad world simulation. Taking over historical characters, etc.


The current trend is to make games ever more concrete, but we must not forget abstraction. Generally speaking, abstract games challenge deduction, while concrete ones challenge induction. Put another way, games with lots of specific rules and solid metaphors force the player to form their own generalizations and strategies, while games with a few simple rules and few examples force the player to devise effective applications and tactics. Continue reading


Cross between Go, Chess, and Fledgeling

Nodes, connected by straight lines (curves possible?). Pieces move one space at a time, simultaneous movement for all teams. Each piece has a momentum vector. Movement takes 1 momentum (plus vector effects). Pieces colliding zero momentum for both, higher momentum makes the move, lower momentum is removed from the game.

Other possible elements: Continue reading

A Reflection on: “Five Problems with Modern Video Games”

The video in question.
If you’re not interested in watching, here’s the summary:

Video Games have become lame since the 90s, because:

  1. They’re all the same.
    Targeted mostly at AAA FPS titles.
  2. They treat you like you are an idiot.
    Hand-holding, QTE, omniscient mini-map, lack of fast travel.
  3. They are too focused on realistic graphics.
    Want to be too much like movies. Continue reading