Thursday, February 5, 2009

EPISODE NINETEEN: A Third Way?

In which we speak on the mysterious Miyamoto patent...

24 comments:

mstieler said...

The 'autopilot" feature reminds me of Space Channel 5: there's an auto-mode there that'll beat the game for you. Sounds interesting. Now that I think of it, most if not all beat-keeping games should have a feature like this. I know there's been times when I know there's something awesome happening behind the buttons flying or flashing across the screen, but I can't exactly pull my eyes away to watch it.

Mveculous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bwmedia said...

The game playing itself? Eh, sometimes I wish I could watch the "movie" version of a game, even if it's one I otherwise wouldn't play. (MK vs DC) Far too often, however, all you can do is watch the out-of-game cutscenes.

(Full disclosure: I happen to be a "causal gamer", but I do pick up a "narrative game" now and then.)

Oh, and as far as telling others, I did use one of your Overthinkers as part of a topic on my own blog.

The Prodigy said...

Am I ready? After seeing what I've seen and knowing what I know, it's all a toss-up. The closest I have seen or heard about auto-play in games have been in at least 2 instances that I can remember:

1) Final Fight 3, where the computer controls a character for you, something postulated for Final Fight 2. I thought it wasn't as productive as there has to be a rhythm to brawling games, which is why I always think it's best to have a good human partner.

2) Final Fantasy IV, and XII. I heard you can have your people auto-attack for you, just like in an action RPG like X-men: Legends.

But, a game automatically playing itself a la, maybe, PoP: Sands of Time flashbacks? That would be very interesting. But, am I ready for it? I honestly don't know. I can only just wait and see, and hope that my dream of breaking into the video game business (preferably with Nintendo, if not Activision or UbiSoft) comes true so I can see it myself.

As for what you said about games getting easier, you're right. They are easier because we have done it all already. That's why when someone told me how tough New Super Mario Bros. was, I laughed, because it was all second nature to me. Then, she told me she only started with Mario 64, so I couldn't hold it against her.

Good video, though. Very insightful. No need for arguments or bashing, and funny. I'm still hoping you talk about either or both

a) underrated vs. overrated: your thoughts on 2 overly used buzz words in gaming

and

b) the next genres to "die", so to speak.

Ben said...

I'm not so sure that I'm worried about the concept of the auto-play itself, more the implementation.
Theoretically, it would require someone to play through the entire game so it knew what to do at every instance, but just how many instances are there? Imagine a Metroid game, does the computer player know whether you're going to want the spring ball, or the x-ray visor, or not? What about sequence breaking? I can see how this might work for level-based games like Galaxy, but not for sprawling adventures like Zelda.

It seems to me (not, perhaps to 'casuals', though) that this is exactly the opposite of what I enjoy. Often when I see a film or read a book, I go back to watch or read it again and I want to change something if I don't like, something I really love about games; every play is unique. I wouldn't feel nearly the same way about Metroid Prime 3 if I hadn't put in the three hours to beat Mogenar and the four to beat Dark Samus on HyperMode difficulty.

Mark said...

Great video. welcome back.

So, my thoughts on this topic come from a hardcore gamer who also has a non-gaming life....

Personally, I don't see this as anything more than a hyper-extension of difficulty settings. Like, hard, normal, easy, uber-easy.

Furthermore, I am a hardcore gamer who will sometimes resort to using a FAQ or a youtube video - how is this so different from that? the option is there, it's up to you to use it. On really really hard games like Viewtiful joe, i generally force myself to play on the medium or higher difficulties, despite easy ("kids" in VJ) being an option. We have control over our own actions.

I have, in the past, simply watched on youtube for alternative endings, things i missed etc., because i simply don't have the time to replay most game. this might be a more user-friendly version of that.

The one problem I can forsee is that companies may try to appeal to the hardcore by making the "regular" versions of their games (i.e., without the weird new additions) much harder. Like those absurd "trophies" in Mega Man 9 (beat hte game without missing a shot, etc.) I'm hoping things like that don't take over to compensate.

miss-anthropy said...

