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Halo 3 and The Art of Repetition

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CardJoe 5th February 2008, 09:05 Quote
I think this really highlights how some of the best games work - by forcing the emotions of players to mirror those of their characters. Looking back, I see that many of my favourite games make me feel as bewildered as the characters do - Half-Life 2, Portal, Planescape: Torment.

I think the major thing that makes a game great in my eyes is when I feel like I'm really experiencing the story from the chracters point of view - and making both the character and me into bewildered idiots until we get our bearings is a great way to do that.
yakyb 5th February 2008, 09:23 Quote
bioshock didnt really cut it with me

the whole premise of walking into different scenarios then using the same technique to kill the same bad guys over and over got very boring very quickly
Wolfman_UK 5th February 2008, 09:47 Quote
I agree with the article as long as the game is trying to make you feel like the character you are playing. The other side of gaming is to present a grand storyline from someone elses perspective that doesn't neccessarily coincide with yours. For instance the storytelling in Max Payne (1&2) is exellent in my opinion. Its a revenge storyline but at no point do I feel like there is a clash between Max's persona and my playing ability. The game does not try to make you feel like Max instead its trying to show you the story of Max from his perspective. I play the game because I want Max to succeed in his quest for revenge, not because I want revenge!

-wolfman
Bauul 5th February 2008, 10:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wolfman_UK
I agree with the article as long as the game is trying to make you feel like the character you are playing. The other side of gaming is to present a grand storyline from someone elses perspective that doesn't neccessarily coincide with yours. For instance the storytelling in Max Payne (1&2) is exellent in my opinion. Its a revenge storyline but at no point do I feel like there is a clash between Max's persona and my playing ability. The game does not try to make you feel like Max instead its trying to show you the story of Max from his perspective. I play the game because I want Max to succeed in his quest for revenge, not because I want revenge!

-wolfman

QFT. Many games make the distinction between controlling a well-realised character, and playing as yourself in a character's shoes. The problem is where games get this distinction mixed up, which often happens in first person shooters, as you are as personal with your character as possible. In Res Evil, for example, you're attempting to save the lives of the characters in the game. When a character gets eaten by a zombie, it's because you failed to protect and guide them, not because the character themselves went from armed specialist cop to total n00b just because you took over the controls.

In the olden days, games would often entice you to play with descriptions like "Bob has gotten lost in the woods, he needs your help to guide him home!" Here, the game makes the absolute distinction between player and character, so it's not a problem if the character does something dumb because from the very start the game is treating you and it differently. This doesn't happen these days, as games are presumably trying to be more "immersive", but it does mean occasionally you have the problem described in the article. However, I would say that in the majority of games this actually isn't the case. In fact I'm struggling to think of many other mainstream games than the Halo series.
CardJoe 5th February 2008, 10:20 Quote
Ugh, Max Payne. A great game but far, far too much gravelly voiced narration.

Interestingly on-topic though, the one part that was the best/worst part of the game for me was the repeated sections in Max's house. When he keeps flashing back to finding his dead family and the hallucinations keep changing the scene? Excellent. The first time you play through you are bewildered and scared of what may have happened in your/max's home. You go through the horror of the dead baby with him.

Then, as the scene is repeated throughout the game, you get more and more drawn into Max's motives. The way the scene keeps altering slightly means that your skills are being expanded too and the story is being drawn out - again, repetition working for both the story and the gameplay.

Unfortunately, all that repetition is ruined by the bloodtrail maze segment, which is pointless and badly designed. God, I hate that bit.
Bauul 5th February 2008, 10:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Unfortunately, all that repetition is ruined by the bloodtrail maze segment, which is pointless and badly designed. God, I hate that bit.

QFT. Despite it not actually being a maze, in reality taking only 2 minutes and not being difficult at all, it sticks in the mind of every gamer who plays it as a 'bad design decision'. Just goes to show the damage a single badly done part of a game can have on an otherwise overall quality package.
CardJoe 5th February 2008, 11:13 Quote
All I know is that I *kept* getting lost, falling off the narrow path, doubting myself and turning round etc. I took me ages to get past.
kenco_uk 5th February 2008, 11:31 Quote
Similar to the peaks and troughs of the Tomb Raider series. Some are eminently more enjoyable to play than others.
CardJoe 5th February 2008, 11:37 Quote
AHA - I just remembered the example I was looking for - Doom 3. Repetitive as hell and boring to boot. The whole game overused repetitive design and artwork for no real reason and t left me feeling like a kid in a carpet store; bored.
Flibblebot 5th February 2008, 12:21 Quote
But the pertinent questions is, would Doom 3 have been better if it had an actual storyline, one which drew you in as a player? Can an engaging story help you get over the repetition.

