Chain: The Lost Footprints

The Chain is much like Animamundi, but there are more decision-points. Decisions are pretty much illusion, as the if you make wrong choice you’ll get comment about that and then you are find yourself back to decision-point. This didn’t bother me as much as character and story design: The game tries to be hard-boiled detective story, with plenty of hard-core sex. Unfortunately, events are not always believable in terms of character design. Also, I have feeling that there are some inconsistencies in narration, but I didn’t bother to double check. However, I did find storytelling compelling enough to play it to the end.

Chain: The lost footprints and Animamundi: Dark Alchemist rely heavily on predefined functions (see my Building and reconstructing character) that my analysis model for computer games does not give much to literary or hypertext theory as telling is major mode of conveying information. While goals and choice have a role in both games, they have marginal function in the character recognition or in formation of experience.

On Rules, Game Systems, and Practices

I keep getting back to the thematic of of rules and game systems (see Rules and Character Engagement in Role-play, Play and Its Role in the Mental Development of the Child (Vygotsky), Games and Philosophical Investigations).

I have started to read The logic of practice by Pierre Bourdieu, where he discusses difference of rules and practices. He sites Ziff who writes:

Consider the difference between saying “The trains is regularly two minutes late” and “As a rule, the train is two minutes late” … There is the suggestion in the latter case that that the train be two minutes late is as it were according with some policy or plan … Rules connect with plans and policies in a way that regularities do not … To argue that there must be rules in the natural language is like arguing that roads must be red if they correspond to red lines on a map[.] (p. 40.)

Bourdieu seem to be suggesting that practices are not rule governed (in a sense that
rules proceeds practices–one needs to build a theoretical model in order to construct an action). (I need to read the whole book before making more definitive judgment.)
Also, I have written in entry Games and Philosophical Investigations:

If the above premise is accepted, computer games do not have rules; mostly they implement systems that acts like the ‘natural laws’ (see also entry Are video games art). In this sense, there is qualitative difference between “rules” of, e.g., board and computer games[.]

These discussions makes me think that we need to think question about rules and their relatives more carefully. Especially, there might be different kinds of implications between categories of rules, implemented systems of computer games, and practices. E.g., Wittgenstein argues that rules are inseparable from possibility of breaking and following rules (1958).

Bourdieu, Pierre (1990). The logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Translated by Richard Nice.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1958) Philosophical investigations. Basil Blackwell & Mott, Ltd., 2nd edition. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe.

Rules and Character Engagement in Role-play

Victor Gijsbers writes:

Immersion might be helped by not having too much rules stuff in play, but I actually don’t think this is very important. It is easy to drift in and out of immersion. You can immerse one moment, do some complicated rules stuff the next, talk about stakes the next, and immerse yourself back in. Please take care to notice that in my Polaris analysis, one fails to immerse not because one has to do things that don’t correspond with character actions; no, one fails to immerse because the character makes his/her important decisions and has his/her strongest feelings while the player is involved in something else entirely. If one’s important decisions all took place in the free play stage, immersion would not be hurt at all. (Of course, one should also stop playing Polaris in that case; it wouldn’t be helping you at all.) (http://gamingphilosopher.blogspot.com/2005/12/immersion-and-imagination.html)

To consider some issues presented above, I think that we need to consider imagination, rules, and the rule system of a game in more detail.

Vygotsky argues that “play involving an imaginary situation is, in fact, rule-based, play.” (1978, p. 94.) I tend to agree with this. Characters and a game world creates rules for role-playing. They are not that kind of explicitly formulated rules as the rules of a game system. Moreover, above-mentioned kind of tension between system driven play and imagination driven play is, I think, sometimes necessary for making decisions as if the character: the player’s values, habits, and goals sometimes tends to overdrive character simulation. The explicit rule systems (e.g., frenzy rules in Vampire) can push characters to do actions that are not obvious or natural to the player and thus be import part of character playing. While explicit use of resolution system brings the player apart character engagement or engrossment (I prefer these terms over immersion, see my post Role-playing and Immersion (and its alternatives)) they also give new grounds to character engagment after resolution.

While I disagrees with Gijsbers about his view of rules the blog entry contains otherwise insightful analysis of character engagment.