Bob,

The ideas you're discussing here remind me quite a bit of my own research in game audience cultures. There are, already, plenty of self-identified "gamers" who subscribe to the culture and know the characters and stories intimately, but who are not proficient gamers themselves-- those who prefer to watch someone else play, or depend on online resources, and so forth.

Gamedom can debate endlessly whether these "passive" audiences are really gamers, but no one can deny they partake in the community in a very real sense already. Your scenarios you describe --talking about chocobos by the water cooler-- already happen, just not so frequently that we yet consider it a larger trend. But try going to a convention and asking the note-perfect Yuna cosplayer if she's ever played FFX, or if the guy role-playing Revolver Ocelot in an LJ RP somewhere is able to play MGS3 on anything besides Very Easy Mode.

Audiences don't have to be hardcore with the controller to be hardcore about the story. And I love that you're able to treat the idea with such even-handedness in this video.

Bob said...

Mark-
I'd agree that one of the biggest unintended consequences of this might be making lesser game designer's lazy about problem-solving - no need to make a puzzle genuinely intuitive when you're expecting the audience to "digest" through it.

On the positive side, though: Game critics will no longer have ANY excuse not to finish the game before reviewing it.

Amoveo said...

This is ridiculous, I don't think you're properly addressing the real issue of this. I could care less if Zelda has an easy mode that everyone can complete. What bugs me is that we're discussing turning great games into crappy movies because some kid isn't intelligent enough to hit the buttons.

Games are games because we can interact with them and control them. When you take away all that control it ceases to be a game and its just an animated film. It would be like every movie having a 5 minute summary for people who aren't hardcore enough to watch the whole thing. Or books to have a spark note available in case you're too lazy to read the book. We don't bastardize any of those mediums because children and the elderly can't get through them so why should we dismantle gaming.

I'm sorry but I can't support the notion of making games into movies so that they appeal to people who are unable to play games. At what point did varying difficulty levels become inadequate? And furthermore would anyone buy a video game that plays itself, oh right Final Fantasy.

Nintenlord said...

@Amoveo
That has been a problem in gaming for a decade now, thanks to cinematic gaming. Now, this patent gives us the ability to choose weather to take control or not, instead of forcing us to be passive or active on certain parts of the game. This is a step to the more interactive direction.
@Bob
I don't think that will cause much of a problem. Good game developers will continue to make good games and bad developers will continue to make bad games. Only mediocre game designers are in that danger zone you talk about, but even then, some developers might actually get quality boost due to this innovation and start making better games.

patnode said...

Firstly, I doubt that this is a self-playing mode. That’s such an uncharacteristically uncreative idea that either Miyamoto isn’t trying anymore (WiiMusic), or the document is misleading enough to disguise its actual purpose. And I’ll bet on the latter because I still have faith in him. I mean, does anyone else remember years ago seeing reports in the rumor section of Gamespot about Nintendo’s new patent on a motion-detecting device which was so cryptically worded that they dismissed it as some kind of years-late patent of the GBA? And it turned out to be the Wii?

As for the rift between hardcore and casual, it’s already been discussed, but we're ready for more acceptance in pop culture, definitely. It’ll only validate games as an artistic medium, and it doesn't threaten what we cherish about the games we already love, but I don’t think this is the way it’s going to happen. I think the nature of this particular attempt (or what it appears to be) to convert casual gamers is doomed.

If this is a self-playing mode, the problem is that someone actually thinks maybe if we play the games for them, casual gamers will enjoy them more. I can see why it sounds like a good idea when compared to training wheels or T-ball. It seems based on the same mechanism that we relied on when we were starting: handing the controller over to an older sibling or more skilled friend to beat a level for us because we couldn’t do it. But I’m pretty sure that was only okay then because there was a social aspect to it. It wasn’t really about easing our way into the game; there was another person there and taking turns just sort of comes naturally. Watching a computer go through the motions by itself has very little appeal to most people and won’t be the same experience as playing the game solo or even as watching someone else play through the whole thing.

