Do modern games hold your hand too much?

Chat and discussion not related to either Marathon or Aleph One. Please keep things at least mildly interesting, though.

Post Oct 8th '12, 11:11

Following on from my last thread asking for modern game recommendations, having not really played any at all prior to getting my new computer, I have played a number of games and have some observations about them. The games I have played so far are:

Bioshock
Dead Space
Mass Effect
Fallout 3
Half Life 2 (that's right, I had never played that game before)
Skyrim
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Now obviously I haven't completed all these games, but played a good bit of all of them, and the one's I've completed are Bioshock and Half Life 2.

All of these games are very enjoyable, some of them challenging the throne among my favourite games of all time. But, the one thing that strikes me most about a lot of these games (not all), having gone from Doom 3 and before that Q3A being the most recent FPS's I had played until this point, is that so much of the game is spent telling you what to do, how to do it and where to go. ie. Holding your hand through it.

I can see how this is necessary to a point in certain games if they incorporate unconventional gameplay elements that you wouldn't really have a clue about otherwise, for example the dual-wielding of plasmids and weapons in Bioshock. But even at that the game managed to strike a balance between explaining what you're supposed to be doing, without being overbearing and taking all of the natural learning curve of the game away.

It seems to be prevalent in Mass Effect and Deus Ex HR also, you are constantly being given messages and hints of where to go, key items being highlighted for you before your very eyes. Even door switches in Mass Effect are highlighted and the words 'DOOR CONTROL' flash on screen to tell you what to do whenever you want to open a door.

This is not necessarily a bad thing (although I found it to be a bit too much in Arkham Asylum and grew tired of that game very quickly), but just something that seems so far removed from classic games. If you compare it to the likes of Marathon where you just start out with a gun in your hand, nobody telling you how to walk or shoot or open doors - I think the assumption that you already know how to do these things before the storyline of the game starts adds to the sense of realism - and the only information you're given is some vague instructions from an AI terminal, and that sets the tone for the entire game (and trilogy).

Half Life 2 strikes a nice balance as well. One of the most satisfying feelings when playing that game is when you figure out one of the many physics based puzzles - and I can't help the feeling that if that game was made today, the game would be giving you hints as to how to complete the puzzles, as most modern shooters do seem to have.

Is this a case of game developers not giving enough credit to gamers these days, or simply a necessity resulting from games becoming more and more complicated?

I think this video sums it up, and also proves that I'm not the only one who has thought this!


http://www.youtube.com/embed/W1ZtBCpo0eU
CitizenKane
Dublin, Ireland

Post Oct 8th '12, 14:03

I'm guessing this trend has its roots in economical reasons - modern capitalism sees people as industry dependant consumers that need to be guided and manuipulated for their own good and that of the economy. Gaming has grown into a giant industry since the early 1990s and has therfore shifted its priorities. Someone who feels lost or overwhelmed probably won't buy your next product - it's just minimizing the risk of losing potential customers. For big industry giants like EA that's probably the most important thing.
Last edited by thedoctor45 on Oct 8th '12, 14:19, edited 1 time in total.
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thedoctor45

Post Oct 9th '12, 00:29

Maybe no one reads manuals anymore.
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irons
(.Y.)

Post Oct 9th '12, 00:54

irons wrote:Maybe no one reads manuals anymore.

guess they 4got
I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet.
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L'howon
Somewhere outside the Citadel Of Antiquity

Post Oct 9th '12, 06:11

object highlighting was a biomod in deus ex 2 that made the game even more absurdly easy to play. object highlighting isn't an enormous help in deus ex 3 just because there are fewer items tucked in vents, but you can go into the game options and turn off both object and objective highlighting if you think it's too much.
dude, seriously. dude.
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thermoplyae

Post Oct 9th '12, 08:19

First of all, that video is hilarious.