Anyway, I'm sure some people like shopping in carpet stores. Probably. Somewhere.
Firehed 5th February 2008, 14:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
QFT. Despite it not actually being a maze, in reality taking only 2 minutes and not being difficult at all, it sticks in the mind of every gamer who plays it as a 'bad design decision'. Just goes to show the damage a single badly done part of a game can have on an otherwise overall quality package.
Ya know, I almost felt that way about Ravenholm in HL2. Not to that same extent, but a lot of that level felt awkwardly placed to me. Actually, Joe's quip is also surprisingly relevant to my first play through -
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
All I know is that I *kept* getting lost, falling off the narrow path, doubting myself and turning round etc. I took me ages to get past.
Maybe I was being idiotic, but that level just never sat quite right with me - and doesn't to this day. Partly because I've never been too big on the 'zombie attack!' levels in any game, partly because that level - and that level only - made me really change up my gameplay strategy, and partly because... I have no idea, but it just didn't sit right with me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by article
eventually we are left with a hero equivalent of an emo kid: driven by anguish, but too socially awkward to do anything about it
Line of the year, tbh.
CardJoe 5th February 2008, 14:52 Quote
I can understand that sentiment about Ravenholme - personally, I loved it. But the radically different setting, design and enemies - plus the introduction of the gravity gun - is too quick for some people I think. You spend ages fighting on foot and on the airboat using guns, constantly on the run then BAM! One short interlude later and you're the uber zombie hunter with a gravity gun. Quite the shift.
steveo_mcg 5th February 2008, 14:56 Quote
I loved ravenholme once i worked out to use the gravity gun... i also loved carpet shopping as a kid, all that open space and stuff to climb on....
Sparrowhawk 5th February 2008, 15:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Firehed
Ya know, I almost felt that way about Ravenholm in HL2.
Which is strange, because as the demo level (Ravenholm) it rocked -- as a demo. All the traps and kooky narration, not to mention the new grav gun.

But I felt it could have been tied in better to the game proper. "Oh, we're under attack! Here, go to Ravenholm!"
CardJoe 5th February 2008, 15:20 Quote
Well, originally Ravenholme was much, much bigger. The lead-up was more involving and the town was called Traptown instead in development. Looking back at the early E3 footage you can see that it was intended to have troops in there as well as Zombies and Father Grigroi was a much more intense and scary character who had the entire town rigged to the hips with traps. Pity that it, like a lot of the game, got trimmed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_cut_from_Half-Life_2
Bungle 5th February 2008, 19:30 Quote
I can understand the Authors arguement for repetition in games, but I think the industry is suffering because of it. Take Bioshock for instance, it had everything going for it, a great story, superb setting, but the character you play doesn't fit in at all well with the gameplay. The character you play never gets tired, never needs to eat, never suffers from the wounds inflicted up it. Your not so much playing through the eyes of a human character with complexities and human failings, but a mindless robot that is taken hand in hand through the journey, never able to question the world they are inhabiting. People cry for more realistic graphics ingame, lets get some realistic characters to play in them.
FaIIen 5th February 2008, 20:19 Quote
repetition kills apetite for gaming
Bluephoenix 5th February 2008, 21:48 Quote
about the character being dropped into the game, Oblivion did that quite well, the character starts in jail, and is suddenly sprung free and thrust into a world where they have very little idea what is going on.

while repetition in game play when used correctly is indeed sometimes very good, repetition of artwork and character voices will kill a game faster then putting an ax through the machine you're using to play it. Oblivion also proves this point.
Cthippo 5th February 2008, 22:25 Quote
I think HL2 was the epitome of this. THink about it, there were just the standard weapons (plus the gavity gun), only a handful of types of enemies (crabs, zombies, soldiers, and barnacles, antlions), yet it used those elements in different ways to create totally different situations. In one level you're running for your life from antlions and in the next they're your primary weapon.

As much as I hated Ravenholm (that was one disturbing level on many counts), I feel it was excellent design work. Like all HL games it was a fundamentally linear level, but that path was so incredibly twisted back on itself as to be amazing. It was linear without looking or feeling linear.

Like the author said, it's a matter of balancing repetitiveness with originality so the player is constantly challenged without feeling totally overwhelmed.
boiled_elephant 5th February 2008, 22:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluephoenix

while repetition in game play when used correctly is indeed sometimes very good, repetition of artwork and character voices will kill a game faster then putting an ax through the machine you're using to play it. Oblivion also proves this point.

Thankyou.