And I agree with what’s been said: what makes a game a game and not a poorly animated film is interactivity. It’s the key aspect of games as a medium that no other art form can provide (though as an art it’s obviously still nascent – give it 50 years to catch up to film), and it’s so unique and valuable that we gamers have been (and are still) willing to tolerate idiotic plots, little or no intellectual depth, poor visuals and whatever else is wrong with our games, to the point that pixel art and midi music have become our aesthetic preferences, and aren’t simply the result of the limits of the technology anymore. For example, Pixar would never be proud to release a feature-length film animated at the detail level of Killzone 2, but people love that game. If you strip out the interactivity there is no “game” left. And if you make an optional self-play mode for when things get tough, you're going to be stripping out the most challenging, and thus most rewarding parts of a game. This mechanism could actually eliminate the appeal of games to new audiences.

Also, FFXII as Finnegan’s Wake? Really? Really?

Alexander said...

The problem: a lot of the casual newcomers like in-person multiplayer, coming in as they do from board and card game experience, which for the most part have no single-player. They ''might'' move to online multiplayer if there's a robust voice chat so they can play with the grandkids from their winter home in Florida. (A WiiSports update with online play and WiiSpeak would be a dodeca-platinum seller, BTW.) Getting them to even sit down and play against the computer for anything more than practice is a challenge. To be fair, a lot of hardcore gamers don't care about single-player either, so any autoplay feature would immediately conjure spectres of that vaguely-humanoid ass-clown with the aimbot scoring headshots from the other side of the map in the bad old days.

Sidebar: I don't know if you're much of an MMO guy, but I'd like to hear your take on the recent EvE upheaval, especially comparing WoW's heavily regulated nature with EvE's "let's go with that" system.

Kyle said...

This could be incredibly tempting to use and abuse. There's nothing like overcoming the challenge a game gives you, but with no one else watching, would I switch to auto-pilot if I were truly frustrated by a game?

Hmm...

Oh, as far as this useful tool bridging the gap for casual gamers, I'm all for it. :)

Shaun said...

I think this would only work if if the game skips over some of the cutscenes (Not the really importent ones)or Drops the ending (or has a alternitive one)
Also to the people saying it will become a movie,Most people who use this will proply be under 12 and have a short attentention span so they could'nt just watch the game to the end, they would have to pick up the controller.But the problem i have is that when i get up to a problem ill get attracted to the 3rd way

FoXeD said...

I don't see the complaints. The idea is that the casual gamers try out a level, if they can't do it, then they flip to digest mode, watch how it's done. Then they might think they can do it themselves. The idea is that eventually the casual gamers will want to wean off digest mode, but it's there so the game doesn't just frustrate them.

I mean, fuck. I'd digest the hell out of Fable's childhood scenes. Set the play-meter to good or evil, and then have at it. Maybe eat a sammich. Wake me when the game gets exciting.

Anyways, it's a good start. Combine it with a save system that's abundant (so they can start and stop basically when they feel like it) and an option for co-op multiplayer that works (casual gamers love playing with friends), and you have a way to get casual gamers interested in longer games.

What if the next Legend of Zelda gave our lone hero a companion? Maybe Zelda, maybe a different character for each dungeon? Give the characters decent AI for when there's no one else to play with?

What if you played Mario, and could have Luigi pop in from time to time?

Anyways, the Third Way is a good start, but I think that refining co-op would do alot more for casual gamers. Some aren't even interested in playing (with) by themselves.

yukimurasanada said...

Hey bob, I know im late on this, but I actually just notice something. I've played CT close to a dozen times, but for the life of me, i can't remember Ayala coming on to lucca. Did I miss that or something, or was it one of the many things that got lost in translation when the game moved over to america?

I know thats a silly question, but it's been bugging me and I thought i'd ask.

UtopiaV1 said...

The auto-pilot feature will be the worst thing to happen to gamers (old and new) since the Halo franchise switched from sci-fi story shooter with co-op and became an online-deathmatch tea-bagging fiasco.

This will turn the new gamers AWAY from playing games, because they will switch on this mode and never turn it off. They will never actually get better at games, they will just watch someone else play them, like they have done for the past decade or so, ever since they went to a friends house and saw a Mega Drive being played. In the future, if you ever suggest to a non-gamer to pick up a pad and play anything, they will respond "Eh, I played games a while ago, but it was boring and I'm not very good, so I won't play them now." This not only hurts Nintendo but every other company trying to create games for this brand new market.