It's certainly a fair question. It's something I think about from time to time. I'm not arguing in favor of coddling the player, but some justifications for that sort of thing come to mind...
CitizenKane wrote:...so much of the game is spent telling you what to do, how to do it and where to go. ie. Holding your hand through it.

I can see how this is necessary to a point in certain games if they incorporate unconventional gameplay elements that you wouldn't really have a clue about otherwise, for example the dual-wielding of plasmids and weapons in Bioshock. But even at that the game managed to strike a balance between explaining what you're supposed to be doing, without being overbearing and taking all of the natural learning curve of the game away.

It seems to be prevalent in Mass Effect and Deus Ex HR also, you are constantly being given messages and hints of where to go, key items being highlighted for you before your very eyes. Even door switches in Mass Effect are highlighted and the words 'DOOR CONTROL' flash on screen to tell you what to do whenever you want to open a door.

I'd say games are supposed to be fun, and to achieve that the developer should identify parts of the game that aren't fun, and do something about that. If it's not fun to hunt for where the door is and remember how to open it, a developer can either make it fun, or make it easier to get through.

"But I'm not stupid, I know how a door works!" you may say. Another consideration is how the fidelity of games has changed. There were a couple of talks at the Game Developer's Conference a few years ago that drove this point home. To paraphrase, a gameâ??s output to the player is wide; a â??fat pipeâ??. A gameâ??s input from the player is narrow; a â??thin pipeâ??. Games today look super detailed, but the player doesnâ??t do/interact with a lot of things. On top of this, while visual fidelity has increased, the sensory fidelity of games is always lower than that in real life. Without the benefit of other sensory input like smell or touch, "players go through your game looking through a toilet paper tube wearing oven mitts."

To wit, it's easier to spot a defense chip on the floor of the Marathon than it is to spot a realistically sized and rendered key on Adam Jensen's desk among all the beautiful junk in his apartment. That's why some form of highlighting can be considered necessary in a game even though you may find your keys without incident in real life.

When I watch people play a game I'm working on, like in a focus test, nothing pains me more than to see them banging their virtual head on the virtual wall because they can't figure out something we thought would be obvious. The game grinds to a halt. Chances are they're not appreciating this challenge that wasn't supposed to exist; rather they know they're not getting something, and it's frustrating.

Half Life 2 strikes a nice balance as well. One of the most satisfying feelings when playing that game is when you figure out one of the many physics based puzzles - and I can't help the feeling that if that game was made today, the game would be giving you hints as to how to complete the puzzles, as most modern shooters do seem to have.
Well, that's an interesting case. You're probably right. In Valve's more recent game Left 4 Dead 2 for instance, you'll get a HUD element that pops up with a sound that points to an object and says something like "Press E to pick up pipe bomb." I can picture how that physics puzzle could be designed similarly today.

Is this a case of game developers not giving enough credit to gamers these days, or simply a necessity resulting from games becoming more and more complicated?

There's probably something to the complexity. There's no jump, crouch, look down the sights, sprint, (I could go on) in Marathon, all of which need yet another button. So perhaps some gamers reach the point where they can't keep track.

Another consideration is how gaming has grown. I don't have the numbers, but there are many times as many people playing games than before. That means new players unfamiliar with the genre, younger players with underdeveloped coordination, older players struggling to play despite needing bifocals, casual players just playing because they want to spend time with their boyfriend/girlfriend, and so on. It's understandable that a developer wants to make their game as accessible as possible, and yes, there are times when one has to plan for the lowest common denominator.

On the other side of that growth, there are many times as many games available. So if you lose your patience in one, you've got many more vying for your attention. It could come down to giving the player a hint that others find unnecessary, or losing him as a player because he'll play something else.

If you compare it to the likes of Marathon where you just start out with a gun in your hand, nobody telling you how to walk or shoot or open doors - I think the assumption that you already know how to do these things before the storyline of the game starts adds to the sense of realism - and the only information you're given is some vague instructions from an AI terminal, and that sets the tone for the entire game (and trilogy).
irons wrote:Maybe no one reads manuals anymore.