Repetitive gameplay is fine if the gameplay is good. Ninja Gaiden was the exact same combat, sprinkled with a few new moves here and there, but with loads of new enemies and environs. That worked. You got better and better, without feeling like you were doing the same thing over and over.
Ayrto 6th February 2008, 00:30 Quote
I agree with the praise lavished by the bit-tech review on HL2 Ep 2 , its game play diversity is its strength.. so many good ideas. When listening to the bubble voice commentary options by everyone involved, you realise what a smart dedicated team they have working on that title. The only minor gripe for me is the headcrab zombie model which by now is overused, but after what was an lacklustre Ep 1, I'm sure EP 2 has left most HL2 fans feeling reinvigorated. Ep3 really does need completely new foes,however, as well as existing ones.

Bioshock is saved by the great story- start and ending ,the more general baddies are repetitive and the big daddies needed better individual fighting characteristics. Towards the end it feels like constant enemy re-spawn deja vu and the game has little replay value, it was still easily a good purchase though, anyone thinking about getting it should.
Major 6th February 2008, 01:00 Quote
Repition sucks so badly when done wrongly, but repitition is also very very awesome when done correctly, games like Mario Kart + Super Mario come to mind.
CardJoe 6th February 2008, 07:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ayrto
Ep3 really does need completely new foes,however, as well as existing ones.

Amen to that. We need more than Combine in ski masks. The same AI with new models would be enough.
Cthippo 6th February 2008, 09:24 Quote
Writing the story for HL2E3 is going to be a challenge because they relly need to bring a lot of elements together and hopefully bring some small amount of closure to it. Granted, we may never figure who / what the G-man is, but it would be nice to actually see an alien and find out WTF was up with the boss in the original HL. The danger for Valve is that they will try to string it along until all semblance of a plot thread is lost and they ruin the greatest game franchise in history.

(who, me? a fanboi? )
CardJoe 6th February 2008, 10:26 Quote
I can tell you whats up with the final boss of HL.

Ready?

Nihilanth. Nihilanth is Breen's counterpart - his equivalent on another planet. The Combine, a species which is dependant on the technology originally created to improve its quality of life, has become efficient at invading other cultures and draining planets of resources.

The Combine invades the Vortigaunt homeworld, which we know is where Antlion also come from but NOT where Headcrabs originate. The Vortigaunts, unable to oppose the Combine, fall before them. Many of them become slaves, are shackled and used as enemies in HL1 where the accident gives The Combine a chance to invade Earth. The Combine had previously invaded the headcrab homeworld too and has redirected the evolution of the species to become a biological weapon - something hinted at in Raising The Bar and confirmed by the use of Headcrab missiles.

Surviving rebel Vortigaunts flee into Xen, the borderworld which is home to a number of different species but not a planet in a real sense. Xen, where HL1 ends, is a kind of interdimensional pitstop or no mans land according to Valve. Rebel Vorts go there and Nihilanth - an administrator just like Breen was, who is working for the Combine (but still a slave, hence noticeable shackles) - is sent in to try and stomp them out with the help of grunts and headcrabs. Nihilanth is kind of the local commander, co-ordinating troops and keeping the enemies coming. When Gordon kills him, the game ends because the scientists think they can fight back. What they don't know is that the portals are outside Black Mesa too.

GMan, who is most likely a rebel leader of a different, vastly powerful race (speculation) saves key members of Black Mesa - Adrian Shephard, Alyx, Eli and Gordon - who he thinks he can use later to combat The Combine. Others, like Kliener, Magnusson and Barney, escape on their own. The Seven Hour War decimates Earth and Combine rule is installed when Breen surrenders on behalf of the humans. Breen takes the position that Nihilanth had, but acting as administrator of the humans and not the headcrabs. GMan then drops Gordon into the mix so he can do what comes naturally and fight back against The Combine. GMan wants Gordon to weaken and distract The Combine so that his own people/forces can then attack The Combine in full (speculation).

This all goes a bit wrong when Gordon is freed from the Gman by the Vortigaunts, who are aware of the GMan but are more interested in personal survival and saving Gordon (who freed many of them by killing Nihilanth and breaking the psychic control held over them, though some Vorts are clearly still slaves such as the sweeping Vort in the trainstation at the start of HL2) who they see as a savior. What was originally intended to be a mere distraction organised by the GMan then rapidly becomes a legitimate threat to The Combine as Gordon and Co. work to save Earth. As such, GMan allows Gordon to continue on his mission while still manipulating him subtly via Alyx.


Jesus, the number of the times I have to tell people that. Valve did a great job of making a story that was both deep and shallow and you can get as much or as little out of it as you want. If you're a fanatic like me then you can uncover all this. Try the link below for more details.

http://members.shaw.ca/halflifestory/
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