This is a seriously bad idea, and it will cripple innovation in the industry and eventually drive away customers. Could people please see the long term effects of this?

Btw Bob, great video, very entertaining, can't wait for the next one!

enderkask said...

I know this is an old video but I've been making my way through your archive of videos this morning and this one struck at a very particular dilemma I'm having.

I'm an older gamer like yourself. When I was 10 years old in 1992, Final Fantasy IV had just recently come out and it quickly became one of my favorite games of all time. I started my love of RPGs with the original Dragon Warrior when I was 6 years old and had played Dragon Warrior 1-4 and Final Fantasy 1 on the NES before this game. Thus the concept of having to level grind was ingrained into my brain as second nature by the time FFIV came out especially since I had a habit of running away from almost everything and stopping to fight only when I had to grind levels to beat a particular boss or buy a piece of equipment.

As you said in reference to Castlevania, you knew it'd work because you've been doing it your entire life. Which brings me to the dilemma.

Over the last 4 years I've become particularly close to my cousin's daughters. The older girl is now 10. They always love seeing my new gaming stuff when they visit me and 2 years ago she got a DS. Her parents don't have much of a clue about video games so she mostly has shovel-ware but I try to buy her games I'd play like Mario Kart. This year she's 10 years old and I want to buy her the DS version of Final Fantasy IV -- my favorite game at age 10. It would almost be a symbolic passing of the torch, making her a *real* gamer. The problem is there's a lot of reading in an RPG, and she likes books but I've seen her just mash "A" to skip stuff in some movie-based shovel-ware. She won't, as I do, know all the tricks we've learned throughout the years or as I did by starting with more basic RPGs. How to select spells to cast on all targets, what the hell "Phoenix Down" is (was called 'Life' on the SNES), and even level grinding.

So, I started the little experiment on Thanksgiving. I had her watch the opening movie, and answered her questions about the characters, and then I let her have at it. I told her what the combat commands did, and mostly left her free to explore on her own interrupting only to show her how to heal after combat and things like that. She did fine and seemed to enjoy it getting through the first dungeon and boss battle before I had to leave.

I'm planning on buying it for her Christmas present now, but I'm worried about the difficulty. This is not the same FFIV I played on the SNES -- it's much more difficult. I won't be there to hold her hand when the bosses start countering 75% of melee attacks with a powerful AoE, or the water fiend giving you less than a full turn to cast thunder on him to stop his aoe from going off and wiping out your party. I only knew to cast thunder to stop it from playing it so many times before and in the DS version it's going to absolutely destroy a new player who won't even have time to experiment on how to stop it.

I was an experienced RPG player at 10 years old when I found my favorite game. She isn't, and on top of that they've greatly increased the difficulty. Will she understand my explanation of level grinding? Or is she going to get bored of her party being instantly wiped out so often and cast the game to the side. Would she ever play another RPG after that? Would the "wait" battle mode instead of "active" help? Should I get her Chrono Trigger DS instead?

These are the questions I ask as I try to mold her into a true fan of the art of video game storytelling I hold so dear.

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Cam said...

if the patent really is for another play mode of essentially "demoing" the game for you, I can see that as something useful in game, rather than from the start. Hell it could be useful for multiple playthroughs "Oh this part's boring and I know I can blow through it in an hour, but I wanna go have lunch, so play for me game. See you in an hour" I mean this sounds like it could be a good idea, in theory.

Now the way I see this is more of an FAQ that you don't have to go online for, you just pause the game, go to the options menu and change mode to "demo" mode and then reload your last save point and watch as the computer goes through a preprogrammed (let's not kid ourselves here, the developers and designers MADE THE GAME it is not difficult to extrapolate that they played it and therefore know the insides and outs of their own creation and so they would be the perfect people to program a route for the game that would be a perfect guide for the struggling player) route that shows you how to do it properly. You can then restart it yourself if you want, turn off "demo mode" and try it again yourself.