Maybe nobody writes manuals anymore. If you read the Marathon manual, it interweaves practical information like how to throw switches, or what powerups do, with story-enriching, entertaining writing. Games of that era had manuals I could sit down and read cover to cover. Now, what do you get? If you're lucky, a default controller map, game credits, and a bunch of legalese. Maybe an ad for a game by the same company on the back cover, or maybe it's literally just the blank back of the paper used for the DVD case's box art. And these days, I usually buy digital, so there's not even that. I probably sound like I'm pining for the good ol' days, but given that reality it's not surprising developers incorporate more tutorials/hints into the game itself.
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Crater Creator

Post Oct 9th '12, 17:37

Crater Creator wrote:Maybe nobody writes manuals anymore. If you read the Marathon manual, it interweaves practical information like how to throw switches, or what powerups do, with story-enriching, entertaining writing. Games of that era had manuals I could sit down and read cover to cover. Now, what do you get? If you're lucky, a default controller map, game credits, and a bunch of legalese. Maybe an ad for a game by the same company on the back cover, or maybe it's literally just the blank back of the paper used for the DVD case's box art. And these days, I usually buy digital, so there's not even that. I probably sound like I'm pining for the good ol' days, but given that reality it's not surprising developers incorporate more tutorials/hints into the game itself.

of course you also got 500 page behemoths like this:
I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet.
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L'howon
Somewhere outside the Citadel Of Antiquity

Post Oct 10th '12, 22:59

To be quite honest, the modern society (at least where I am) is INCREDIBLY idiotic. I hate these people and the can't understand a thing. However, when it comes to a modern game, it really depends. The most notable example for this topic would be call of duty. Those games used to make sense and had reasonable ideas as they began to grow. While it was certainly less complex after the third game, it was pretty reasonable and still made sense in gameplay and story. After some time, they began to do what bothers me. The while a linear game isn't what makes it bad, it's the fact that you're put on a linear path, given instructions on how to play right in front of your face in an obnoxious way regardless of whether or not you already know the information. Then there's the fact that they give you a way point and other such things when you shouldn't need it, OR when your objective is to say find something but they show you exactly where it is and defeat the purpose.

My problem isn't that there are hints in game, it's how it's done. Half-life 2 does it correctly in the sense that all it does is say what you can do with something when you need it. As soon as you start, it says, press WASD to move, E to interact, and Mouse to look (assuming that's how you set your controls) and as you progress and get the ability to do something, it informs you inappropriately, such as telling you how to use both functions of your weapon when you pick it up, but only when you pick it up the first time. Modern games tend to do things like say SWITCH TO YOUR GRENADE LAUnCHER NOW at the worst times and will not go away even if you use it or already used it. The only reason I ever play Call Od Duty is because the idiots constantly pester me to. As such I played MW2 and 3. After seeing them both, I realized that even though 2 was bad 3 was even worse. I'd rather not go too off topic and will cut to the main point. In 2, there is a tutorial level that completely justifies the pop ups and grades your performance to give you a suggestion about what difficulty to choose. In 3, it throws you in and annoys you with large letters about things that you should already know regardless and has no justification.

The highlighting and stuff in Deus ex seemed more of the idea that you play as a cyborg and they have cool stuff like that. The thing is, people now are just so stupid that I guess the really need this crap to enjoy it. The default marathon controls are much different than most and should be looked at by the player and changed to how they feel comfortable. The modern person would completely neglect that and realize how screwed they are when they start the game. Even if they do learn the controls, they are likly to be those people how ignore terminals and "Don't read too long" so they fumble around till either they screw up or the find out by chance what to do.
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infwaffle

Post Oct 11th '12, 04:46

Crater Creator wrote:Well, that's an interesting case. You're probably right. In Valve's more recent game Left 4 Dead 2 for instance, you'll get a HUD element that pops up with a sound that points to an object and says something like "Press E to pick up pipe bomb." I can picture how that physics puzzle could be designed similarly today.


