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5:28 PM on 01.03.2010

My suggestion for getting rid of tedious Dialogue Trees

How many hours have I spent in Oblivion, Fallout and Dragon Age trying out various dialogue options? I have reloaded many save files because I was not happy with the end result and thinking “If I chose dialogue option 3 maybe I will get more cash or a better item. ” This of course is not how I carry on conservations in my own life though. Conversations are fundamentally used to pass on information to others. That information can be trivial such as a laundry list or it can be emotional such as when one grieves for the loss of a friend or relative. The limitations of video games make the process of conveying this full spectrum with a dialogue tree extremely tedious at best and nearly impossible.

I think the conservation system has to be simplified. Instead of various sentence options, we should have options that convey the emotional and moral spectrum. Imagine a standard set of options such as: Happy, serious, cynical , comedic, terse, arrogant, humble. I believe developing such a system will be easier to create and also allow the player to feel more in control of expressing themselves the way they want. This type of system can lead to all sorts interesting scenarios. For example, If you are talking to a bartender a happy or comedic response might be playing the good guy. On the other hand, stating a comedic point to a grieving widow would certainly be cruel. For RPGs, this type of system can also be used very effectively with some of your stats or skills. For example, you can given more emotional response options if you increase your charisma or an increase in a conversation skill can allow for your comedic jokes to be more effective to characters you talk to. On the other hand, a low charisma will make your jokes fall flat or prevent you from being taken seriously if you provide a terse response. This type of conservational system can also open other windows. By regularly providing comedic responses, other characters will look at you as a joker and possible seek conversations that are light hearted. If you are always serious, they may look at you more as a stoic leader.

Some of you might say this idea is already being done with conservation trees. I disagree. Conversation trees try to convey emotional options but ultimately are limiting in that the options will never satisfy how you may want to express yourself (Although I will admit that it would be nice to have a fixed set of sentence options displayed before me during some awkward conversations I have had). Giving a more fundamental list of emotional responses allows the player to imagine what type of specific response they are trying to convey. Just like good movies leave violent, sexual and supernatural images to the imagination, this system can provide a means to let games provide a more subtle and complete dialogue; because the player is interpreting the specifics of the conversation.

Let me know what you think. Do you think my suggestions are a good idea? Have any games tried to do this in the past? Do you think it would be too difficult to execute in development?   read

12:23 PM on 10.18.2009

Ultima 4 is still a revolutionary game

I remember getting this game for my Apple IIc and was blown away by the immersion. Questions taht I found myself asking I traversed the world were

Wow there is a day night cycle and NPCs react to the time of day?

I need reagents for spells?

I can only find Nightshade at night?

I have to be compassionate? and Humble? How do I express humility? How do I tell if I am the right path?

Recent talk about Bioware's Dragon origins and the attempt at creating gray areas in the story has me reflecting back to this pioneering game. With all the technology we have, I think developers have degenerated over the years in addressing the moral compass of our heroes and villians. Menu options reduce down to little more than classic dilemma of "yes I want to save the kitten" or " I must molest and kill this puppy" Even with a nice meter to tell us that we are getting more good.

Back in the 80s, Garriott created a pioneering game with a central focus on a character that is the pinnacle of virtue. Your gameplay had to focus on the idea of choosing every action as virtuous. There were chests that you could steal to get that magic axe but at the cost of losing my status as an Avatar of truth. My character was guided by virtue and not by just killing everything.

Granted, a rehash of Ultima 4 is not needed today but we need to apply some of these gameplay mechanics to today's game. We need an RPG that does not evolve around the hero being a killing machine. Even in Oblivion, non combat attributes seemed designed towards ultimately getting better weapons on the cheap.

Is it possible to create a game where combat is strictly for survival as opposed to the center point of the game focus?

What about a hero that is diplomatic with kings and townsmen? He is barely able to use a dagger but his skills in speech allow him the to hire the best knights of the countryside to protect him as he goes on quests.

Make a game where mages are scholars that need to read books so the player actually use his knowledge from reading the game lore to create a better character with better spells? Don't just make learning spells an automatic recipe or a game of blind trial and error. Make knowledge in the gameworld inherently powerful.