As far as I'm concerned if this were treated properly it really could be something revolutionary for games because, well, we wouldn't really have to rely on going out and wasting more money on guide books and stuff if the damn game already HAS a guide for you that you can immediately consult if you're lost or struggling.

Now I can see how this would take away from the experience for some people but think about it, it's an OPTIONAL gameplay mechanic, you don't ever have to use it, it's just there if you ever need a temporary helping hand (or want to take a break but don't want to turn the game off yet :P) and really if you see that the program did something one way, you can test your own theories still.

I reiterate, as far as I'm concerned a feature like this would be no different than going on to Youtube or Viddler or any video hosting site and watching someone do walkthrough of the game you're already playing, you just don't have to jump back and forth from watching the computer screen and doing it yourself, you can watch it first hand and then go back and try it yourself.

Subtle said...

Well, this is a way late reply. Over a year, in fact.

Anyway, I wouldn't consider myself a casual gamer or a veteran, mainly because I like to play alone and achieve things through work, but at the same time if it becomes a chore I lose interest, which is why I despise level grinding.

This third way has pretty much turned out to be "dieing a lot? Let us show you how to do it." It doesn't appear to be a movie version where everything is being done for you (which if you're reading this you probably already know). I'm interested in hearing whether opinions have been changed about it or not, because I don't really see how it will turn people off from gaming.

Anyway, for a guy like me, I get frustrated easily, and if I can have Luigi guide me in NSMBW through a particularly difficult stretch, then I will take it. Really, this whole thing just makes me wonder, why did so many people think this was spelling out doom for videogames? I mean, is it so horrible to let new people learn without going onto the internet or spending hours on the couch trying to find ways to get through it when they probably would be outside getting some exercise? Is letting the game show you how to play the game going to ruin gaming because they don't have to spend the time that, admittedly, would be better spent elsewhere? Videogames are toys after all, playing them is a diversion, not a occupation.

I feel like this is more a general address to the world more than an individual. But I do have to admit, hearing anyone in my family mention the name Ganondorf would spike the weird-o-meter to high levels. Probably as weird as me mentioning any name aside from Edward, Jacob, and Bella from Twilight (oh, how I despise that series) to any of my family who reads those awful books.

So, what little my approval matters, good video, as are the others. And thank you, Bob, for the intellectual thoughts on videogames, something I had thought little about before watching your videos.

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imsmart said...

It's an awful idea. A game is a quest, and quests can't take themselves; you can't get around it, you've got to get into it. Let me explain. A few years ago I discovered emulators, and got hooked on save states. My favorite games as a kid were the NES Mega Man games, so I eventually got to them, but there was a hitch. The chill of finding myself in that empty corridor before the Robot Master's room, the thrill of marching forward with only a charged Mega Buster and a prayer towards deadly battle with a well-matched opponent, and many more sensations that hooked me on the series, all died the instant I resorted to save states. In time I realized the hitch was always there, but only the powerful shock of having my favorite games of all time turn to bitter ashes in my mouth opened my eyes to it. It gave me a new appreciation for the Virtual Console, a new appreciation for Mega Man (and since my appreciation for Mega Man at the time was already pretty fierce, I'm currently the type of person who goes on long, weird rants about the excellence of Mega Man), and obviously, a new appreciation for video games.

Pickster said...

As I type this we know what came of the idea.

However even at the time I could not understand the fuss that was being made over this.

An option to let someone else see a game through to the end does not effect me seeing a game through to the end. Their journey or experience may not have been the same as mine, but I cannot how that effects me and at the end of the day the only experience that matters to me is mine (in relation to what I get out of a game).

As it turns out. This is a brilliant feature. At the time of typing this my son is 5 years old. He loves games both old and new. The super guide in New Super Mario Bros Wii helps him get past stages he would otherwise be stuck on and ask me for help with.

How is it any different for a game to get him through a level than for his dad to do it for him... other than the game option not turning around and saying "you will have to wait a moment, I'm busy"

Sometimes people need to stop and realise that different people have different needs, opinions and tastes to their own.