Vygotsky (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Role-playing and Immersion (and its alternatives)

Merten writes, in his blog:

Lately, I’ve been trying to put my confusing notes in character immersive playing (aka. eläytyjivism) into single, easy introduction to the mentioned play style. I’ve ended up with a beginning of a long essay which is, essentially, loads of confusing notes lumped into one. The fact I’m trying to write in English does not help things a bit. I’m getting less and less suprised by the fact that there’s lack of basic introductory material of immersion available – it’s a bitch to write.

I am not surprised about this: immersion is a buzzword that is used in various ways–often without a definition or thought out meaning.

I think that the concepts of engrossment and framing could introduce more stable ground for discussion and descriptions of role-playing experiences than immersion.

The fictional world of a game and real world are contexts, frames of meaning, that are both present in the game. The awareness of each frame, the awareness of a player changing the frame, and ambiguities of the frame of reference are all important in constituting the playing experience. In a game players must choose whether playing their own selves disguised as character or play the the character in simulation mode (trying to reason what the character would do in the given situation). (see, Fine 1983, p. 4).

The character immersive playing could then be described as a kind of playing that focus on the game frame, tries to minimize changes between game frame and primary frame, and where a player tries to act and make judgments as as if she is the character.

Fine, G. A. (1983). Shared fantasy: Role-playing games as social worlds. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (paperback ed.).

Conflict Webs and Character-driven Role-playing Game Design

After giving presentation on character-driven game design I was given pointer to idea of conflict webs and flag framing by Bankuei. There are things that corresponds with I have presented in my Character Design Fundamentals for Role-Playing Games.

Especially interesting is a NPC role wants to use PC (in addition to supporting or being against PC), which I have somewhat neglected (although this role has been present implicitly) in my writings.

Tracon II, roolipelitutkimus

Esityksen diat

Tutkimuksia roolipeleistä:

Web

Hyödynnettäviä

  • Currie & Ravenscroft (2002). Recreative minds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Juul (2005). Half-real. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
  • Nichols & Stich (2003). Mindreading: An integrated account of pretence, self-awareness, and understanding other minds.
  • Walton (1990). Mimesis as make-believe. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lista eivät ole mitenkään kattavia. Satu kommentoinee vielä listaa. Hieman toisenlaisen luettelon löytää Tuomas J. Harviaisen blogista.

“Dice-rolling mechanisms in RPGs” by Mogensen

I came across an essay Dice rolling mechanisms in RPGs (pdf, html) by Torben Mogensen at John Kim’s RPG System Design Page. The essay discuss about calculating probabilities and qualities of some method. There are also some discussion about other randomizing methods like cards and an example of how to use probability formulas in game design. The covered stuff is also usable also in computer design.

This reminds me of Adam Carpenter’s piece Applying risk analysis to play-balance RPGs at Gamasutra. The essay is about computer RPGs, but is can be also used with table-top system design. Risk analysis (or other simulation based evaluation method) would probably be good addition to the method described by Mogensen.

“Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames” by Bateman (ed.)

I got some new books. Game Writing Narrative Skills for Videogames is one of them. I have just browsed it throught, but I desided to comment one thing that I noticed.

In Chapter 1: Introduction to game narrative Richard Dansky writes:

Immersion is arguably the ultimate goal of videogames. Immersion is making players forget that they’re sitting on their couch twiddling joysticks with their thumbs, and instead making them believe they’re mowing down Nazis, leaping from platform to platform over boiling space sludge, or exploring a mansion full of masticating mutants. (p. 16.)

How immersion is the ultimate goal for video games? The argument is missing, and I do not thing that there are very good arguments to back up the claim. To me, it seems that the author(s) is exluding wide variety of possible effects by setting up immediacy as his ultimate goal. Irony or comic effects can be heightened by other non-immersive means as seen, e.g., in Monkey Islands series. Also, Fahrenheit’s split screen technique is not about making players forget that they are sitting on their couch, but creating tension dispate that the game reveals it gameness.

Anyhow, I need to read the whole book. Despite the abobe-mentioned stuff, the book seems really interesting.

Bateman, C. (ed.) (2007). Game writing: Narrative skills for videogames. Boston: Charles River Media.