Are games like these possible and would they sell?   read

9:49 AM on 10.11.2009

Renter's impressions of operation Flashpoint : DR

I rented this game on Friday. ( BTW, I am disappointed with blockbuster's new rental policy: 5 days and then they charge 1 dollar a day thereafter).

I got as far as mission three so far. To summarize my thoughts.

I liked the intro video. It was a minimalist video of the history of the island up to the conflict. I thought It was creative and entertaining. By the end, I was excited to start the first mission.
I really enjoyed the tutorial mission. As a matter of fact, I replayed it once to try to obtain the secondary objectives. I was really getting the impression of freedom to choose how to approach a a given scenario. The AI was subpar however. One of my troop mates hit me with a rocket launcher twice in the back of the head - not a good sign. Also, the radial command interface is awkward but I found myself getting used to it by the end of the mission.

Mission 2 was a great change of pace. This was a stealth mission under the cover of night with a sniper rifle. My first play through, I was itching to snipe me some enemy. Upon shooting, an attack helicopter started laying the pain on my squad. The ground shook and I really got the feeling of disorientation and that I was overpowered by the enemy. The stealth aspects worked well here. Slow and steady wins this race. Great mission.

Mission three is where I have decided to return the game. It starts off well enough. I am supposed to take out some SAM sights leading up to a village. It is a shame I did not get an option to choose a sniper rifle at the beginning because it is obvious that sniper rifles are the way to succeed in these long range conflicts. Then I am given orders to defend this village. What ensues is continual 15 minutes of failure. In defending the village, enemies approach in waves in similar fashion to call of duty. Since I suck, every play through end with me getting overwhelmed and eventually killed while I am trying to reload or switch my weapon. Maybe I am just not smart enough, but the AI is ineffective and i cannot seem to hit anything with my long range rifle while the enemy peppers me like swiss cheese. At the end of the day, I felt this was another variation on the infinite spawn, which I have always hated. I have not felt the sensation to put the game back in the disc tray since.

I really wanted this game to be good. I wanted another Far Cry 2 but in the end I felt disappointed . . and I suck.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this promising game?   read

9:29 AM on 09.27.2009

Are reviews getting harder to Believe?

I purchased NFS: Shift last week due to glowing reviews by IGN and Gametrailers; choosing to ignore the 6s and 7s from other reviews. I have to admit I was disappointed with the game. I was expecting a ground breaking sim racer and I received an extremely buggy game with outrageous physics and driver AI.

To be honest, this was an eye opening experience to me. I never had the feeling that I was fooled by reviews before but this time I honestly felt duped by IGN and Gametrailers. Given that we already have had incidents such as Jeff Gerstmann being let go by Gamespot, I am ready to don my tinfoil hat at this point.

One option to this problem is to ignore reviews as serious articles and move on but I think we are beyond the point of no return in this realm. Video games are a multi-billion dollar a year industry and reviews have an impact on this market. Game informer had an interesting article last month on the power of Metacritic reviews as a metric for the success of a game. It was eye opening to me to see how serious these aggregate reviews are taken by developers.

The first solution I would suggest is the elimination of all review embargos or the concept of exclusive review rights to certain companies. Everyone is dying for the first reviews but any review that has exclusive rights should be considered suspect. We have to be careful with this approach because it would also be too easy for someone to quickly write a review without actually giving a game its proper due. I would like to think that solid journalism in the video game arena will separate professional reviews from amateur attempts but I thin the verdict is still out i this regard.

Maybe in the next decade we will see the equivalent of Roger Ebert form in the video game arena where "good reviewers" are known by the whole community and get paid accordingly. (Please ignore Ebert's foolish statements on video games as not being serious artistic media in the above statement)
Top reviewers will be paid to review a main game for the upcoming week as well as a maybe a sleeper and customers can to these articles because they have an idea of what the reviewer expects. The problem with this model, of course, is that video games can take 100 of hours to review whereas a movie takes, at most, 3.

Does anyone have any other solutions?

Also, I sympathize for the member of the Destructoid staff that has to review NFS:Shift.   read

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