Multiplayer games -- games like L4D in particular -- are designed to be as streamlined an experience as possible, because people aren't really playing the game as much as they're using the game as a means to play with other people. Figuring out that you have to go through the manhole in the boiler room on No Mercy 3 isn't really part of the game, shooting zombies is -- so they kindly have the game tell you to do exactly that. L4D was always just intrusive enough with the interface to keep me mobile and allow me to focus on zombie-killing without really getting in my face about "hey, go this way, hoot hoot!"

Another consideration is how the fidelity of games has changed. There were a couple of talks at the Game Developer's Conference a few years ago that drove this point home. To paraphrase, a gameâ??s output to the player is wide; a â??fat pipeâ??. A gameâ??s input from the player is narrow; a â??thin pipeâ??. Games today look super detailed, but the player doesnâ??t do/interact with a lot of things. On top of this, while visual fidelity has increased, the sensory fidelity of games is always lower than that in real life. Without the benefit of other sensory input like smell or touch, "players go through your game looking through a toilet paper tube wearing oven mitts."

To wit, it's easier to spot a defense chip on the floor of the Marathon than it is to spot a realistically sized and rendered key on Adam Jensen's desk among all the beautiful junk in his apartment. That's why some form of highlighting can be considered necessary in a game even though you may find your keys without incident in real life.


Detail cruft is something that really bothers me in more modern games, but as a personal taste issue, and it's for two reasons:
1) When you have a bajillion little details on screen, everything starts running together and it's hard to visually decipher the situation at hand.
2) It still doesn't look real so who cares.

I tend to like a more simplistic and stylized appearance that makes everything stand out and look unique and clean, rather than realistic and crowded with details that look boring. It's why I'm super interested in Wrack.
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Oct 15th '12, 04:18

CitizenKane wrote:Is this a case of game developers not giving enough credit to gamers these days, or simply a necessity resulting from games becoming more and more complicated?


Games get easier every generation. Look where they started. Back in the day, games were hard as hell. That's because the only way to make them entertaining was to make them challenging. And consider where a lot of games evolved from: the arcades, where no challenge meant no profit.

As games got better looking, they also got easier. Developers started using the graphics to entertain in ways they couldn't before. Games began immersing players and engrossing them rather than just challenging them. And this just got more and more true for every new console that came out.

And here we are now. Better looking games than ever. Easier games then ever. Developers are branching out, trying to reach a wider audience so they can make more money. They know that non-gamers can't play games. So they're dumbing them down, using the graphics and easy learning curve to seduce the people who have been refusing them all these years. Are there still challenging games today? Of course. But we live in an age where the idea that a game doesn't need to be challenging in order to be fun is more true than it ever was. I for one don't see a problem with this as long as the game has a wide range of difficulty settings with the option of turning the idiot-proof tutorial off.
Last edited by Ares Ex Machina on Oct 15th '12, 04:21, edited 1 time in total.
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Ares Ex Machina

Post Oct 16th '12, 00:47

â??waffle wrote:To be quite honest, the modern society (at least where I am) is INCREDIBLY idiotic.


Yeah, idiocy seems to be at an all time high these days.

As RyokoTK stated, modern games have so much objects in the scenes that it is more distracting that realistic. I find it extremely hard to play the Modern Warfare series because of the amount of crap that they put into their environments, and the lack of a story is just mocking my intelligence. But then again, all these games are mostly about multiplayer, not singleplayer... At least that is what I keep telling myself in order to make since of the crappy story they threw into the singleplayer.
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ODST276
USA

Post Oct 22nd '12, 23:51

Lh wrote:of course you also got 500 page behemoths like this:


I read through half of the thing, gave up, and watched Iron Eagle.
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